GVN Talking Comics Interview: Co-Founders of the 2021 LightBox Expo Online Bobby Chiu and Jim Demonakos

One of the most difficult things to adjust to during the thick of the Pandemic in 2020 was  adapting those events that normally would have been live. In some instances, like many of the Comic-Cons, they had to cancel their events while pivoting to a more virtual format. This was also the case for Bobby Chiu and Jim Demonakos and their Lightbox Expo. Normally they would have large crowds enjoying many different panels and demonstrations including the best of the digital creative art world.

But for 2020, they adapted as best they could to an online format. It proved to be a challenge but they pulled it off and learned a great deal about what worked in the process. Now in 2021, starting September 7th – 12th, they have expanded the LightBox Expo Online to six full days. Filled with the very best of digital art and the creators who make it happen.

With the show so close to starting, we caught up with the Co-Founders of the Lightbox Expo, Bobby Chiu and Jim Demonakos to see what they have in store for this year. In addition, we also caught up with Jim’s film documentary on Hellboy Creator Mike Mignola coming in 2022 and some of Bobby’s work history. So let’s welcome Bobby Chiu and Jim Demonakos to GVN’s Talking Comic’s Interview.

Bobby Chiu and Jim Demonakas

GVN: Thank you for your time, Guys. Especially since we know this is a VERY busy time for you as Lightbox Expo Online approaches.

BC and JD: You’re very welcome!

Taking an Opportunity

GVN: So I’m going to start with you Bobby, since I have had the pleasure of talking to Jim in a previous interview (which I will touch on in a bit). If you don’t mind, let us start with a bit of your background. When did you take an interest in digital art and whose work inspired you to pursue that style of art?

BC: I was learning Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop in my free time and when an opportunity presented itself; I asked if I could help and that led to my first job designing Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel and Disney toys. In time, I guess all of those movies really inspired my style. But I feel like the best styles come from not actually looking for style but looking for knowledge. I love to learn so I feel like because of my interest in learning, my style naturally developed.  In fact, it keeps developing from the various artists that I study. For the longest time I’ve been taking classes on Schoolism.Com. That’s my own online art school so it’s pretty easy to keep learning new things. New classes are constantly being added.

Makings of a Great Concept Artist

GVN: Working in the plug there, Nice. During your personal career, you have done conceptual art design for both television and film, including Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. What do you feel makes for a great conceptual artist? Imagination, Technical Skill, the ability to capture someone else’s vision or a combination of all three?

BC: A great conceptual artist needs to be many things, especially for things that don’t exist. You need to be the creator of reality at that point. But that’s only the pre-requisite skills. To be a great conceptual artist or character designer, you need to have great ideas and know how to move people emotionally. You also need to be a great translator. Not just translating written words into a visual image but to interpret directions. Some directors describe things with emotions, and not visual descriptions.

Catching up on “Mike Mignola Drawing Monsters”

GVN: Well I’ve seen your work and it certainly exemplifies that. So, I had mentioned talking to Jim previously about his Mike Mignola film. How is that going, Jim and could you possible add any more impressive guests and interviews? This thing will be awesome upon completion.

JD: Haha, thanks so much, yeah, it’s been going great. Juggling LBXO and the documentary has certainly been a challenge, but it’s been exceedingly satisfying to work on as well. Since we last spoke, we’ve added at least 10 people to the documentary who weren’t even mentioned in the original Kickstarter campaign. We also still have a couple surprises up our sleeve, so the short answer is yes, but I don’t want to spoil it. That said, we are on track for our completion date in early 2022.

LightBox Expo Online 2021

GVN: I am really looking forward to it, especially the art demonstrations. Now let’s get into the main reason we’re talking here. The LightBox Expo Online 2021 Style. Last year’s LBXO was right in the middle of the worst of the Pandemic. Were there any challenges you had to overcome due to COVID and what do you feel you learned from them for this year’s show?

JD: I think just pivoting to online was our biggest challenge. We only had one LightBox Expo under our belt, and then it was time to re-imagine the event from the ground up. I think we did as good a job as we could, but we learned a lot from how we presented the event that helped make this year go much smoother from the jump.

