Joe Skibba’s architectural illustrations serve as the basis for building projects around the world. This past summer, he also made it to the big screen.
“I know a guy who knows a guy,” said Skibba, who has lived in Pittsburgh since 2005. “We worked on a couple of things in the past.”
Skibba is credited with creating the renderings of a science lab in the movie “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” Released in the middle of August, the movie is about an architect who travels to the South Pole and ends up working on building a science lab. The illustrations she is pictured with in the film are Skibba’s.
Skibba’s past experience with the movie’s art director led to a phone call about two years ago. The project took a couple months to complete, going back and forth on what was wanted and needed for the designs.
“They didn’t have a specific style, so it took multiple versions to try to get the tone,” he said. “I’ve seen the movie twice, and there are about six to eight images in it. At the end credits, there is a time lapse of one of the structures.”
Skibba is listed in the movie credits for his work.
His parents, Skip and Rosie Skibba, who live in Cottage Grove, were big fans.
“It was a joy and interesting to see his renderings incorporated into the movie,” Rosie Skibba said. “It made us think back of Joe’s early sketching as a preschooler. Who would have guessed we would his see his work and name on the big screen?”
Skibba learned many artistic and creative skills from home, school, and work. His dad currently creates metal and stainless steel “junk art.”
“We recall the old proverb, ‘The apple does not fall far from the tree,’” Rosie Skibba said.
Skibba’s skills were realized in the classroom at Monona Grove High School and further honed at Madison College. But, the step to become an architectural illustrator wasn’t quite so straightforward.
“(It started) by accident, like many other things in life,” said the 1994 MG graduate. “I loved the movie ‘Toy Story,’ but you couldn’t go to school to learn how to create that. I went to UW-Stevens Point for programming and then to Madison College for graphic design.”
He was reviewing a project involving architecture when a teacher introduced him to Anderson Illustration Associates, where Skibba eventually landed an internship.
A co-worker left the company to work in Pittsburgh and later invited Skibba to join him. Skibba moved to Pennsylvania and eventually started his own company.
“When you see a billboard next to a construction site that shows what the new building will look like, that’s what we do,” he said. “We’re able to create a sense of place, fill in the blanks.”
His work includes interior and exterior renderings. His work has included urban design drawings, senior living, night renderings, advertising, theme parks, waterfronts, corporate campuses, health care and more.
Many of the watercolor style drawings were done by hand, but when the recession hit, Skibba started using digital technology as well. It helped to lower the cost and turnaround time for projects, which was desired during the economic downturn. Now, he uses a combination of both.
“You have to evolve as you go,” he said.
Skibba said he often has several projects going on at once, and when he needs assistance, he reaches out freelancers, who often have expertise in certain areas.
“I think of the others as team members,” he said. “It’s a nice working relationship. It’s not just one person; it’s a collaboration for sure.”
He said there isn’t anything architecturally he doesn’t want to do. One of his favorite practices is when he does design work on location. However, he said he has to balance that against being away from home and family.
“As parents, we are very proud of our son’s artistic skills being requested, displayed and used internationally,” Rosie Skibba said. “Joe starts a project employing someone’s idea, dream or possible concept and transfers that into a rendering. We are always amazed to see his work and his final illustrations.”