Digital artists pair up to share their fascinating fortes

Kenneth George, right, shows Peter Roberti and Aarian Shah how to create motion taking photos using their drawings. [Photo: Kaila Jones]

Creative people tend to gravitate toward one another, and such is the case with Jon Pine and Kenneth George, who joined forces in 2018 to offer courses in photography, film and animation through their company, Digital Artist Workshops.

The combined expertise of the dynamic duo spans a combined 50 years, encompassing such areas as photography, videography, screen writing and production, animation and graphic arts. Each brings a different perspective to a project, enabling them to teach everything from the history of film as an art form to making your own professional looking short films or photography.

A well-known presence in the community, Pine has worked more than 35 years as a photographer for local newspapers, magazines, advertising agencies and a myriad of personal and commercial clients. A native of New York, Pine received his BA degree in Art and Communications from SUNY Empire State University, and after a 1986 visit to his ‘snowbird’ parents, opted to make the move here.

He began his career in Florida working for a number of newspapers, before becoming the lead copywriter/photographer at DHI advertising, where he worked with the Mental Health Association on their highly before venturing out to open his own studio, where he maintained an impressive client base.

George, who has a bachelor’s in graphic design from Western Illinois University, relocated to Vero Beach from Chicago in 2013 to help care for his ailing parents. In Chicago, George worked as a freelance motion graphics artist, while also teaching digital cinema and animation courses as an adjunct professor at DePaul University.

Once in Vero, George says he realized there wasn’t much of a market for an animator, and secured a job as an art teacher at the Indian River Charter School.

“I set about meeting everyone I could who had anything to do with the arts and became involved in the Cultural Council and the Vero Beach Museum of Art,” George recalls. Pine and George met while each was teaching at the Charter School.

“I was offered the opportunity to teach at the Indian River Charter School and I loved it. I taught photography, film, digital art and journalism, and absolutely loved tapping into their young creative minds,” says Pine, who also teaches adult art education at the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

Pine notes that as a result of budget cuts at the high school, many of the classes that had been offered a decade ago are no longer available.

“With the advent of dual enrollment, the students can take those same art and photography classes at IRSC and get college credit, so they are being eliminated from the high school curriculum,” he explains.

“Jon and I were both teaching at the school but eventually, as the programs were phased out, Jon went back out on his own and I stayed on board and strengthened the film program,” says George.

And strengthen it he did. At the 2019 Vero Beach Wine and Film Festival, one of his school film projects received the top Vero Visions Award for “Let the Lovely Sun In.”

“A student of mine, Nathan Shalom, knew of a 92-year-old woman by the name of Gerta Smith, who had an incredible story to tell about her harrowing escape from Hitler’s regime in Europe during World War II. He asked me to help him video his interview with her,” George explains.

He says the film, which tells her compelling story, took two years of research and acquisitions of war archive footage to complete a 23-minute film.

“It was a labor of love and an absolute honor to tell her story in the best possible way,” says George.

In the meantime, Pine and George had set about forming their own company to provide digital arts instruction to children and adults. Although they eventually hope to have their own facility, workshops are currently held at the Raw Space Art Gallery studio and at Saint Edward’s School.

“We recognized a need in the community. While computers, tablets and cellphones were becoming more and more advanced with apps readily available to create films and animation, there wasn’t anywhere to go to learn how to do it,” says Pine.

Workshops enable anyone to learn the basics of photography and film making, and they also have advanced classes on using Photoshop filters to enhance images.

“We can take you from being an amateur to a professional quality photographer,” says Pine.

George’s passion is the animation side of things.

“I fell in love with the animation in the movie ‘Nightmare Before Christmas.’ I was a shy child so I made puppets and put on puppet shows as a way to make friends and be accepted socially,” says George. “After watching that movie, I learned the basics of animation and could show my friends how to make an inanimate object move. That put in a whole new class of cool.”

George now uses those childhood experiences to teach others the joy of animation and puppeteering.

“We start with the principles of animation and imagery and move forward into stop-motion animation using Claymation. We then advance to two- and three-dimension animation, introducing students to the key frame and after-effects,” George explains.

“I love old movies and I bought my first 16mm projector when I was 16,” says Pine. “I was checking out movies and watching them in the old farmhouse I grew up in long before Ken was born. I even shot my first video on reel-to-reel film. That being said, Ken introduces me to modern films I never would have watched. We bridge two different eras with the same love of art and animation.”

“Basically, it all boils down to telling a story,” Ken adds. “It starts with an interesting story idea, then a script, then the video production. It’s a beautiful, complicated process with a most rewarding outcome. Every story deserves to be told in the most effective way imaginable.”

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