BC: I think our biggest challenge was educate everyone on what our vision was for LightBox Expo Online. A really great online event might have 20 people as speakers, some even have as many as 80 or 100 guest artists and creators. Last year, we had over 400 guest artists, speakers and creators participating and tens of thousands of attendees. This year we were able to build on top of everything that everybody loved last year and do it even bigger and better with over 500 guests participating and twice as many days.

Bigger and Better

GVN: This years Expo looks outstanding. Plus, as you just said, you have decided to expand Lightbox Expo Online to go for six full days. Why did you decide to make that change and did you have any logistical hurdles to clear once you made that decision?

JD: One of the big reasons is that we wanted to make sure there was enough time for people to enjoy the virtual artist alley and discover new artists. We found that with the weekend being so packed with programming, people didn’t have the time to explore the virtual space. By expanding the show to kick off on Tuesday, but also limiting the programming on the first three days, we feel we can shine even more of a spotlight on the artists.

BC: Exactly, plus last year there were hundreds of talks, panels, and demos planned. There was so much to do and see that we felt like people didn’t get enough time to shop. This year we expand the event to six days with the first three days focused on shopping. There will be a few talks each day from Tuesday to Thursday but that’s all. This way everybody can focus on all the amazing cool things Artists have to offer on the exhibition floor and everybody can take some time to meet each other, draw with each other in our drive together section or in our LBX Discord server.

Word of Mouth

GVN: Did your expanded program enable you to book some guests that might not have been possible in the previous format?

BC: An event of this size will always have its challenges but with a great system and good organization it gets easier and allows us to spend more time getting more great guests. Also, having done LBX successfully twice now, word gets around and guests are a lot more willing to spend their precious time and effort in making the show amazing.

Small Sample of What’s Coming

GVN: Amazing is the proper word. I’ve scanned just some of the programs and guests scheduled to appear. Will six days be enough? With that in mind, what do you feel are some of the can’t miss panels or programs for this year?

BC: This would honestly be too hard to answer. If you look at the schedule, it’s kind of unbelievable since there’s over 350 things on there. But that’s also why we added a favorite button so as you browse through the schedule you can favorite all the things that you’re most interested to see.

JD: That is hard. As Bobby said, we have almost 400 already, so I’ll choose 4, but this is just scratching the surface:

Asian-American Badass Animation Directors

Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3 and Love, Death & Robots director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, DWA director Stephanie Stine, Netflix’s Centaurworld EP/creator Megan Nicole Dong discuss what being “Asian-American” means to them, their parents’ influence on career, how they learned to “take space” to turn their vision into a reality, and how recent increase in hate crimes against Asians have impacted them.  Moderated by Maureen Fan (Baobab Studios).

The Mitchells vs. The Machines: Inventing a Visual Style

Join visual effects supervisor Mike Lasker and head of character animation Alan Hawkins as they discuss the challenges and successes of developing an all-original visual style for the latest release from Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Pictures Imageworks: THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES, streaming now on Netflix.

Character Design Cage Match

Join twin Disney animators and podcasters, Tom and Tony Bancroft as they host the exciting LIVE “Character Design Cage Match” game show. YOU will suggest what 3 LEGENDARY CHARACTER DESIGNERS have to draw and help the Bancrofts decide who is the ULTIMATE WINNER! Prizes will also be awarded to the “crowd” for correct guesses from trivia contests throughout the challenge. Are you ready to RUMBLE..?

Designing Marvel Studios’ Scarlet Witch!

Marvel Studios’ Director of Visual Development Andy Park LIVE discussion about helping to design Wanda Maximoff through the years to her emergence as the Scarlet Witch in the hit Disney+ show WandaVision! Special appearances by Visual Development team members Jackson Sze, Anthony Francisco, Jana Schirmer and Phil Saunders! Since this will be LIVE, questions will be welcomed. Join us for the fun!

GVN: And that’s only four of the almost 400 scheduled. Should be outstanding. Thanks for sharing a bit of your time, Guys. We look forward to this year’s LBXO. Now, before I let you both go, where can our fans go to learn more about the Expo, to get access and follow your respective work?

JD: The best place is go directly to the LBXO event website at https://2021.lightboxexpo.com/we also put out a ton of cool artwork and info on our Instagram as well: https://www.instagram.com/lightboxexpo

BC: Definitely check it out, as for myself, you can follow me on https://Instagram.com/digitalbobert and YouTube.com/bobbychiu And learn art online from me at Schoolism.com



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