Bill Cone

Pixar production designer Bill Cone had stopped doing his own fine art outside of work for about 10 years before he began working with pastels.

“At some point, when you’re married and have kids, you don’t have lot of free time,” he says. “But when I started working with pastels for the movie A Bug’s Life, I enjoyed them so much that I began using them on my own.”

“I’d put them in a daypack along with some paper, and at lunch I’d ride my bike to a nice spot and paint,” Cone explains. “Then I took vacations and painted with pas- tels. For a while I had them in a little box in a backpack; eventually I decided to pack them better. And I started working bigger to do fish portraits. Up in Canada my in-laws liked to fish for rainbow trout, and I painted their prize catches.”

Cone started to realize he was gaining a deeper under- standing of qualities of light and atmosphere by painting outside, and that no photo could have taught him those things. “Watching changing light taught me a lot, how shadows move and change color,” he says. “I became more aware of how dynamic and complex nature is. It began to affect how I felt about light, and how to try to describe it. How to get the sense of the ways light from the sky illuminates the world even when you can’t see sun, or to understand the nature of shadows. I think I became more sensitive about how to use these effects in film, which was of great value for my work. I went out to explore nature and get away from work, but what I learned there came back to work with me.”

Cone continues to observe the effects of light in nature. Its not only helped his work, but inspires him on many levels. He exhibits annually, and for the last 8 summers, he has organized painting expeditions into the Sierra Nevada back country, inviting some co-workers from Pixar who like to paint, along with such fine artists as Randy Sexton, Clark Mitchell, Kevin Courter, Kim Lordier, and Paul Kratter.

Article by Maggie Price ,

A graduate of Art Center College of Design in 1983, Bill Cone has been painting landscapes for the last 16 years, often in the East Bay hills, with yearly pack trips into the Sierra Nevada wilderness. His work has been exhibited in group and one man shows throughout California. His ‘day job’ is as a Production Designer for Pixar Animation Studios, where he has done hundreds of pastel lighting studies for films. He has also taught classes on light and color at Pixar for over 10 years. His pastel work for Pixar has been displayed at the New York MOMA, and other museums around the world as part of the “Art of Pixar” exhibit. He blogs at bill


Art Center College of Design 1980-1983 BFA, Illustration

San Francisco State University 1975-1978 BFA, Painting