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Featured Artist of the Month

Chipo

It hasn't taken her long, compared to some artists here—just four years—nor a tremendous number of pictures. But Chipo has, in that short time and with only a few hundred drawings in her gallery, amassed a strong and enthusiastic fan following who are drawn irresistibly to her mastery of the cute and imaginative character designs that flow from her pen and fit so well into the universe of The Lion King while retaining so much of her own unique sense of cartoonish humor.

Whether it's a canon TLK character or a design all her own, or a rendition of someone else's flight of artistic fancy (such as the camel-spider character Azareth at right, found on her extensive DeviantArt site), Chipo brings an enthusiasm to the enterprise that shows through in everything she creates. There's a brightness in the eyes she draws, a softness to the expresions, and an overall approachability to the characters' physicality that can come only from real, honest hard work in pursuit of true self-driven mastery of the subject. That's the kind of motivation that lifts a person's art to the level where fans will sit up and take notice. And in Chipo's case, they certainly have.

Oh my God you guys!!! Thank you all so much for this! I seriously was not expecting this at all. I thought that maybe my shot at the title had come and gone a while ago since my activity has died out, but wow! I really don't know how to say thank you in a way that you can all understand how grateful I am, especially to TLKFAA founder, Brian :)

It's truly humbling to have someone appreciate my scribbles and acknowledge my growth as an artist. And for Brian to be able to put this into words is just amazing!

I don't know whether finding this site was luck or fate but I do know that without it I would not be where I am today as an artist or as a person. I had no idea there were so many people out there who shared my enthusiasm to create. Being surrounded by so much talent and then actually being able to interact with you all, really gave me the motivation to improve my work. Currently, I'm studying art at the University of Central Florida and planning to major in character animation.

My time here at TLKFAA hasn't been just a learning experience. Over the years I've met so many amazing people from all over the world who really made this place a second home for me. There was always someone to help cheer me up when I was depressed or praise my little accomplishments. I could be myself without feeling judged. It was awesome. And even though I'm not active much here anymore, I just want you to know how happy am that I found this site.

Love you guys so much and thanks again!

-Chipo
The past four years show an evolution in Chipo's style and skill that is truly remarkable. Her earliest pieces were rough and untutored, but as one can easily see from her helpfully redrawing the same character year over year (seen at left), her progress in that time has been both rapid and steady—she hasn't hit a plateau or stopped looking for new things to learn. Just in the last year of that progress it's exhilarating to watch as she's discovered how rewarding it can be to apply new levels of detail to areas she's never really paid much attention to before, such as teeth. It's amazing how much such a seemingly small detail can add to the picture as a whole—not least because mastering the little details can lead to a greater grasp of how the whole thing fits together, and hence a much more cohesive and balanced piece taken as a whole.

Chipo has developed a lot of her skills, clearly, from collaborations and art trades with her many friends and colleagues here on the Archive. The cooperative Sketcher sessions that result in a great many of her most enjoyable pieces—like the one of Scar and Simba at left—make clear that she places a great deal of importance on the fulfillment and fun that she gets from creating a joint piece with others. And this has an almost inevitable side benefit: when you're working on a piece with another artist, you'll almost certainly make an attempt (perhaps subconciously, perhaps not) to adjust your own style to match the other person's. And in doing that, you'll find yourself noticing quirks and details about their styles and their techniques that you might never have thought of. When you then weave these techniques back into your own artistic approach—which any good artist would be justified in doing—the result is a richer drawing, making use of a wider variety of tools, and able to be transformed using a broader set of creative possibilities. That shading job on Scar, for instance, finds itself pressed into service on the next Scar picture Chipo creates, and it's all the better and all the more energetic and spontaneous because of it.

All this is to say that true artistic growth comes from seeking out new sources of inspiration, and being willing to abandon your own formulas—even the time-tested ones—when you recognize a new one that might be better... or even just an alternative approach. Every facet of artistic creation (and there are countless ones, as many as there are individual artists) becomes an arrow in your quiver, an exciting new tool to use in building the same structures you've always built in the past, only now you might be able to do it that much faster or that much more easily, or else it might bring out whole new ideas that you'd never thought of incorporating before. No single artist has all the answers—but thousands of them, working together, can produce the most astonishing works of creativity that have ever been seen.

None of this, of course, is a surprise to Chipo, who has been successfully using this social approach for years now. Not only, she knows, does collaboration lead to a greater understanding of artistic styles and techniques, it also forges bonds of friendship in which all parties involved actively work to improve one another. Our greatest resources as artists are our fellow creators, even when the form such resources take is as simple as a supportive shoulder or an open ear. We inspire each other by bouncing silly ideas off one another, but also by being willing to give each other honest critiques and helpful pointers. After all, it's not a race; the more people who are able to produce art that satisfies themselves, the better off this vibrant artistic community is.

Chipo has a great variety of fantastic art at her DeviantArt gallery, extending into regions of creativity well beyond what is on-topic for us here, but which might well be of interest to any and all of her fans new and old—do yourself a favor and check it out, while (of course) giving her TLKFAA gallery a perusal. And be sure to congratulate Chipo on a recognition well-deserved and a long time coming!


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