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SATURDAY SIX Artist Spotlight: The Theme Park Artwork of Marie Catano

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This week the SATURDAY SIX Proudly Presents: The Theme Park Artwork of Marie Catano! To coincide with Disney’s Festival of the Arts, each February the SATURDAY SIX spotlights artists in the theme park community. Each of these artist spotlight features gives us a chance to appreciate an artist whose work uses characters, attractions, or any other part of the the Disney or Universal theme parks. In each section below, I’ll give a short introduction, followed by the artist’s thoughts about their work and creative process, in their own words.

We began this annual tradition in 2021 and have continued each year (you can find previous artist features by CLICKING HERE.) The class of 2023 is kicking off with Marie Catano (@draw4theworld,) a talented illustrator  and entertainment designer based in Florida. While many of our previous spotlight features have focused on (mainly) Disney art, Marie has done a lot of work highlighting their friendly competition across town, including…

# 6 – Halloween Horror Nights

Derek: Both the Disney and Universal theme parks have inspired generations of artists, but it’s always interesting to see which projects capture the imagination and almost compel creative people to “pen to paper.” Universal’s annual Halloween Horror Nights event is right up there with Disney’s iconic Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean attractions as something that has truly brought out the creative juices in the fandom.

Marie: In 2019 I had crossed upon Halloween Horror Nights and the event as a whole. Although a scaredy-cat at heart, I became enamored with the artistry behind the construction of the houses, as well as the creative design on the costumes and properties used by the scareactors. Here are just a couple pieces that I have created over the past couple of years for this seasonal event.

“HHN 31 Tribute”– Watercolor and Ink on mixed media paper This was just a retrospective piece highlighting my favorite parts/scareactors of HHN:31, as well as the tribute store created for last year.
“All Hail the Pumpkin Lord” – digital artwork done in Procreate.
“Lil’ Boo” – Watercolor, Gouache, and Gold Foil on Mixed Media paper, digitally enhanced through Procreate. I created this artwork as a promotional piece for Emory Alvarado ( the original creator and sculptor of Li’l Boo) when she launched her campaign for the Li’l Boo Plushies last year!
“Icons: Reimagined” – Watercolor and Ink on watercolor paper
“Therapy Session: a Legends Collide Ending” – digital work done in Procreate.
“Sweet Revenge” – digital artwork done in Procreate, finished in After Effects.

# 5 – Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler – a Universal Mardi Gras Tribute

Derek: While HHN gets the overwhelming majority of love from fans, for my money the best overall event at Universal Orlando is Mardi Gras. The amount of creative work put into the parade floats, the Mardi Gras performers and even the food booths is just incredible. With its whimsical theme and colorful designs, Universal’s Mardi Gras celebration lends itself perfectly to inspire artists to create work, but for the most part those artists are perfectly fine just drawing more HHN Icons like Jack the Clown or The Usher. Marie created a Mardi Gras piece I would love to hang on my wall at home.

Mardi Gras float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Marie: Last year was the first time I had experienced Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando, and as an event I imprinted so much love and creativity in the themed entertainment industry and the performers brought to the table. I created this retrospective piece as a tribute to the artistry, performers, and spirit of the event itself.

With the theme of the year being Planet Mardi Gras, I took inspiration from the graphics and tribute store to base the look of the artwork itself. I wanted to highlight the floats and their artistry, as well as the cheer-mister of the event: the Party Gator. In order to start the piece, I took various photos of the floats, as well as in different positions to get all of the details to start the sketch. I then outlined it with a fineline Micron pen, and erased all of the sketch away to leave the ink. I usually leave pieces to air out in between the eraser and watercolor phase, to dust it off completely and let the paper breathe.

When ready I then started layering the watercolors, mostly using my travel size pan.Once obtaining the desired brightness in the piece I then gave the work another pass with my Microns, this time using thicker liners and brushes to make certain characters and floats pop out. I completed the piece by adding little easter eggs in the skyline here and there for Universal aficionados!

