Here at The Oatley Academy of Visual Storytelling, we firmly believe that if we aren’t changing lives, then we aren’t doing our job.
It’s a lofty goal, but it’s what our OA Team strives for every day.
…To provide the most personal art education you can find online.
Because we believe in empowering creatives to move towards professional futures… and it is personal.
After all, a commitment to visual storytelling brought our diverse Team together, and the warmth of our Community keeps us close.
So if you’ve been searching for an art education where your voice will be valued…
Welcome! We can’t wait to meet you.
– The Oatley Academy Team
Oh, and we’ve made a Team OA Twitter List to make it easy for you to reach out to any one of us!
Chris Oatley: Director of The Oatley Academy
Chris was a character designer and visual development artist at Disney for five years before he left to form his own online art school, The Oatley Academy of Concept Art and Illustration. Now he teaches composition and color theory, character design, and digital painting full time.
On his personal blog and podcast, Chris answers questions about Digital Painting and Character Design for Animation, while also offering free Photoshop resources and tutorials. He also hosts interviews with industry professionals in the hopes of inspiring creatives by hearing other artists’ stories.
Chris has contributed artistically to various animated films, television shows, video games, and music videos for companies such as Disney, Universal, The Weinstein Company, Activision and Geffen Records.
Ânia Marcos: Community Director
Ânia Marcos is the Angel-Ninja who builds connections in the OA Community, and makes every student who walks in our virtual doors feel at home.
Behind the scenes, she coordinates the OA Team and teachers, manages the production pipeline for the OA podcasts, runs payroll and helps to coordinate our live events.
Basically, without Ânia, the entire academy would collapse.
She is also a co-creator of the illustrated storybook Tales of Three and she loves cookies, sushi and Pokémon. And cookies.
Ejiwa “Edge” Ebenebe: Technology Director
Host/ Producer: Escape from Art Jail (with Chris Oatley)
Ejiwa (you can call her “Edge”) is a freelance illustrator currently residing in British Columbia, Canada.
Although Edge studied 3D Film Production at The Media Design School in New Zealand (prior to moving to BC), illustration is her main obsession.
Edge has since infiltrated The Oatley Academy family, by way of the Magic Box (2013) and Painting Drama 1 & 2 (2014-2015), and is well on her way to world domina- better art skills and general awesomeness.
In 2015, she joined Team OA as an editorial assistant.
Maike Venhofen: Instructor for The Storytellers’ Summit
A storyteller at heart, she is always looking for ways to infuse her work with genuine emotion and whimsy characters. Being interested in all wonders of the universe, her Amazon wishlist is infinite and would take her more than a lifetime to read.
After joining The Magic Box in 2014, Maike was enthralled to notice that art can be taught in a practical, yet inciting manner. An alumna of Painting Drama 1 and 2, she treasures The Oatley Academy community even more for their loving support and whole-hearted passion.
Maike currently lives in Germany.
Sarah Mills: Social Media Manager
Sarah Mills is a serial plant collector, dog lover and artist, last sighted somewhere in North Carolina. Best known for mild-to-moderately informed opinions on Literally Everything. Sarah picked up digital painting in her early teen years, and allowed that particular hobby to spiral wildly, fabulously out of control.
As part of an everlasting art instruction binge, she’s been through The Magic Box as well as Painting Drama 1 & 2 and is set on lurking in every single mentored course they don’t see fit to kick her out of, #JobPerks.
Sarah joined Team OA in 2016, and now works as a Studio Group Coach, as well as assisting content production for The Magic Box. She also manages OA’s social media.
Rami Juma: Support Ninja
After a long rollercoaster ride of various jobs and educations, Rami arrived at the target destination of Art and Visual Storytelling. The Oatley Academy helped him find his focus, and he’s been freelancing from Germany ever since. He also moonlights as a Support Ninja.
He spends every available minute obsessively trying to advance his art skills — a never ending journey that sends him on a trajectory to explore the outermost edges of the art cosmos and of the real world, too. The launching steps started in Jordan and included The Magic Box and Painting Drama, and also a short trip in 2D animation.
