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Each line of the pencil and stroke of the brush is full of understanding, solid fundamental training, experience and the willingness to experiment. However, the most prolific thing about all of the work in the book Controlling Illusion, is the charm and appeal of the characters that were created during his class demonstrations. Every demonstration has the potential to become a successful intellectual property. Charles Zembillas focuses on creating works that exude charm and personality, Seemingly without effort. All of his characters tell a story or create an emotion using just a glance or simple gesture. He creates these amazing little masterpieces with a style all his own and with humility.

Did I mention that all the works in this book were class demonstrations with eager students watching and the clock ticking? Most of the works were created during one class session or less. Bravo!

The way in which Charles wrote his book is very unique. It's not a "step-by-step", "how-to" book. He gives an explanation, in a few sentences, on how he approached each demonstration. Just giving enough information on how the piece was created, but not going overboard with details that could confuse or distract the reader. He allows the reader to use their own reasoning on how to put the information together. Personally, I feel that is a testament to his teaching skills. Teaching the fundamentals, but leaving it up to the student to experiment and learn to think for themselves. A constant theme throughout the book was experiment. This book reminded me how important it is as an artist to constantly be pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Experimentation is a great way to do that and it's fun.

Because I'm a graphic designer, the design and production of the book were things that I notice. The book was printed very nicely, the pages are sturdy, gloss laminated, hard cover with the black binding sheets a nice touch. The book was bound using the Smythe Sewn or sewn through the fold technique so it should hold up for a while.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the arts, either as a profession or a hobby. - January 1, 2009

Joshua Lam
CSG By Design, Inc.
Los Angeles, California


Thank you for your amazing book. - November 30, 2008

Don Hahn
Walt Disney Feature Animation
Burbank, California


The book is awesome! I don't know of any art, drawing or painting book that is anything like it. - October 28, 2008

Rich Lynes
Professional Illustrator
Enfield, Connecticut


Charles Zembillas' book Controlling Illusion is the foundation of basic common sense knowledge of animation design and illustration. The book is packed with Charles' useful and insightful information along with many of his beautiful full-color classroom demonstrations. Presented in an upbeat, visually aesthetic way, Controlling Illusion is a must-have for any art enthusiast, art student and professional artist. - October 7, 2008

Gary Montalbano
Conceptual designer and publisher, 20 year veteran in the animation / movie industry. Currently a development / production designer at Warner Bros.


CONTROLLING ILLUSION: The Class Demonstrations of Charles Zembillas
Author: Charles Zembillas
Publisher: The Animation Academy

Book Review by Mary Ann Trujillo, Associate Professor & Head of Animation
California State University Northridge, Sept. 21, 2008

This book is a treasure, valid for all artists, as well as teachers of the creative arts. It was a total delight to read and I personally found it very inspiring. Charles Zembillas has successfully shared his magical teaching essence, which comes from his creative talent, endless encouragement for developing artists and his own deep appreciation of the creative process.

He reminds us of the really important things about being a creative human being, that are so easily side lined, in our instant consumerist culture. He reinforces how imagination, internal visualization, fundamental art skills, practice, contemplation, experimentation and productivity, all work together in the artist's process as a daily celebration to embrace.

Charles discusses the importance of the creative asset of internal visualization or seeing with the mind's eye. He states that all drawing is a miracle of illusion and through the control of illusion we can share our inner vision. He covers approaches such as: free form drawing, thematic sketching, blue line pencil basics, gray scale markers, color rendering, painting, undertones, overtones, tints and digital technology methods of color layering. He reveals that one of the most important lessons and yet the most resisted is: achieve simplicity first and understand its power, before following up with levels of complexity. And he stresses the importance of gaining skill with traditional methods and that these have a direct bearing on one's successful command of digital tools.

I had the opportunity to observe Charles Zembillas teaching at our University and I was impressed with his ability to motivate every single student to work toward improvement, no matter what their skill level. In his book, he makes us feel that it is possible for all to be a part of this special thing of creativity. That we can keep growing and striving toward producing our own unique vision and sharing it with the rest of humanity. Thank you Charles!


I received my copy yesterday and thumbed through a great wave of inspiration that made me want to paint and draw and attend another class at The Animation Academy again. What really struck me was the written word. The theory and philosophy on life, inspiration and creativity and how to overcome fears, was really a great read. Not every character design book also makes for great reading. This one does, and the written word inspires as much as the drawings. Thank you so much for creating this. Can't wait until the next. Best wishes and Keep Creating!! - September 11, 2008

Brad Bradbury
The Art Institute of Los Angeles


Over the years Charles Zembillas has drawn what I can only describe as astonishing results from his students, and this bears bold testimony to his skill as a teacher. In "Controlling Illusion" Charles has outdone himself with samples of his class demonstrations. That he achieves such design, creativity and composition every time and in such a difficult setting is remarkable. There is a chronological sequence to the presentation that includes an evolution in the thinking process as he refines his teaching method. This book not only provides a valuable education to anyone interested in the field, it is simply a treat to have. Included with his visual demonstrations are notes which give insight into his thinking and the contexts with which each idea is applied. If I had an animation school I would make this book a mandatory study. - September 9, 2008

Alan Simmons
Background Designer / Production Design
Marvel Lions Gate Studios
Los Angeles


Thanks so much Charles for the info you put in this project. To have this along side while I explain things to my kids as they draw... a great source. - September 9, 2008

Mark Pudleiner
Walt Disney Feature Animation


YES!!!!!!!!! I got my copy at work today! I could see the glint of inspiration in the artists' eyes as the book made its way around the studio. The finished product is a marvel of literary and artistic talent. Thanks for putting this together, Charles. Controlling Illusion is awesome! It has exceeded my expectations. - September 9, 2008

Laurence Jackson
Animation Supervisor
Irvine, California


I received my copy of Controlling Illusion at work today. The book looks GORGEOUS. I can't wait to read it. - September 9, 2008

Jennifer Hachigian
Venice, California


Beautiful to look at, excellent layout, and from what I've read so far, the work of an artistic genius. Long time in the making but worth the wait. Sincerest congratulations. - September 8, 2008

John Pappas
Professional Photographer
Lake County, Indiana


"Controlling Illusion" is a great insight into the creative process of animation development. Spoken from a veterans point of view with all the knowledge and insight from my years of working in the industry I highly recommend this book. Charles is a great artist and inspires both old and young people who love to create. - September 3, 2008

Richard Chavez
Visual Development Supervisor
Sony Pictures Animation


There are many art books on the market these days. Controlling Illusion is a step above them. Charles takes you on a journey that can turn a good artist into a great one. His insight, history, and theories applied to strong fundamentals set his book apart from the rest. I highly recommend this book. - September 2, 2008

James Dylan Crowley
Animator & Character Designer
Film Roman / Starz Media


Man o man o man what an amazing book!!! The weight of it! Not the physical weight but the years of experience and knowledge jammed packed inside a book kinda weight. I haven't even started to read it and I'm already overwhelmed by the appeal of everything coming off the page... or is it coming off the page? its hard to tell. Charles' range of design is quite remarkable... and all the images are class demonstrations. They look like the walls of Disney visual development. May I be so bold to say that this book will go down in history as one of THE books to reference for on point visual development in the multi media world. - August 27, 2008



Incredible book! I purchased it for my daughter to supplement her art education. Well done. Thank you, Thank you. - August 21, 2008

Dan Codron
Florist to the Disney Corporation - Burbank, California