2-D Animation Instructor Finds Unexpected Success at Fine Art Auction


Sin created this painting amid a turmoil of emotions, without thinking of its potential for success. Courtesy of Oliver Sin.

When Oliver Sin graduated from the Academy of Art University’s School of Illustration in 1996, he didn’t know that years later he would be working as an instructor alongside many of his former teachers. After working for George Lucas at LucasArt from 1996 to 1999, Sin began teaching for the Academy’s School of Animation & Visual Effects in 2001. However it is his love of painting that has truly allowed him to explore another side of himself and find success where he did not expect it.

On Saturday, Nov. 8 2014, three of Sin’s paintings were sold at the Academy’s 19th Annual Faculty and Alumni Fine Art Auction, which raises money for the Fine Art Student Scholarship Fund. This was the second year that Sin had work in the auction and he said, “I was lucky enough to participate, because I didn’t graduate as a fine arts major.”

Sin credits one of his “greatest mentors,” fine art faculty member Zhaoming Wu.

“Zhaoming encouraged me, ‘Oh, maybe you can give it a try.’ So I tried it and they picked three paintings out of five,” he said.

One of Sin’s paintings sold at the auction for $1,500, which was a huge amount seeing as he was not thinking about its appeal when producing it. This painting was created in one of Sin’s darkest moments, after two of his family members sadly passed away within a month of each other.



Three of Sin’s paintings were sold at the Academy’s 19th Annual Faculty and Alumni Fine Art Auction. Courtesy of Oliver Sin.

“In order for me to heal my feelings,” said Sin, “I just stayed at the studio, painting, painting, painting. I didn’t know that painting was a successful piece. At that time I just had to find something to do. I had to keep my brain occupied.”

Dr. Craig Nelson, executive director of the School of Fine Art – Painting, didn’t know the story behind this painting when he chose it for the auction either, which reaffirms Sin’s belief that this emotional piece tells a story, speaking for itself.

With regard to his painting style, Sin said that he is a beginning portrait painter who keeps his paintings realistic but doesn’t necessarily stick to one style, “because I don’t do it for money, I just do it for passion, I do it as a hobby.”

After graduating, Sin “only did dry media. I’m a traditional animator. I didn’t paint, I didn’t use oil. At one point, I kind of lost myself as an artist because at work when people asked me what I did, I would say I’m an animator. When asked, ‘Do you paint?’ I would say, ‘No, I don’t paint.’”

Sin has been learning to paint in oil for less than four years and was inspired down this path by the late illustration instructor Kazuhiko Sano. “I always believed that oil painting is more valuable. It looks better. I like the look of the painting. So it took me a while to step out from my comfort zone, which was my office or my dry medium and go to something new.”

When Sano passed away in 2011, Sin “found some of the greatest mentors in the Fine Arts department,” which enabled him to develop his painting skills.

To current students at the Academy, Sin’s advice is “practice makes perfect. Even though at that point you don’t see the light, eventually you will see the light. Enjoy the process. It’s not about the final product. Just enjoy the learning process.”

Thanks to his talent for painting, this semester Sin will be teaching a couple of workshops in the School of Fine Art. “Once you keep on trying something, you don’t know what kind of door will open,” said Sin. “Deep down inside, I’m not a confident painter. But my director, Sherrie Sinclair, always says, ‘Wow you’re a professional. You can do it. You have four years experience. You’re a professional painter.’”

It seems as though Sin’s successes are only just beginning, and he admitted that this is the greatest year for him as a painter so far. “I believe that painting is one of the most successful pieces that I’ve produced so far,” said Sin. However, he is determined not to become complacent. “I will keep on working and keep on painting. Every painting means a lot to me. That painting is one of the milestones at this point. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop there. … Painting is a never-ending process of challenges and learning. A true artist is driven by the never-ending desire to create art, there is never a lack of subject matter, just absence of creativity. Through art and expression, we have an effect on the world we live in.”

Sin has been given multiple painting awards by Creative Quarterly magazine, including recently being included in the publication’s “2014 Top 25: Illustration” list. His “milestone painting” also recently won Southwest Art Magazine’s annual art competition and was published in its January 2015 issue.


See more of Sin’s art at