In some moments of contemplation, he envisions himself swimming next to a blue whale.
Oatley Academy Teachers:
Sarah Marino graduated from Ringling College of Art + Design with a BFA in Illustration.
During the day, Sarah works at Nickelodeon Animation Studio as the Color Supervisor on the hit Nick Jr. show, Shimmer and Shine. At night, she illustrates children’s books and develops her own projects from her home studio.
She previously worked at Reel FX Animation Studios as a visual development artist, working on The Book of Life (2014), Free Birds (2013), Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem (2012), and Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas (2011).
She has also had the pleasure of working with other clients such as Cartoon Network, Simon & Schuster, Disney Publishing, Candlewick Press, and Random House
Course: Painting Drama 2 (with Chris Oatley)
Drawn to animation for its collaborative nature, Jenn brings a traditional painting background into her work as a designer for film and television.
She has a particular love of color and believes that artwork truly comes alive when knowledge and technique collide with risk.
Jenn began her career in the entertainment industry at Laika in 2012. From art intern to P.A. and finally to concept development artist, she contributed artwork to the recent feature film animation The Boxtrolls, as well as an upcoming undisclosed development project. Most recently she worked as color stylist on Dreamworks’ Puss In Boots television show for Netflix.
Jenn is thrilled to be a part of The Oatley Academy, a community and resource that has played a consistent role in her personal artistic journey from student, to animation professional.
Brett 2D Bean
Course: It’s Aliiiiive! (with Chris Oatley)
Brett makes stuff up to get out of trouble but has finally found a way to do it for a living. He currently runs his own studio, Drawn To It Studios LLC, regularly creates puppet designs for the Jim Henson’s creature shop, and was the lead designer on the show Slugterra on Disney XD.
Over his career he has worked on feature films, TV shows, video games, comic books, card/board games, and children’s books as an illustrator, writer, cartoonist, designer, and teacher. He’s had the good fortune to work with Disney, Dreamworks, Riot Games, Henson’s Creature Shop, Marvel, Penguin Books, Scholastic and more.
One of Brett’s favorite words is Chortle and he loves volleyball, the sun, travelling overseas, and Tom Waits. He once ate a Mopane worm in Africa…..and it was gross.
He makes several stops at conventions and give talks and workshops on a fairly regular basis.
Course: Films on Paper
Justin Copeland has long had a love of visual storytelling, cinematography and film history. This obsession continually inspires his work as a professional storyboard artist in the animation industry.
Justin’s career began when he started developing new content at Top Cow comics, though his passion eventually led him to Burbank to pursue a career centered on film-making.
His incredible work and success while storyboarding for animated shows like Ultimate Spider-Man and Ben 10, opened the door for him to join the story department at Marvel Animation Studios in 2012 for their first ever animated series, Avengers Assemble.
In 2014, he left Marvel Animation Studios and joined The Oatley Academy team to teach our first course on storyboarding, Films On Paper.
In 2015, he joined Warner Brothers as a storyboard artist on an unannounced (but insanely cool) project.
Course: The Storytellers’ Summit (Formerly OA Live!)
Adam Westbrook is a filmmaker and video artist living in Brighton, UK.
He writes and directs short films which tell stories from our past and future and try to shine a light on who we are.
Adam’s films have been nominated for a Webby Award and once Kobe Bryant phoned him up to tell him he’s a fan.
Paul Scott Canavan
Apart from teaching at OA, Paul Canavan is the lead artist at Blazing Griffin. He also directed other games, including Distant Star: Revenant Fleet, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Dino Tribes and APB: Retribution.
His work is featured in multiple games, films, books and other publications, and he was also featured in Spectrum 22 and in Develop’s ’30 Under 30′ spotlight.
Paul is obsessed with creating beautiful, interesting, and most importantly, cohesive game worlds; the sort of places you’d love to explore, with the sort of subtleties that make game designers go “ooh”.
Christophe Vacher is a two-time Emmy Award Winner and 2010 Annie Award Nominee Art Director who has provided artwork for the animation industry and most major Hollywood Studios since 1989.
