“If you feel you are an artist, you owe it to yourself to be an artist.” Don Lanning
Don Lanning was born in Van Nuys, California in the heart of Hollywood’s creature effects community. With early heroes Dick Smith, John Chambers, Stan Winston, Rick Baker and Rob Bottin as guides, Don started sculpting creatures at 10 years old. Don is known for his consistent ability to deliver the highest quality work at lightning speed on projects from conservative realism to the archetypes of horror, fantasy, and science fiction.
As our Industry Speaks guest last night, Don took us through his career—a career that got started 10 years after his initial opportunity. He told the story of meeting Dick Smith at age 17. Mr. Smith being a helpful mentor to many artists, was also there for Don, giving him the phone numbers to people who might help him get his start in the industry that held his heart and passion. But, there was something, or someone else who held Don’s heart and passion—a girl—and Don chose a career in real estate, perhaps assuming a steadier path. After 10 years, Don took a good look at himself and didn’t recognize the person he saw. He described it as feeling like he was in someone else’s clothing, living someone else’s life.
Shortly thereafter, he had the opportunity to sculpt for a commercial. It was during that process wherein he acknowledged his calling. He said, “I was found.”
Don’s story was the premise for the rest of the evening’s conversation as he encouraged MUD students to stick to their dreams. “If you feel you are an artist, you owe it to yourself to be an artist…you are the most beautiful when you are creating…art is the only thing worth doing.” While Don shared his impressive portfolio, the true inspiration may have been in the pep talk he gave for living the life you want.
Don has recently received high praise entering the world of fine art with his modern take on pop icons Batman & The Joker and his elaborate reimagining of The Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tinman from “OZ.” His work is featured in more than 50 motion pictures and he continues to live out his passion, recently opening up a shop in Van Nuys, California.
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Don Lanning Instagram: @don_lanning