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Featured Artist of the Month


The world of The Lion King provides artists with a rich canvas on which to paint, a landscape whose boundaries are beyond the reach of sight. Many artists who work within that landscape do so only as a partial expression of their creative talents, carving out a niche somewhere in the TLK universe that encompasses their own unique visions, even if it shares little with the canon TLK world as envisioned by Disney. But only a few, like this month's Featured Artist, FireLemming, choose to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the canon world and explore its own ample, rich possibilities.
Wow. AoTM. I had to slow down and take a breath and think about what to say.

First, I want to thank all the people who voted for me. (You're all insane, ya know.) And I especially want to thank and acknowledge the many encouraging and supportive people that have inspired me and critiqued my work. All of you motivate me to take bigger and bigger chances.

I also want to thank all the fabulous artists on my watch list. Every picture they create is a lesson, especially when they can find a different angle or delicious twist to the story.

My art is still a work-in-progress and I still have a long way to go and lots of things to learn before I will really be satisfied with it. It took miles of crumpled paper to finally begin to get it right. I study art books and paintings, but I also study the real thing...

You see, I love the big cats (and the little cats too) and I have loved them for as long as I can remember. I love how they walk, how they move, how they greet each other, how they play, how they fight, how they eat, drink, and sleep. I love watching them for hours, even when they aren't doing much of anything but sleeping in the sun. The big cats walk through my dreams.

Maybe that's one of the reasons why TLK strikes me so deeply. I saw it when it first came out and I was stunned by it. Every so often, I pop the DVD into the player so I can be stunned all over again. But TLK isn't a nature documentary about lions: TLK deals with some pretty heavy universal themes like courage, commitment, love, hate, and honor. Most of the characters are multidimensional and complex, and this complexity can only be answered in works of art and fiction.

Just a note: you don't see this kind of fan-devotion to The Little Mermaid or Sleeping Beauty. Maybe it's the lions, but TLK comes from a very different place -- from somewhere deep and primal within each of us. Whatever it is, after all this time, the story still retains its originality and significance, at least for me.

Again, thank you all for this honor. It means a great deal to me.

The Lion King isn't FireLemming's only artistic outlet, by any means; it's obvious that she has a great many interests ranging from fantasy and anthropomorphics to classical art studies and still life. What she shows off here is only a fraction of what makes her tick; and yet with over 400 pictures uploaded in a little more than two years, it's clear that it's one of her favorite genres.

Which is lucky for us, because FireLemming's unique vision is one that brings a level of canon appreciation to the Archive that few other artists match. She takes pride in her art's on-topic focus, and with good reason: for her, The Lion King is more than just an engaging movie with art that's fun to draw: it's an artistic realization of a love she's already had for big cats and the natural world. So much the better, then, that it brings that world to life through characters and stories we can all relate to; this way, an artist like FireLemming can explore both the patently naturalistic side of the creative landscape, and the personal, character-oriented discipline of character animation and acting. Few movies, and indeed few artistic genres, bring these two sides together under one roof, as it were.

FireLemming has made the most of it, taking the opportunity not only to enrich her mastery of the feline form, but also to draw animals such as birds and equines—when possible, imbuing them with the same depth of character as you see in the movie's canon characters, such as when she can combine nature-drawing techniques and animation expression studies in a portrait of Zazu the hornbill. She frequently goes off in directions nobody expects, as can be seen at right: Simba and Nala as ... ants? Boy, talk about creative!

With a loose, informal style, FireLemming does not follow the same path as many of the highest-profile artists on the Archive, who insist on computer-colored, digitally inked art with so much polish you can practically see the gleam. FireLemming's art is rougher around the edges, and intentionally so; for artists like her, it's that roughness that preserves the life and vitality so important to animation-style art. The expression and the gesture always reads perfectly and shows through in a way that it probably could not if the outlines and the rendering were as stylized and hyper-finished as many artists prefer to do it. FireLemming loves the look of the sketch, and that's a big part of why her sketches look so pleasing to the eye.

Whether it's sketches or finished digital art, canon or fan-creation, lion or meerkat or savannah flower, FireLemming tackles it all with gusto. Here's to seeing more of the same—and more of the rest, too—from her in the future!

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