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Behind The Canvas

rtist Jim Salvati has a message for his students at the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena: Even “normal people” can make it in the art world.

“I’m a very regular guy; there’s nothing fancy about me,” says Jim, who grew up surfing the beaches of Southern California and didn’t decide on an art career until junior college. “I tell my students that you don’t have to be extremely talented to make it. You can make it in life on passion and determination.”

Jim has plenty of those two attributes, and he most certainly has “made it” in the art world. He’s been a prolific artist for movie studios and theaters with a client list that includes Disney, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Radio City Music Hall. Some of his most famous work? He was the master illustrator and conceptual artist behind many of the memorable images and finished paintings associated with the Harry Potter films.

He describes his style as “painterly realism,” and his favorite subjects are people. Ask him about a painting, and he will tell you the subject’s personal story. One of his newest paintings, “Joan,” features his 20- year-old son’s best friend, while another recent piece, “Red Feather,” captures Scott, a fellow instructor at the Art Center.

“I like to paint people I know and tell their stories,” explains Jim, who

You can make it in lifeon passion and determination.

Jim Salvati - Red Feather

has two sons with his wife, Linda. “And while I’m a very happy and optimistic person, my paintings tend to have an edge of darkness to them. They’re more emotional and moody. Even my Harry Potter work has a dark side.”

A Southern California native, he’s had a lifelong love affair with the ocean and surfing, a passion that still defines him. Originally, he thought he would become an architect, but he found it too dry. One of his junior college teachers suggested he take an art class taught by Everett Peck,
a famous illustrator. He never looked back, and went on to graduate from the Art Center in 1982.

For the past 22 years, he’s been teaching one day a week at the Art Center himself, a gig he’s found just as rewarding and inspiring as painting. “I love teaching, and students respond to my style because I’m so down to earth,” he says. “Red Feather”
Hand-printed Chiarograph on black paper
Dimensions: 20" x 14"
Edition of 10

“I ran into a former student the other day, and she gave me a big hug and told me my class was the best she’d ever taken. That really made me feel good.”
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