DreamWorks, Nickelodeon artists to draw on expertise at symposium
October 7, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( www.lasierra.edu ) A swirling gray sky skewered by lightening bolts surrounds an immense, ominous castle. Patches of golden light gleam from tall windows. The dream-like gothic-looking concept illustration transports viewers to another time and place using not traditional acrylic, pencil, watercolor or other media, but Adobe Photoshop, a software program for artists.
Justin Brandstater, the illustrator who created the concept piece for makers of the 2004 feature film “Van Helsing,” was trained at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He is currently serving as a matte painter for Glendale-based DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., creating backgrounds for the feature film sequel “Shrek Forever After” due out in 2010. He has worked for DreamWorks since 2005 and his artistic credits include work on “Kung Fu Panda.”
Since Brandstater and colleague Bill Dely graduated from the art center respectively in 1990 and 1989, they have witnessed the transformation of their artistic trade in the entertainment industry to one in which artists across sectors are using the same software programs that often replace traditional art tools. “Artists are finding they’re able to switch between industries,” Brandstater said. “There’s this convergence happening. …Everything’s kind of moving in this interesting direction. …[software] opened up a lot of doors.”
But while Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk Maya 3D and other programs have mostly replaced film, television and videogame artists’ pens, paints and brushes, artists still need traditional training to fully understand how to make art, say Brandstater and Dely. “You still need to understand the basics of figure drawing, form, lighting. …Just because someone knows a [software] program doesn’t mean they have [artistic capabilities],” Dely said. He is currently working as color supervisor at Nickelodeon on the television version of “Kung Fu Panda.”
On Monday, Oct. 12, the duo will present a symposium at La Sierra University’s Brandstater Gallery addressing these issues. The talk, titled “Art in Hollywood and How it Relates to Film and Videogame Industries,” will take place from 6 – 8 p.m. Admission to the symposium is free. La Sierra University is located at 4500 Riverwalk Parkway in Riverside and the gallery is located off of Middle Campus Drive. A campus map is at http://lasierra.edu/index.php?id=981.
The gallery, named after Brandstater’s family, is hosting the presentation in part to celebrate the completion of extensive renovations the gallery incurred over the past three and a half months. The gallery will be empty so that visitors can view the environmental changes.
Monetary gifts from the Brandstater family covered most of the renovation costs. La Sierra’s College of Arts and Sciences funded a gallery sound system. Gallery changes included stripping carpet from walls, making new seamless walls, installing white pedestals and walls and moveable walls. The white walls can be customized with various colors for individual shows. Workers also installed a wireless alarm system and climate control system. The latter equipment regulates temperature and humidity. This allows the gallery to exhibit more vulnerable artwork, helping the facility attract a wider variety of shows, said Beatriz Mejia-Krumbein, La Sierra’s art department chair and gallery director. She cited the work of Physical Plant Director Al Valdez and his team in carrying out the renovations.
“We were talking about the renovation for several years,” Mejia-Krumbein said. “It was important to give the gallery a more contemporary presentation.” She and several art students spent 10 days stripping black paint off of custom-made porous plaster letters spelling out ‘The Roy & Frances Brandstater Gallery.’ They painted the letters in white to coordinate with the new, cleaner look of the gallery. Brandstater siblings commissioned the creation of the letters to renowned sculptor Alan Collins when they founded the gallery in honor of their parents.
Brandstater family members who contributed to the gallery renewal effort include Brandstater siblings Rhona Brandstater Hodgen, Bernard Brandstater, Murray Brandstater and Lynette Brandstater Bellville. The siblings are the children of Roy and Frances Brandstater. The siblings also established an endowment in summer 2008 to enrich the gallery’s fine arts activities and build upon support provided by the university. The family is committed to continue its support of the art program and the gallery, Mejia-Krumbein said.
Lynette Brandstater Bellville is continuing the family’s impact on the gallery by volunteering once a week to help form a ‘Friends of Brandstater Gallery’ association.
Justin Brandstater and La Sierra Associate Professor of Physical Chemistry Nathan Brandstater are sons of Murray Brandstater.
Justin Brandstater acquired a serious interest in art while attending Loma Linda Academy. His art teacher, Grace Ballou, took the class on a field trip to the art center in Pasadena and the young Brandstater was hooked. “It opened my eyes that there’s potential for illustration and fine art making,” he said. “I wasn’t really aware of those opportunities.”
At the center he studied design and art. After graduating in 1990 he entered the entertainment industry working for Disney’s Buena Vista Visual Effects then moved to Disney feature animation. He created background paintings for “Aladdin,” “Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Tarzan,” and other major films. He began using Adobe Photoshop between 1992 and 1993, moving from traditional painting on illustration board to painting with Photoshop. Between 2000 and 2005 he worked for Illusion Arts on such films as “Red Planet,” “The Village,” “The Notebook,” and “The Fast and the Furious.” His extensive resume includes matte painting work on such well-known movies as “Over the Hedge,” “Flushed Away” and the “Bee Movie.”
“A lot of the tools are becoming universal. …A 3D package [such as Autodesk Maya] could be used for advertising, film and animation,” Brandstater said. There is a “delicate balance” between traditional art training and use of technology to create art, he continued. “We didn’t have to wrestle with this 15 or 20 years ago. It was all about the art.” Today’s young artists need to show a strong portfolio and reel, and demonstrate expertise in both technology and traditional artistic skills, he said. “It kind of sets them apart.”
Dely often uses software programs Photoshop, Flash and Painter in his work. His roster of projects includes working as a background artist for Stan Lee’s “Film Roman,” “Duck Dodgers” from Warner Bros. TV Animation, “Larry Boy” video series from Cornerstone Animation Inc. and “The Iron Giant” and “The Quest for Camelot” from Warner Bros. Feature Animation. He advises upcoming entertainment industry artists to develop not only the proper artistic skill sets but a proper attitude as well by having the ability to give and receive constructive criticism.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University