Concept Artist/Animation Designer/Director
John Mahoney has taught at Gnomon for two years and has been an industry veteran for 15. He brings an extensive background and an unbridled enthusiasm to his students and enabling them for the career ahead. Striving to develop artistic excellence in each individual, he prepares each student from the ground up.
Mahoney grew up in Upstate New York, and realized that his destiny was in art by the age of ten. He spent his youth assembling WWII models and creating elaborate dioramas in his Grandmother's basement. By copying Marvel comic characters, he successfully developed a lot of bad habits which later had to be erased in art school. His turning point was when he saw the trailer for Star Wars on a tiny black-and-white TV in his kitchen. He was hooked. That moment lead to him where he is now.
- What curriculum do you teach at Gnomon?
I teach Production Design and Storyboards. All of my focus in my classes is based on traditional training in the Analog portion of Gnomon. We study classic films and master artists. These essential aesthetics will translate into any medium the student chooses in their future careers. The traditional stuff takes much longer to learn and master so I have the students draw and paint as much as possible during the term.
- What have been some of your projects?
I directed several documentaries, one on Tyrus Wong, the designer for the Disney film Bambi. I directed a documentary on Doug Chang, the art director for the new Star Wars films. I worked on ten Disney films as an animation designer. I also shot the stage show, Madugada, a vampire Flamenco dance story, and I wrote and directed several short films, one of which was accepted into the New York International Independent film festival.
- What are you doing now?
Aside from teaching at Gnomon, I teach Sculpture and Film Design at Cal Arts, and am completing my first live-action/animation feature called Chatroom.
- What made you decide to teach at Gnomon?
I heard about all the amazing people who worked on the new Star Wars films were teachers there and I was interested in where they came from. After visiting the school I felt I could bring my analog training to the table to compliment the curriculum.
- Why do you teach Production Design and Storyboards?
I love film design… I feel that with my illustration and graphic design background, I can decipher good and bad design and communicate this to my students.
- What is your inspiration?
Fashion photography, the 1960's, independent films, fine art of all kinds, especially Picasso!
- Do you enjoy your time at Gnomon?
I LOVE film!!! I love talking about it… teaching it, debating about it.. so teaching at Gnomon is so much fun! We have a lot of fun in our classes which translates to the art… I mean, if you’re not having fun, then what’s the point… Right?
- What surprised you the most about your time at Gnomon?
How incredibly open the students were to new ideas and concepts. I was also surprised how supportive the Gnomon administration was with trusting what the teachers were bringing to the table and simply letting them do what they do with little or no interference. I felt completely open to try new things in class and let my courses grow and expand because of this freedom.
- How do you feel about the evolution of CG and education?
Art has to evolve and the CG advances are in keeping with the best experimental art of the past. As audiences become more sophisticated in understanding the new computer processes, we, as educators, have to push our students to find new ways to amaze and entertain our audiences.
- What do you see as the future in entertainment?
You mean besides Smell-a-Vision! I think interactivity is the new thing... we will be able to guide our entertainment just as we guide our dreams..
- Do you have any favorite anecdotes from your classrooms or students you can share?
We were drawing from the film Reservoir Dogs and I told the class that if you put this stuff in your portfolio and label this… "studies on the movie"… that people will love these! Well one student did this and the next week had gotten three storyboard job offers!!! I said, "Seeeee I told ya so!".
- What advice do you have for students who are at Gnomon now?
Keep drawing!!! Your sketchbook is worth a thousand computers! Also try to absorb as much as possible from all your classes even if you think you won't need certain thing… believe me, you will need it all, and then some, in this ever changing business. Also make it a point to ask plenty of questions. Your professors are incredibly knowledgeable… so take advantage of these to gain as much knowledge as possible. Also take notes… you'll get much more out of your school if you can go back to these notes years later and review the onslaught of information.
- What would you tell someone who is considering a career in 3D?
This is the time to do it… there are more jobs than there are qualified people to fill these positions. Go for it, but also keep your mind open to other pathways as your career evolves.