Originally French, he relocated to California in 1996, where he worked for Walt Disney Pictures, Dreamworks, Universal Studios, Focus Features and Hasbro, among others.
His credits as a background painter and concept artist include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Runaway Brain, Hercules, Tarzan, Fantasia 2000, Dinosaur, Treasure Planet, and Shark Tale. He was animation Art Director on the movies Enchanted and 9, for which he was nominated at the Annie Awards in 2010. He recently won 2 Daytime Emmy Awards (2011 and 2012) for his work on the TV series Transformers Prime.
Christophe started to develop his personal work for art galleries in 1997. It can be seen permanently in several galleries and various collections in Europe and the United States.
Travel and music are a large part of his inspiration as well.
Melissa is an illustrator and visual development artist living in Portland, Oregon.
Even though she has been making art ever since she could pick up a pencil, when she was younger she was interested in studying medicine. In the years since, she has discovered that becoming a mad artist-scientist is a much better idea.
She graduated from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2007 with a BFA in Illustration, and found The Oatley Academy in 2014 through The Magic Box.
Throughout 2015-2016 she has had the incredible honor of being a part of four mentored OA courses, including: The Spark with Sarah Marino, It’s Aliiiiive with Brett Bean and Chris Oatley, and Painting Drama 1 and 2, with Chris Oatley and Jenn Ely.
Her life changing experiences with the courses at OA has completely transformed her approach to visual storytelling, and intensely focused her goals towards perusing her creative dreams.
She is an insomniac, and has an affinity for all things strange, rock n’ roll, and Lynchian. If she were a type of shoe she would be a hat.
Melissa is currently working on several personal projects and building her portfolio.
She is beyond excited to be a part of the amazingly passionate and talented OA Community, and is constantly inspired by the mind blowing artistic growth all around her.
She loves that OA is the kind of place that encourages us all to be brave, be amazing!
An Aussie Illustrator who loves to design and paint with color!
After discovering her passion for concept art while travelling the world, she was lucky to be a part of the first generation of Painting Drama 1 & 2. Tegan has become a little addicted to practicing and observing how color & light works everywhere she goes!
After many years experience in the graphic design industry, she now works as a freelance Illustrator for a variety of clients. Tegan is passionate about designing strong environments with emotional lighting to match.
After graduating from an animation school in Toronto, Kevin got his first jobs at a small studio as a Background Artist, Story Boarder, Animator and Matte Painter. He has also taught college classes in his home town of Buffalo, New York.
When Kevin’s girlfriend (now wife) was offered a job in New York City, he followed her and took time to learn more about what it takes to become a Visual Development and Color Artist in Animation. This was also when he found The Oatley Academy and the Paper Wings Podcast.
He became a first generation Painting Drama 1 and 2 student and cherishes the relationships he’s made through The OA community.
Currently freelancing, he loves painting traditionally and digitally; he still practices animating and life drawing. If he’s not laying down funky jazz songs on his trumpet or running half marathons, Kevin is interested in chatting about animation history and anything art related!
He is also devoted to preserving the welcoming atmosphere that is so special and unique to The Oatley Academy!
- Follow Kevin on Instagram
Ian Rosenthaler is a Concept Artist and Illustrator hailing from sunny Arizona.
He’s a proud geek and a kind hearted friend who wields the Aspect of the Viking Bear!
Previously, Ian worked as a full-time Cartoonist and Illustrator for an educational software development company, but he has recently made the jump into full time freelance while working on his personal project and dream.
He’s thankful to Chris and the OA Community, who have had a lifelong impact on his work, personal development and knowledge of what a creative community should strive to be.
- Get to know Ian
Manuel is an illustrator and visual development artist living in Elizabeth, New Jersey (at least for now).
He was a quite popular at school, not by the drawings and doodles he did on the desk everyday but by the constant complaints of his teachers saying he got distracted very easily.
He graduated from Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico in 2002 with a BFA in Image and Design. Working in a multimedia company for thirteen years, he conquered many challenges along the way that taught him the value of sacrifice for achieving success.
