Luck Favours the Prepared: Interview with Terryl Whitlach


Another interesting interview with Schoolism.

Terryl Whitlach is a character designer and scientific illustrator best known for her work with Lucasfilm, in particular, the goofiest of goofs, Jar-Jar Binks.

From a young age, Whitlach has had a serious interest in biology and keen sensitivity toward animals.  She describes her methodology as trying to imagine how that creature (whatever she may be drawing) is really feeling, and how their environment effects their characteristics – both physically and emotionally.

Her more recent work as a paleontological reconstruction artist is also fascinating.  It makes me happy when scientists and artists come together to work side-by-side and further their studies.

Some useful advice from the interview:

  • have sensitivity for your subject.  The better your understanding, the more effective your work.
  • ‘Luck favours the prepared’ i.e. there is no real luck, just do your best and try to be prepared with a fine portfolio that represents you as a practitioner in the best light.   Then, you will be more likely to find yourself feeling lucky.
  • have your own voice.  So many portfolios from students graduating from animation and illustration courses with homogenised work.  Have your ear to the ground, know what is going on around you, but do not strive to churn out the same work as others in the field.
  • having a varied portfolio (ranging from animation to illustration to storyboards to sculpture to 3D modelling) can look impressive, but always work to your strengths.  At the base of these skills is very often good draftsmanship, good drawing.  Exemplify this skill to the best of your ability.
  • If you can draw really well, you can animate.

Whitlach has recently developed a new website aimed at helping others to test out and develop their own character design skills in a really cool format – a story that takes you through a new world, with new creatures that you yourself can take on a modify to whatever environments you bring them to.  Tales of Amalthea sounds like a fantastic learning experience with invaluable insight into the processes behind this inspirational artist’s work.  She is cool.


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