Kino Scialabba has done what so many only consider. They grew tired of working invisibly for others who reaped the rewards of their labor so formed Legion Entertainment, a company now in its fifth year. Scialabba and business partner Bruce Jurgens were both in production when they met at Cinesite Hollywood.
Scialabba was building content and Jurgens worked as a VFX and CG Supervisor. By setting up under the banner of Legion, Scialabba now holds the title of executive and partner, managing director and CCO (Chief Creative Officer) and Jurgens mainly acts as a producer.
Scialabba is currently hired through Legion by Hydraulx, where Scialabba has worked as a concept artist and senior matte painter of films such as 2012, Book of Eli, Avatar, Gulliver's Travels, and most recently Skyline.
'Skyline' concept art.
"I'm a product of West Side Story," said Scialabba. "My dad was a Sicilian guy from Brooklyn and my mom was a Puerto Rican debutant stuck in New York." Both had an artistic lean; his mother was a painter and his father worked blue collar at Ford Motors and would often come home with paints from work to paint iconic monster scenes or bring home comic books for his son to read.
Scialabba moved to Puerto Rico where he took classical fine art classes at La Luchetti Visual Arts School from ninth grade half way through eleventh. "I learned about classical art there, that is where I really learned." Armed with this knowledge he returned to the United States to pursue his dreams.
He went to school for six more years "all over the place" at Central Missouri State, Cal State Long Beach, and Santa Monica College. The rebel in him decided he wanted to study what he wanted to study, and not be led by a curriculum that didn't apply to his wide range of interests. He studied anthropology, history, military history, social politics, astrophysics.
'Skyline' concept art.
"I studied everything because I just wanted to create cultures and different worlds, different beings, architecture and vehicles." At UCLA he studied film, and studied art at the American Film Institute and Art Center, and "ended up going to college studying comic book illustration."
He studied at Joe Kubert School for one year where he learned about 2D design, working in pencil and ink. Then Scialabba moved into fine art, "but I just didn't like the fine art scene."
He decided he wanted to pursue industrial design with a major in transportation.
'Skyline' concept art.
There he studied car design and space ships but when he learned he might be working on one piece of a space ship for perhaps seven years before he enjoyed any results he said "Forget that! I wanted to design ten space ships, it didn't matter if they could fly!" That was when he realized he wanted to work in the movie industry
In 1991 and with a portfolio in hand, he headed to the Motion Artists Agency in pursuit of a job. There he met with Phillip Mittel who didn't feel Scialabba was quite ready to do concept art, but felt perhaps he was ready for a story board position.
Scialabba found the storyboards similar to the comic book art he had loved and over the next year and a half he padded his portfolio with work that earned him a variety of outside gigs, and eventually led to his career in video games and film, with time off to study art and industrial design, costume construction, illustration, anthropology, and Japanese studies.
Scialabba's comic book portfolio landed him a job creating storyboards for a show Eddie Murphy wanted to pitch but unfortunately was never made. "My first job outside of that was a year's stint at Activision" who hired Scialabba as Art Director on Battlezone.
He also worked in commercials before pursuing a studio job at Cinesite Hollywood where he worked on Lost Souls, Minority Report, XMen, The Mothman Prophesies, Chill Factor, X-Men and Mummy. He stayed at Cinesite for four years before forming Legion.
"My philosophy of art is, since nothing is truly original and everything is a collaboration of everything that surrounds us, I took the notion of 'study everything.'" When he took courses in fine art, he felt the focus was limited to fine art movements and not art in relation to the social or political issues of that time. "In order to do art, you don't really need to study art.
You need to study the world. So my philosophy became, I am going to be really good at creating cultures because then I can create artwork based on any culture I created. So I strive for knowledge. I try to live as a piece of art; to be an artist you have to express yourself.
An artist is a monk, a warrior, a philosopher. I try to live as an artist, which is basically a person seeking knowledge." Scialabba's ideas are often the result of doodling, believing he produces his best work when he is in the zone that inspires him most minute to minute. He might doodle one minute, paint the next, research and read, add some details.
He enjoys matte painting because "doing it is like going to school. I don't have to think about the creative process, I'm thinking about the execution. I'm trying to find tricks to make things look real, breaking things down differently." For example, a tree, he doesn't look at the bark, he looks for patterns. "It's a method that I learned La Luchetti where I learned fine art."
