Whether he's designing menacing extraterrestrials or working on a nineteenth century Christmas classic, Doug Chiang creates art that blends expert skill with boundless imagination. He is credited on an impressive list of movies, including "Ghost," "Back to the Future II," "The Doors," "Terminator 2," "Death Becomes Her," "Forrest Gump," "Jumanji," "The Mask," and Episodes I and II of the Star Wars saga.
After working on advertisements and films at Rhythm and Hues, Digital Productions; Robert Abel and Associates; Industrial Light and Magic and Lucasfilm; Chiang decided to form the production company IceBlink Studios. His company worked closely with director Robert Zemeckis on "The Polar Express," "Beowulf," and "Monster House." When Zemeckis and Disney Studios decided to establish ImageMovers Digital in 2007, they asked Chiang to help lead it. Currently he is working on "A Christmas Carol" scheduled for release in 2009.
Dreams alone did not earn Chiang a director's chair in Hollywood; such success demanded extraordinary talent and hard work. During his junior and high school years, Chiang gained practical experience by creating short films in his parents' basement. After graduation, he studied industrial design at CCS and film at the University of California, at Los Angeles. His education helped him develop strong foundation skills in areas of life drawing and composition, while inspiring him with ideas from unrelated subjects, such as history and science.
"The best advice I can give is to start with a very good education, like at CCS for instance," said Chiang. "It's essential to learn the core foundation skills of good drawing, composition, and design and not to be lost in the glamour of new tools and techniques that can sometimes disguise poor work with lots of flash over substance."
Finding inspiration in the most unusual places, Chiang often browses through reference books for fresh ideas. Often, the new connections and patterns inspire him. For example, Darth Maul's facial tattoos resemble those of indigenous tribes living in the rainforests of Brazil. Queen Amidala's robes reflect the clothing worn in Asian cultures. The look of the robots deployed during the Trade Federation assault on Naboo were inspired by the elongated facial features common in African tribal art. Even the Federation's mobile troop transports were designed to look like charging elephants to heighten the audience's emotional response to them.
"Research is an integral part of the design process and is critical to ground the designs in reality," said Chiang.
In addition to his film work, the artist has written books and shown paintings in galleries around the world. One of his projects, "Robota," was featured in Wired Magazine, Starlog, and Animation Magazine. Combining the unique strengths of film, print and Web, Chiang delivered the story of an amnesiac as he struggles to survive in a decaying world where humans battle robots. A teaser for "Robota" earned Chiang the Prix du Rendu at the Imagina Film Festival and the "Robota" book, which he co-authored with Orson Scott Card, was published in 2003. His most recent book, "Mechanika: Creating the Art of Science Fiction with Doug Chiang,", was released in 2008.
"I like to think my greatest achievement is still ahead of me, but looking back, it would include the creation of 'Robota' and the formation of ImageMovers Digital," said Chiang.
Chiang's paintings have appeared in various publications, and limited edition prints and posters have been featured in major national and worldwide exhibitions, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, the San Diego Museum of Fine Art, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Kyoto and Tokyo National Museums.
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