Noah Klocek shares his beautifully emotive illustrations and explains how practicing his skills with plein air studies has become an important part of his family life in this sneak peek inside issue 133!    

Passionate about creating visually arresting artworks that tell a story, Noah Klocek has so far lead an exciting career at internationally renowned animation studios including ILM (Industrial Light & Magic), PDI/DreamWorks and Pixar. In addition to his day job, Noah also works on many of his own projects including writing and illustrating picture books, launching Cloud Country in 2015 and two further book yet to be released.

To keep his drawing skills sharp, Noah also incorporates plein air drawing practice into his regular weekend hikes around San Francisco Bay with his two young daughters. It is through his plein air studies that Noah is able to document his family’s adventures and share his love of art with his children. Here, Noah talks to us about how he balances his many projects, why research is so important to storytelling and shares his tips for developing your drawing skills…

Hello Noah! Thanks for talking to 2dartist. First off, could you introduce yourself with a bit about your background and projects?

I’m the son of two artists who spent their professional lives as educators. After graduating SJSU (San José State University) with a degree in Animation/Illustration, I was hired by ILM as a matte painter. I then worked for a few years at PDI/ DreamWorks, before moving to Pixar Animation Studios as a visual development artist. Currently, I have been at Pixar for eleven years, working as a designer, an art director and a production designer. For most of my career, I have also done plein air painting on the side to keep me sharp, as well as developed and illustrated picture books.

What or who encouraged you to take up a career as an artist?

No one really encouraged me to take up art as a career; in fact, my parents had me try out a bunch of other options in junior college just to make sure I made the choice knowing what I was asking for. My parents did encourage me to be an artist at heart though, by making sure I always had a love for art as well as books and the materials to make art as I grew.


Your work is centered around telling stories, can you walk us through your process and how you go about interpreting a story visually?

The basis of my visual storytelling process is research. For me research is like learning a language. If I do a poor job at this, there is little hope I will do a good job in telling a story. Research may take weeks, months or even years for a film. Once I truly understand the visual language I need to tell the story, I break down the story in simple visual terms. Sometimes this is just simple geometric shapes or colors. Next is a slow process of doing thumbnails, building these up into layouts and on into final illustrations.

You’ve also been busy creating plein air paintings. Can you tell us a bit about what drew you to this process and how it influences your other artworks?

I didn’t start doing plein air until I was working at DreamWorks. My purpose and goals have evolved over the years, changing the most with the birth of my daughters. For a while I gave up plein air painting, as it was impossible for me to get out during the day to paint. Soon however, I started taking my daughters out with me for hikes and sneaking paintings in as they ate or played. Now, they have started painting with me every weekend and I have started adding them into my paintings to tell a story of our adventures.

Do you have a favorite place you like to go to draw?

My daughters and I have a lot of favorite places to hike; particularly around the San Francisco Bay area to hike in nature, like Point Reyes and Mount Diablo. I would say these are my favorite to draw.


To read the rest of Noah’s interview, get issue 133 here!