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler – Done with watercolor, ink, and posca markers on watercolor paper

# 4 – Roaring Pride

Derek: In early 2022, the theme park world became affected by the world outside of the parks thanks to what became known as the Don’t Say Gay Bill in Florida. Disney’s reaction to the bill – or maybe, more appropriately, lack of reaction – caused a furor in the theme park creative community. Orlando Park Stop’s Alicia Stella took the initiative to start a Stop The Hate fundraiser in order to help raise money for individuals affected by weaponized intolerance. Several artists in the community donated pieces of artwork to raise money. In fact, Your Humble Author even came out of self-imposed retirement to create a piece of Burgan Fine Art: Inside the Backpack of Alicia Stella. Other artists, including Marie, produced true masterpieces…

Marie: This piece was a doozy for me. It came as a vent artwork during the Don’t Say Gay movement here in Florida, especially with the turmoil and lack of accountability from themed entertainment employers. I wanted to represent the movement as a force to be reckoned with: embodied by the T-Rex from Jurassic Park. Done digitally on Procreate, it helped me put all of my emotions and words into a single piece to show my frustration and support of the movement at that time.

I re-created and polished up my initial work for Alicia Stella’s Stop the Hate Fundraiser Event June 2022 that supported the Trevor Project. Many notable artists and collaborators shared their time and donated theme park memorabilia to support this event.l I had decided to rework it with Rexie’s true colors, and complete the background to my liking. I then sent them off to be printed with a special shatter holographic finish, to make them specially tailored for this event. I was so surprised by the amount of love this work got, both with the initial piece as well as the sale of the prints for this event.

Roaring Pride – Done through Procreate, printed on medium weight cardstock with a holographic shatter finish.

# 3 – Seasons Screamings – a VelociCoaster Christmas

Derek: The VelociCoaster is one of those attractions that has inspired artists like few others. The thrill of the ride combined with the off-the-charts creativity involved in everything from the queue, to the ride vehicles, to the coaster track, to the theming of the environment you’re zipping through is breathtaking. For many artists, once you get off the VelociCoaster you want to create something, which is the highest praise you can give to any piece of art, whether it’s a movie, book, stage play or – yes – even a theme park roller coaster.

VelociCoaster. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Marie: By far the most meme-y of my works, it came to me as more of a joke piece at the middle of the night: “what if- Christmas at the raptor paddock? The raptor squad would be the reindeer pack and the coaster itself was the sleigh?” From there it transformed into the work that it is now!

I had originally started it right at the end of the 2021 holiday season, knowing that it was too late to finish it, so I held off and left it in a half sketch, half inked limbo stage. I started revisiting it right at the start of the 2022 holiday season, going into full force to complete this work. I completed it in Procreate shortly thereafter, making the raptor pack the force driving the holiday season!

Seasons Screamings – Done through Procreate.

# 2 – Everybody Gone Surfin’ – An All Hallow’s Hula Summer Boutique Tribute

Derek: We all know Universal goes all out when it comes to transforming Universal Studios Florida into Halloween Horror Nights, and over the last several years the theming has extended over to Islands of Adventure with the addition of the All Hallow’s Eve Boutique in Lost Continent. In 2022, the All Hallow’s Eve Boutique got an additional overlay that was much more “fun” than “scary” with the All Hallow’s Hula Boutique. The Universal Classic monsters were dressed in their best beach wear and the entire store was decorated in a more Tiki-theme.

All Hallow’s Hula Boutique. (photo by Michael Carelli)
All Hallow’s Hula Boutique. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Marie: This past year was when the tribute stores launched in full force, giving themed entertainment fanatics a plethora of experiences that doubled as neat themed retail space. My favorite one of the 2022 season was the summer All Hallows Eve Boutique, which featured the classic Universal monsters in vacation gear as they head out to the most bone-rattling beach party! I created a tribute piece that encapsulates all of the go-with-the-flow energy this boutique gave off!

I composited the sketch by taking some pictures of all of the monsters and certain scenic pieces that stood out as memorable. I really loved the buggy that the Wolfman was driving, as well as the stone statues that flanked the store. The process of painting the artwork was quick, using watercolors and gouache to get the vibrancy needed.

All Hula’s Eve – done with watercolors and ink on watercolor paper.

# 1 – The Dark Dimension: a Wizarding World Horror Experience

Marie: The Dark Dimension has been a passion project of mine for about 5+ years. I have been a Wizarding World aficionado since I had seen the magic being brought to the big screen and seeing how the creatives took the written literature and transformed it into visual storytelling. The story of the boy who lived often takes dark and gruesome turns, and that got me thinking: “What if we took these horror elements from the books and movies and twisted them into an experience that we could throw both fans and horror junkies into, showing a more harrowing side of the literature?” With the encouragement of my professors, I created a rough ground plan in AutoCAD , walking through the battle between the current Order of the Phoenix and Voldemort as he rises to power once more.

