Unless you have been confined to a deep, deep hole since birth, its a sure thing that you have viewed his art work on prominent display surrounded by lights and throngs of people - and maybe the smell of popcorn. It is impossible to count, but it seems reasonable, that his various works have been seen by more people than those of virtually any other artist - ever. No really.
His name is Drew Struzan and while a lot of movie buffs and art lovers know his name, everybody, and that really means everybody, knows his work - even if they don't know it is his. Struzan, among other talents, is the master of theatrical posters (one sheets) and he creates such iconic posters and memorable images, that his work tends to be married to the movies themselves in the minds of viewers.
Chances are, if you simply read a highlight list of movies he made posters for, the images will come to mind immediately. Let's try some out; "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Can you see Harrison Ford in his fedora with Sean Connery smaller and just over his shoulder? Thought so. Pretty much any picture of Indiana Jones is a 'Struzan' representation including Disneyland rides, books, soundtrack CDs, DVDs and so forth. Wow. Ever hear of "The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones," the original Star Wars special editions? How about "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"? He also created the three "Back to the Future" one-sheets and the list goes on and on - well over 100 movies and then we could list album covers, magazines and it just gets exhausting.
Struzan also happens to be a heck of a nice guy who took some time to talk to Sideshow Collectibles recently about his career and his recent work on "Hellboy" one sheet.
"It was at the request of Guillermo (Del Toro) directly that the project came to me," Struzan said. "How it all came about was through Frank Darabont (Director of The Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption). He had told me that Guillermo was a big fan of my work so Frank made a point of putting us together. From there it was Guillermo who called me."
According to Struzan's website, the studio only printed a few of these posters, so with Columbia Picture's and Del Toro's co-operation he printed them and has made them available through SideshowFineArt.com as a signed edition.
Although Hellboy is inspired by a comic book, Struzan isn't familiar with comics - "I never had the blessing of seeing a comic as a kid," he said - but he was always interested in drawing and painting. He graduated from the prestigious Art Center College of Design and went to work as a staff artist at Pacific Eye and Ear in Los Angeles. There he created Alice Cooper's album cover for "Welcome to My Nightmare," which was eventually named one of the top 100 album covers of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.
He has created covers for a diverse catalog of albums for artists like Roy Orbison, Iron Butterfly, Glen Miller, Earth Wind and Fire, Black Sabbath, Bach and the Beach Boys.
After working for Pacific Eye and Ear, Struzan continued the development of his personal style with the founding of Pencil Pushers, Inc. He has been exhibited in Japan and at the Norman Rockwell Museum. However it was the internet that opened up a whole new world to Struzan in which he could communicate with fans directly.
"I have worked in a vacuum for most of my life. I have not known if people were ever seeing my work, recognizing my work and caring about it. There was no way to know. Here comes the Internet and once I had a web site and an E-mail address I was awakened to the connected world and what they are thinking."
He always had a love for art but the early years as a commercial artist were not always as rewarding emotionally as they were financially.
"I was used to being either ignored or just criticized. Rewards were not part of my experience. Now I get these unbelievable, beautiful and appreciative letters from around the world. I cannot express the depth, breadth and numerous expressions of influence, appreciation and happiness expressed by all these strangers. I never knew."
"I am so happy to have learned that there is a world of kind and generous people out there. I now have friends that range the globe; friends I have never met but who say that my art has made their world a more beautiful and encouraging place to be."
As part of the process in Hollywood, Struzan learned early to be flexible, not only personally but with his work, as studio publicity departments often change opinions and viewpoints. Change is expected. These demands pushed him toward the acrylic and pencil mediums that he uses most often.
"This is one thing that sets poster work outside most other illustration projects. Change it, change it and change it again tends not only to screw with the art and the artist it can become technically impossible for the art work. Most mediums do not lend themselves to making huge alterations on the art. Especially is this so when these changes must be done hurriedly and repeatedly. My technique was developed to accommodate this necessary process that is particular to the movie industry."
But meeting deadlines and pleasing clients wasn't Struzan's only consideration. "I'd like to think that my work would attain some lasting place in art history and appreciation someday. The work has to survive to do this. So I have always made the effort to insure that the work will be stable and lasting, especially as making changes is historically the best way to ensure that a painting will fall apart quickly. The way I work makes changes possible and technically stable."
Struzan's works will be appearing in another format soon. "Later this year my Oeuvre book is slatted for the market. It will contain 300 pages of finished art. A year later we hope to do the second volume in the set that is to focus on the drawings, the comprehensives and the process of my work."
Struzan told us that there were eight preliminary black and white compositions and five full color paintings there were produced before the final design for "Hellboy" was decided on.
"Hellboy preliminaries may well find their way into this (the second) book. It would surely be the place for them and it is what many keep asking for."
So why do directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and Darabont and many others collect Struzan's work and want him to create one sheets for on their films?
"I willfully try to make my work iconic," he said. "Bigger than life, what life should be and can be. It's that very impression that makes my work perfect for movies. That is where we go, after all, to dream of better things; to the movies."
Interestingly, working on publicity for movies hasn't afforded Struzan the chance to actually be on set when they are made since publicity is among the final things done on a film.
"The studios have to provide me with materials. Don't be under a misconception; I am nowhere near the set when the film is being made. In most instances the film has already been shot and the actors have gone their ways, the sets have been struck and the last thing to do on the film is the advertising. This is when I am called. There is usually no way for me to have gotten reference of my own."
Still the love for film and icons and characters is apparent in his work. We were pleased to find out in our interview that the grand artist collects art from Sideshow Collectibles.
"Of course I own A Sideshow figure. I have many of them, thank you! They are all wonderful. We know you are the best. I first saw your wonderful pieces at a Comic Convention when you were first releasing the Lord of the Rings collection. My wife and I ordered the Ringwraith and Steed immediately and have been gathering in all we can ever since. You are doing what I want to do, bring happiness to people. I'm getting all the happiness I can get and that includes all the Sideshow product I can get," he said. "You know what I'd really like to see? King Kong. Come to think of it, Peter Jackson is now making a new Kong film. Maybe you can work a deal."
Recently, films tend to use a lot more photographic solutions on promotional posters, but Struzan's special brand of content and art will always be a collector favorite.
"Fortunately there is no one perfect piece of art, there is no one-way. This is what makes art, life and people so wonderful. There is no one way to express love and beauty. There will never be enough or too much. Keep moving, keep doing, and keep giving. I am always looking to the next piece to improve, explore and to invent."
You can count Sideshow among those looking forward to the further inventing, exploring and improving of Drew Struzan.
Learn more about Drew: You can learn more about Drew Struzan at his official website: DrewStruzan.com. As mentioned in the article, we are now featuring the hand-signed 'Hellboy' one sheet in our brand new Fine Art section at SideshowFineArt.com.