There are few artists I’ve enjoyed working with more than Disney interpretive artist Tim Rogerson. He is not only one of the most successful artists in the Disney Art Program, selling out his editions and originals at the Disney parks and around the world, he’s one of the most joyful, optimistic people I’ve ever met, and he’s been a friend for over 15 years. We’ve worked together on dozens of commissions over the years, including pieces that wound up becoming his most popular sellers as limited editions, like one of his earliest piece, ‘L’Amour‘ from Lady and the Tramp, the Alice in Wonderland art ‘Dreaming in Color’, ‘Fantasia’, and ‘All Their Wicked Ways’, which had so many villains, it took almost 2 years to get approval from Disney!
A few Tim Rogerson limited editions based on ArtInsights commissions:
As to commissions, here we are 7 years ago, as he is painting Dreaming in Color with Alice in Wonderland, talking about his ideas and inspiration:
There are so many more I sold but didn’t commission. I feel like I sold ‘Micasso’, but I can’t remember who wound up with it!
In any case, it’s one of the favorite paintings he ever did, and altered the trajectory of his career and cemented his aesthetic. I love all his edgier Disney art, as do many of his avid collectors. Disney fans know Tim Rogerson. For those of you who don’t, you can read his bio HERE.
For those who already know and appreciate him, as much of a fan as you might be of the artist, there are probably some things you don’t know about Tim Rogerson. You also might be wondering what he’s been doing during the pandemic, and what some of his favorite Disney art pieces he has done recently. We’ve got you covered there! We spoke to Tim about all that, and more.
First, some basics: How did you get your start at Disney?
TR: “While I was attending Ringling College of Art & Design, I would drive up to Disney World on the weekends, to work in the main street gallery of the Magic Kingdom behind the register. It was a sweet part-time job that allowed me to be surrounded by art, with front row seats to the light parade and fireworks every night. I would stare at paintings by Peter Ellenshaw and James Coleman all day. Funnily enough, they would become great friends 4 years later. At the end of my first year at Ringling, we had a signing event in the gallery, with Disney Legend, Ralph Kent. He worked with Walt back in the day, and was the official, “Keeper of the Mouse”, which meant every piece of art with Mickey had to go through him for approval. You could draw the perfect Mickey, and he still would draw over it to make it better. At the signing, I told him I was going to school at Ringling, and wanted to work for him one day. He put me on the spot right there, and asked me to draw Mickey for him. He told me he can read everything about an artist by the way they draw Mickey. The pressure was on, my hand was shaking, and there I was, about to draw Mickey for a Disney Legend. As soon as my hand touched the paper, it was muscle memory, the drawing I’ve been practicing since I was 4 years old. Still to this day, it’s one of the best Mickeys I’ve ever drawn, and it was perfect timing to do it for Ralph.”
So that’s how you first got hired?
“Yes! He hired me right there, I trained with him the whole summer, and it was an experience I’ll cherish forever. Ralph was like Mr Miyagi, but instead of ‘wax on, wax off’, he made me draw 10,000 circles on my first day. His office was on the 2nd floor of the animation building, and I would always take the long way around to peak into production of Lilo & Stitch. I was the last artist Ralph hired and trained before retiring. After training, I went back to the gallery, but now as a character artist behind the animation desk, drawing characters for guests to purchase. I did that and designed close to 1000 t-shirts for the parks before graduating from art school in 2004.”
“Upon graduation, it was devastating when 2D animation closed it’s doors before I could start my internship, but another opportunity walked through the front door of the Magic Kingdom gallery. It was Michael Young, with Disney Fine art. We hit it off right away, and I sent him some paintings as a tryout. Most of the other Disney fine artists were landscape painters, with tiny characters off in the distance. I was the complete opposite, painting the characters larger than life, filling all four corners of the canvas with bright bold colors. That was 16 years ago, and it’s been an amazing journey ever since, painting for Disney Fine Art!”
How did you get the D23 official artist gig?
“It still amazes me to this day that I had the honor of painting the official art for the first ever D23 Expo in 2009. I was just starting to create really complex cubist pieces, combining lots of characters together in interesting compositions. I had completed ‘The Enchantment of Snow White’, ‘Of Mice and Music’, and ‘Strings of Temptation’, which had caught Disney’s eye, thinking I would be able to combine all these elements of D23 Expo into one painting. I’ll never forget the infamous conference call, with 18 executives, that spanned the whole Disney company from Feature Animation, ABC, Radio Disney, and ESPN, to Disney Channel. They all wanted their own thing in this epic painting, and at the end of the call, I had a huge list that took up multiple pages.”
Did you feel pressure or start freaking out at that point?
