Today we’d like to introduce you to Will Weston.
Will, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I grew up surrounded by pear trees. We lived on a 300-acre orchard, a family business going back several generations, in an area now known as Silicon Valley. I was dyslexic and had trouble in the rigid educational philosophy of the time. One teacher even told my mother I might be mildly retarded and might not make it to high school. My mother thought that absurd. She researched education and educational difficulties, found a school to address the issue, and eventually started a school of her own that, among other things, addresses educational differences. The school still exists and is presently owned and operated by my sister.
The Dunn School, a high school in Santa Ynez Valley California, was transformative personally and educationally. The headmaster, Bill Webb, accepted me into the school, gave me an opportunity to start over and put the early years behind me.
I didn’t become serious about illustration until my junior year in college at the California College of the Arts in Oakland. I wasn’t particularly serious about anything really until I met a couple of exceptional teachers and a few friends that motivated me to get going.
My career was first in advertising and editorial illustration. I had agents in New York, Chicago, and in Los Angeles. That lasted about 19 years, and during that time I started teaching part-time at the Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles. I briefly became a sketch artist for movie posters but didn’t like it much, went to graduate school and got an MFA in Fine Arts, was hired by Disney Studios, and was one of the last three artists to complete Disney Feature Animations traditional animation training program. We learned all the traditional skills plus the digital ones, Maya, Photoshop, etc. I eventually worked for Disney Feature and TV Animation, Warner Bros Feature and TV Animation, Sony Feature Animation, and Nickelodeon Animation. I’ve been a traditional and digital background painter, a layout artist, I’ve designed and built sets in Maya, and have been a Visual Development artist on Feature animations.
I left animation to become a full-time teacher at ArtCenter in Pasadena, CA 12 years ago. I have been at ArtCenter ever since and have taught traditional and digital painting, anatomy, figure drawing, costumed figure drawing, Style Development for animation and games, layout and layout drawing skills. I’m an Associate Professor, I teach in both the Entertainment Art and Entertainment Design majors at ArtCenter and was one of the first winners of ArtCenter’s “Great Teacher Award”. Outside of ArtCenter, I teach workshops for Dreamworks Feature and TV animation as well as for other professional organizations in Los Angeles. These include The Animation Guild, The Art Directors Guild and the Society of Illustrators. I conduct workshops in Europe as well. To see my lectures, samples of student work, or to find out about workshops visit my Instagram feed: @WillWestonStudio.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I’m an art Professor at this point. It wasn’t a plan, exactly, but everything I’ve experienced and done led to being here. I also like curriculum development – how’s that for an exciting interview subject! It’s important though because it goes beyond the individual class. Education is expensive today and necessary to succeed, so you want to make every class count in your curriculum. This can be viewed from a number of perspectives given your interests of course, but college today is too expensive to waste time and most can’t afford to. In the right field, you can develop a successful professional life in the arts, but you have to be very, very good.
You asked, “What’s your message or Inspiration, what do you hope people will take away from this?” That you can pursue a course, even if you don’t know exactly where it leads, and have a satisfying life if you persevere. We can’t know everything. It’s easier for some than others. I had my difficulties when young, but my privileges in life have far outweighed my difficulties and I have no right to complain about anything. However, I have watched students from impoverished and broken family backgrounds succeed, painfully shy students persevere and succeed, and students from war-torn parts of the world who got to ArtCenter somehow adapt and go on to succeed.
If I can be of help to them on the way, then that’s a good job to me. I wasn’t always this way, I arrived here by my own path. I measure my success today by offering what I have to offer on a daily basis, and that happens to be a fair degree of art skill and knowledge… When students ask what they should do I answer “how do you want to spend your days”? I left animation to teach because for many reasons that’s how I want to spend my day.
One question you asked was “why should we know about your artwork?” I guess my answer is that I’m awfully good at what I do, but it’s not actually about me. What I try to do is to provide others with a solid foundation in the skills and concepts needed to succeed as an artist in the entertainment field. It’s about getting the student to be the best they can be. I’m not the only one who’s good at doing this of course, but I am very good at it.
Do current events, local or global, affect your work and what you are focused on?
In animation, and in the industry overall, there is increased awareness that we need to improve and broaden how people are represented on screen. My students are domestic and international, from numerous ethnic and religious backgrounds, LGBTQ communities, some are conservative and some are liberal, and they want to see themselves their histories and stories represented on screen. I do to. It’ll move us forward, hopefully humanize us to each other and will simply be more interesting as art. My job is to help them develop the core skills to do this.
I think the role of animation and the commercial media, in general, is as it’s always been. It’s a kind of propaganda. It tells us who we are and what we think, and we can choose to go along or not. So, propose something good.
Today we’re much more aware than our parents of how powerful and potentially damaging our representation of people and cultures can be… Politicians do it with careful word selection demonizing their opponent or groups of people. This is done daily through repetition and the bully pulpit.
Commercial media has a bully pulpit too. It can be slow and incremental in its advancement, I wish it wasn’t, but if it shows people of color or LGBTQ people in a positive light over time, then the mainstream eventually advances.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
Currently, the best way to see what I do is on Instagram: @WillWestonStudio. I post examples of my blackboard lectures and student work. There are about 1,500 examples at the moment. I also post notices for my workshops that are open to the public on Instagram. Workshop locations open to the public can be contacted at: @AnimationGuild, @SocietyOfIllustratorsLA, @laafa & in Europe at @beauxartsentertainment in Paris. I do two workshops in August and we use Paris as our classroom.
If anyone wants to book a workshop, I’m always happy to do them if I have the time. Direct Message me on Instagram and I’ll get back to you.
- Instagram: @WillWestonStudio
The art was photographed by me. The Paris workshop photos by @BeauxArtsEntertainment. Much more is available for view at: @willwestonstudio on Instagram.