Home » Interview with Beloved Disney Fine Artist Greg McCullough

Interview with Beloved Disney Fine Artist Greg McCullough

Greg McCullough is one of the most beloved artists working today, and has a strong following of collectors who seek him out at his Disney events throughout the year. He releases art regularly, and those pieces are only available directly through Disney at his events. Greg has been working in the film and animation industry and as an illustrator since we was a teen. He learned his love of art from his family, and continues to seek joy through art every day with his artistic collaborations and life experiences with his wife, Nathalie. ArtInsights has the honor of exclusively representing art by Greg through “The Archive of Disney Editions by Greg McCullough”. As part of the release of these vintage, sold out images to our collectors, we spoke to Greg about his career and what brings him joy in this exclusive interview:

You worked as a caricature artist at Six Flags Over Texas as a teen. Can you talk a bit about your love of art and how it began as a younger child that led to Six Flags?

Greg McCullough: I was inundated with things that inspired creativity from the start. My mom had a 1964 Childcraft Encyclopedia Set with one book “Make and Do”, and my mom and I concentrated on that. There were things like “How to carve a turtle from a bar of soap”. My grandfather taught me to build with tools, and I loved spending time with them doing crafts. I taught my fellow kindergarteners how to draw a teepee. “Seek and Find” books gave me a love of black and white line work. I still have some of the early drawings of spacecrafts I did.

I worked at Six Flags in 1978, when I was still a teenager, and I did caricatures of their guests. I did that for 3 summers, but also continued to do caricatures at events and conventions for many years.

My dad’s parents were really into art. They were Norman Rockwell collectors, to which I am still tightly bound as an artist.

Who were your biggest influences as a fledgling artist and who inspires you now, and why?

When I was a teenager, I loved the work of Mort Drucker of Mad Magazine, animator Chuck Jones, and Bernie Wrighson, who did the best horror comics. When I started doing illustration and was looking to the best advertising illustrators in history, I was inspired by CF Payne, Bill Mayer, Chuck Slack, Dave Willardson and John Hammagai. In terms of design, I’ll always look to JC Leyendecker for his style, color, and boldness. In terms of living artists, I love James Tennison, because he has an amazing amount of color everywhere, and he had an uncanny ability to draw what he sees, and someone who passed away recently, but will always be an inspiration in terms of style and business savvy, is John Howard Sanden.

I’m now full circle to Norman Rockwell, and study both his work and the the work of Leyendecker in my paintings, and I think I’ll always be inspired by them. They’re the best of the best in the history of illustration fine artists.

You started Artifx Studio in 1994, and did commercial work for some very high profile clients. How did illustrating in the commercial space feed your artistic soul, and what are your favorite projects from that time?

I’ve always been a technician, drawing fun things while mercilessly pushing my artistic skills. I started oil painting around 2003, and painting in oils is closest I’ve come to feeling what I paint. In terms of my favorite projects, there are so many! I did a huge Looney Tunes project of 30-plus illustrations for Frito Lay in 1994. I Bought my first house via Bugs Bunny! I loved my work for McDonalds, which lasted for 5 years, and It’s been a complete honor doing anything involving Disney and Pixar.

Greg McCullough art for Frito Lay:

Speaking of them, what are some of the best highlights from your work with Disney and Pixar, in terms of how it has advanced your style and aesthetic as an artist? What brings you joy in your work with Disney?

When I was finishing up illustrations for the Toy Story 2 packaging for Mattel, I got an email from John Lasseter asking for prints of my Toy Story/Mattel illustrations for his personal collection. Working for Disney and Pixar brought respect to Artifx, and allowed me to have better choice in terms of the projects I took on.

Toy Story art created by Greg McCullough for Pixar

I have found working full-time as an artist, showing and signing at the Art of Disney, has allowed me to give back at levels I never would have considered. I am fortunate beyond comprehension. Seeing a smile on others bring me joy, and I am told repeatedly, often on a daily basis, how my paintings bring a smile. What could possibly be better than that?

Collectors are all smiles while photographed with Greg

What outside of the creating of art itself, best feeds your inspiration and joy as a creative person?

I spent my formable, elementary days on my grandfather’s farm in Texas. Nature, pine trees, and oxygen are my plug-ins to truly charge up my depleted batteries. My wife Nath and I spent three years RV’ing up the Appalachian Mountains into Quebec from Orlando, and then turning right at New Mexico, exploring Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Canadian Rockies and setting for three months in Banff Canada.

Greg and Nath on one of their adventures

What imagery or work have you not yet done as an artist you’d still like to tackle?

Personally I am at the beginning of what I’m calling “ROCKWELL ERA”. That started last year with Rockwell inspired “charcoals”  and SOO very excited to see how far and where this leads!

(For further explanation of Greg McCullough’s “Rockwell Era”, here’s a quote from his facebook page:

Last November I spent 4 life changing days scouring the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge MA. I wanted to know “How he did what he did, so fast, so perfect and still had fun?” For me, the missing puzzle piece is simple but not easy. For every painting, Norman Rockwell created a fully rendered charcoal drawing at the size of his final canvas, approximately 30″x40″. It’s a huge, messy job that my ego, laziness and all my time spent gathering copious amounts of reference told me from a tight sketch and lots of reference, I can figure out everything needed as I paint the final canvas. I was mistaken! It’s been a real challenge!”

I also believe the time is close, though long awaited, to begin to do relief sculpts of my most popular paintings. Doing what I love every day really means my creative spirit is always being fed, and I’m always looking to the newest way to express what’s inside me as an artist. Talking to fans and collectors is also endlessly inspiring. As I said, I’m grateful every day.

Below see some ArtInsights exclusives now available on our website. You can see all of Greg McCullough’s images by clicking HERE.

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