He uses that philosophy in Photoshop. Using the case of tree bark, he wouldn't look for the perfect tree bark, he would create it, customize it from other items to achieve the perfect impression. "I do that so you have more control. You can create any style of tree bark you want" by layering the patterns from the moon with dirt and volcanic rock, for example, rather than finding the perfect photo element and working under those limitations.
By honing his ability to see the world around him as a series of patterns and elements, he can create materials that don't actually exist.
First hand knowledge through travel is always a pursuit. Scialabba has been to France, Italy, Germany, Luxemburg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal. He has lived in Puerto Rico, spent time in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, and the Virgin Islands.
He is also an avid role player, and when traveling might secretly pretend he is an alien sent to infiltrate a civilization. He will spend time in restaurants, taverns, and on public transportation with his drawing tablet and camera in tow, observing. "I want to absorb as much as I can from any culture."
He also will attend masquerades, "things where I can play different roles, different characters" that he can translate to his video game art, comic books, or film. Burning Man, a US art festival, is "where you can become any character you want. It's in such an unlivable environment you do need a gas mask, you do need armor, and it's great because I get to live my fantasy." He attends zombie walkathons around Halloween, the Zombie Con where hundreds dress-
like zombies and make their way along Vine Street through West Hollywood. Another pastime is the SCA (Society of Creative Anachronisms) playing Dungeons and Dragons and dressing up in armor. He hangs with many friends of like mind, artists from singers to writers to musicians that constantly play different roles. "I try to experience as much as possible and try to be as creative as possible, from what I wear to what I eat to what I drive."
He likes to work in a small group or large group but enjoys the creative energy that environment involves. Activision offered him an office that he turned down so he could work with his artists and share creative ideas. "I'm pretty crazy, pretty insane. I wanted to be surrounded by people so we could all look at each other, and say what do you think about this, and have direct feedback tha t is so fast we become this super cool creative machine that functions.
I don't get really touchy with my art, because I work on so many movies with so many people. Sometimes I'll work with another artist and we are tired of what we are doing so we switch, and go back and forth so we don't get stuck on any particular style. That way I never get bored." He feels that it creates a better creative environment than knocking on doors asking for five minutes to get approvals, believing "the process gets broken."
His projects usually begin with a meeting where he learns what the client needs and wants. It may be a commercial or a movie. He's a constant doodler and comes armed with a pad and pencil, recording ideas that he takes to his 21" Cintiq where he spends the day taking those initial sketches to the finished 2D concept. Photoshop, Painter, Maya, Vue, and ZBrush are his primary softwares. As always, he uses his combination of skills as a break from one another, switching from comic books to character, space ship, or vehicle designs. His sketches can be loose or they can be tight enough to appear photo real.
"I love art directing alongside doing concepts. I love going through the process of working with a bunch of people because it's easier for me to see the potential in people and be able to guide them. I love being able to communicate with as many people as possible to try and figure out what is inside their mind. Even the clients, I love dealing with clients, love to talk to them and see what they are trying to say, going in further and picking their brain. It's like exploring another dimension."
Currently Scialabba is working at Hydraulx where he's had the opportunity to contribute to a list of films and commercial work. He's enjoyed his time there because "they let me be as crazy as I want." He is also expanding his fine art portfolio with intentions of setting up a few shows. He takes his sketches into Photoshop, prints them on watercolor paper, then adds interest by painting with acrylics, "I glue things, making them look like art on Byzantine walls. I'll put plaster on them, age them, add fake amber, pieces of jewelry and buttons so they become 3D.
Life and Lust.
He is finishing up his comic book and writing a couple of screenplays. He hates to see negative space in his schedule. Aside from wanting a couple of planets to himself, he would like to be creating his own movie. "My dream job would be making a movement in fine art, causing a creative disruption that is positive." He also believes he could be a protector of art for civilization.
"Why doesn't the UN have its own military for art and archeological objects? That is a product of civilization and is way more important than religion. [We need to] preserve the art in civilization, despite whatever religions, society, or governments say because it is way beyond them. It's something that belongs to the planet now, something that belongs to the movement of humanity. Don't get me started."