Pasadena Now: Behind-The-Scenes Motion Pictures Concept Artists Step Into the Spotlight in Pasadena with Saturday Awards

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Behind-The-Scenes Motion Pictures Concept Artists Step Into the Spotlight in Pasadena with Saturday Awards During First-Ever LightBox Expo at Pasadena Convention Center

By DONNA BALANCIA with DAVID CROSS

Published : Saturday, September 7, 2019 | 4:36 AM

Artists responsible for the look of major motion pictures including Star Wars, Alien, Tron and Blade Runner will be honored at first annual Concept Art Awards at the Pasadena Convention Center on Saturday, Sept. 7. The event is one of the highlights of the LightBox Expo.

The awards presentation is a new honor for creatives who may not be fully appreciated for the important work they do. Concept artists are people behind the scenes, who come up with the look and design of characters and style of a film, creating sketches and more to tell a story.

Jim Demonakos and Bobby Chiu are the co-founders of LightBox. Demonakos is the convention director of Lightbox Expo and Chiu is the creative director.

“This came up from a few conversations between me and Bobby about what the art space was missing and what things that we ourselves wanted to see in an event,” Demonakos said. “I spent 15 plus years running at comic convention and I loved it, but the world doesn’t need another Comi-Con. We have so many it’s great, but it’s just not a space that needs anything. We thought there was an opportunity to be able to shine the light on those people who create the pop culture that everyone’s a fan of now and really build an event around that. And also around educating both those who are coming up in those fields and fans who are interested in knowing more about what it’s like to be these types of artists.”

A mentor to several of those being honored is Iain McCaig a well-known and highly regarded concept artist who has worked on a range of projects including “Star Wars” and Jethro Tull’s album cover for Broadsword and the Beast.  He said honoring concept artists is a mission that’s long overdue.

“A lot of the awards are going to people for Lifetime Achievement and some of those are the people who created the main concept,” said McCaig said. “Really everything starts with some sort of something on the drawing board. There isn’t any history book for costume designers, production designers to draw their inspiration from so it has to be created by someone so that’s where the concept artists come in.”

Chiu, the event’s co-founder got his start working on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

“I was one of three character designers, credited for the film,” he said. “I’ve been working in the industry ever since, as well as in animation and games. So after going through so many conventions and events, we really started to think, ‘Well, let’s put together our own event where the focus is strictly on the artist behind our favorite stuff, like movies, video games, animation, and illustration, because there are so many people that love what we do yet, have no idea who we are.’

McCaig said what the entire industry comes down to is storytelling.

“I think what they are are storytellers, they really want to enthrall you with what’s going on in that picture and the next picture, and the one before. The job is to give directors and writers a peek at the movie before it’s been made, especially in a made up world like The Avengers or Star Wars,” McCaig said. “Concept art has been here for the entire history of film,” he said. “All those iconic designs from “Metropolis,” “Frankenstein,” “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” which by the way was created by a woman named Milicent Patrick.”

The new industry award is the first of its kind to recognize and bring increased awareness of the role that concept artists throughout the world of movies, television, video games and more.

The award ceremony is just of the highlights of LightBox Expo, an event featuring 250 of the best artists in the animation, illustration, live action and gaming industries under one roof.

Concept Art Awards will be awarding five Lifetime Achievement Recipients. The Recipients are H.R. Giger (Alien), Ralph McQuarrie (Star Wars), Jean “Moebius” Giraud (TRON), Ron Cobb (Back to the Future) and Syd Mead (Blade Runner). These pioneers helped shape the worlds and characters of some of the biggest science fiction and fantasy movies of the 1970s and beyond and transformed the concept art industry into what it is today.

The event will be emceed by Jonah Ray (Mystery Science Theater 3000) and feature presenters such as Iain McCaig (Star Wars), Neville Page (Star Trek), Mingjue Helen Chen (Ralph Breaks the Internet), Bobby Chiu (Alice in Wonderland), Robh Ruppel (Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End), Dan Luvisi and many more special guests will join the show throughout the night.

LightBox Expo is open to the public Saturday and Sunday at the Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green Street. For more information call: 626-793-2122 or visit www.visitpasadena.com/events/lightbox-expo/

Concept Art Awards