“The crazy thing is that I was never nervous about it. If I had known how big D23 Expo would become, and that this painting would hang in the Disney Archives forever, then I would have been a nervous wreck. Instead, I figured out early on that the concept behind the painting would be the simple idea, that it all started with a mouse. Everything at D23 Expo exists because of the success of Mickey Mouse, back in 1928. So I drew a big classic Mickey to fill the composition, and then intertwined with Mickey, were all the elements of D23 Expo. It was like putting a puzzle together, and everything clicked into place. That painting and that event changed my life. Seeing 100,000 Disney fans wearing my shirt and buying my art, while fans put together a 15 foot tall mural of my painting out of legos, was surreal! I was the official artist again for D23 Expo in 2013, and have been the official artist for the Winter Olympics, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, Disneyland 60th, and Mickey’s 90th.”
How does music play a role in your creative experience?
“I can’t paint without music, and you can easily tell how a painting is going by the music I’m listening to. If you hear classical music, that means I’m struggling, and trying to summon the renaissance masters to show me the way. If you hear Red Hot Chili Peppers, that means all is good, and I’m having a blast painting. I can’t wait to hear their next album with John Frusciante’s return. My favorite music to listen to are film scores, especially Thomas Newman, who has a rhythm and mood that’s perfect to paint to. If it’s raining outside, it’s gotta be Miles Davis or Norah Jones. But honestly, I listen to all good music, it doesn’t matter what genre, just as long as it has soul. Just discovered Jacob Collier the other day, and I truly think he’s Mozart reincarnated.”
What are your favorite recent paintings that have been released as limited editions?
90 YEARS OF MICKEY MOUSE
“This was an official piece celebrating Mickey’s 90th Birthday since his debut as Steamboat Willie. I choose 9 different Mickeys, with each representing a different decade and era of the mouse, from sketch to paint. Mickey has always been a big part of my life, from the first drawing I did at 4 years old while watching my father draw Mickey, to drawing Mickey at 18 years old for Disney Legend, Ralph Kent, who hired and trained me as a character artist for Disney. My first painting for Disney Fine Art 15 years ago was of Mickey, and even my good friend from art school is now the official voice of Mickey! Walt once said, “It all started with a mouse”, and it’s so true for me, too. It was an honor to be able to paint a piece for Mickey’s 90th, and give a gift back to the mouse.”
CAST OF TOYS
“Toy Story was released almost 25 years ago, and changed animation forever. As I was drawing this piece, and figuring out how to compose all the main characters, I found an interesting layout showcasing the old into the new. On the left side, you find all the old vintage toys, from Woody’s round up and the Potato heads, that generations have played with. On the right side, you find all the future galactic toys from outer space. And in the middle is Andy’s room, where both worlds collide. In a way, it’s also the story of animation. Woody represents the old school 2D, vintage, hand made way of animation, and Buzz is the shiny new 3D way of animation.”
MOANA KNOWS THE WAY
“I find I always paint my best work when I make it personal. To most people, this looks like a painting of Moana and Maui, but for me, this is a painting of my daughter growing up and becoming a strong leader, as I help steer the way as a father. If only I was as cool as Dwayne “The ROCK” Johnson! When people ask me who’s the hardest character to paint, I now answer Maui, because of the tattoos. Each tattoo has a meaning, and you can’t mess those details up.”
What have you been up to since the pandemic hit? How has it impacted your creativity or painting?
“I’ve been joking with my wife for years that I wish I had a pause button, where I could stop time, and finally catch up with commissions and projects. I’m always struggling to keep up. It’s a good thing for an artist to be busy, but you also don’t want collectors waiting two years for commissions. This pandemic is not what I had in mind, but it has given me the opportunity to finally catch up. I had close to 30 commissions in March, and now I’m down to 8. I’ve also had the time to experiment, and try new techniques that I’m really excited about implementing in my next works. For my fans, I hope it’s something to look forward to in the next releases!”
TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT DISNEY ARTIST TIM ROGERSON:
1. He loves wine.
He doesn’t drink it to excess, but as a celebration. We used to come visit a friend that lived only a few doors down from his house who had an insane wine cellar. He could literally pick dozens of bottles of wine for any year of the 20th century, and would open them in honor of a birthday, a special event, or just to mark a gathering of friends. Tim would walk down to our friend’s house, and we’d sit by the pool and drink champagne or wine so expensive that most of us would never even dream of buying it, and talk about movies, music, and art.
2. He loves movies.
Of course he does! Several times he’s been at ArtInsights for events or shows and we’ve had an evening of movie watching. He and my husband Michael and I have seen lots of movies for the first time together. If you are a film lover, he’s one of those guys that will be a kindred spirit. It’s rare when he can’t find something to love about a movie, and he loves all genres. I remember telling him about the movie “Tigers Are Not Afraid”, by Issa Lopez, knowing he would love it. It’s a terrifying, moving, gorgeous film, and I just knew he’d dig it. That’s the thing about him, and lots of artists that paint Disney. They see the whole picture: the good, the dark, the sad, the joyful…and it all goes into their work, no matter what they are painting. His favorite movie-watching experience was in Rome.
