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DreamWorks Animation Goes Fine Art

Read about the latest DreamWorks initiative to expand its artistic potential and collectability.

Defending the Gates from Scott Sherman is iconic yet transcendent in its own right. All images courtesy of DreamWorks Animation Fine Art.

Lately, there's more to DreamWorks Animation than the blockbuster features and art books. With the recent formation of DreamWorks Animation Fine Art, works from the movies hang in galleries all over the country (including the Van Eaton in Sherman Oaks, CA and Animazing in New York) along with more interpretive pieces. Plus a "Get Animated" exhibition of concept art, models and maquettes from DreamWorks films just left the Sacramento State Fair as a traveling show.

"There's visual imagery created for these films that no one gets to taste other than in an art book or the Shrek ride at Universal," suggests KC Sanders, owner of the Ogden, Utah-based Sanders Art Studio, producer of the works and the exclusive global licensee of DreamWorks Animation Fine Art. "What we get to do is bring these films into guest's homes.

Sanders, who started out working with Disney years ago, realized that there were untapped possibilities with DreamWorks, so they've begun by utilizing works from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Bee Movie, Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon and the upcoming Megamind.

Gingy in stained glass by David Bird

is a unique piece of mixed media.

"We work closely with each production of the film," Sanders continues. "They've selected and approved the images that we have. One part of our business is that we take the conceptual art and screenshots from the films and the production teams work closely with us to approve those images. The other side of our business is we do interpretive art. And we have a wide range of artists because we are the global publishers. We have artists in China, Australia, the UK and Canada. What DreamWorks has allowed us to do -- and we are hoping that they will allow their artists to work with us sometime in the future -- is take some internationally renowned artists that have worked with the Walt Disney Co. or Warner Bros. or who have a gallery presence right now and take the DreamWorks characters and interpret them into different pieces. It comes down to DreamWorks characters in new settings."

The interpretive art ranges from vintage posters to Picasso-esque re-imaginings of Shrek. The majority of art produced from DreamWorks images is highly collectible, according to Sanders, with limited editions running as high as $8,000 per print.

"Tim West is a paper sculpture artist and he does a one-of-a-kind paper sculpture of Po from Kung Fu Panda," Sanders adds. "The originals are in our gallery in Utah, and we have some other originals that are available for sale in about 50 galleries across the country or on our website:

"Kirk Sanders, one of our Utah artists, has done one called Madagascar Penguin Air. It gives you the feel of the film but is more like a vintage travel poster with Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private.

"David Bird, another one of our Utah artists, does stain glass, so he has a piece called Ginger Bread Man, and has put stained glass pieces of Gingy on an actual cookie sheet and has framed it with a Shrek emblem. It retails for $1,500 and it's a unique, mixed-media approach."

Sherman's favorite character is King Julian and

this piece shows off his oil painting style.

Maggie Parr, who lives in LA, was the youngest show designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, and has developed an international following for murals, portraits, illustrations and architectural and industrial design. "There's something so perfectly funny and ironic about taking cartoon characters and dropping them into serious fine art," she suggests.

"The unexpected contrast makes me laugh; and yet it's a perfect fit for the DreamWorks characters, which already have so much personality. I also like figuring out how they might look rendered in a different medium or setting. The Kung Fu Panda characters were fairly easy -- they're already three dimensional, and the show's creators developed some wonderful graphic visuals for the film. For those renderings, I referenced historical Chinese narrative paintings for style, and featured the characters in central, heroic poses. The Shrek piece was interesting -- I tried to depict Shrek and Fiona in a more medieval style painting, using a slightly lopsided perspective and painting in oil.

"But the best part is the characters. They really come to life while I paint them. Panda is hilarious -- he's one of my favorite DreamWorks characters. There's something about the process of portrait painting that brings the spirit of the subject out, even if the subject is imaginary. I'm not saying that Panda actually talked to me from the painting -- but I must say I felt the kung fu power while I worked! I still paint portraits using toil and acrylic. So much of my commercial work involves digital mediums that I prefer to spend my own creative time at the easel instead of the computer. It's very satisfying to put brush to canvas; and the end result is so lush and luminous. "

Scott Sherman, who lives in Oregon and has worked for Disney, Warner Bros. and Universal, says, "I've always loved these characters so it was a lot of fun to visualize new scenes for them and create visual artwork based on that. I developed probably about 20-30 concepts and they picked three of them. I did a series of reinterpreting for classic paintings (and movies) like Fiona for the Mona Lisa making it the Mona Fiona. They weren't selected at this time but I mainly worked on these DreamWorks characters using my oil painting style, even though they were done as digital pieces. I generally work on the computer the same way I work with traditional media, so I've developed an oil painting style that matches my actual oil painting style and I use that to interpret the DreamWorks characters for the three pieces that I did: King Julian XIII, Puss N' Donkey and Defending the Gates.

"My favorite character is King Julian, but in terms of painting, my favorite is the Kung Fu Panda. I really like the way the color and the lighting and the feeling of it came out. In all the cases, I was trying to find something that was really iconic of the characters and their roles in the films."

With stereoscopic 3-D all the rage, particularly at DreamWorks, Sanders says we should look for 3-D interpretive art in the future.

But Parr says she's looking forward to Megamind and that "it might be fun to do a serious staged portrait of the hero and villain, rendered in oil. And since I love cats so much, I might do a painting of Puss in Boots -- he's hard to resist."

Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.

Bill Desowitz's picture

Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.