Meet the CalArtians Behind Brainbow Design Studio and The Schwarzenegger Trilogy


Jimmy Thompson (Film/Video BFA 04) and Harry McGowan (Art BFA 05) established the Brainbow design studio in downtown Los Angeles in 2008—as a “byproduct of the CalArts’ multidisciplinary and independent spirit.”

The young studio has gotten good notices for its work recently, with projects ranging from logos to websites to animation to music videos. Their endeavors have been featured on tour with the Broken Bells and screened at the Hammer Museum, but there’s an animation about California’s former governor (The Schwarzenegger Trilogy, posted above) that’s earned the most attention, even being written about on The Huffington Post.

The film, commissioned by the Standard Hotel for a short film festival, is a 1,600-frame film that’s illustrated entirely in black pen and highlighter.

We conducted a short email interview with Thompson and McGowan about their time at CalArts and influences on their work:

24700: Who were your mentor(s) at CalArts and why?

Jimmy Thompson: [The late] Michael Mitchell and [the late] Corny Cole were equal parts mentor to me, though I might have spent more time in Mike’s drawing classes collectively. I liked Mike a lot. He was wise, bold, savvy and mysterious and would say a lot of abstract metaphors pertaining to the ‘industry’ and life which always amused and confuse me to this day. The same goes for his visual design—his design choices were drawn from abstraction, a grab bag of influences, mixed media and unlikely pairings. He wasn’t afraid to create strange imagery when there was purpose behind it. Plus, he was teaching through his mid-80s and illustrated The Catcher in the Rye. Simply badass.

Harry McGowan: I was lucky enough to have three mentors looking out for me at CalArts: Andrew Freeman, Kaucyila Brooke and Judy Fiskin. Between them I couldn’t get away with anything!

24700: What’s the best piece of advice given to you about your art or business practice?

JT: “Give ‘em hell” -Mike Mitchell

HM: Andy Freeman always encouraged me to keep making work all the time. The simple idea of momentum has always stayed with me, and it’s at the forefront of our business. When Jimmy and I aren’t working on client-based work, we are working on our own projects as a collaborative team and sometimes by ourselves.

24700: What’s your favorite memory of CalArts?

JT: Standing next to Paul Reubens at a Chouinard dorm party where he kicked over my beer for which I scolded him.

HM: My favorite memory was luckily caught on tape, when my good friend Ignacio Genzon was packing to leave the dorms for the summer.

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One Comment

  1. Elvis Amaya // //

    wow this is really interesting I’ve never seen an animation done this way where you use a movie and the colors are just so nice. i can’t explain it, its amazing.