James Elston got his start by working for a Mickey Mouse operation.
The Westmont man was an animator for Walt Disney Feature Animation Studio in Orlando, Fla., for more than six years.
The professional artist has returned to Johnstown, where he maintains a full-time freelance illustration career creating artwork for national and international clients.
An exhibition of new works titled “Through Windows and Doors” opens Saturday at the Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center, 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
He said his show is largely his process of dealing with life changes he had to make when returning to Johnstown, where he lives with his wife, Beth, and their four children.
“I view the exhibit as a visual journal of what I was going through these past seven years,” Elston said.
“My wife and I view the door as an opportunity and the window is how we perceive what is happening.”
Born to an American father and Taiwanese mother, Elston spent his youth drawing and painting on all kinds of surfaces.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Columbus College of Art and Design in 1994.
The Westmont Hilltop High School graduate landed a job at Disney following a three-month internship and worked as a clean-up animator at the Orlando studio.
The clean-up animator takes
the rough, scribbled sketches supplied by the supervising
animator and traces them to create clean-lined drawings.
Then the more than 1 million drawings it takes to make a full-length movie are transferred to film, where color is added with the aid of a computer.
Elston said it takes more than three years to complete an animated film.
His film credits include “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Mulan,” “Tarzan,” “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “Lilo and Stitch.”
In addition to his commercial illustrations, Elston has also painted murals for local businesses, as well as maintaining a body of personal artwork.
Elston said his passion for illustrating lies in developing characters.
Rosemary Pawlowski, Bottle Works executive director, said she has been trying to schedule an Elston exhibit for some time.
“I think he is a phenomenal talent that people will experience when viewing his work,” Pawlowski said.
“His works are very strong and colorful, depicting people reacting in unusual ways.“
An opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Bottle Works.
The exhibit will be on display through Nov. 2.
If you go ...
Who: Artist James Elston.
What: “Through Windows and Doors.”
Where: Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center, 411 Third Ave., in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
When: Saturday through Nov. 2.