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A Cutting Edge Landmark Based On Major Inspirations


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Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, with a wave from the grave by Laurence Olivier.

 

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is on IFC right now, and apparently again tomorrow.

 

It's not a film on which you're going to hear a lot of positive feedback.  SNL parodied it for bad acting, and young audiences panned it for being about "a lot of old stuff".  

 

But it was a landmark film for utilizing all digital backgrounds, vehicles, special effects, and props.

 

Just as importantly, its makers, the Conran brothers, intended it as a major tribute to Buck Rogers-style serials, pre-War retro-futurism, vintage comic book art, and genuine noir-style lighting and composition.  

 

I visited the studio sometime around 2002... Concept Artist John Watkiss's drawings were on all four walls, the floors, and the ceilings of the small but modern industrial garage in the San Fernando Valley.  

 

You see, Watkiss created not just the concepts, but each scene's lighting, shadows, composition, and set design, and each drawing he created was then taken directly to the animators so that they could transfer his vision directly to the screen via Maya programming.

 

Now Watkiss ( http://www.johnwatkissfineart.com ), did not co-opt his love for great, GREAT artists such as Alex Raymond, Nestor Redondo, Frank Brangwyn, and Saul Tepper, the way that Art Center College students or the California Art Club today suddenly "discover" Howard Pyle or N.C Wyeth.   He was a loner whose father was a coal miner in Manchester, so a thirteen year old who had already memorized the entire anatomy of the human body was an unusual person, to say the least, where he came from.

 

Indeed, he did not even paint in a method anyone had used to any extent since before the Second World War.  He once told me that he was a Classic Illustrator "displaced from the 1920s" and forced to live in today's art world.

 

And he LOVES great films as well!

 

He also told me that he also got a tremendous amount of inspiration for his staging, lighting, and design from films such as Jack Clayton's 1961The Innocents, and Robert Wise's 1963 The Haunting.

 

Watkiss was responsible for massive amounts of inspiration -- but unfortunately, not the producers' chosen  designs -- for Disney's Tarzan, Emperor's New Groove, Treasure Planet; and also later for guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes.  Disney was so shocked by his concept paintings after bringing him over from London and leaving him alone to create in a private studio that he became their first artist to have his work displayed on all four levels of their Animation Building.

 

He also was the first major artist since Diego Rivera to have a major mural commissioned by the Ford (motor Company) family at their museum in Dearborn.

 

He worked off and on for the top four major graphic novel companies since age eighteen, including work for DC/Vertigo and on characters such as Conan, Superman, and the Sandman... he told me they were "the only real venues left for great composition".

 

Fans are always shocked to learn that the "John Watkiss" they love as an comic artist is the same "John Watkiss" who worked for Disney, or versa. 

 

So watch Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow 

 

 

 

 

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