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Featured Artist of the Month


Dean runs away with the prize this time around—and small wonder, looking at the impressive contents of his gallery. His abilities have been a long time in development, and since he joined the TLKFAA in 2008 we probably could all have seen that one day he would be featured here on the front page. The fact that that day has come, however, doesn't mean he's "done" growing as an artist, as he eloquently states below.
Wow. Well first of all, I would like to say thank you so very much for this honor. And in my birth month, of all times!

This website was the starting place for everything. No, seriously. It was about seven years ago that a friend of mine introduced me to this community, and from there, the amazing community that is online and digital art. Even more importantly, she introduced me to something that would inspire me to keep drawing for the rest of my life. I had my good times, and I had my many blunders, but I kept at it, and I loved it here. I still love it here! And I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be on that list of exceptional artists that have framed the front page since 2000. Even now as I write this, I feel as if I might burst with emotions. Many of the artists on this list were my idols as a kid. It is simultaneously strange and amazing to think that I stand to be one of their equals.

The Lion King holds a very special place in my heart; in that it built me up and re-imagined me until I created things I'd never thought possible before in my simple pencil-and-paper tomb. It taught me how to tell a story, how to bring emotion and drama into a picture, how music can instill chilling fear and anticipation into an audience. It taught me that I wanted to give that same awe and wonder to kids like me and you. Today, though I have grown and progressed well past any meter I ever thought I could pass, I still look back on it with fondness (not to mention it can still bring me to tears) and I realize I still have so much to learn.

Honestly, I'm having a very hard time writing this. It isn't because I don't know what to say; contrary I have so much to say that I can barely figure out where to start and what I should leave out! Also I know for a fact after this has been posted I will remember something important I forgot to say haha These paragraphs; they're where an artist is supposed to leave encouraging words, yes? Well I only have a few words of wisdom, and they are from two of my professors at the institute I currently attend (one of which being the great Dan Daly, the other the equally great Jazno Francoeur).

"A good artist never stops learning."

Though simple, this quote really resonates with me as an aspiring artist. It says so much in such a precise way. A good artist never stops learning. The master artists, even in their greatness, never stopped learning. If you have stopped learning, you have forgotten what it is to be an artist. There are infinite, glorious, unfathomable opportunities to learn in this world, and I hope all of you aspire to obtain them. Continue to learn, continue to grow, and continue to be good artists!

Ah, I hadn't meant to go such a serious path with this, especially since if you've talked to me you know I am really a giant blubbering baby nugget.

Great thanks to everyone who has supported me along these years, even in my absence. I know that we will continue to learn and grow together!

It's a little sobering to think that this site has been around for so long that artists who were famous in this space many years ago were the inspirations for newcomers who are taking over today. But it's a great reminder that the appeal of The Lion King and the drive to create our own contributions to its universe are timeless things that are as irresistible as ever.

Dean has amply earned his spot here, though, whether measured against today's generation of artists or the ones who inaugurated the tradition. Over seven years and 200 uploaded pictures we can see a tremendous progression from rudimentary tablet sketches to today's rich, expressive scenes (the images accompanying this article are in chronological order and illustrate Dean's development excellently). Delving deeper into his gallery, we can see the emergence of other interests in his life, particularly other properties (such as Star Trek) which have influenced his creativity in the Lion King world too. We all love a good crossover, and Spock in "Amok Time" is such an iconic subject that I'm surprised it hasn't been TLK-ified more often.

But the real treat in Dean's body of work is his "canon art" folder, in which he explores the established cast of the movies and uses them as the basis for his ongoing artistic improvement. I always love to see pencil sketches, every bit as much as finished pieces of fully colored digital art, and Dean has displayed a few examples of his own sketch work which really bring to life his approach—a loose, stylized technique that captures characters' personalities vividly even if they're not sticking to the Disney model. Just as all the best concept art by the Disney artists is still unmistakable in the subject matter and the characters they portray, there's no missing Dean's intent in any of his pieces, where tone and expression are always clear, body language and composition contribute to the overall mood, and we immediately understand whatever concept—whether canon or speculative—he's going for.

But most importantly, and as Dean says himself, you can see in his gallery ample examples of how he has learned to do more with his art than simply depict a character or an expression. Art is about telling stories. We might approach the idea with the actual illustration of a literal story, with what we know as comics or sequential art; but in a perhaps purer form, creating a single image that creates in itself a whole new universe, inhabited by its own set of personalities with their own histories and interactions, frozen in time in a single frame that must convey everything about its context, is the real challenge of the artist. Dean has embraced this challenge, and in many of his pieces you can see that his true goal is the same as that of any of the classic masters—the desire to present that imagined world in a single image that the viewer can fully understand and share with the artist without having to exchange a single explanatory word.

But, of course, this is a journey that has no end; and to be an artist is to give oneself over to the idea that the journey itself is the entire reward. Dean has exactly the right attitude to make this journey he's on a fantastic one indeed.

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