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Lightbox Expo Puts Spotlight on Industry Artists

Almost everything that appears in today’s media, from the latest superhero movie to video games to animated TV shows and comics, passes through the mind and hands of at least one artist. Celebrating those artists and their work is one of the reasons Bobby Chiu and Jim Demonakos organized the inaugural Lightbox Expo, running Sept. 6-8 at the Pasadena Convention Center.

“There’s all these people that love all of these movies and games and have the toys, but wouldn’t they love to know who makes them?” said Chiu, an artist and teacher whose credits include Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and the Annie Award-winning “Niko and the Sword of Light.”

Unlike broader events including San Diego Comic-Con or such industry confabs as CTN animation eXpo, Lightbox Expo is focused exclusively on artists and art. More than 250 top artists working in animation, movies, illustration, gaming and comics are set to appear, including Patrick O’Keefe (art director of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”), Alvin Lee (senior artist on “League of Legends”), Kei Acedera (Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”), Mike Mignola (creator of “Hellboy”), Daniel Arriaga (“Coco”), Iain McCaig (“Star Wars”), Crash McCreery (“Jurassic Park”), Pernille Orum (“DC Superhero Girls”), Chris Sanders (writer-director of “How to Train Your Dragon”), Jana Schirmer (visual development artist at Marvel Studios) and Karla Ortiz (“Doctor Strange”).

For artists, the chance to meet and hang out with peers, as well as network with potential employers — companies exhibiting include DreamWorks Animation, Disney Television Animation, Netflix, Illumination Entertainment, Sony Pictures Animation, Reel FX and Cartoon Network — demonstrate their skills and learn from each other are the main draws.

“This show gives artists the opportunity to present and showcase their work on their own terms,” said artist Lois van Baarle. “Artists get the chance to not only show what they can do, but also sell their products, show their process, and tell more backstory about what they do. It’s truly a chance to delve deeper into the visual arts.”

Programming includes panels, demos, portfolio reviews and talks, as well as the inaugural Concept Art Awards, which will present lifetime achievement honors Saturday evening to H.R. Giger (“Alien”), Ralph McQuarrie (“Star Wars”), Jean “Moebius” Giraud (“TRON”), Ron Cobb (“Back to the Future”) and Syd Mead (“Blade Runner”).

Demonakos brought experience founding and running events including the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle to the event, while Chiu brings extensive connections with the art community built up through his work in the field and via the online art instruction website Schoolism he founded in 2007.

The artist focus includes using sponsor money to pay for about 40% of the artists’ tables, and unusual experiences such as bringing in a giant golden eagle and live wolf for artists to draw, Chiu says.

Plenty of industry attendees are expected, but Chiu hopes that the love-letter to art that he and Demonakos have put together reaches wider audiences.

“I do hope — if not this year, then in the future — that the public gets into it and develops an interest to find out who these people are that create their favorite things,” he said.

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