Full Sail University

Faculty Spotlight: Plinio Pinto (Course Director, Fundamentals of Art)

Plinio encourages students studying computer animation and game art to find the fun in their artistic process.

Plinio Pinto smiles at the camera. He has curly brown hair and a beard streaked with gray, and he wears a gray blazer.

Course director Plinio Pinto teaches art fundamentals like composition, value, and core drawing skills to students studying computer animation and game art. But there’s another essential element to Plinio’s classes: teaching students to fall in love with the artistic process by following their interests.

“The one thing that I want the students to understand is that art is about drawing what you love… That's how you're going to get better and better and fall in love with the technique, [is to] fall in love with the subject matter,” he says.

Plinio found his way to a career in art by following his own advice. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Illustration from Ringling College of Art and Design, where he sharpened his technical skills in areas that he loved: portraiture and illustration. However, Plinio developed an allergy to oil paints and had to find an inventive way to create the oil-paint style that he enjoyed by using watercolors.

“[My method of using watercolors] is a lot more realistic, goes into a little bit more of a tight wrangling of details,” he explains. “It’s something that you might see in how an oil-painting illustrator executes their work. It's a little tighter. I had to learn how to layer my colors in order to have a little bit more depth, to look a little bit more realistic. So for me, at least, it’s a fun way of working.

“It's a little more tedious or a little bit more extreme than just color washes that you would normally see in a watercolor,” Plinio continues. “But I had to learn how to develop this style and not be frustrated with the process… That's another important part of being an artist. You will have to at some point try different things or stretch [your skills] a different way.”

A smiling man stands next to a watercolor portrait of a woman. He is holding a blue ribbon and a Best in Show certificate.

Plinio’s watercolor portraits have won awards in Central Florida.

Plinio’s unique methods and illustrative skills helped him land out-of-the-box freelance work. He reached out to Upper Deck, a trading card company that licenses intellectual properties and makes cards for television shows, movies, comics, and more. They hired him to create sketch cards, which are trading card-sized illustrations of an IP’s characters drawn in the artist’s personal style. Plinio worked on cards for properties like The Walking Dead, the Hobbit movies, and Marvel and DC comics.

“[Sketch cards are] really fun because you are actually drawing on a smaller scale, you're drawing directly on the card. And that card, it's not reproduced, it's one-of-a-kind. You do many of them. I used to do an order of 30 to 50 of them, and they are shipped out inside little packets to the entire world. So it's a really cool way of sending out your work and producing something that it has some value, market value as well as personal value,” he says.

Plinio’s art has also caught the attention of some big names. In the early days of Twitter, Plinio posted a few portraits he’d created of celebrities and some of them reached out to ask about buying his work. They included Christina Ricci (“Unfortunately, I had already sold it”), director Diablo Cody (“I did a portrait of her, and she actually owns that now”), and The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus (“He ended up getting one of my pieces through mutual friends”).

Lately, Plinio has been doing public art for Orlando’s Thornton Park Main Street District. He recently completed a larger mural for the area; he also created murals for storm drains as part of the city’s Only Rain Down the Drain program.

“It's always nice creating things in public where people stop and take pictures and ask about it, so there's an interaction that does not happen when you're just creating work in your studio. Which is, for me, the fun part of it. It is a little bit more taxing physically. You have to endure weather and cars and stuff like that. But it's fun,” he says.

Helping his students find the same fun in art that he does is essential to Plinio’s teaching philosophy. He knows that students will start enjoying the creation process when they combine regular practice with art fundamentals to develop their own artistic style.

“I usually ask my students to every day take out a little sketchbook, they can carry it with them and just draw anything that’s around them, whether it's an environment or if it's just a still life or objects. It creates a direct connection with seeing what's around you. And especially for students going into computer animation and game art, they need to have a better understanding of the space around them.

“With that continuous drawing, they’ll gain that ability of seeing things in space, but they will also start developing a way of drawing that’s personal and that [makes them want to share] their work,” Plinio continues. “And I think when they get that [practice] in daily or weekly, they will start falling in love with drawing. And to me, that will then kind of ripple throughout their entire [career] in the future… It's breaking away from being self-conscious about the final results. It's just enjoying the process of drawing.”