Darnell helps run the studio from California but Isom has been in Japan for the past 12 years. He started his career studying art history in San Francisco. He also attended art schools in Italy, and then Osaka. He became passionate about the visual backgrounds in anime, so he set out on his own as a freelance background animation artist.
Isom worked as a background animator with animation studio Ogura Kobo on shows like Bleach, Black Butler, and Naruto. According to him, those years of experience helped him to make a mark in Japan, a country where only 5% of the labor force is reportedly non-Japanese.
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Then, in 2016, Isom co-founded his own studio, D’Art Shtajio interpreted: “The Foundation is Important”. He credits his mentor Hiromasa Ogura, who worked on projects like Ninja Scroll and Ghost in the Shell, for helping him shape his career.
“I watched Ghost in the Shell every day for a year. I didn’t even know why I liked it until a teacher asked me to focus on that question. That’s when I discovered that I liked the backgrounds and the way the animation moved through them,” Isom said, according to the Japan Times.
“The great thing is with us being here, Black creators seek us out. It’s a great opportunity to work with them. We’ve worked with quite a few like independent manga creators with projects like Tephlon Funk and XOGENASYS; we get the opportunity to then tell more Black stories. These are storytellers who want to see their story adapted to anime form,” he said.
D’ART Shtajio has released several in-house productions, including Sturgill Simpson Presents Sound and Fury, a Netflix original anime anthology set to Sturgill Simpson’s SOUND & FURY album, as well as anime shorts like “Indigo Ignited.”
Learn more about Arthell Isom and the D’ART Shtajio in this video: