I love my job as a visual artist. My daily responsibilities and my professional goal is to create beautiful, exciting and cool artwork. When I was a child, I was really into art, fashion, music and dancing. My dreams were to become a dancer, architect or fireworks maker. I am happy to say that I am now living my dreams because I make lights dance on buildings! I am probably one of the most enthusiastic and biggest fans of projection mapping.

early projection mappnig
Image Caption : One of my early projection mapping works.

3D projection mapping is a technology used to turn non-flat surfaces such as buildings or sculptures into a display surface for video projection. We use software that can interact with multiple projectors to fit any images onto the surface of the object.My interest in 3D projection mapping began about four years ago when I was a professional dancer. I was a part of Deca Dance Theater in New York and we danced with LED suits in the dark. Around the same time I started seeing some artists making architectural projection mapping installations as well. I found that there was a huge opportunity to include LED lighting and projections in our dance shows. And that’s how I got into the audio-visual world.

fashion art installation
Image Caption : Fashion and Art installation with Zalez Studio and Haus of Love photographed by Dave Tada, model: Shawnee Badger

One of the most important skills to get into any industry, especially the audio-visual world is networking. A lot of people ask me if I went to school for visual arts. In fact, I went to Tokyo University of Foreign Language and majored in Portuguese so I didn’t know many people in this industry. That’s where LinkedIn came in. I’ve used LinkedIn to build my professional network. I researched the industry, found studios and other artists, and when I wanted to meet somebody I sent them an InMail to meet with them in person.

Mentors who will help you move forward in your career are also incredibly valuable. All of my mentors told me about the importance of networking and they didn’t hesitate to help me connect with other professionals. Through Hiro Kamegawa, VJ and entrepreneur, I learned about video editing, visual effects, and VJing by working for his company Atelier O. Nick Smith, my mentor for 3D, is a top computer graphics artist and taught me 3D modeling, texturing, lighting, compositing and animations. He even took me on a field trip to several studios in Los Angeles to learn more about the industry first-hand.

teepee projection mapping
Image Caption : Projection mapping onto Tipi at a music festival in Malibu

Once I had the right network, I had to learn about 3D projection mapping. It wasn’t easy to start because I didn’t even have a projector. So I decided to find other people in the area who were also interested in projection mapping. That’s how Mapjacks, an artist collective was born. We do what we call “Maplabs”, a freeform learning/experimenting lab for anybody who is interested in this technology. Through Mapjacks, I have met so many people in the field and gradually I started showing projections at various events. Within two years, I got to know a lot of people in audio-visual industry in Los Angeles and have done some amazing projects.10 second countdown 2014
Image Caption : Rendered images of 10 second countdown for 2014

Here are some videos of works I have done.

NEW YEARS EVE LOS ANGELES from VT Production Design on Vimeo.

Greystone Mansion ceiling Projection Mapping from Akiko Yamashita on Vimeo.

Currently, I work at as a lead artist and I am creating animations everyday. My industry is really exciting with so much new technology – I have a lot more to learn and I still feel like my career is just getting started.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally posted on Akiko’s profile via LinkedIn’s publishing platform as part of our Picture Yourself campaign. If LinkedIn has helped you transform your career or business, please share your story with us.