Spotlight: Local gamer turns to painting

BY BRIAN ALBERT | JUNE 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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Colin Greenhalgh made art a cornerstone of his life at an early age.

Like many artists, he drew and doodled. He experimented with perspective and architectural sketches.

Then he discovered the world of digital art.

“After we got a computer, the way I thought about art changed,” the 24-year-old said. “I taught myself how to use Photoshop and spent a lot of time playing with images digitally.”

The San Diego native’s newfound fondness for computer art, combined with his love of video games, motivated him to enroll at the Art Institute of California-San Diego.

In 2007, he graduated with a degree in game art and design. He was immediately hired by Budcat Creations, a now-defunct game-development studio once located near downtown Iowa City.

“It was an amazing feeling,” Greenhalgh said. “Getting out into the world, moving somewhere I’d never been, and working my dream job at 21 was both terrifying and exciting.”

During his time with the company, he worked as a 3-D artist on many games, including four titles in the popular Guitar Hero franchise.

Friend and ex-colleague Jason Young said it was a “treat” to collaborate with a fellow passionate individual.

“It’s tough to find people who work with others as well as he does,” Young said. “His passion, sense of humor, and talent excited and inspired those around him.”

Greenhalgh remained at the studio for nearly three years, until its parent company closed it in 2010.

“I was definitely upset, and, like everyone else, scared,” he said. “It was hard for me not to blame myself entirely for something like that, especially when I was at home all day while my wife worked.”

But the studio’s closing led Greenhalgh to further explore his abilities, with the freedom to paint and draw as much as he liked.

“I feel like if I’m not creating, then I’m screwing something up,” he said. “It’s forced me to develop quickly and create better art.”

The extra artistic freedom also led to the creation of Monsters Abroad, an art project he initially started as a birthday present for his wife, Amber Greenhalgh. The quirky, vibrant pieces were painted on “rather boring framed prints” that he had purchased from a thrift store.

“It started with a squid hugging a rock and a squad of ‘Trot-bots’ attacking a shoreline,” he said.

While some might think of his art as silly, Amber Greenhalgh said it’s unique.

“I think Colin’s art stands out because of how whimsical it is,” he said. “Everyone could use a little whimsy in the world.”

For Colin Greenhalgh, his art isn’t just about fun or expression; it is a statement about the essential importance of human creativity, he said.

“I wanted to promote the idea that everyone has monsters, and everyone can create art,” he said. “Kids draw monsters all the time, but somewhere along the line, it goes away. Someone tells them that art isn’t important or that they aren’t good enough, and that makes me sad.”

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