Category Archives: Art

The Drew Struzan Effect

Boris Karloff as the Mummy, 2012.

Being a person who avidly looks forward to any and all documentaries on artists and illustrators, the DVD release Drew: The Man Behind the Poster came as a welcome sight. Erik Sharkey’s flawed but very interesting 2012 doc acquaints us with the iconic ’80s movie artist Drew Struzan. If you see that name and think “Drew who?,” perhaps a list of his most memorable posters will ring a bell – Star Wars. Back to the Future. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The Muppet Movie. The Goonies. The Thing. Blade Runner. Police Academy!

While Drew: The Man Behind the Poster tends to get too superficial at times, it’s a worthwhile and admiring portrait. Director Erik P. Sharkey got an impressive array of Hollywood types to sing Struzan’s praises, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Michael J. Fox, Guillermo Del Toro, Thomas Jane, and Frank Darabont. The film opens with a documentary cliché that I particularly loathe – the endless montage of people fawning over the subject – a sequence which would undoubtedly make the laid-back Struzan cringe. The following 90 minutes, however, establish Struzan as an unassuming regular-guy with an extraordinary gift for rendering movie stars with the right balance of painterly expression and fairy dust.

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster was made from the point of view of a movie fan wanting to dig deeper into the guy behind moviedom’s most iconic posters – from an artist’s perspective, it’s something of a letdown. The best sequences have Struzan discussing his start in the funky ’70s L.A. art scene, including his early album covers for Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and others. Another good sequence has Struzan and Charles White III gabbing about their collaboration on the famous Star Wars retro-look poster (I also loved the part with Struzan and an obviously grateful Lucas together, perusing the Star Wars art). One amazing thing that comes across is how prolific he was, often re-doing completed artwork from scratch without breaking a sweat (the adding of Mary Steenburgen to the Back to the Future Part III poster is the standout in that regard). As is befitting a film that climaxes at San Diego Comic Con, however, you have to wade through a lot of puffery to get to the meat. This blog post by illustrator Jed Alexander explains that frustration pretty well, along with providing some primo examples of work from Struzan and his contemporaries.

While The Man Behind the Poster never strays far from being a simple celebration of Drew and his art, there is a little bitterness around the edges. The subtext of this movie is basically “Why did they stop making posters like Drew’s?” Sadly, even in the case of an über-talented artist like Struzan, Hollywood has moved on from using illustrators (by and large) for marketing their stuff. After all, it’s easier for a studio to exert control over a Photoshopped montage of movie star heads floating in the sky. If that turn of events affected the mellow Struzan, it doesn’t show as he’s seen in the film having a comfortable semi-retirement – painting his own subjects and enjoying quality time with his family.

For this write-up, a review copy of Drew: The Man Behind the Poster was supplied by the folks at Kino Lorber. You can buy a copy of this DVD at Kino’s site, or at Amazon.com.

Blade Runner re-release poster art, 2003.

Adventures in Babysitting poster detail, 1987.

Ladyhawke limited-release poster art, 1985.

Sahara poster art detail, 1983.

Sketch for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade poster concept, 1989.

Hellboy special edition art, 2004.

The Goonies poster art detail, 1985.

New at LitKids – Sherlock Holmes

After toiling away for a few weeks in our converted garage studio, I finally have a new LitKids print ready – the master detective, Sherlock Holmes! Sure, the colors are somewhat offbeat (manly shade of maroon for the outline, with yellow ochre, pinkish salmon and metallic bronze), but they came out beautifully. Like all the LitKids prints, they are hand-signed and printed atop pages from a classic book (A. C. Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) along with a random splash of gold paint for an extra touch of uniqueness.

This has been a busy few weeks for LitKids. In addition to completing the Holmes print, we have a selection of the prints and merchandise displayed at Olivastro here in Phoenix this month. Olivastro is a cool locally owned shop that sells delicious flavor-infused olive oils and vinegars. Phoenix peeps, check it out!

Sherlock can be purchased here. Through December 15th, use code SCROOGE to get 20% off on this and everything LitKids!

Display of framed LitKids prints at Olivastro, December 2013.

LitKids in the Treehouse

Christopher and I spent a few hours this morning installing a dozen framed LitKids prints at Treehouse Bakery, a vegan business located a short walk from our home in downtown Phoenix. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but don’t they look lovely?

I’m excited about this opportunity, since it’s the first time I’ve exhibited my own art in public since about 1995. Better yet, we’re mounting these pieces again in two months, at another local, independently run business. Locals supporting other locals – a beautiful arrangement! More photos from today have been included in the LitKids flickr set.

New at LitKids: Winnie the Pooh and Piglet


It’s time to unveil the latest LitKids print: Winnie the Pooh and Piglet done in the style of the classic A. A. Milne books (not Disney, thankyouverymuch). This one came about as a special request from one of my design clients. She wanted a special gift for her co-worker who was having a baby, a huge Pooh fan. Vintage copy of The House at Pooh Corner in hand, I worked on putting it together over June and July, not the most comfortable time for working out of our unventilated garage/print studio, but nearly all of the prints (in an edition of fifty) came out beautifully. The design has a few extra layers of colors, thus they have a slightly higher price than the other prints. Also, this is the first listing to use the professional frame photography (above) taken by our neighbor. They came out great, and all I have to do is Photoshop in a scanned image of the artwork (Etsy sellers, take note).

Pooh, Piglet and the other prints are for sale at LitKids – enjoy and happy reading.

New at LitKids: Little Bo Peep

There’s a new girl in town, and she’s looking good – my LitKids Little Bo Peep screenprint, that is!

After getting saddled with a heavy workload throughout the early part of this year, I was so relieved to find some time in the past month to develop a new print. This particular one has been in the works for a while. It started a few years back, when a craft fair shopper asked if I had any nursery-ready subjects for parents with babies. Before blurting out “All of these are great for that purpose, have a little imagination,” I stopped myself and agreed that it was a good idea. Indeed, some kind of print that could serve as a baby shower gift was needed to flesh out the variety of items at the store.

Casting aside the subject matter (which was a delight to draw), I’m really happy with how this print came out. I’m getting better with using the color layers in an offbeat way, and the print quality is coming out less amateurish with each new design. Little Bo Peep and her sheep is availabe, as usual, at LitKids.

Circus Poles

Cyrk poster, Bohdan Bocianowsk, 1971.

This circus poster, created by Polish artist Bohdan Bocianowski in 1971, will soon be a new addition at 4 Color Cowboy. That image perfectly encapsulates the 4 Color Cowboy aesthetic – a glitzy, once-removed version of the classic American Western themes.

I actually found a ton of great Polish circus poster designs on the web – pieces striking in their bold colors, simplified imagery, and lack of text. While the Polish artwork on ’60s-’80s era film posters is justifiably celebrated, these circus design were totally new – and inspiring – to me. I love how the various artists incorporated the single work “Cyrk” and found unusual ways of depicting typical circus animals. Funky! I chose some of the bolder, critter-oriented designs to share here.

Wiktor Gorka, 1969.

Wiktor Gorka, c. 1968.

Wiktor Gorka, 1970s.