When my good friends at Acme Archives approached me to do a painting based on their Walt Disney license, I thought it would be a great opportunity to push myself as a painter and create something really finished and polished with animation style. Over the years I've worked in animation, I've done everything from characters, props and environments, but they have all been very conceptual. The animation process is such that work gets heavily divided into different disciplines and it is common to have one person do a drawing while another does the color. So this was my chance to really see an animation-style painting from concept to final.
I was given the choice of many different subjects, but I my immediate choice was Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh was one of my favorite Disney characters growing up and I always found him so lovable and sweet, just as I loved Totoro from Japan. I didn't have a specific vision when I started, so I started doodling and looking at references, particularly the artwork of Fantasia and Bambi. I was drawn to the amazing fall colors of fiery red and orange and decided to put the character in a sunset environment with a giant oak tree behind him that was wrapped in autumn.
Because I am also an environment artist and a storyteller, it was important to me to convey a sense of story in the painting using the entire environment, not just a portrait of a character. To me the big, ancient tree has always been a symbol of wisdom, and Winnie the Pooh himself is a philosopher in his own way. I thought the juxtaposition was perfect to have the eternal tree of wisdom in the background and Winne the Pooh in his own simple wisdom asking a naive question of the butterflies: "Do you make honey, too?"
From a technical standpoint, this painting really allowed me to push my painterly skills by using a lot more Painter than Photoshop. I explored a lot about creating brushes for leaves, since the tree is so prominent. It was important to create a pattern that would be both efficient and have my signature, graphic feel.