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Local becomes digital artist for Lucasfilm, offers community classes in form

By Genelle Pugmire - | Nov 22, 2021

Courtesy Nathan Allen

Digital artist Nathan Allen working with a stylus and iPad, the tools he uses for his classes.

Not many people have close friends from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Nathan Allen does.

Allen is a digital artist and assistant art director of Lucasfilm Animation working on TV shows like “Clone Wars” and “The Bad Batch.”

Allen has spent countless hours with pop culture icons like Anakin Skywalker, Obi-wan Kenobi and others from the Star Wars brand. He has honed his digital art skills and now has the opportunity to share them locally.

Just over a decade ago, Allen was a budding artist, growing up in Springville and taking private lessons from Mary Reader. After graduating from Springville High School in 2010, he joined the Brigham Young University animation program.

That put him on a straight path to Lucasfilm. When COVID-19 hit, Allen was given the opportunity to work remotely. He and his wife Suzanne Allen seized the opportunity and moved back to Utah.

Courtesy Nathan Allen

A digital ice cream boat by Shaylie Jessee from Allen's digital art class.

Having grown up in “Art City,” Allen recognized there are many people that love to do art, but unlike sports or music, there aren’t many options for people to learn to do art, according to Suzanne Allen.

“The options that do exist seem to be exclusively traditional studio art. Digital art is a medium that’s new, especially at local levels,” Suzanne said. “So Nathan started an art studio teaching teenage and adult students digital art.”

Allen is renting a space at the Summit Center, which used to be the old junior high school, in Springville. Once a week he gathers his eclectic group of students to learn techniques with an iPad and stylus.

“The goal of the studio is to equip these people with the skills they need to make art that they are proud of, and even help some of the younger students as they pursue a future in a creative industry,” Suzanne said.

Ben Birlin, a Spanish Fork local, is one of Nathan’s students. He gets up every Tuesday morning, extra early, to attend the 6:45 a.m. class before he heads to work.

Courtesy Nathan Allen

Digital art piece by Dyllan Fellows, one of Nathan Allen's students.

Allen’s students range in age from 11-years-old to their mid-50s. He can have up to 30 students each semester, but currently is sitting at 18.

This is his second 15-week semester, with new one starting in January. Allen is trying to stay with the Nebo School District semester calendar.

“The class objective is to teach students advanced digital art abilities. Any student can learn and cultivate skill by careful study and practice. Their dedication to professional techniques will bring about rapid growth and results. A true study of art teaches goal setting, increases self-drive, and enhances success in all aspects of life,” according to the class website.

Birlin has taken both semesters Allen has offered thus far and is planning on enrolling in the third one.

“I have a college degree in Accounting, this is my hobby,” Birlin said. “I have a dream of making my own web comic.”

Courtesy Nathan Allen

Digital art piece by Shaylie Jessee, one of Nathan Allen's students.

Not only have Birlin and other students learned a variety of digital art techniques, they have had the opportunity to meet others in the digital art field.

“He brought another industry professional in to talk to the class,” Birlin said. “The things he is teaching are the things that are necessary to know in the industry.”

Birlin said if he ever gets tired of accounting he will have this as a second career to fall back on because of Allen’s skills in teaching.

“My biggest goal is to help aspiring artists in the medium of concept art,” Nathan Allen said. “There are more people that will teach regular art. Digital art is not much different.”

While Allen said getting an education is important — and that degrees help — he was offered a job before graduating from college. That is how big the need is for digital artists.

“This is a highly competitive industry,” he said. “The real valuable thing here is they are learning industry technique.”

Allen agrees that BYU and Utah Valley University have great multi-year programs, but his classes are for general members of the community.

“This is community oriented,” Allen said. “I want to be involved with the community. I do want to help people if they want to connect with a career.”

Allen said the class has been good for him because you learn as you practice and working for Lucasfilm, that comes in handy.

“It really surprised me there is a lot of interest out there,” Allen said. “Art speaks to everyone – digital art.”

“He is teaching here because he wants to celebrate ‘Art City’ and the cool place he came from,” Suzanne Allen said.

Allen charges $25 per class. Information on Allen and the class offerings can be found online at http://sharpenedstylus.com.

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