It’s time for yet another new feature here on Filmophilia: The Legend. Each month we will take a look at someone who has made an indelible mark on Hollywood, yet doesn’t get as much attention as he/she deserves. The first person to get the Filmophilia spotlight is none other than artist Drew Struzan.
Now, you may not know the name, but believe me, you know his work. Struzan has created more than 150 posters for various films, including every single Star Wars movie, the Back to the Future trilogy and Indiana Jones series. His posters have become an inseparable part of those series as well as any film he works on. Born in 1947, Drew Struzan enrolled in the Art Center College of Design at age 18. When the time came to choose his major, fine art or illustration, Struzan asked what the difference between the two was. Fine art, he was told, meant he could paint whatever he wanted to. Illustration, however, meant he could paint for money. “I need to eat” said Struzan of his choice to become an illustrator.
Struzan paid his way by selling artwork and, after graduating, was hired by a design studio. There he began designing album covers, racking up an impressive list of clients including The Beach Boys, Black Sabbath, Roy Orbison and Earth, Wind & Fire. His album cover for Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare was even voted by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 best album covers of all time.
It was in 1977 that Drew embarked on the road to become the most acclaimed poster artist in history. Fellow artist Charles White had been hired by one George Lucas to design a poster for his upcoming re-release of Star Wars. White, while exceptional at painting the various space ships the poster needed, felt uncomfortable painting human characters so he called in his good friend Drew. The rest, as cliché as it is, is history.
During the height of his career Drew Struzan created approximately 10 poster designs each year. In the 70′s and 80′s he made the poster for films such as Blade Runner, The Goonies and Back to the Future. Struzan also designed the original logo for the likewise legendary Industrial Light & Magic studio. With the future came computers and the ability to digitally manipulate images to create posters, so the relatively steady stream of Struzan movie posters began dwindling. While still taking on occasional film-related projects, Struzan began exploring new avenues for his artwork including comic books and limited edition-art. Most recently Struzan created a one-sheet poster for Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens, as well as the cover of the landmark 800th issue of Action Comics, the series to first introduce Superman to the world.
The 2010 documentary Drew: The Man Behind the Poster, directed by Erik Sharkey, explores Struzan’s life and work and I can not recommend it enough for fans of his work.
“I love the texture of paint made of colored earth, of oil from the trees and of canvas and paper. I love the expression of paint from a brush or a hand smearing charcoal, the dripping of paint and moisture of water, the smell of the materials. I delight in the changeable nature of a painting with new morning light or in the afternoon when the sun turns a painting orange or by firelight at night. I love to see it, hold it, touch it, smell it, and create it. My gift is to share my life by allowing others to see into my heart and spirit through such tangible, comprehensible and familiar means. The paint is part of the expression.”