Drawn to Inspire

Formey Disney Illustrator Amy Duarte now calls Zionsville home

This story originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Zionsville Magazine. Download a PDF copy of this story as it was originally published.

Amy Duarte has been drawing since she was old enough to hold a crayon. Her earliest memories are of creating art. When she was five years old, she saw the movie Cinderella and told her parents authoritatively, “That’s what I want to do!”

Miraculously, at this young age, Duarte knew that she wanted to be an artist for Disney. No small goal for a young, deaf girl living in Indonesia.

Amy Duarte and her family

The previous year, Duarte began speech therapy.

“My mom knew that it would be beneficial for me, long term, to learn how to talk and to lip read,” she says. “My mom rewarded me with Kentucky Fried Chicken after my challenging therapy sessions.

I am so grateful for her pushing me to do this. Speech therapy likely saved my [professional] life and to this day, when I pass a KFC, I smile.”

Duarte’s parents strongly encouraged her to follow her dream of working as an artist for Disney. When Duarte was 14 years old, she moved to LA with her mom. While earning a degree in art at Cal State Northridge, Duarte would illustrate her letters to friends. One of her friends had left a letter of Duarte’s on her coffee table when a guest saw it and asked to meet the artist. This created a side-hustle for Duarte. She began storyboarding commercials for companies, including McDonald’s, Snapple and Hanes.

“It was the perfect part-time job for me during college,” she says.

The art students were encouraged to apply for internships at the start of their junior year. To Amy’s excitement, spots were available with the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Around 1,400 applicants applied for 15 highly coveted spots. Duarte’s application was accepted. She was subsequently offered her dream job of being an artist for Disney.

In her 20 year-long career with Hollywood, Duarte worked a number
of animated features including Atlantis (her first film with Disney), Home on the Range and Bolt. Some of the movies that she has worked as a Senior Visual Effects Artist include: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Ironman, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Throughout her career, Duarte has worked on more than 30 major motion pictures.

Aside from drawing, Duarte’s other love is horses. Her love of equestrian sport led her to meet Max Duarte on the polo field at a club in Los Angeles.

“I’ve always been a horse girl since I was very small,” she says. “It started when my mother would take me to pony rides at the park near my grandmother’s house in Bandung, Indonesia. My parents signed me up for proper horseback riding lessons near our home [in Jakarta]. I got into the world of dressage and show jumping and competed in several Southeast Asian international competitions. As an adult, I eventually ventured into the world of polo, starting at the California Polo Club in Los Angeles.”

Now living in Zionsville, Duarte continues her animation and graphic design work. She is also an accomplished children’s book illustrator, with “Angels Amongst Us” and “Coming Down, Looking Up” (written by Marian S. Taylor) as several of the titles of the books already published. Duarte and her husband Max live near family where their children can enjoy playing with their cousins and, conveniently, a polo field is nearby.

I think it may be inspiring for young children to see me on YouTube and think ,’Hey, I could do that!’

— Amy Duarte

Duarte posts many of her personal collection of illustrations to Instagram and recently started a YouTube channel where she discusses the creative process of her artwork.

“I think it may be inspiring for young children to see me on YouTube and think, ‘Hey, I could do that!’” says Duarte, who admits that she was nervous to post her first video due to her less than perfect speech. The reviews are five star.

To learn more about Duarte, visit amyduarte.com or find her on YouTube and Instagram at @amyduartedesigns.

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Kara Kavensky

Kara Kavensky