This Flesk interview with Terryl Whitlatch is the first in a new series that can be found here, along with on our Flesk website. You can read all of the artist interviews here: https://www.fleskpublications.com/artist-interviews
Terryl Whitlatch is a professional Creature designer specializing in Animal Anatomy, Paleontological Reconstruction, and the creation of Imaginary Creatures for the Animation, Publishing, Institutional, Academic, and other Transmedia/Entertainment Industries.
FLESK: What experience do you hope viewers have while looking at your art?
WHITLATCH: Since the majority of my artwork consists of animals–usually real animals, or imaginary creatures inspired by real animals–my greatest hope is that viewers will be able to experience my artwork on a number of different levels, by considering: what is the primary idea that I’m trying to communicate, that is, what story am I trying to tell–and more subtly, why is it a particular animal species telling the story, and not another type of animal? Why is it that animals are so often better able to communicate paradigms than human portrayals can? On another level, I am inviting the viewer to appreciate the animal form purely for its own sake, both in anatomy and soul.
FLESK: Much of your art features an array of more-than-human imagery. What is it about human reality combined with metaphysical elements that speaks to you?
WHITLATCH: Increasingly, my work is highly symbolic, decorative, often humorous, and at times, iconoclastic. In depicting animals in both natural, and unnatural or fanciful contexts, I find that I can express universal ideas that can be understood by people globally, regardless of country or ethnicity. Animal iconography cuts to the core, without getting caught in human controversies, be they political or otherwise. Animals point to reality, not constructs.
FLESK: What emotion tends to guide your creativity the most?
WHITLATCH: The love of animals, and what makes them tick, on their own terms.
FLESK: What is your favorite fantasy subject to illustrate?
WHITLATCH: That is a very hard one. My favorite subjects are equines, or anything resembling a horse. Currently, I’d have to say that Hippogriffs are my fanciful favorites–mine tend to look not so much like half eagle, half horses, but rather like terrifying, carnivorous pegasuses. As far as story subjects go, I tend to favor real animals in a fantasy setting, which is why I did my book, The Katurran Odyssey.
FLESK: How has your artistic style changed over the years and where do you see it heading?
WHITLATCH: As I’ve gotten older, I think I try to say more with less, that is, leave out extra detail in favor of pencil or brush strokes that say just enough, and no more. While I still do a lot of necessarily detailed paleontological, anatomy based work, I find my personal work becoming more streamlined in terms of aesthetic and graphic design. When I was much younger, my work was highly detailed as a rule–but, I was learning all I could, and at that time, I was focused on becoming a natural history illustrator. I never intended to become a designer for the entertainment industry, but life takes us on unexpected paths. Now, I ask myself, what can I leave out, while still maintaining the integrity of the animal form? How can I best edit? My work remains very linear, but I am mentally striving to sculpt linearly, in two dimensions, in order to give the illusion of form and space, and to use my linework strategically, and with intention, rather than as a filler.
FLESK: Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share some information about?
WHITLATCH: I’m currently working on an NDA project, which I can’t discuss at present, and also wrapping up the final illustrations for a new book, authored by paleontologist Dr. Michael Habib. It’s called Flying Monsters: Illustrating Flying Vertebrates, which will be published by Design Studio Press in 2021. It’s chock full of illustrations depicting all kinds of actual and imaginary flying animals, and how to draw and animate them believably–from a scientific perspective. Pterosaurs, ancient birds, modern birds, bats, dragons, angelic beings, hippogriffs, and much, much more. I also teach an online course in Creature Anatomy for Schoolism.com.
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Text and photos copyright © 2020 John Fleskes. Videos © 2020 Flesk Publications. Artwork © 2020 its respective artists. All Rights reserved.