Tim relates, “Sitting in the coliseum in Rome with my iPad watching Gladiator was an absolutely EPIC experience! It was like being surrounded by genius filmmaking and the ghosts of the past at the same time.”
When I asked him to name 5 of his favorite movies, he said:
“Oh boy, that’s impossible! I’ll just tell you what they are as of today:
- Indiana and The Last Crusade (Greatest film ever made)
- A New Hope,
- Road to Perdition,
- Superman the movie,
- The John Woo masterpiece, Face Off!”
Of course I had to make him explain why The Last Crusade is his favorite.
“I love Raiders, but Last Crusade humanized Indy. Plus: The River Phoenix intro! Never being able to impress his father Sean-freaking-Connery! The epic tank battle! And the powerful ending to save his father, who finally calls him by his name Indiana! Literally as I was typing Last Crusade, I heard “You have chosen…………….wisely!”…so it must be true.”
3. He is obsessed with Nicolas Cage.
He explains, “I was a nick cage junky as a 13 yr old. I was obsessed with The Rock, then Con Air. Had to sneak into Face Off, which was R-rated, not knowing anything except John Woo and Nick Cage. It blew my brain!!”
He also loves television shows, especially those with complicated stories and anti-heroes. He took inspiration from one such show for a piece of art:
4. Peter Pan is his favorite Disney animated feature film.
“Peter Pan always fully captured my imagination as a kid, and it’s still my favorite Disney animated film. To fly, never grow up, and spend your day fighting pirates…Sign me up!”
5. It all started with a mouse. Again.
It might be that Disney said, “It all started with a mouse.”, but that is literally true for Tim Rogerson. His dad Danny was a director at Disney and worked closely with Don “Ducky” Williams, who taught his dad to draw Mickey. He would watch his father draw Mickey all the time. When Tim was 4 years old, Danny went to Tim’s class for a parent day, and he taught the whole class how to draw Mickey Mouse. He followed his dad’s directions and drew his first very own Mickey Mouse, and from that day on, he was hooked. Tim knew his calling was to become a Disney artist.
6. His sketchbook is his diary.
Tim Rogerson never goes a day without drawing sketches in his notebook. He takes it everywhere, including Paris, Riyadh, and everywhere else he has traveled. Entire series have been created out of his daily drawings, like his Food and Wine fine art images. It goes all the way back to when he was a kid. Some people have diaries, Tim documents his experiences and speaks his own truth through art, and he does it with pen and pencil on paper. He has lots of filled notebooks all lined up in chronological order in his studio.
7. Lately, he’s been inspired by Pixar concept artists.
At Pixar, the concept artists are free to create in any medium. Whether they are moved to do watercolors, or use cut paper, or paint in oils, inside Pixar, the folks in charge believe that kind of unique, personal exploration will be invaluable to story, and the finished film. Many of them have looked back at the Disney artists of the 50s, like Claude Coats and Mary Blair. It’s all about shape and color. Tim has found inspiration for his art from both those old Disney artists, and the new artists creating designs inside Pixar.
8. He’s a night owl.
Not least because Tim Rogerson always has at least a dozen commissions lined up, he’s always very busy. Still, he finds he does his best work at night, especially when just everyone else is asleep. He is also a dad to a little girl, and he wants to enjoy her childhood, so he spends lots of his daylight hours with her. Night is for art. Around 11pm, he cranks up the music and gets to work. Many is the time I’ve gone over to his house at 11am and he’s still working. Usually he’s discovered some new music at some point during the night, and added some inspired element to the art that wasn’t there the night before.
9. He loves all genres of music, but in his soul, he’s a jazz cat.
When I asked him his favorite music, he immediately had an answer. His favorite album is Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis. It’s a go-to when he truly wants to look inward for inspiration while creating. A Love Supreme by John Coltrane is a close second. As to his favorite song, it’s been the same a long time: Crash by Dave Matthews.
10. Don’t ask him what his favorite color is. (Tim explains why:)
“I get asked all the time what my favorite color is. It has become a hilarious mind trip that I can never answer. It’s like asking a writer, ‘what is your favorite letter?’ or a musician, ‘what is your favorite note?’ You have to combine letters to make a word. A musician has to combine notes to make music. That’s how I see color, so to pic out one as a favorite is impossible.”
*Tim Rogerson also does commissions, although he is always working down a 20-30 commission requests, so it does take some time between when you order a piece and completion. If interested, contact the gallery via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.