| Great Minds | Interview with Dreamworks Artist Schim Schimmel
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“My hope is that when you see my artwork, you feel a sense of this oneness, and in turn, feel the same love and passion I feel for our planet, its animals, and this incredible universe we call home.” — Schim Schimmel
Snow leopards, white tigers, elephants and lions; the earth, the moon, galaxies and nebulas — these are the subjects that leap off a Schimmel canvas and into the hearts of those who see his work. For over twenty years now, Schim Schimmel has been painting in a style uniquely his own, expressing on canvas his love and awe for this incredible planet, its animals, and the universe that brought them into being.
Arting365: Hi Schim! Cuteness in the character of Po in Kung Fu Panda has made the world melt. As China is the hometown of pandas, audiences here also have favorable impression towards this cartoon. Can you tell us why did you choose kung fu panda as an artwork theme in a Dreamworks cartoon?
Schim: I was asked to create a special piece for the Kung Fu Panda celebration event in HK. In this painting, “Po” represents the warm-hearted strength and character of Hong Kong’s people. The character, “Po”, in Kung Fu Panda is a wonderful character to paint because he is so emotionally expressive. Po’s personality is warm and accessible, and most of us are immediately drawn to him. At times awkward and inadequate, at other times agile and confident, Po’s well-rounded character is something all of us can relate to. And he’s simply a lot of fun to paint!
Arting365: Dreamsworks has created so many well-known cartoons loved by both children and adults. What was your starting point when you selected the characters? In other words, what was your inspiration when you painted the them?
Schim: The inspiration for the DreamWorks characters I paint come from the movies themselves. CG animation has evolved to an amazing level of detail and depth, and so has the writing and character development in these movies. Once I see a DreamWorks production, I then have enough insight and empathy with its characters to be able to paint them with feeling and emotion. When I first saw “How to Train Your Dragon,” I really loved the movie and the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. I knew I wanted to paint them together showing their love and dependence on one another, and I came up with the image for “Fire and Ice” based on the story line from the second movie.
Arting365: Your father is an art teacher. When you were young, you were also dedicated to teaching career like your father. What inspired you to start creating instead of teaching?
Schim: After studying art with my father, a nationally known watercolorist and art instructor, I went on to teach others the craft of painting for ten years. You learn so much when you teach others, and this was a very rewarding experience for me. After ten years, however, I really wanted to just paint full time so I quit teaching.
Arting365: What could be the toughest challenge in your painting life? Any work was accomplished with painstaking process that you won’t forget?
Schim: One of the greatest joys (and frustrations) in being an artist is that you never reach a final destination of growth where there is nothing more to learn. You are always trying to stretch and grow, and become a better artist. Every painting I do is the best painting I can do at the time, but I always begin the next painting with the desire to paint better than before. When I painted “Hong Kong Warrior,” I had never painted a city skyline before. I was nervous yet excited at the prospect. It was entirely possible that this painting might not have turned out well and I would have to scrap it, but fortunately I succeeded in overcoming the challenges of this painting, and I was pleased with the end result. Now I will not be so nervous the next time I want to paint a city skyline! An artist’s greatest challenge and greatest reward is always found in stretching his artistic abilities to the limit.
Arting365: What was your original intention of being an artist?
**Schim:**I knew since I was a teenager that I would spend my life being an artist. I knew it was a risk, that it would be difficult to make a living as an artist, but I really had no choice. I have always had a need (not just a desire) to express myself creatively. I knew I could only be happy by spending my life creating works of art for others to enjoy.
Arting365: Kung fu Panda was injected with Chinese elements and a Chinese animal was chosen for the first time in western cartoons, which is easy to understand why you chose panda for painting. However, there are other animals that can represent Chinese culture as well. Any probabilities that you will apply more of these oriental animals to your painting in the future?
**Schim:**I enjoy painting many different kinds of animals from all over the world. I look forward to painting more Chinese/eastern animals in the future. People comment that I tend to paint mostly the wild cats: snow leopards, lions, tigers, and such. Cats have large, expressive eyes, and I can convey a lot of emotion through their eyes. Elephants are magnificent animals, and I have painted many elephants, but their eyes are small and dark, and do not convey emotion in the same way a wild cat does. My paintings are always about making the viewer feel an emotional connection and love for the animals I paint, as well as the earth itself. If I can make the viewer feel a little more compassion and love for this planet and its animals, then I have succeeded in conveying my artistic message.