Joe Weatherly Artist/Author, interviewed By Sam Kirkman

Interview With Artist/Author Joe Wheatherly april 2009 

 Joe Weatherly is a Southern California based artist specializing in the drawing and painting of animals. Joe is an associate member of the Society of Animal Artists, holds an M.F.A in Illustration from California State University Fullerton. He has also shown his oil paintings at Ford Motor Companies Corporate Headquarters and California State University Fullerton. 

     A recent publication of Joe’s, The Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals is an excellent resource for any illustrator wishing to develop there skills. It is used as a textbook in several art colleges and universities. He teaches drawing part-time and some of his clients include Dreamworks Feature Animation, Universal Studios, Laguna College of Art and Design, and The Academy of Art in San Francisco. 

I Recently had the pleasure of meeting Artist Joe Weatherly at the 2009 Wondercon convention which was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.


Again joe I want to thank you for agreeing to this interview. 

First, could you tell us a bit about Joe Weatherly?  What first drew you (pardon the pun) to art and 

especially the art of animals? 

When I was a child I just started drawing like most kids, but I also had a love for dinosaurs and that led to a love of animals, especially reptiles. Pretty soon I was completely hooked on animals and when I went to a private art school at age 10, I painted animals in acrylics. I have never had any doubt that animals would be my main subject matter and I feel since I have a passion for them, it comes out in my work. But I do think an artist needs to be well rounded and be able to draw the figure proficiently as well. When I was going to art school my interest was in animation and the main portfolio requirements for a feature studio was life drawings and animals in motion so I started taking what I learned from top figure drawing teachers to the zoo and applying it there. After a few visits on location drawing at zoos, I was hooked. 

What challenges have you faced in developing as an artist? 

Drawing is hard work so I had to learn that if I wanted to get as good as possible, I needed to lock down and draw constantly. The challenge becomes pencil mileage and not giving up because you don’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel and it gets frustrating when the progress doesn’t happen right away. Painting however was more difficult for me to learn because I am primarily a draftsman and drew for so much longer before I painted. Now I am thankful that I took that route because I can get out of problems much easier in painting since I have an ability to draw. 

What other artists would you say have either inspired or influenced your own work? 

Bob Kuhn, Wilhelm Kuhnert, Carl Rungius, N.C. Wyeth, Peter Paul Rubens, Frank Frazetta and Andrew Loomis. 

In your book, Animal Essence, you mention the importance of knowledge of the subject. How does knowledge influence an artists work? 

Knowledge is everything in art. The more you know about your subject, the more you can put in or take out of artwork without guessing. If you understand your subject from the inside and out, you can draw or paint it from any angle and from your imagination. When you use photo reference to draw or paint from you are better off knowing your subjects structure so that it looks more dimensional. With animals, knowing the skeletal and muscle structure gives one freedom to depict movement in their work. To get the dynamics of motion correct or to simply draw an animal in repose requires an intimate knowledge of their structure. 

How important is experimentation with media in developing ones craft? 

I would say it is important if you want to be well rounded. I think someone should get good at one medium before moving on to others as they will serve each other. 

What is your view on the development of an artists style? Is it something that one should consciously 

strive to develop, or does it evolve naturally from hard work?   

Style comes from doing. You should have influences, but not slavishly copy them since you need to stand out as an individual. Every artist has influence of another artist in their work, but the idea is to make your work look different enough to be unique.

You mentioned that you self published your books. What influenced your decision to self publish? 

I had a great figure drawing teacher named Glenn Vilppu who did a lot of self publishing of books and video tutorials. I mentioned that I wanted to make a book on animal drawing and he said that I should self-publish because then I would make all the money. He mentioned that publishers only give a small percentage or royalty check and that I wouldn’t see much for my ideas. This was the best advice on book making that I ever received and he was right. Self- publishing is the way to go for being in control of your book and making the most money from it.

Would you say it was a labor of love or just plain labor? 

It was a labor of love but definitely hard work. When the project started to unfold and I could see the book in progress, it was exciting and kept me going.


What were some challenges in publishing your book? 

     The challenge was in distribution. If you self publish you need to find a way to distribute the book to get it out there. Some books are more suited for art conventions such as Comic Con but others have more of a commercial appeal and do well in retail stores. I wanted a book that covered all areas and have been fortunate enough to sell at Con’s, retail, and online stores.

What would you say are the benefits of self publishing and what are the negatives involved in it? 

The benefits of self-publishing is that you are in control of your book and as a result, you decide where you want to sell it and keep the majority of the sales. The other advantage is you are in control of the book layout and design. Sometimes big publishers want you to do the art work, but they want it in their formula or look. When you make the book yourself, you are in complete control of what goes in it and how it’s laid out. The negatives are that you have to put out a bunch of money for printing a book that may not sell and also you have to house the boxes in a safe controlled temperature. Also, it takes time and energy to try and sell and ship the book to various vendors and customers. But I still think it’s worth the risk if you truly believe in your work.

You have worked with various studios, Dreamworks at Universal for instance. What was your experiences 

with them like? 

Working with the studios was amazing because I was able to work with professionals as opposed to college students and as a result, the caliber of work was different. Getting rewarded to use your skills and knowledge on a big film is a great thing. 

Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with us? 

Right now I am pursuing more fine art painting and working on a body of work that showcases North American animals. I also have a new book coming out in April that will debut at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con entitled “Joe Weatherly Sketchbook Volume One”. This is a smaller book composed of various animal and figure sketches.

What encouragement can you give to our illustrators out there who wish to grow as artists in their abilities   

in drawing animals? 

To draw animals well, one must really want to do it. Its hard work to study anything in art, but once the study has started the results are never far away. So assuming you have some passion for animals as subjects, then it is important to draw from life, even if photo reference will be used in making illustrations. Learning to draw animals from life and studying their anatomy will lead to being able to draw or paint animals from imagination. Learn your craft, know your subject, take a look around you and see what other artists are doing, then do something completely different.

Joe Is a great guy, and I want to encourage everyone to check out his web site. His books are a wonderful inspiration and source of reference. I highly recommend them to all. It was a pleasure Joe and I hope to see you at Comicon in San Diego this July to check out your new book, Joe weatherly Sketch book Volume One.