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The Whitworthian

The Student News Site of Whitworth University

The Whitworthian

The Student News Site of Whitworth University

The Whitworthian

Melissa Johnson: Avid animator and illustrator

Everyone has an imagination but not everyone can express it visually. Melissa Johnson, a sophomore art student, found a way to express her imagination through animation and illustration. She shares her experience, how the first time she found herself in art.

“I remember when I was little, I started drawing and just did it for fun,” Johnson said. “Then the more I got into it, the more I realized that I feel like God gave me this gift and I really want to use it.”

She has a love of art from her grandmother and father, who both shaped the way she is today, Johnson said.

Johnson loves animation. Much of her inspiration comes from Disney. Many of her sketches are inspired by characters from the “Lion King.” One influential person who significantly impacted her artwork and animation is Glen Keane.

“He was an animator for Disney and he has done a lot animation and illustration kinds of things, and his characters are so alive,” Johnson said. “It’s like 2-D images on a piece of paper, but you can feel them moving. The characters are very well done. He is very gestural.”

She adores Keane’s creations and tries to apply his drawing skills to her work, she said.

“How he draws, you can feel the movement and emotion of the character. I think, that’s so cool,” Johnson said.

Johnson always carries a sketchbook and a pencil with her, she said. Anytime, anywhere, Johnson can project her imagination onto paper by drawing her favorite characters, both animal and human. She describes her animation characters as having deep emotion, live movement and body language.

She also enjoys doing character animation as a form of stress relief, she said. By drawing animated characters, she can express her mood.

It is not easy to create animated characters. She faces many challenges while brainstorming designs.

“I think the biggest challenge for me and something that I have been working on lately is making different characters,” Johnson said. “So not just focusing on a specific person or one specific character, expression or poses–make them dynamic and different.”

Since Johnson first realized she had a passion for animation, she began making characters and kept improving every year.

“I have some characters that I have been drawing since the beginning, there’s some animals that even now I still draw,” Johnson said. “There’s one character that I draw once every year in the same position, doing the same things, so I can see the progress that I made.”

At Whitworth, Johnson has learned a lot about 2-D and 3-D formats. She believes that Whitworth has helped develop her artistic skills. “I’m actually really thankful that, in Whitworth’s program, I get a broad kind of education, where I can get more experience with traditional drawing and painting,” Johnson said.

Apart from her studies, Johnson is preparing to launch a blog or website as a medium to display her artwork. By having this online portfolio, she is hoping to kick-start her dream of being a Disney animator and illustrator for children’s books.

“That’s the dream someday; illustrate children’s books and work for Disney. I want to tell stories with these characters,” Johnson said.

Contact Hana at [email protected]

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Melissa Johnson: Avid animator and illustrator