He was lead animator for advertising commercials, TV shows, and short stories, character designer for board games, and illustrator for graphic novels and educational games for mobile devices.
In 2014, Manuel relocated to New Jersey with his family. He desired to work as a visual development artist some day when he found The Oatley Academy.
OA has been the best learning experience in his path. It has given him the tools and inspiration to keep moving forward to accomplish his creative dreams.
- Get to know Manuel
Érika is a Mexican Cat-Lady, who builds and paints stuff.
Her passion for Visual Development, Storytelling and construction of stop-motion puppets lead her to The Oatley Academy in 2013. In this magical place, she found a loving family in The OA Team and in her collaboration with Morning, Noon & Night Productions. She’s a proud student of Painting Drama, The Spark and of course The Magic Box.
She currently works as a CRP cast member at Disney World and she’s a freelance comic artist for Corteza Editorial. In her spare time she enjoys studying fundamentals, plein air painting, color experimenting and sculpting!
Carolyn Arcabascio is a writer and illustrator.
At age 8, she somehow scored an electric typewriter and penned her first book of illustrated poetry.
She kept on writing and drawing stories until it earned her a BFA from the University of Massachusetts. Then, during a 7-year pitstop in educational publishing, she took as many OA courses as she could get her hands on before making the leap into full-time freelance illustration.
Carolyn also writes copy for the OA, and is one-fourth of the creative team at Morning Noon & Night Productions, a collaboration borne out of The Oatley Academy Community.
She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two high-maintenance terriers.
Zijian (Zi) Yan
Zijian Yan, known by friends as “Zi”, is a storyteller and digital nomad.
Zi studied music theory and composition at New York University before earning an MFA in film directing and screenwriting at Columbia University.
After enrolling in The Oatley Academy’s Painting Drama 1 and The Storytellers’ Summit (Formerly OA Live!) courses, Zi discovered the most vibrant, talented, and positive art community he has ever known.
He’s thrilled to be part of OA and to support its immense well of inspiration, knowledge, and community.
Britny Arnett dreams of telling stories.
She graduated college in 2013 and joined The Oatley Academy’s Magic Box that same year.
Since then, she has fallen in love with the art of story, both in word and in illustration. She has a special passion for horses and is a sucker for any story that includes a horse in it.
She currently works as a graphic designer, specializing in advertisement design.
Henrike comes from the Netherlands, and fell in love with animation and books as a child. When she figured out these were made by people she decided she wanted to tell stories as well.
Writing turned into comic making and currently she is working on a webcomic called Recollection City, which is scheduled to launch in July 2017. She also blogs at pencilsandstories.com about her process of comic making, and about the journey of making art in general. She believes that everyone can get (back) into drawing by taking small steps towards more creativity.
Henrike hopes to inspire other people to work on their own art and stories.
Scott Wiser is the Creative Director at Funded Today and has worked as a professional character animator and has worked in film, TV, commercials and games.
A man of faith, family, and fun, he is the creator of the successfully Kickstarted illustrated novel, Vanishing Ink, which he has pitched as a feature film at several studios.
As he continually creates books and films, Scott affirms that collaboration is one of his greatest tools.
He loves people and hopes to change many lives for the better through his art and service.
Robin is a storyteller, illustrator, editor and career coach.
She’s published her own comics since 2002 and has produced nearly 2,000 pages of work on multiple projects.
Formerly an engineer, in 2012 she started her own company, Moko Press LLC, to pursue her storytelling endeavors.
She’s published three books in her series LeyLines with a fourth book and a brand new series called Wavemen on the way.
As a coach and editor, she enjoys putting her analytical skills to work helping people realize their own creative dreams.
Shawna JC Tenney: Host of Stories Unbound
Shawna J.C. Tenney is an author and illustrator with a passion for picture books. Shawna graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from Brigham Young University in 2004. Since then, she has created artwork for many children’s books, magazines and games.
Shawna’s first picture book as both author and illustrator, Brunhilda’s Backwards Day, was published by Sky Pony Press in August 2016.
