Drawn to Art: Meet Shiella Witanto

Place a pen to paper and chances are you’ve experienced the impulse to draw a doodle—be it a stick figure, smiley face, or perhaps someone you saw on the train that morning. For some talented doodlers, that very impulse paid off, giving them the opportunity to share their imagination and talents on an international stage.

Academy of Art University BFA alumna Shiella Witanto was announced as the region winner for the Red Bull Doodle Art competition—a worldwide art competition inviting university students to submit their artwork and showcase their artistic talent. Among 47 winners, Witanto represented the West region of the United States.

With encouragement from Director of Illustration Chuck Pyle, Witanto submitted her doodle to the contest, which garnered 445 entries from regional universities. Her winning image featured a number of Witanto’s inspirations—an astronaut, steam engine train, and dragon.

PHOTO: The winning doodle by Academy of Art University alumna Shiella Witanto.

“I wanted to cite some of my interests and inspirations—namely, the future and the past, as well as reality and fantasy—while trying to keep things whimsical,” she said. “It was meant to be rather spontaneous, but I was satisfied with the results.”

Her work joined those of other region winners in the Red Bull Global Virtual Reality Gallery hosted at Academy of Art University on June 24 – June 25.

After traveling to the Academy at the age of 17 from her home in Indonesia, Witanto initially pursued a career in animation. Three semesters later, she made the switch to the School of Illustration.

PHOTO: Little Red Riding Hood by Academy alumna Shiella Witanto.

“I’ve always loved drawing since my childhood, but for a long time it was never a viable career option,” Witanto said. “I first started [at the Academy] in animation, but soon realized that the picture-making process was what I was in love with.”

PHOTO: Kitchen Mayhem by Academy alumna Shiella Witanto.

Witanto, who graduated Spring 2017 from the School of Illustration, credits her growth at the Academy for her understanding of what it takes to succeed in a career as an illustrator.

“I had very little idea what an illustrator does or what it means to be an artist. Fast forward five years, I am now a proud alumna and I’ve learned so much,” she said. “I’ve grown not only in terms of technique, but also in my understanding of the field as a business as well as a creative process.”

PHOTO: Legend of the Lunar Eclipse by Academy alumna Shiella Witanto.

The School of Illustration offers a curriculum that mixes advanced technology with classical training to equip students with the skills needed to meet the industry’s growing demand for traditional and digital media artists. The program provides a contemporary approach to techniques in drawing, composition, and storytelling. In addition, students obtain marketing and business tools that benefit artists as they go on to pursue their careers.

“Many people say that being an illustrator or an artist in general is easy, but they don’t know how much work goes into it,” Witanto said. “It may be a long, hard journey ahead, but at the end of the day, it’s such a privilege to be able to do what you love for a living. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

View more of Witanto’s work by visiting her website at www.shiellawitanto.com.