Time Magazine described Drew Struzan as the ‘Last Movie Poster Artist.’ The description carries both a note of celebration (of the artists work and importance) and regret (as photo and photoshop increasingly replaced illustration as the principal medium of film posters). Having looked at the art of Saul Bass and Robert McGinnis previously, the ‘Last Movie Poster Artist’ feels like a good choice to bookend this series for now.
We will focus on the process of creating the final poster(s) for a film in a non-linear timeline. By relaying comments from the excellent book, The Art of Drew Struzan (Titan Books 2010), we try to capture the victories and disappointments of the job of a movie poster artist. It is a tale of hard work, perseverance, talents and the rewards these can achieve.
Like Saul Bass and Robert McGinnis, Struzan is a trained artist who worked in advertising after graduating in the late 60s. He painted in different styles (‘I could paint like Rembrandt and Modligiani’) but over the course of the 1970’s it became apparent that his overriding talent lay in portraiture. In the star-driven world of movies, this talent made him a perfect fit for movie posters.
The creation of a movie poster begins with a comp, a series of drawings and posters that represent the movie – comprehensively. The comp is commissioned to an artist or often multiple artistst who are tasked with creating a poster to ‘represent a movie before people even know what it is’. Sometimes studios will provide guidance, for other comps the work will be at the artists discretion. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was one of the earliest comp portfolios Drew Struzan produced. However, the work was not used for either the US One Sheet (below) or UK quad posters with Richard Amstel and Brian Bysouth creating these illustrations. Fast forward to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was released in 1989 and the artwork used on both the One Sheet and Quad for this film is undoubtedly Struzan.