The Kubert School Spotlight recognizes a chosen Kubert School instructor or alumni, showcasing their work and journey as a comic book professional.

    Talent from The Kubert School


    Emi Yonemura - Brown

    storyboard artist

    Emi Yonemura Brown is a storyboard artist and revisionist for Warner Brothers Animation, most of her current work is very hush, hush so we try to get her to spill the beans about everything else.

    Interview by Michael Kraiger

    The Kubert School: Do you remember when you first noticed comics or comic books?


    Emi Yonemura Brown:: I think my first introduction to comics, and collectively reading them, was the small magazine Disney Adventures when I was a tiny kid. That's where I first read Bone along with a variety of Disney's TV-show based comics. In 1995 I saw Ronin Warriors on TV and that was my gateway to Japanese animation. When my brother, Scotty, found this out, he gave me my first manga called Ranma 1/2. That's where my comic collecting really began, and I obsessed over manga for the next ten years. I believe it was around 2004 I read Preacher and Sandman and those were my gateway into American comics. I had read American comics here or there before (Disney Adventures counts) but those two really hooked me to the American production and craft of comic books.


    TKS: Do you remember when you started drawing or perhaps drawing better (or more) than the other kids?


    Emi Yonemura Brown I was obsessed with drawing since I was a little kid. I'd paint Simba in day-care and try to replicate the style as best as an 8-year-old could. I think I've always been drawing. My mom tells stories about how the other parents would ask her how she got me to color within the lines. She just shrugged and said that's how I did it. (My mom would never try to restrict me as an artist, so she'd probably encourage coloring outside the lines more than anyone. This is probably just a sign of how anal-retentive I turned out to be.) In junior high my friends and I would hold daily contests to see who could draw the best character-of-the-day. We'd go home, draw our butts off, and present our work the following day. I usually won, but only because I kept pushing myself to do better than them. I'd spend hours on a piece; probably more time than doing actual homework (Psh, boring). They were all easily better than me, but I was stubborn and always wanted to win. It wasn't until classmates started pointing out to me that I was always drawing that I realized it was something different.


    TKS: What were some of your earliest artistic influences?


    Emi Yonemura Brown: I definitely grew up watching cartoons. Even when I was in elementary school I'd wake up at 5 AM so I could watch programs like Samurai Pizza Cats before heading out to school. As I mentioned before, I watched Ronin Warriors and other Japanese Animation religiously. It used to be hard to find, if you can believe that, so I felt special having a hobby that not a lot of others were into. I also watched a lot of American cartoons like Batman the Animated Series and Gargoyles, which were huge influences. Those shows were some of the few that treated kids like intellectuals and didn't speak down to us, emotionally or logically, so I really respected them and would watch them every chance I had. They influence me to this


    TKS:Is there an artist whose work at some point you realized you recognized and that it was a single person drawing it?


    Emi Yonemura Brown My first manga, Ranma ½, had one name on it only – Rumiko Takahashi. I'd later find out that she, as with many manga artists, use assistants, but I came to recognize her style and would follow her from series to series. I think that's actually what turned me off of American comics for so long; I'd see a beautiful cover for a comic but open it up and be sorely disappointed. Nothing inside matched. I didn't understand it. I still kind of don't, though now I understand why it's done.


    TKS: Who were some of your earliest artistic influences?


    Emi Yonemura Brown Rumiko Takahashi, Disney's Lion King, CLAMP (an all female group of Japanese Manga artists), Steve Dillon... amongst the many styles of animé that I would watch. Wow, I never realized what a huge animé nerd I was! It really is a part of my core, even though I've long since moved on from it.


    TKS: At what point did you realize that being an artist was a career choice you were moving towards?


    Emi Yonemura Brown I spent a lot of years in community college changing majors. My parents always encouraged me to keep art as my hobby and not my job so it wouldn't get spoiled for me. I just couldn't find anything else that grabbed me. I majored in anthropology for a while, and while I love it, I found myself depressed because I wasn't drawing. So I finally realized that I needed an art career and had to just keep the sciences as my hobby. I also had a huge fear of living in a cubicle (which will become ironic when I get to explaining my current job), so I was determined to not let that happen.


    TKS: How did you learn about The Kubert School?


    Emi Yonemura Brown I had a friend online who pointed it out to me one day when I was complaining about how there wasn't a school that could just teach me how to draw comics. I had been burned by art classes in high school, (in which my teacher would constantly tell me that animé and manga were not art -- fun, right?) so I refused to go to a four-year art school where the first two years of prerequisite classes would have teachers telling me not to draw what I love. (It wouldn't be until my last two years I'd get narrative art training, and by then I figured I'd be so bitter and angry I wouldn't even want to draw anymore.) So when my friend showed me the Kubert School website (and confirmed it was real and not a pipe-dream for suckers like me) I instantly went to my parents and asked if I could go. At first they weren't thrilled with the idea that I wouldn't get a Bachelor's degree, but I think they saw in my desperate eyes that this wasn't something I could turn my back on.


    TKS: Is there any particular class or lesson that stands out from your three years at the school?


