When artist David Willardson entered the world of entertainment art after graduating from Los Angeles Art Center College of Design, his passionate commitment to excellence and his natural creativity quickly opened doors, allowing him to create internationally known images such as the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie logo and the classic American Graffiti car hop. Because he could create images that portrayed the essence of a story, his creative journey eventually veered into the field of animation—Disney needed an artist that understood and was passionate about Disney characters. They needed an artist that could uphold the integrity of Disney's original drawings. They needed someone who could capture the personalities and emotions of the Disney family of characters.
In short, they needed David Willardson.
Born and raised in San Diego just down the freeway from Disneyland, the Southern California artist was a Disney devotee from the very beginning. In fact, he won an "outstanding paperboy" contest to visit Disneyland when it first opened in 1954 and later became a Disney cast member several years later—working the Skyway gondolas (allegedly ushering Walt Disney himself) and the Matterhorn—due to its reputation for hiring cute female cast members.
Caught up in the adventuresome, ingenious make-believe world of Disney animation as a young child, Willardson was deeply influenced by the creativity and whimsy of the characters and the early execution of the cartoon, factors that profoundly influenced his chosen path as professional artist. Lurking behind his beloved Disney characters, Willardson discovered a team of animation geniuses that had left an indelible mark on American popular culture. As a devotee, he set about learning their craft in order to figure out what made his heroes tick. "As a young kid, I started studying the early Disney imagery - how an eye looked, how a hand looked—in essence, I studied them in minutiae," he recalled. "For years, I'd been studying the work of early animation masters like Ub Iwerks. The early animators were world-class draughtsmen. They could draw so beautifully. The shapes and forms they used—bold geometric circles and triangles—helped create a character in its purest form. The characters from that period were absolutely perfect. I figured out what made them work and what didn't." However, he never seriously considered a professional relationship with Disney until he received a fateful call from Jeffrey Katzenberg, Disney's head of animation in the '80s.
As the legend goes, Willardson was asked by an ad agency to do a painting of Goofy for Walt Disney World. "I rendered it photo realistically," he said, "just a living being, with dimension, shading, core values and rim lighting." The ad ran nationally, and Katzenburg spotted it. He then called Willardson and asked if he would be interested in creating an entirely new look for the animated movie poster campaigns that featured the reissued classics and new movies. For the next seventeen years, Willardson was the artist of choice for those Disney campaigns. The first poster Willardson created for Disney was for the re-release movie poster for Bambi. His fully rendered images for the Disney animated movie posters include such well-known and regarded movie posters such as - The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Robin Hood, Beauty and The Beast, as well as classics, such as Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and The Jungle Book, earning him a permanent place in animation history.
While painting the characters in the traditional way, Willardson also developed his dynamic, colorful, stylish, painting style that breathes life into each classically rendered portrait, capturing the personality and emotions of the characters, but more so revealing their soul. His fully rendered images of Disney classics are still the most widely used to date, earning Willardson a much-deserved place in animation history. When computer graphics took over much of the former hand-illustration work, altering the creative process, he decided to evolve with the times and closed his design studio in 2003 to embark on a bold new venture as a Disney fine artist.
Willardson is now the creative force of the "Pep Art Movement," a creative new genre in which cultural icons are awash with an infusion of color, personality, and vitality. Unlike traditional "pop art," however, the subjects of Willardson's "pep" art are not soup cans or Brillo boxes or movie stars; they are classic Disney characters. "They were my childhood heroes," he said. "I never lost that." The images in his work express an untapped inner verve bubbling within, giving us an unique insight into their technicolor souls. "And they do have souls," Willardson insisted of his favored subjects.
"I certainly am a product of the pop art movement," he elaborated, "but I also have a great love for action painting, which originated in the 1950s with Jackson Pollack and a number of other artists. Action painting is about movement, action and boldness in the painting. I have amalgamated pop art - which deals with pop culture imagery - and action painting, which is really energy painting." The result is a new genre that packs an energized visual wallop. Willardson's paintings exude such rich soulful personality—the joy, sadness, frustration, and exhilaration first granted them by the old masters. "They are living legends to me," he said, "just like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and James Dean."
World Wide Art
World Wide Art is known for its wide selection of limited edition prints by renowned artists, including the luminescent works of David Willardson. Their expert staff also specializes in custom conservation framing. In business since 1996, World Wide Art is located in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a well-known art shop for both serious collectors and casual decorators. The staff at World-Wide-Art.com not only deals art, but are collectors and artists themselves who consider their work a labor of love and lifestyle of art appreciation.