Imagine your favourite cartoon character. Now take away the solid black outlines, and picture them rendered in the soft, familiar style of a painter like Norman Rockwell. What you’ve got in mind is the work of Joel Santana, who creates fun, charming and expressive illustrations in a unique style that’s inspired by two of the finest traditions in American image making – Disney movies and mid-century Realism.
Based in Tampa, Florida, Joel paints with a cinematic eye for light, colour and composition as well as a strong sense of narrative. Having worked in advertising, he knows how great campaigns come together, and Joel’s clients enjoy the way he collaborates on their projects. He attended the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan before graduating from the International Academy of Art & Technology in Tampa.
Research and exploration are 70% of the process for Joel – getting to know his subject by creating lots of pencil sketches as he plans his illustrations and character designs. When he’s primed, he does the painting in Photoshop, perhaps with a touch of 3D along the way.
Joel’s images are like painterly versions of scenes from animated films – captured moments from bigger, cinematic storylines. Sometimes he works in a more graphic style, gritty and with a harder edge, which makes a nice contrast to the soft brushwork he normally produces.