    Emi Yonemura Brown All of the classes taught me something, big or small, but I think what stands out most are the teachers that taught them. I really could go on about each teacher and each year, because there wasn't a wasted class. Sure, some classes you could make a waste, but then that was your own fault. I do think I learned the most from Gabe Bridwell, who taught me how to color/flat and use the Adobe programs better (directly leading me to jobs later on); from Michael Kraiger, who taught me how to write and helped me realize that I could actually write; and of course, from Joe Kubert, who not only helped me learn the process of drawing comics but told me I was going to go far. Getting told that by one of the grandfathers of comics (who would not lie to you) has gotten me through some tough times when I was trying to break into my career.


    TKS: Did you ever doubt you'd made the right choice coming to the school?


    Emi Yonemura Brown Not at all. I could see my art get better with every year (Heck, every assignment!) there. I maybe once doubted it when I had massive loans to pay and no job after moving back home, but everyone has those moments. I progressed [with] my art and writing at the school, met life-long friends, got my first
    art job with Tell-A-Graphics through the school, and met my husband there. I don't ever doubt my decision and drive to go there.


    TKS: What's the best trick or most valuable bit of advice you received while at the school? )


    Emi Yonemura Brown Honestly? Of all the tricks of the trade and tools and techniques out there, the most valuable one I learned was to always work hard. No, really. Before going to the school, I was lazy. Sure, I studied hard and if I really wanted to, I could work hard. But to work hard AND draw? When there are parties to be had and friends to hang out with? The best trick I learned was, "Don't miss an assignment, always meet your deadline, and do the best work you can." But Joe Kubert also said, "Don't do it if it threatens your health, which comes first." So we weren't trained to be complete workhorses, but honestly, every other trick and bit of advice that you can call "best" will come if you just work hard and push yourself. And believe me, the school will teach you that.


    TKS: What was your first professional work after attending the school? How did it come about?


    Emi Yonemura Brown I worked in Tell-A-Graphics [on the bottom floor] the school drawing tanks and military tools for the U.S. Army manual PS Magazine. I tried out for it during my last year and got hired. I learned a LOT there from the great team of guys that run Tell-A-Graphics. It also made me better at drawing mechanical items. That's something Joe Kubert pushed (who would work on the magazine with us): this job is only worth it if you're learning and getting better. I had Joe Kubert during my third year of school, but I also got to learn from him while working at Tell-A-Graphics. He never stopped mentoring, that guy.


    TKS: What can you tell us about your current job?


    Emi Yonemura Brown I'm currently a storyboard revisionist at Warner Brothers Animation, which means I clean and make changes to storyboards, as the director requires. So I work closely with directors and learn their process while also helping create an animated show or feature. Storyboards are a whole other beast when it comes to animation. You're basically drawing the key frames that animators will later do in-betweens for. It's a lot of fun, and gives me a chance to write and direct because the board artist can really control how a scene is depicted.


    TKS: What's a typical workday like for you?


    Emi Yonemura Brown Draw, draw, draw. I get into work and usually have an assignment waiting for me, or I'll meet with my director to get more work. Then I ask the all-important question, "When do you need this by?", and work my ass off to meet that deadline. It's all about deadlines, people! And working hard! Really! My days are usually 10-12 hours but only because I prefer to not stress about deadlines. That line above where I said I'm anal-retentive? Absolutely true. I also worked in a cubicle on my first show here, so there's that irony coming back into play. But at the end of the day I'm drawing and creating shows that others will watch, and that make it all worthwhile.


    TKS: What are you working on now?


    Emi Yonemura Brown What I CAN say is that I've worked on many upcoming Batman and Justice League-centric DTVs (direct-to-videos), and a Scooby-Doo property. Still can't say what I'm working on now, but it's also DC related, and I storyboard and do revisions on it. I wish I could share all the projects I've been on, but they're gonna be SO GOOD. That thing about being a hard worker, I try to get my hands on every project I can; the more I do, the more I learn and the more my network grows! Another great tip I learned from the school: network, network, NETWORK. How did I land my job at WB? NETWORKING!


    TKS: What's next?


    Emi Yonemura Brown Oh, I hope to be here for a very long time. I'm working my way up to being a board artist and after that I'd love to write and direct (so long as I always get to draw). It's not comics, but I think I've found my true passion in animation; kinda feels like I was always meant to be here. This really is my dream job.


    TKS: Any bit of advice you'd give to a first year student or someone considering coming to the school?


    Emi Yonemura Brown Don't give up. No, really. You're going to have those nights where the workload seems too ridiculous, the lack of sleep will drive you crazy, and you'll be so stressed out you'll want to quit. First: sleep. You'll feel better, your health will thank you, and you'll draw better. Second: take a deep breath and get back to it. You can party during summer break. If this is really what you want to do, there's no better place to learn it than the Kubert School. These three years will go by faster than you think, so don't waste your time watching movies in class on your laptop. Ask questions, push yourself, and compete with your classmates to be better than them; do it all. Now is the time.


    TKS: Anything you'd like to add about Joe Kubert?


    Emi Yonemura Brown Joe Kubert was amazing. In the short time I got to know him, he inspired me more than anyone else I've ever met. It was a long struggle to get to where I am, but his words of encouragement, his lessons, and his own story of how he got where he is really kept me going. Not a day goes by where I don't hope I'm making him proud.


    Warner Brothers