Home > News > Daily News

Highly Celebrated Terryl Whitlatch Joins Illustration Department

The Illustration Department at the Academy of Art University made a major addition to its faculty over the past academic year. Terryl Whitlatch, the leading fantasy life and creature designer in the world, has joined the Academy of Art University to teach animal illustration and creature design. In upcoming semesters, Ms. Whitlatch will be both teaching and building new curriculum within the Illustration Department.


Terryl Whitlatch is one of the most celebrated illustrators in the film industry, one of the truly rare industry elite. Her work is already legendary, particularly the countless designs she created for the new Star Wars trilogy. For Star Wars: Episode 1, Ms. Whitlatch worked directly with George Lucas to create the hallmark world of creatures for which the trilogy is so famously known. And that is only one part of her amazing career. She joined Industrial Light & Magic in 1994, and in the years she worked ILM she worked on Jumanji I and II, The Indian in the Cupboard, Bear Country, Dragonheart and Polar Express. Ms. Whitlatch is an incredibly diverse artist, known throughout the industry as the illustrator who created some of the most memorable fantasy life ever to appear in film.

Artwork by Terryl Whitlatch

Terryl Whitlatch began this incredible career after she finished her studies at the Academy of Art University. Ms. Whitlatch built a truly unique skill set by first studying zoology at Sonoma State University, and then coming to the Academy of Art University for her professional artistic training. Her expansive knowledge of biology and animal anatomy, coupled with her rare illustration talent and creativity, makes it easy to see why she is one of the most sought-after creature designers in the world.

Artwork by Terryl Whitlatch

Even to this day, no university offers an expansive curriculum in animal biology coupled with creature design and animal illustration. Ms. Whitlatch hopes to change all that. She has joined the Academy of Art University to help create curriculum unmatched by any other educational illustration. She will be expanding upon the current animal drawing and creature design course offerings at the Academy, which are already far more specialized than those at most other schools. Her ultimate goal is to create a one-of-a-kind curriculum in the Illustration Department, an in-depth series of courses designed to train illustrators to be the best creature designers in the industry.

In Spring 2007, Ms. Whitlatch already made much progress toward this goal. In addition to teaching and creating new material for the Academy's Wildlife Illustration course, she introduced two new special topic courses in Creature Design at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. When one sees Ms. Whitlatch teach, it is obvious that she is a natural mentor and true inspiration to her students. She patiently gives extensive demonstrations in all of her classes, showing students techniques which they could not find in any other classroom or in any textbook.

Artwork by Terryl Whitlatch

Every week in Ms. Whitlatch's class, students are asked to bring in illustrations of a certain species of animal. Week after week during Spring 2007, students brought in detailed illustrations of real wildlife and imaginative fantasy creature designs. Ms. Whitlatch also incorporates realistic assignments into her course material, asking students to design posters and food packaging with animal themes. At one point in the semester, students accompany Ms. Whitlatch to the San Francisco Zoo, where they are given the opportunity to do on-site animal studies with one of the most famous illustrators in the field. The results have simply been incredible. From poster designs for the San Francisco Zoo to designs for Celestial Seasonings Tea, students have produced unbelievably beautiful and unique designs. The work of the students speaks for itself: under Ms. Whitlatch's tutelage, students at the Academy are being trained to be a dominant force in this important industry niche.

As for what's next in the Ilustration Department, Ms. Whitlatch plans on offering specialized animal anatomy and illustration courses not available at any other academic institution. Courses are planned which will focus solely on birds and other specific species, as well as full animal anatomy and ecorche curriculum material. The Academy of Art University is truly proud to give students the amazing opportunity to benefit from Ms. Whitlatch's presence at the school. We all look forward to these exciting new courses!


More News & Success Stories

News Archive

Daily News