Realist painter Tony Pro moved his studio this fall to CLU, where he teaches basic design and mentors students on careers in art.
Although Tony Pro made a career designing movie posters and DVD packaging, interactive menus and toothpaste boxes, his primary focus today is creating portraits, landscapes and still lifes in oil. His paintings hang in homes, galleries and museums throughout the world, and his portrait of Rose Ann Vuich, the first female member of the California State Senate, is displayed in the state capitol.
During 18 years as a graphic artist, primarily for the entertainment industry, Pro started teaching at art schools. This fall he moved his studio to CLU, where he paints, teaches basic design and mentors students on careers in art. His work with a brush and palate is fine and delicate, a direct contrast to his large bearlike frame and overwhelming exuberance.
“The reason I started teaching,” the artist said, “is that I learn more about my work and myself.” Fundamentals such as composition, tonal values, how colors are produced and how they work together, he continued, have to be applied constantly. “Teaching is a daily exercise that keeps me sharp and keeps me in touch with the younger generation.”
In exchange for their fresh outlook and enthusiasm, Pro gives young artists realistic insights into the commercial art world, along with the academic basics.
“They see firsthand the experience of me actually working, and then see [the artwork] on the shelves later.”
He invites other professionals to visit his classes, share experiences and explore creative and commercial avenues available in art.
Pro grew up surrounded by artists. First it was his father, Julio, an award-winning wildlife artist, and later his brother, Greg, a professional illustrator. He followed the family tradition by majoring in graphic design in college and teaching himself to paint.
Two years after a trade magazine recognized Pro for Best DVD Menu Design (“James Bond: Die Another Day”), he won Best of Show at the Oil Painters America 2005 annual exhibition in Chicago. The painting, “Mother’s Love,” was featured later that year on the cover of Southwest Art magazine.
A signature member (the highest membership level) of the century-old California Art Club, Pro is one of the nation’s leaders in promoting the re-emergence of classical realism. From the early 20th century, he explained, modernism took over the arts.
“Visual arts are a form of communication,” he added. “Art should communicate with the viewers, not confuse them, and that starts with good design.”
The painter is trying to popularize art that demands technical ability and brings back beauty.
“I want to help students understand the need for beauty,” he said. “Beauty gives us hope.”