Lightbox Expo: Interview with Bobby Chiu

Tickets for the first Lighbox Expo are now available! Bringing together some of the biggest names and companies in movies, games, illustration and animation, the event promises to be packed with great lectures, networking opportunities, fun activities and more.

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In this interview, Lighbox founder and Emmy award winning artist Bobby Chiu dished everything about the event you need to know and why this is an event you won’t want to miss.

Tell us about your journey that brought you to where you are now.

A lot of artists know all their lives what they want to do, but for me, I was about 17 years old when I decided that I wanted to be an artist. A toy company near my home had the license for making Pixar and Star Wars toys so I got a job in their warehouse. During my lunch hours, I would wander into the art department and learn from the artists until eventually they let me transfer into their division. My parents wanted me to do something more stable at first and not become an artist so I went to business school for a year, then answered the call in my heart and transferred to Sheridan College where I studied art and animation. After graduation, I went back to Sheridan to teach for a while. At the same time, I started a subway sketch group in Toronto where anyone could meet up and draw with me and if they wanted me to teach them, I would teach them for free.

At this point, I knew I wanted to be a digital painter but I didn’t have the knowledge yet so I went out to look for it. And once I learned some techniques, I wanted to share it, which was how Schoolism started. I think I’ve spent my career first trying to learn something, then trying to share what I’d learned. In between, I worked on some movies, some games, other stuff like that, but learning and sharing, that’s ultimately what has guided me to create LightBox Expo. This event will be focused on the artists behind our favorite movies, games, animation and illustration to create a place where the art community is in the spotlight and feels appreciated.

Artwork by Bobby Chiu

How can artist centred events in general help artists grow?

Art and creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The best knowledge and techniques are like these extravagant, beautiful houses that we build, but the materials that we build them out of are the little nuggets of information and sporadic fragments of knowledge that we encounter when we travel, or visit with our friends, or watch a documentary, or hike in the woods. Our creative minds take those pieces — a fabric on a dress from the mall plus the wings of a hawk flying over a field plus the desert at sunset as seen from a hilltop in Mexico — and combines them into something no one has seen before — a new idea or style. Art-centric events bring so many of these creative pieces into one place, so they’re very important to the creative mind.

Schoolism Live Workshops is one of these art-centric events for me where I have a chance to meet and travel with artists from different backgrounds and could share in our art knowledge. Even though I know how to create a creature, I don’t know how Crash McCreery does it. Through our interactions and watching his workshop, I was able to take parts of his process and adapt it to mine immediately even though it might have taken him a decade to develop or figure out the technique. We shared our knowledge and out of that interaction, I learned new information that I can use in my art and developed a strong friendship in the process.

What can attendees expect at the event?

LightBox Expo is gearing up to be the most dense group of top level professional artists that the world has ever seen. A really great event might have 60 or 70 great guests. LightBox Expo will have more than 250 top level professionals participating and about 8000 attendees. The group of artists that are coming is the biggest difference from all the other conferences. I like to say that LightBox Expo is a love letter to the art community because it’s meant to celebrate artists.

We have been fortunate to have so many of the industry’s top artists accept our invitation to attend as exhibitors, speakers, or guests of the show. These are all artists that I admire and look forward to learning from, and I’m excited about sharing them with the world! Attendees will be able to talk to these creators, take selfies, get advice on their careers from the pros and even maybe get hired. There will be gaming, animation and movie studios represented as well. There’s even MORE stuff for artists, just by virtue of having all these top talents doing panels and workshops, so not only will the weekend be fun, it will also be very educational, too, for those who want to learn.

Artwork by Thomas Fluharty

What have your previous workshop events taught you about what makes a successful event?

Every event is different but I’ve learned that listening to the audience is an important starting point on the journey to making an exceptional event. This is why we have an Advisory Council of top artists and industry professionals: because let’s face it, there are times when an event or property receives acclaim and praise and suddenly the people responsible start doing the event for ego or money and then the wheels fall off, all because of pride and greed.

The Advisory Council helps us stay true to our mission and keeps us accountable to the community that we want to serve. When we respect the artists that come to exhibit and the attendees who buy tickets and we don’t take them for granted, these artists and attendees will support the event. And with the support of the community, we can do anything.

 What are you most excited for at Lightbox?

Artists are often shy and introverted, it’s the nature of the business because we do our work in solitude, at our desks, often listening to music in our headphones so people can’t start a conversation with us even if they wanted to! So a lot of top artists are legitimately unaware of just how much they are admired by other artists! When they come to LightBox Expo, they will learn otherwise, so I’m really anticipating that!

We are going to BOMBARD attendees with name after name, artist after artist whose creations are household names — Halo, Toy Story, Frozen, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So the thing I’m most looking froward to at LightBox Expo is seeing the excitement on attendees’ faces when they meet their artistic heroes or the person who created their favorite characters, and watching these shy, quiet artists get up in front of a room and brighten when the applause begins. Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face. These artists whose works have won Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, countless awards and made the studios billions upon billions of dollars, I don’t feel like they get their due. But at LightBox Expo, they will.

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About the author

Sierra is the Editor of ArtStation Magazine.