You may or may not know it, but you’re familiar with the art of Drew Struzan. If you’ve seen the movie posters for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Star Wars, Back to the Future or Big Trouble in Little China, then you have seen his work. I’ve long been a fan of Drew Struzan and collected many of his movie posters. I even got to meet him in person and interview him for TheForce.Net a number of years ago. So it was with great enthusiasm that I checked out his new book “The Art of Drew Struzan” by Drew Struzan & David J. Schow.
No matter how familiar you are with Struzan’s work, there are some interesting new surprises in here for you. You get to see early versions of posters for Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Hellboy and Hook, but you also get to see artwork for films that ultimately didn’t use him for the final posters. You see art for Waterworld, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sahara, Zathura and Pan’s Labyrinth.
One interesting thing to see in the book is how the art can get changed at the 11th hour. We see the movie poster for Adventures in Babysitting go through many changes in the days before Photoshop. Struzan had to literally cut the original art apart and re-paste it by hand to make the changes the studio wanted. We also see a movie poster for Crocodile Dundee II get rejected and ultimately be transformed into the poster for Coming to America. It’s really amazing to see how indecisive art directors are or how fickle actors can be about the sizes of their images on the posters or their likenesses.
Struzan gives a lot of interesting anecdotes along the way. We hear about how Drew Struzan met George Lucas, Michael J. Fox and Harrison Ford for the first time. We hear about how involved Steven Spielberg was in the creation of the Back to the Future poster. Struzan talks about how he had only one night to create the movie poster for John Carpenter’s The Thing. The courier literally had to wait while Struzan finished painting it. There are some really interesting stories here.
While it is fun to hear all these great stories from one of my favorite artists, the book is bittersweet. Struzan is very candid about his experiences. We hear about how he was screwed over by an early business partner. Struzan lets his disdain for movie studio art directors be well known. There are many stories about how they don’t understand composition, how they are indecisive, and how they frequently hired him and then didn’t use his work. He also complains about how movie posters have gone from art to Photoshopped abominations. In fact, this is a major theme of the foreword by Frank Darabont. It’s sad to see Struzan ultimately get burned out and retire from movie poster work altogether after doing work on Hellboy for Guillermo del Toro. So while it’s an interesting story of art vs. business, it’s still a bit depressing to read as a fan.
All this being said, “The Art of Drew Struzan” is required reading for any fan of the artist, any fan of the films he did art for, and any fan of movie posters in general. The beautiful art and intriguing anecdotes make this a book you won’t be able to put down. I’d also say it’s required reading for any aspiring artist looking to make a living at painting.
This book will be released on September 14, 2010 and is published by Titan Books.
All images are © Copyright Drew Struzan / All Right Reserved.