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Grad & Instructor Terryl Whitlatch Draws on Life and Imagination in New Book

Thoughtful hours spent examining the world’s creatures have culminated in a new book by acclaimed illustrator and character designer, Terryl Whitlatch.

Uberogre by Terryl Whitlatch

An Academy of Art University Illustration graduate, Whitlatch is thrilled to share her work with up-and-coming artists who can learn from her techniques and observation in Animals Real & Imagined, released on December 1. Whitlatch, now an instructor at the Academy’s School of Illustration, teaches Wildlife Illustration and Creature Design for Film and Games.

Animals Real & Imagined features work from throughout her career. Among her favorite of the creatures she designed is the Walraptor, a flying animal similar to a walrus. Whether one looks at the fantastical or realistic creatures, the book displays Whitlatch’s keen eye for the physiology of animals.

Walraptor by Terryl Whitlatch

It is that interest in the world and passion for looking at live animals and subjects that Whitlatch hopes to share with her students and the book’s audience. “To keep your artwork alive, to imbue life into your work, look at life!” she offers as advice to those who wish to make their living in illustration.

Fellow Academy of Art University instructor Gil Banducci was a driving force behind the book project. After getting the opportunity to see 30 years of collected work by Whitlatch, he knew that this work could guide illustrators in developing their own talent and style.

“Everything was justified in the design of each creature or animal,” Banducci said. “It was a holiday every day that I worked on the book.”

Remembering her time at Academy of Art University as a student, Whitlatch recalls the inspiration of working with Barbara Bradley, Academy of Art University’s first Director of Illustration. “She expected us to try to reach the heights of illustrators like Norman Rockwell,” said Whitlatch.

Character Design for Jar Jar Binks by Terryl Whitlatch

Using her intimate understanding of animal anatomy, Whitlatch has certainly scaled the heights in character design. She created several of the iconic characters from the Star Wars prequel film The Phantom Menace, including Jar Jar Binks and Sebulba.

Whitlatch describes the experience of working with George Lucas as a really wonderful rollercoaster ride. Work was completed by a very small art department. “Every week on Friday, George [Lucas] would come in and say what he liked,” Whitlatch said. “So we were under very tight deadlines.”

Whitlatch has also worked on films such as Brother Bear, Beowulf and The Indian in the Cupboard as well as the LucasArts adventure game The Dig.

Primate Sketches by Terryl Whitlatch

Animals Real & Imagined is not the first project that Whitlatch and Banducci have teamed up for. They have previously collaborated through Banducci’s conceptual development company Helpful Bear Productions.

They don’t plan for it to be the last either. With a plan to develop more books from Whitlatch’s collected art, they look forward to working together again soon.


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