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Kejun Zhao; Chinese Illustrator Making It Big in the USA

Kejun Zhao is an ardent illustrator from Los Angeles, California. Right from childhood, Zhao has an innate passion for painting and drawing and has achieved so much through her distinct crafts. Over the years, Zhao has gradually learned the skills and grown her style. She enrolled at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) in China and majored in graphic design, where she learned digital painting skills, computer programs, and how to communicate with clients.

As a graphic designer in the making, Zhao suffered from pretty strict reprimands and requests from clients while in college; she couldn’t really “create” or “build up” something. Nevertheless, she worked hard to change the situation, and miraculously, it paid off within a short period. The same year, she made some illustrations for her book and package design, and voila! A whole new world opened to her. She was happy to eventually unleash her creativity and, most importantly, enjoy her newly found art style, one she had longed for during her illustration journey. Zhao moved to America the same year she completed college and immediately enrolled for a Master of Fine Arts at Syracuse University in New York to pursue Illustration. After getting her MFA in 2015, she once again moved to Los Angeles to work as a full-time freelance illustrator, until now. 

Zhao works as an illustrator on both commercial projects and her illustration series. The

commercial projects include concept sketches and storyboards. “For concept sketches, I illustrate some key art illustrations for movies, TV series, and conceptual photo shooting, which may end up as physical posters, billboards, bus wraps, bus shelters, etc.,” explains Zhao.

The crux of her job is to follow the general direction of the creative department and adopt a creative approach to visualize the concept and meet the client’s request. The storyboards are usually for advertisements, music videos,

animation, and trailers for games, films, and TV series. The key point of storyboarding is to figure out the angles, the actions, and the number of frames needed to help the director and the production crew visualize the entire video and give a budget projection. “Besides these commercial projects, I also worked on some series of illustrations. In addition, I made some children’s book illustrations, and I’m currently working on crafting a personalized illustration set,” Zhao added.

The astute illustrator has bagged many awards over time. Including 09/2015 – Creative Quarterly 41, Illustration Professional Winner, 03/2016 – Selected in Spectrum 23: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, among others. Zhao is the concept sketch artist of key art of Money Heist Season 5, Over the Moon, Klaus, The Willoughby’s, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, etc. Additionally, she is the Storyboard artist for the trailer of The Last of Us Part II and Cowboy Bebop Netflix Teaser “Lost Session” 2021. Still, she received a Clio Grand Award for Best CGI Trailer in the Games Category in the 2021 Clio Entertainment Awards.

Despite the challenging nature of pursuing an art career, Zhao believes the path constantly improves as you persist. She aims to keep working in the entertainment industry, be a better storyboard and concept artist, and keep improving her book illustration series, “The Moth.”

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