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Featured Artist of the Month


This month we feature an artist whose spotlight here in this space was only a matter of time. Koraden, who has been with the Archive for three years and now contributes her creative work from college, has built up a large collection of pictures—nearly a thousand—with a heavy focus on canon subject matter and style. She's one of the most recognized names at the TLKFAA, and this month it's time to showcase the results of her hard work!
Thank you everyone! I know that a lot of AotMs have said here that they were so surprised to receive this honor, but I'm really not. For a little while now people have been asking me "When are you going to be AotM?" And it seems y'all have finally overwhelmed me. Because whenever anyone asked whether they should vote for me my answer was always a no. It's not because I don't want this; I've dreamed of being here on the front page since I first realized what a remarkable place TLKFAA was. It's because I never thought I was *ready* to be here. I would say to myself, I can be better than what I am now. I'm not at my peak yet. There's still so much room for improvement!

But gradually I've come to realize that for young artists like us, there is no peak. Self-improvement is a lot like a gradual curve, a parabola. As close as we come to approaching the limit of perfection there's always still a bit more to go. (For those of you who haven't had the joy of a calculus class yet, I'll borrow a line from Simba: you'll understand someday.) There isn't any particular point at which you can look at your latest piece, stop and say: "I'm finished!" Or at least that hasn't been the case for me. That's why I've added an improvement picture to the ones here that I regard as some of my best, because basically everyone starts out simply, tracing clipart or storybooks. Everyone uses reference .

And everyone gets frustrated. I'm sure there are some who envy me for winning. I've felt the sort of jealousy that for me boiled to anger in the site contest some time ago. I had painstakingly constructed an entry, one that I was extremely proud of and was sure would place in the top ten. It didn't. And it hurt.

I survived (obviously).

I kept drawing, and soon the pictures I made weren't just for me anymore, but for others to find interesting as well. My original characters fell by the wayside as I drew more and more canon artwork. Let's face it: the one who gets the most joy out of pictures of your own characters is you. But if you reach into the roots of what makes this a community, our shared love for TLK, you can affect people you've never even met, and not only gain the self-pleasure of constructing a piece of art but the shared pleasure of adding something meaningful to this collection. The world of canon possibilities is so much bigger than we realize sometimes.

Anyway, somehow or other I reached where I am today. Near the start of 2008 I hit a major milestone with my upload "46 — Family." It won the site contest. Today I can say I've won that more times than any other artist, an incredibly long way to come from the utter frustration and resentment I once felt. All four of my winning entries are on this page because of the personal struggle they represent for me on TLKFAA.

What does it mean that this is the only internet community I've found that I've been able to truly become a part of, for two and a half years now? I don't belong to DeviantArt, or really engage in any other art communities in cyberspace; TLK tends to be the only digital art I draw. Folks, TLKFAA is a unique and extraordinary place, even 15 years (wow!) after the original film's release. We owe a lot to Brian Tiemann for manufacturing and maintaining such a flexible yet powerful masterpiece.

And that's about it. I've tried to share some of my experience that I hope will help you on your own journeys of improvement, and I look forward to watching you grow as I try to better myself. I'm rather quiet and not usually a forceful personality around here, so thank you for reading my novel of an acceptance speech. Thank you for being part of this amazing site. And thank you for voting me Artist of the Month! At the end of the day, this is only one moment in the path of my own upward curve. I'm not leaving TLKFAA anytime soon, I promise...I have some cool projects in the works that I hope you'll enjoy. :)

Sometimes it's easy to say what unique features make a particular artist's work stand out and deserve special recognition. Sometimes it's the skillful grasp of Disney's model style; sometimes it's an innate or hard-come-by mastery of anatomy; sometimes it's a unique sense of humor; and sometimes it's an ability to tie it all together with a comprehensive and ambitious effort at universe-building. For most artists, it's one of these things or another that really becomes the trademark. But in Koraden's case, it's really "all of the above".

That said, the first thing one will usually notice in looking through Koraden's extensive gallery is the intense focus on the canon Lion King universe. Many artists who have been featured here are able to cite a strong emphasis on working within Disney's art style and creative framework; Koraden in particular has taken that source of inspiration to an extreme, with dozens and dozens of pictures exploring the canon storyline and closely-related spin-off plots that she has devised. With new characters added to the original story's (somewhat confining) small cast of characters and circumscribed story boundaries, the intricate psychological interplays of motives and alliances and family bonds within a society of creatures with a monarchistic hierarchy become quite a rich field in which to grow compelling stories and the images that illustrate them. How many fan-artists have put themselves into the pawprints of, say, Sarabi and explored her mental machinations in the wake of Scar's stampede plot? How many have really considered what the societal implications of such a scheme would be—what names they would give the events in their lives, what factions would form, what dynamics would rule in the order and chaos that followed? Koraden has, with picture after picture bringing these questions to life. Not to mention an animated "news report"—the top thumbnail on the right—which weaves in her zeal for irreverent humor on top of her impulse to think through all the characters' deep-down motivations.

Another unmistakable hallmark of Koraden's work is the willingness to tackle large and complex projects: group shots, large-scale collaborations, mosaics. Glancing to the left and right, you'll see several examples of this: TLK-ifications of Star Wars and the collection of Disney cats; a sprawling family portrait of Scar's pride; and that's just the beginning. Koraden brings her rapidly evolving skills with a tablet to bear on ambitious efforts that often dwarf the complexity of the highly polished single-character pieces that other artists often prefer to do. And they also work well with her affinity for collaborations and group efforts, using Sketcher to hone her knowledge of animal and bird anatomy through the constant give-and-take learning experience that is interacting with others working on similar projects at the same time. Indeed, one of the site-wide phenomena that is well illustrated by Koraden's success is the wild popularity of Sketcher in promoting an artistic discipline that captures the expressiveness of Disney's art and ties it all together with a well-understood "group style", yet still allows individual artists to identify their own work with the personalized flourishes that mark their own independent styles.

Koraden has plenty of great insights into the process of developing one's artistic skills through hard work and imagination; it's high time she gets the recognition her work deserves, and artists who want to see what's in store for them if they're willing to put in the effort have only to look through her gallery to see the rewards, speaking for themselves.

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