Rough Ground Plan – done through AutoCAD.
Rough Conceptual for Ground Plan – done through Procreate and Photoshop.

It will lead the visitors through a dilapidated Malfoy Manor, eerily quiet and haunting with no presence around. The frozen lady is hanging over the dining hall, petrified in pain. Slithering can be heard, and before guests can escape through the Floo Network, they are attacked by Nagini, Volemort’s pet serpent. Exiting through the Shrieking Shack, visitors are bombarded by Death Eaters, and tumble out into the Forbidden Forest. Around every corner there are more of Volemort’s followers, as well as Werewolves and Dementors that inhabit those lands. With the help of a fellow Phoenix member, you narrowly escape thanks to a portkey, but find yourself in a wet and stodgy passageway, opening up to the Chamber of Secrets.

Malfoy Manor Front Elevation – done through AutoCAD.
Malfoy Manor Front Elevation Concept Art – done through Procreate and Photoshop.

The skeleton of the Basilisk lays dormant, but Nagini appears to take a bite out of the visitors caught in the lair. Order members and Death Eaters fight, with dismembered bodies throughout, and briskly apparate guests to the Hall of Prophecies. Visitors traverse this pitch black hallway, lined with the faint glow of the orbs as foes jump and try to take you. Escaping through the room housing The Veil and finding yourself in the atrium of the Ministry of Magic, coming face-to-face with Voldemort himself. You are whisked away quickly as he jumps towards guests and muggles escape through the streets of London.

I created some rough concept elevations of the facade and certain rooms to get the atmosphere for the haunt itself, leading guests through a dilapidated Malfoy Manor. I also created some concepts for costumes and puppets that would be used in this experience. I am a sucker for puppetry, and in a totally uncompromised project would use them for most of the scares as they can get more personal and up-close with guests. I also drafted up some props that would be used in this haunt, completing them in AutoCAD.

The project as a whole is still a work in progress and not a completed vision, constantly evolving and changing with each revision. Since being a personal project, it is not affiliated, endorsed by the Wizarding World brand or JK Rowling.

HONORABLE MENTION – Deadly Slumber – a Tribute to La Taniere du Dragon

Derek: I have never been to Disneyland Paris and almost all I know of the park came from the day my mind was blown when watching a DVD of the Disney Singalong Series: Disneyland Fun. When you select the “French Language” option on the DVD, you watch the exact same movie except it’s a shot-for-shot remake using Disneyland Paris instead of our Disneyland in Anaheim. In this version you see the dragon underneath their castle and it’s amazing.

Dragon underneath the castle in Disneyland Paris, as seen on the Disney Singalong Series: Disneyland Fun.

Marie: Although my love for the Disney Experience has dwindled over the years, a couple of experiences still hold a special place in my heart. The Lair of the Dragon in Disneyland Paris is a masterful area right under Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, bringing an air of mystery and danger when facing this beast. 

I started off the sketch by finding which position and angle I was going to have the sleeping dragon be shown in. I then started watercoloring the sketch, planning on doing the inking process at a later stage. A light wash of color helps me block the shape of the dragon before adding stronger washes to define the piece. 

Once completed I started inking the work, giving texture and weight to the dragon. I had some hesitation when it came to either keeping the background clear or making it darker/black to make the piece pop. I decided to paint the background black, leaving the only color in the dragon’s lair to make it pop! 

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Theme Park Artwork of Marie Catano! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

Artist Spotlight Class of 2021: SonderQuest | Sam Carter | Brian Cooper | Sterling Denham

Artist Spotlight Class of 2022: Rob Yeo | Ava Buric | Jess Siswick | Hayden Evans

SATURDAY SIX Presents: Artists Inspired by Universal’s VELOCICOASTER

SATURDAY SIX Presents: Artists Inspired by Universal’s HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS

SATURDAY SIX Artists Inspired by HHN Series: Dead Skull

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

”Revenge of the Mummy: Anubis Statue” – Watercolor and Gouache on Watercolor paper. The Mummy has been one of my favorite movies, with such delightful scenic pieces and propwork throughout that scratched a change in my brain chemistry. With the arrival of the ride Revenge of the Mummy, the queue builds on the “stepping into a working movie set” ideas towards an actual Egyptian tomb. I painted with gouache my favorite set piece in the queue as a tribute to this fantastic ride.

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