Shawna enjoys connecting with other artists and helping them along their journeys as she continues on her own. She is the host of the Stories Unbound Podcast at The Oatley Academy of Visual Storytelling. She also enjoys volunteering for her local SCBWI chapter (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators).
Shawna lives in Utah with her husband and two daughters.
Jessica Doll: Co-host of The DIY Animation Podcast
Everyone has a story worth sharing, and Jessica wants to help people embrace them.
Unwittingly guided by this notion throughout her life, and with the added rocket fuel that was Films on Paper, she has embarked on an epic quest to discover life, love, and the world around her.
Jessica Doll is a 2-d character animator and storyboard artist from the Midwest. When she isn’t working, you most likely will find her wondering not only which project to pursue next, but what coffee will go great with it.
She hopes to make her loved ones proud. Thanks to their never-ending love and support, she wouldn’t be where she is today – happy, filled with love, and pursuing her dream.
Lauren Morse: Co-host of The DIY Animation Podcast
She is an avid advocate of personal projects, and her have-a-go attitude is infectious. If you’ve got a personal project on the go, she’s confident you can totally do it.
Her funnest personal project to date is her traditionally animated short Syd & Squid, about two best buds –- a surfer and a giant squid –- and all the rad adventures and silly trouble they get up to. Right now, she’s enjoying experimenting with Syd & Squid gifs, and just how DIY she can go with them.
If there’s a moment when she’s not thinking about projects, you’ll find her skating down the beach, watching the sunlight through the trees, or catching up on the women’s pro surfing.
Amanda Duarte: Co-host of Brasilustrando
Amanda is an illustrator from Brazil and owns an art studio called Limetown Studios, where she works mainly with illustration, visdev and design for games, children’s books and advertising.
Before creating Limetown, Amanda’s had experience working in different areas of visual arts, such as art direction, graphic design, creative retouching and, of course, illustration.
She is very passionate about creating cute characters, watching TV shows and drinking coffee.
Gustavo (Gus) Lima: Co-host of Brasilustrando
Gus is an illustrator from Brazil, and not a very good singer.
He owns an art studio called Limetown Studios with Amanda Duarte, who also happens to be his wife. Together, they create visual assets for games, children’s books and advertising.
Before Limetown, Gus worked for several years as a Wizard! Oh wait… right, a tattoo artist – branding people for life, with his doodles and his charms. After that, he worked at a major advertising art studio in Brazil as a 3D generalist, where he discovered his passion for Visual Development.
Gus has also taken a bunch of art classes, both live and online, including The Magic Box at The Oatley Academy.
He wishes he could play like Clapton, look like McConaughey and create his own Final Fantasy… but we can’t have it all, right?
Don Yoakam: Video Editor
Don is a recent alumni, graduating from the Columbus College of Art and Design in spring of 2014 with a BFA in Animation, and Adjunct Instructor of storyboarding at CCAD.
He currently lives in his hometown of Delaware, Ohio, working as a full time freelance artist.
A storyteller at heart, he hopes to one day be working full time as a story artist in the animation industry. Shortly after graduation, he was asked to join The Oatley Academy Team, and has loved it ever since.
- Check out Don’s Instagram
RJ Draper: Video Editor
RJ is a cinematic artist in the video game industry. He is currently working with a small developer on an unannounced title for Square Enix.
A former television editor, his work has been featured across the airwaves internationally by multiple cable companies, and on various platforms. By day, he can be found storyboarding, shooting, editing, and furiously telling stories. At night, he moonlights as a concept artist and illustrator.
Upon meeting the OA staff in person at a Comic Con, and receiving both an exciting and inspiring portfolio review, he enrolled in Painting Drama 1 & 2.
RJ has become a permanent video editing mercenary for the OA Team and picks up any small projects for OA.
Elly Medeiros: Audio Editor
Elly is a Brazilian born aspiring storyteller living in sunny (and rainy) Florida.
After spending 8 years working on the post-production dubbing world, he decided to take the plunge into his first love: drawing things and thinking up stories.
