How To Make A Living From Your Imagination

Disney character designer Chris Oatley speaks to a group of students at Art Center.
Disney character designer Chris Oatley speaks to a group of students at Art Center.

For the last five years, I have taught, inspired and equipped tens of thousands of professional and “pre-professional” artists from all over the world right here at

Through my Email Newsletter, via social media and often over the phone, I’ve directly interacted with hundreds of them.

And through it all, the most shocking lesson I’ve learned is this…

Your Dreams ARE Attainable.

Every artist whom I’ve encountered through my work on has completely sensible, realistic AND attainable goals! Seriously.

Sure, some of them need to work a lot harder or get way more focused, but I’ve never met anyone through this site who’s just thinking crazy stuff.

In fact, amidst this current, unpredictable economy and the shifting sandscape of the “connected” world it is no crazier to pursue a career as a professional artist than it is to pursue a traditional “bank job.”

In FACT, I could make an argument that professional artists are actually MORE equipped to thrive in this brave new world. (But we don’t have time for that right now… Plus I’ll get all flustered and I’m trying to make a point…)

After I Got My First Big Break…

After six years of struggling post-art-school, I finally landed the dream job at Disney.

I’ve been told by people who know me well that I’m perceptive.  And I think they say that because I’m always trying to find the simplest, most universal themes in my own life experiences and in the experiences of others.

That is to say that it didn’t take me long before I noticed something about what kind of people do finally break in, what kind of people stay in and what kind of people move onto even better gigs.

I Observed A Pattern.

Two simple, secret truths that every truly successful artist shared.

“Do great work and be great to work with.”

The animation industry is WAY different than I had guessed. And over the first few years of my career in animation, I observed many things that nobody ever teaches or explains.  And all of those things can be related back to the 2 secret truths about succeeding in animation.

It was then that revealed it’s purpose.

…and that purpose is much bigger and far more important than Chris Oatley.

I realized that through I could inspire and equip those who are brave enough to follow their dreams of being professional artists… …professional dreamers.

It’s not just about getting a job in animation (although that’s entirely possible), it’s about making a living from your imagination.

I make my living with my imagination …and you can too if you don’t already.

I’m Here For You.

One of the top priorities in my professional life is to answer your questions. I want to inspire you.  I want to help you through the relentless, confusing, frustrating, deeply-personal challenge of crafting and making a living from the things you imagine.

Most importantly, I will help you find your ‘visual voice, discover your creative calling & design your dream job!

  • So whether you’re a seasoned industry professional who just needs help reinventing yourself for the 21st century…
  • Or you’re in that weird, transitional phase at the beginning of your career where you haven’t yet found a groove, your niche or enough connections…
  • Or you’re still struggling to break in…

…this site is FOR YOU.

Have You Subscribed To My Newsletter Yet?

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  • “The Key To Great Paintings” email series. (Everyone loves it! …just sayin’.)
  • Custom Photoshop Brushes that I designed to use in my own concept art.
  • Additional inspirational emails with exclusive content.
  • Industry job announcements! (Some newsletter EXCLUSIVES!)
  • Answers to your questions about Digital Painting, Character Design, Concept Art & MORE!

…all completely free.

PLUS! You can respond to any of the emails and it will go right to me. I read every email and try to respond to as many as possible. (It’s one of my favorite things to do EVER!)

So ask me anything and I’ll do everything I can to help you find answers. …through my blog, podcast or in direct response to your email.

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[ I will never spam you or share your information ]

What Other People Say About Chris Oatley:

“Whether it is something as small as passing along advice when I show him a character in progress or something as large as recommending me for a job, Chris has always been there for me. He is a great artist, a great mentor, and a great friend.”

-Steve Umbleby
Character Designer at Bento Box Entertainment

“Chris helped me to recognize and apply my artistic strengths to create a competitive industry-tailored portfolio. His professional insight gave me direction I needed to land my first industry job as a movie poster designer.”

-Margaret Hardy
Designer at BLT Communications

“Chris’ encouragement and teaching have given me more confidence in my work and in myself as an entrepreneur and an artist than I’ve ever had. A big result of that confidence is a 1-month artist residency in the fall where I will be working on my, as yet unannounced, comics project full-time.”

-Michelle Kondrich
Comics Creator, Illustrator

“Chris improved my understanding of the craft of painting to a point where I am improving by leaps and bounds. I’ve always had a strong desire to share what I’ve learned, but I wasn’t always able to connect with an audience. Thanks to my apprenticeship with Chris, I’m now teaching a matte painting class to foreign students.”

-Matt Scheuerman
Matte Painter, Fantasy Illustrator

“Chris’ newsletter is a great benefit and an inspiration to professionals or to anyone who dreams to break into the animation/ illustration industry one day. His insights cover a lot of very important subjects (like advice on painting and illustration and how to establish good working habits just to name a few) all of which have helped me grow in my career as a freelance illustrator.”

-Jez Tuya
Freelance Character Designer, Illustrator

“Since I met Chris Oatley, every artistic breakthrough I’ve had has involved him in some way. His teaching spirit, refreshing attitude, and breadth of knowledge are just three reasons I hope to continue working with Chris for the rest of my career.”

-Scott Wiser
Character Animator, Rhythm & Hues

About Chris Oatley:

Chris Oatley recently transitioned from his role as a full-time  Character Designer and Visual Development Artist at DisneyToon Studios to devote his work (and much of his life) to his students.

In 2012, Chris opened The Oatley Academy Of Concept Art & Illustration at and the response from his students has been overwhelmingly positive.

“This is NOT your average art class! Great information from Chris and everyone is really digging the experience and THAT is really exciting!!!”-Kevin Scarborough

“This is too awesome – the bar for online classes is going to be set HIGH.”-Sula Moon

“Chris gives top-quality instruction in an incredibly clear and applicable way, without fail.”-Michael Damboldt

Since 2005, Chris has contributed artistically to various animated films, television shows, video games and music videos for companies such as Disney, Universal, The Weinstein Company, Activision and Geffen Records.

In addition to his conceptual design role at Disney, Chris helped to improve the efficiency of the animation production pipeline by creating specialized Photoshop workflows for the art and story departments.

He also served as a creative consultant to the technology department where he is part of two separate creative-technology task forces.

He collaborated on the UI design for the in-house production management software and on the other he is helping to design a metadata-based tagging system which will optimize the Disney artists’ access to and management of reference images.

Along with IDW published creator Lora Innes, he co-hosts The Paper Wings Podcast to help visual storytellers make, market and monetize their creator-owned comics.

His site features an in-depth creative career guide: Concept Artist Jobs: How To Break In & Stay In, industry interviews, tutorials for Digital Painting In Photoshop.

Chris is also the creator of Greg The Megabeaver’s Prehistoric Sideshow a webcomic with animated and interactive elements. (The comic is currently on hiatus.)

He currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife Angie and their dachshund Sydney.

Click here to contact Chris via email.

Chris Oatley’s Clients and Collaborators :

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