Great artists are often inspired by mentors, and for Art Clokey, this was Slavko Vorkapich, the head of the Cinema Department at the University of Southern California where Art was a student. Vorkapich was an immigrant from Yugoslavia. Art did some graduate work with Vorkapich, who shortly thereafter, resigned from the university to work on his own films. Vorkapich continued to teach in private classes at his home in Benedict Canyon, California. Vorkapich considered Art his protégé, and introduced him to his kinesthetic film principles of animation. “He turned my head around at USC as far as motion pictures are concerned,” Art said. He also introduced Art to his friends, who were some of greatest filmmakers in the world at the time, including the great Russian director Eisenstein.
Art experimented with film as he was developing as an artist, long before he created Gumby, Pokey, and all of their friends. But his work with clay in film really began in the advertising industry with commercials, and it was during a break in the filming of these commercials that he began to create an art form that in a very short time would be recognized throughout the world.