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Justin K Thompson

JustinThompson_selfAbout Justin K Thompson
As a Visual Development Artist and Production Designer, Justin K Thompson has had the privilege of working with some of the most talented and collaborative people in the animation industry for more than 20 years. He has worked for dozens of studios, both big and small, including Dreamworks TV Animation, Titmouse, Renegade Animation, The Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney TV Animation, Disney Toons, Warner Brothers Feature Animation, and Sony Pictures Animation. Currently, he is a Visual Development Artist at Sony Pictures Animation. In addition, Justin has worked on so many fun and memorable projects it’s hard to name them all, but the most well-known are The Powerpuff Girls, The Powerpuff Girls Movie, Samurai Jack, The Clone Wars: The Animated Series, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, and The Lego Movie.   In 2005, Justin was awarded an Emmy for his design work on The Clone Wars: The Animated Series.

Mentor Preferences
Justin’s chief area of expertise is as a Visual Development Artist, with a prime emphasis on Environment Design, Layout, and Painting.  He has also been a storyboard artist, a character designer, and a layout artist.  He is well-versed in nearly every medium, but graphite drawing, pen & ink drawings, gouache, digital design & paint are the media that he is most confident with. Alas, he has no 3D skills (maya, zbrush, etc) but as a Production Designer, he works with 3D models and filmmakers every day, so is very familiar with how Visual Development supports 3D and how best to take advantage of the medium.

Ideal Mentee: As someone who got a really big break early on in my own career, I wanted to give some of that back if I can. So, I am really interested in working with a younger artist who is really interested in learning more about how to improve their visual development work. Since environments are my specialization, I think I can be the most useful to those artists who are interested in pursuing careers in Environment Design, Visual Development, Story Sketch, and Painting. Artists who are interested in the subtleties of composition, color, and lighting and how they affect storytelling. Artists who are concerned with making sure their design work reflects the subtext of their story and provides the best stage for their characters and animation. An interest in the animation business would probably be best, because that is where all my experience and frame of reference is, but all of the principles I focus on can also apply equally to game design, illustration, and painting as well. In my view, there is no shortage of ways to improve the design of any composition, so highly motivated students in these other disciplines interested in learning about good design principles that they can apply to their work are also welcome.

10-Week Plan: I am very flexible about this, because every artist likes to work a little differently. However, I do have a rough guideline that could be helpful to follow: Week 1) Get to know an artist’s strengths and wishes for the mentorship & choose a subject to explore. Week 2) Explore some loose thumbnails and concept sketches. Suggest ways to refine. Week 3) Perhaps another round of concept work, but integrating notes from Week 2. Week 4 thru 6) Refining the rough compositions and/or designs and choosing the final piece. Week 7 thru 10) Refining the final piece(s) and discussing all the finer points of composition and design theory along the way. The long term goal would be to take an idea all the way from concept stage to a final, portfolio ready presentation piece. Or if it’s a piece for a personal project (like an illustration designed to sell prints, or a student film) to go from a concept stage to a final piece that the artist is proud of and can be used with confidence in their personal project.

Maximum Number of Mentees: 1

Maximum Distance: International

Language(s): English only

Preferred Meeting Times:  I do believe the best way to learn is in person, but I realize that many artists do not live in Los Angeles and I want to give as many people the opportunity to learn from me as are interested. To meet in person, it would be best to meet at my home studio or at a coffee shop near my house. If an artist lives in close proximity to my commute I can be flexible and meet them somewhere between on my drive home. I’m also fine with Skype or Google Hangout or similar apps online if that is the only way a mentee can meet with me. My time during the day is almost never predictable so I have to meet with an artist in the evening hours. However, I’m very flexible about the days. I can meet any night at my home studio after 8:30 PM (PST)

To apply to become Justin’s mentee, click here.

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