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Colorado native, Barry Kooser has been passionate about art his entire life. He gives credit to his family and high school teacher for inspiring him from the start. His journey began when he was an intern for Walt Disney Feature Animation in college while pursuing his Bachelor’s in Illustration. After graduating, Kooser returned to Disney and quickly worked his way up to Background Artist. 

Kooser comes from a wealth of experience, working on several animated films such as The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, and others. The veteran artist now teaches Illustration: Landscape Painting and Digital Illustration II at RMCAD. In a recent interview, Kooser talks about what excites him about teaching and what students can expect from taking his class.

Tell us about your time working for Disney…
Every day felt like an extended artist workshop – working and learning from some amazingly talented artists as a team, which is very different for a traditional solo artist creating one image, illustration or painting.  But I had the great fortune to work on many animated films: The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Princess and the Frog, and the Background Supervisor on Brother Bear. Hard work and long hours were the norms to create these films, but well worth it.

What inspired you to pursue Illustration?
Illustration was the perfect avenue to pursue my passions: drawing and painting to serve a narrative or concept. Whether it has been an animated film, book cover or concept art, I help tell a story using my creativity to help engage an audience. 

How would you describe your style of work?
I tend to be pretty eclectic in terms of my artistic sensibilities and style: Impressionistic with my figurative and landscape oil painting. Cartoony or graphics with my illustration and concept art. It is different every day by choice. If I were to use a metaphor for my stylistic approaches: “I like a lot of different kinds of pots boiling on the stove.” Variety is the spice of life.

What excites you about working for RMCAD?
At this stage of my life, I love to pass the knowledge on to the next generation and it is very satisfying to me. It did not really click as to why until I heard this quote from the American spiritual author Richard Rohr, “The first half of your life is spent learning and doing, the other half, teaching.”

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Be passionate: LOVE what you do.
Be persistent: Dedication. Don’t give up.
Be patient: Becoming proficient as an artist takes time.

Why should students be excited about taking your class?
I am very much a fundamentals guy. They will learn a lot about drawing, composition, design, value, color and how to put it all together to suit their personality or style. One caveat; learning the arts means long hours and hard work. I often remind students that you are learning to become a professional artist. It is one of the greatest jobs in the world! I also hope to add to their experience with bad puns and laughter.

Note: Some of the questions in this interview have been edited for clarity and brevity.


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