He is super passionate about animation, games, creating shirt designs and cheering everyone around him with bear hugs and cookies.
Elly has been an active member of The Oatley Academy community since 2012 and he has been bestowed the pleasure of being the editor of The Storytellers’ Summit.
Kevan Chandler: Audio Editor
Kevan is a freelance audio editor by day and a novelist by night (sometimes the other way around).
He graduated from John Wesley College with a Counseling degree in 2010, but an ever-persistent creative itch drew him back to his roots in sound and storytelling. After three novels and working in radio for a few years, Kevan reconnected with old family friend, Chris, who offered him the best job in the world.
He currently serves as editor on The Artcast.
In his spare time, Kevan also travels the World in a backpack.
Mara is a writer living in New York City.
As the senior copywriter for an entertainment advertising and marketing agency, she gets to write things for Broadway and Off-Broadway theater, as well as cultural institutions throughout NYC.
Her freelance work includes everything from creating web series headlines to managing the social media platforms for an accounts receivable organization. In addition, she usually has a personal project or two in the works.
When she is not writing things down on purpose, Mara is making stuff up on the spot with a couple of different improv comedy teams around the city.
She met Chris way back in their Columbus, Ohio years and has been a friend and fan ever since.
Mara is an occasional dabbler and life-long appreciator of all things art, animation, and illustration, and is super excited to a part of The Oatley Academy team.
Austin Light is a writer-illustrator from Charlotte, NC. He is the author and artist behind Movie Title Typos.
In his career as a copywriter, Austin has written for brands including Verizon, AT&T, DIRECTV, Rubbermaid, Gamespot, and more.
He currently works as the Content Director for LendingTree, where he writes websites, commercials, and occasionally does some character design.
By night Austin does even more copywriting, for folks like The Oatley Academy. He also writes and illustrates books and animated comics.
Austin joined The Magic Box in 2014, and participated in Sarah Marino’s mentorship that same year. Then he was on a segment of The ArtCast with Sarah and Chris, which kicked off what his wife calls his “bromance with Oatley.”
Having a passion for illustration and animation at a very early age, Manny has always had a penchant for using the art to tell stories.
Drawing inspiration from nature, fashion, literature and culture (he is an enthusiastic language learner), Manny constantly seeks new and varied influences to tell relevant and impactful stories through art.
Manny recently left his full-time job to pursue freelance illustration and work with The Oatley Academy.
I think I’ve learned to dream twice as big since I joined OA team – Manny Daniels
María is based in Guatemala City as a graphic designer by day and a freelance illustrator and character designer whenever-she-can.
Her first contact with the arts was at 3 years old when her father taught her to read with poetry. Still 3, she also started acting and has never left the stage since. This continued relation with the stage is what cultivated her love for storytelling and characters, coupled with her love for reading and learning languages.
Brimming with energy and enthusiasm, she firmly believes in the power of hugs, a smile, and chocolate to make anyone’s day brighter.
Now, she has the chance to bring this enthusiasm to the The Oatley Academy, and to be part of the community that has inspired her from day one to follow and really work for her dreams.
Derrick is a professional designer living in Texas with his wife and two children.
He is a graduate of The Art Institute of Dallas with Honors and serves as the Sr. Graphic Designer of a major manufacturing company with a 30 year history of serving their customers.
He’s working on two major personal properties of children’s and youth age books, and will soon be launching his first Kickstarter to fund the charity leg of his current children’s book project.
Oatley Academy Support:
Matt Ashcraft: Technology
Matt has been bending code to his will since 2006. He’s built websites and online tools for artists, design firms, and major corporations.
As a lifelong student of storytelling – particularly myths, folktales and ghost stories – the life of a freelance developer did not feed his passion. Matt decided to pursue webcomics, even though he had no schooling or much drawing experience.
Though he spends most of his time staring into the Matrix, he happily juggles his evenings and weekends raising young twins and making art.
Matt brings his web expertise to The Oatley Academy to help Chris and the Team make their mad schemes a reality.
- Follow Matt on Twitter