Animal Event Recap — Powering Change Through Art

Posted May 15th, 2015 by Lynette Clee — Category: Events — 0 Comments

The Art Explorers team kicks off Animal; emphasizing the importance of raising awareness and educating the public on the beauty and fragility of wildlife.

The Art Explorers team kicks off Animal; emphasizing the importance of raising awareness and educating the public on the beauty and fragility of wildlife.

Hollywood elites united at Gnomon for Animal, a weekend of art and education. The mission? To empower artists to make a difference with their art.

It's easy to swallow back tears watching disturbing documentaries about our animal friends. What's not so easy is taking action after those films end. Expedition Art aims to change that. It's an incredible initiative started by a core group of elite artists with the goal to "restore the Earth one drawing at a time." Over the weekend of May 1st – 3rd, the Gnomon Gallery and Gnomon's 70-foot green-screen stage became an outlet to allow these remarkable people to take action; to educate, inspire, and empower our industry's artists through beautiful art and transformative presentations.

The Gnomon Gallery and Gnomon's 70-foot green-screen stage became an outlet to allow these remarkable people to take action; to educate, inspire, and empower our industry's artists through beautiful art and transformative presentations.

Attendees line up bright and early on Saturday morning for the first day of Animal presentations.

Art and Education Coming Together

The weekend's events offered over $300 worth of lectures for free. What's more, 10 hours of presentations by some of the best artists in Hollywood were also streamed live for the entire world to tune in to. A selection of the recordings are available to watch now.

"It's not just donating money, but using your art to have influence and spread awareness as well," Travis Bourbeau, Gnomon's Director of Industry Relations, urged. "We have dozens of friends that are amazing artists across the industry: if Vitaly Bulgarov does a mech and puts it up online today we're going to see nothing but mechs across the world… So using your art, doing animal illustrations, and drawing attention to different causes, is a really powerful tool."

Phil Holland shares his experiences working on films including Charlottes Web, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Life of Pi.

The First Step

"This is a freaking beautiful planet," Art Explorer and Concept Artist, David Levy observed. "You start looking around and you realize … we're really screwing this place in a massive way. As artists, first we see that; that's number one. Second of all, we have a way to express ourselves [and] to demonstrate and communicate to others what is wrong."

One of the Art Explorers' first forays prior to Animal was to film a short documentary, where Travis Bourbeau interviewed Jeff Hall, CWC Marine Program Manager. "Numerous animals do go extinct every single year," Jeff reports. "If it's something we have an opportunity to stop, then we should take every single chance and really work as hard as we can. … We're the guardians of this planet, and it's our duty."

Terryl Whitlatch discusses the importance of observing real animals to inspire and inform her designs.

A Panel of Pure Talent

When the world's greatest concept artists come together for three days of art and education, you can be assured it's for good reason. "Animals are objectified every day," said industry-leading Concept Artist, Terryl Whitlatch. "Once they're gone, they're gone forever [and] anything that I can do to help — such as joining the Art Explorers — is a great privilege and an honor."

Animal was the first event for Expedition Art from the Art Explorers. The result was a weekend-long celebration of our tiny, enormous, furry, feathered, and scaled friends. While some of the legends chose to talk about creature inspirations and how they apply animal anatomy to concepts, others opted to talk about their experiences with animals. "How could you possibly design anything more beautiful than what's already here?" Terryl eloquently asked her audience. With a different approach, Creature and Concept Designer Neville Page took his audience on a surprising journey through his encounters with orangutans, and shared tormenting footage to bring home the impact of our pleasure-filled lives on the planet. "Us being here is about education … and if you have knowledge you are empowered," he encouraged. "We need our hearts to be much more sensitive, so that … we can be voices for those that have no voice."

"Design in nature is really efficient... Simple is always better" — Terryl Whitlatch

Art and Advice from the Pros

While the goal of Animal was to raise awareness, so too was it an offering of first-class art and education. The eclectic mix of presentations included Illustrator and Sculptor David Meng walking through a body of sculpture work crafted for a plethora of feature films, and Steve Wang's insightful presentation about the making of award-winning SFX for memorable movie characters. Meanwhile, Jonathan Kuo, a specialist in teaching animal anatomy, led a fascinating presentation about the layers that build convincing concepts, and Blizzard Entertainment's Laurel Austin gave a creature-painting demo while talking through her decision-making processes. Dreamworks' Visual Development Artist Kory Heinzen took a more collaborative approach, working with the audience to design an environment that a 'smart space gorilla' would inhabit, while Digital Imaging Specialist Phil Holland talked through the special moments of his career photographing animals. Similarly, Manny Carrasco, master of the pencil, shared his dehorning experiences, before Jerad Marantz closed the event with a ZBrush sculpting session. "The education never stops, and it never should," Jerad summed up.

Immediately following his presentation, Manny Carrasco goes into further detail with event attendees about his time spent in Africa.

It's Over to You…

Be inspired to make a change with your art. If you're a traditional or digital artist, an illustrator or sculptor, the free lectures brought to you through Animal offer an opportunity to refresh your outlook. Laurel Austin put it perfectly: "Make your audience feel something. If you can elicit that emotional response in them, that's where your greatest success will be. Because if you make someone feel something, that's when they tend to remember it."

Steve Wang, Creature Designer

Phil Holland, Digital Imaging Specialist

Laurel Austin, Illustrator and Concept Artist at Blizzard Entertainment

Kory Heinzen, Visual Development Artist at DreamWorks

Jerad Marantz, Creature and Character Designer

Stay tuned. Expedition Art is working on a bunch of new initiatives, including dehorning in Zimbabwe in 2016, and a big cat project. In the meantime, share your animal artwork with Gnomon on Facebook or Twitter.

Laurel Austin displays her completed digital painting of Death's Pale Horse, which she demoed during her presentation.

Related Links:

Learn more about Expedition Art
Discover the Art Explorers
See the work of the California Wildlife Center
Go behind the scenes at Gnomon
Join the newsletter to find out about upcoming free events


About Gnomon

Founded in 1997, Gnomon has trained thousands of students and professionals for careers in the entertainment industry. Find out more