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May 01, 2012
Illustration Graduate Builds Awesome Studio Career
Joe Bluhm ’03 took a leap of faith three years ago and ended up with a 2012 Oscar to his credit.
The former Cleveland Institute of Art illustration major was successfully doing freelance work in New York City when he received a phone call about an opening for a story board artist in Shreveport, Louisiana.
He left the Big Apple and joined what became Moonbot Studios, producers of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which won the Academy Award for best animated short film. The studio calls this delightful 15-minute flick “a love letter to books (that) is about the curative power of story.”
The story of Bluhm’s career started at CIA. “My first two years at CIA were amazing. My instructors, especially David Mitri and Daniel Dove, gave me more attention that I’d ever gotten in my life except from my mother and maybe my elementary school art teacher,” he recalled.
“In illustration, (Department Head and Professor) Dom Scibilia was great. What he taught me about freelancing really helped, like promoting myself, being professional, and dealing with art directors.”
That artistic and professional instruction paid off for Bluhm, who is thriving on a team of wildly creative artists. He wears many hats at Moonbot where he serves as concept artist, story developer, story artist, character designer, visual developer, and environment and prop designer. “We’re very nimble and small so a lot of people do a lot of things,” he said.
Bluhm said the Oscar nomination wasn’t such a surprise; he knew he was working on something special with Morris Lessmore.
“But I freaked out when I learned that we had actually won. I just remember hugging a lot of people embarrassingly. I’ve never felt like that before. It was kind of a validation of leaving New York, where I was happy, and moving to a small studio in the south.”
Bluhm was also the lead creative designer and developer for the iPad App storybook version of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which was named App of the Year by Tap!and Apps Magazine. He is now illustrating the printed book version of the story, which will be released later this year by Simon & Schuster.
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