"I'm a very regular guy; there's nothing fancy about me," says Jim, who grew up surfing the beaches of Southern California and went on to graduate from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in 1982. "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. 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. Salvati sees his paintings as his portal into various cultures and different areas of society. "I like the connection between people and their culture," he says. "The different emotions, gestures, moods, environments, and style of people in my life and those that I cross paths with, all become part of my storytelling".
"Even with my Disney art, I think it's important to show who a person or character is and what is the most interesting part of their life the part that is bold and has guts." Character and boldness can be observed in the scenes that Salvati chooses to depict. They are often not only a defining moment of a film, but usually the most emotionally charged and sometimes heartbreaking. Bambi alone in the woods, the Huntsman with Snow White, and Scar leaving Simba in the canyon, are all turning points in the story, and when the main character had to show their "guts" or courage.
Working in oil paint, Salvati uses panel and sometimes mounted paper preferring the option of layering paint to create a lot of texture, as he feels that an uneven surface adds to the emotion of the story. "My paintings are extremely thick and layered and oil allows me the time I need to play with the color," he says.
For the past 22 years, he's been teaching at 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. A byproduct of his years as an instructor is his strong connection to artistic diversity as well as a careful observation of the changing world of art and how art interrelates with technology. His experience and knowledge cross many boundaries into Print, Film, Animation, and the fine arts.