1982 To Present
Saatchi & Saatchi
After graduating from Brighton Polytechnic with a BA 1st Class Honours in Fine Art and Illustration– John Watkiss was immediately head hunted into the advertising world of Saatchi & Saatchi as a storyboard artist.
During that period he found time in the evenings to finance his own painting studio space in the eclectic arts complex “The Diorama” in Regents Park.
Painting and art for me is a means of showing the world a vision which I have seen with my mind not with my eyes -which I use merely as a means of perception. I call this 'Mindsight'.
- John Watkiss.
There he produced enough fine art work to have his first one-man exhibition at The Royal Festival Hall in the autumn of 1984 following on from David Hockney. Whereby he came into contact with Derek Jarman – who proposed that they collaborate on a short experimental film called “Imagining October”.
In this he produced and composed paintings of five life size soldier models that would be inter-cut with footage in Moscow over a short period of 2 days. This short controversial film had its debut at the Lumiere Cinema on Shaftsbury Avenue in London in 1984. Because of its anti capitalist undertones it was banned from further viewings in the UK by the then Thatcherite Government (It has recently been re-shown at The Edinburgh Film Festival in August 2012).
After this collaboration John was introduced to Lady Sainsbury – who would become a prospective patron of his art school idea at The Diorama. She also purchased one of Watkiss’ portraits, which is in her private collection.
Whilst at the Diorama John had been teaching Anatomy and Life Class to a cross section of London media society – fine artists – animators – sculptors to name a few.
The animation director, Richard Williams, (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) regularly attended these classes.
Utilising the classes for his next ambitious project Jarman put the” Caravaggio” Star, Nigel Terry Through the rigour of John’s training to orientate him to play the central part of the Venetian painter, “Caravaggio” in the move.
Ring of Roses
Moving out of the advertising and experimental art world John decided to move into the Graphic Novel world of Dark Horse Comics. In collaboration with author Das Petrtou, they produced a 4 issue graphic novel called “Ring of Roses”. Incorporating all of his staging’s – life drawing and storyboard experience – John produced a cinematic breakthrough which still today is being re-published in new formats.
Thereafter at DC Comics notably (“Sandman – Sandman Mystery Theatre’ – “Legends of the Dark Knight “and for Marvel Comics – “Conan The Barbarian and “Silver Surfer”.
In 1984 worked with Director Francis Ford Coppolla on a movie involving CGI for the first time. (Unreleased) here he met producer John Dorman (Scooby Doo) who suggested he go and work in Hollywood.
In 1995 the stage was set to work for Walt Disney Features in Burbank. As a film development artist on the feature of “Tarzan “ John’s two hundred and fifty cinemascope paintings gave the green light for the making of the movie. He was also called on to design the character of Tarzan and on the strength of his achievement was asked to give workshops on theoretical construction to the world’s oldest and greatest animators.
At Disney he further worked on features such as “Emperors New Grove” “Atlantis” “Treasure Planet” and finally “Don Quixote” in 1999.
During this time he also worked on some development projects at Fox Animation Studios in Arizona, and at Nickelodeon cartoon network series.
Moving away from animation John worked as a key frame concept artist for the movie “Captain Sky and the World of Tomorrow” 2003 a Dino De Laurentis production.
In the same year produced a mural for the” Ford Motor Company Museum” in Detroit.
2004 – 2007 Graphic novels -produced an eight part Trigger series for “DC Vertigo” and the 12 part series “Deadman” for the same label.
In 2006 John worked with Harry Potter executive producer, Lionel Wigram.
Once again Watkiss’s storyboard illustrations set the atmosphere and tone, enabling the further development and making of the movie “Sherlock Holmes “ directed, by Guy Ritchie, in 2009 starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.
John Watkiss remains an independent visionary. Always bringing his individual style and training to any artistic situation.
Currently living in Brighton he has just finished the postproduction concept art for the popular TV series “The Walking Dead”.