Drew Struzan

From Academic Kids

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Drew Stuzan
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Artist Drew Struzan with his famously distinctive signature
Drew Struzan (born 1947) is an American artist. Struzan has painted album covers, advertising, collectibles, and book covers, but he is best known for his extensive movie poster work.

Popularly known by his signature first name on his work, Struzan is one of the industry's most recognized talents, having provided artwork for over 150 movie posters, including many of the best known films of all time. A particular favorite artist of film directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Struzan created distinct and indelible images for many of their film releases, with Spielberg decreeing that Struzan be the only artist allowed to render the space creature character, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Spielberg says that Struzan is his "favorite movie artist"; Lucas has called him "the only collectible artist since World War II"; and the Boston Globe called him "the greatest poster artist of our day".


Contents

Early Years

A Portland, Oregon native in a family of meager means, Struzan was born a child prodigy with the rare distinction of skill in art. As such, Struzan and his artwork were studied by researchers at Stanford University. Ironically, it would be many years later, in 1969, that one of those early childhood works was discovered, by Struzan and his wife, being offered for sale in a California art gallery for thousands of dollars.

Although struggling with dyslexia as a young man, Struzan overcame the learning disability, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from high school.

In 1965, at age 18, he enrolled at the Art Center College of Design then located in West Los Angeles, California.

"The first thing the counselor asked me was 'what do you want to major in,' so I asked what the choices were." He was informed that he had two choices: Fine art or illustration. The counselor went on to describe the two careers, telling Struzan that as a fine artist he could paint what he wanted, but as an illustrator he could paint for money. It didn't take him too long to choose his course of study. "I'll be an illustrator," he announced. "I need to eat." 1 (http://www.artfacts.org/artinfo/features/drew_struzan/)

In his first year, Struzan met a pretty brunette, Dylan. Personable and easygoing, the artist was soon smitten with the young girl, finding a shared soul and recognizing her complimentary qualities to his own awkward introvertedness. Three years later they would marry, and a son, Christian, would soon follow.

Working his way through school by selling his artwork and accepting small commissions, Struzan graduated five years later with honors and a bachelor of arts degree. He would also complete two years of graduate studies and eventually return to the school in later years (the campus then relocated to Pasadena, California) to teach for a short time.

About his early life, Struzan has been quoted: "I was poor and hungry, and illustration was the shortest path to a slice of bread, as compared to a gallery showing. I had nothing as a child. I drew on toilet paper with pencils — that was the only paper around. Probably why I love drawing so much today is because it was just all I had at the time." 2 (http://www.texnews.com/starwars/art0514.html)

Pacific Eye and Ear: Album Covers

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Alice Cooper: Welcome To My Nightmare, album cover art by Drew Struzan.
After graduating college, Struzan remained in Los Angeles, and a trip to an employment agency found him a job as a staff artist for Pacific Eye and Ear, a design studio. There he began designing long-playing (LP) album covers, relishing the creative aspects the 12 x 12 inch size the record packaging afforded him. Over the next 5 years, he would create album cover artwork for a long line of musical artists, including: Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Black Sabbath, Glen Miller, Iron Butterfly, Bach, Earth, Wind and Fire and Liberace.

Among those, Struzan illustrated the album cover artwork for Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare, which Rolling Stone Magazine would go on to vote one of the Top 100 Album Covers Of All Time. Despite the burgeoning demand for his talents however, Struzan was still only earning $150 to $250 per album cover.

Pencil Pushers: One-Sheets

With a friend with a background in the movie industry, Struzan started a small company, Pencil Pushers, in a collaboration that would last 8 years. It was during this time that he honed his distinctive one-sheet style and first became proficient in the use of the airbrush which would later define him as a master of the tool. His first movie works started appearing in 1975, although in those early days Struzan mainly did artwork for B-movies, such as Empire of the Ants and Food Of the Gods. While his talent steadily grew in demand, it was his work done for a small science-fiction movie that would establish Struzan and his work in the public eye forever.

Star Wars: A Big Break

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Star Wars: A New Hope 1978 re-release style D "circus" poster. Art by Charles White III and Drew Struzan. © 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm
In 1977 fellow artist Charles White III, well known for his own airbrush prowess, had been hired by Lucas to create a poster design for the 1978 re-release of Star Wars. White, uncomfortable with portraiture, asked Struzan for his help on the project. As such, Struzan painted the human characters in oil paints and White focused on the ships, Darth Vader, C-3PO and all the mechanical details of the poster art 1 (http://www.theforce.net/collecting/posters/anh/style-d.asp).

The unique poster design, popularly called the "Circus" poster, depicts what appears to be a torn posted bill on a plywood construction site wall. “It was necessity that invented that,” Struzan explains. “They found out there wasn't enough room for the typography and the billing block they had left in the design. What can we do to make more space on a poster that's already been printed? Let's pretend it's posted, then they can put the type below the actual poster. We painted Obi Wan down the side and stuff across the bottom to make it wider and deeper.”

While a fortunate accident, the poster went on to become a fan favorite as well as the directors, as the original art hangs in Lucas' Northern California home. Thus began Struzan's long association with the Star Wars legacy.

Talent In Demand: 70's & 80's

"A poster becomes that one image that represents the entire film," Struzan says. "If it is accurate and truthful and has good spirit, it resides with you forever." 1 (http://csmonitor.com/cgi-bin/durableRedirect.pl?/durable/1999/09/09/p22s2.htm)

As other directors and studios became aware of Struzan's work, they beat a steady pathway to his door. Throughout the 70's and 80's Struzan produced a constant stream of work for such diverse films as Blade Runner, Cannonball Run, the Police Academy Series, Coming To America, First Blood, Risky Business, D.C. Cab, Stroker Ace, An American Tail and The Goonies, among many, many others. By the 1980s, Struzan was producing approximately 10 poster designs a year.
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Industrial Light & Magic original logo designed by Drew Struzan.

During this period, Struzan continued his association with Lucas by designing the original Industrial Light & Magic logo, and creating the associated one-sheet artwork for both the continuing Star Wars saga, and the Indiana Jones series of films. In the process, Struzan's work became, in the public mind, the defining visual images representing those series. As such, he was also sought after to create new artwork for re-releases and re-issues on video and DVD, book covers, theme-park rides and video game titles for those properties.

The Decline of Traditional Art: Other Outlets

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Action Comics #800, cover art by Drew Struzan (featuring a depiction of the artist). © DC Comics
In the 1990's, with the advent of computers and digital manipulation of images utilized to create poster art, Struzan experienced the decline of the traditionally illustrated poster art. While continuing to create artwork for such 90's films as Hook, Hellboy and the Harry Potter series, he started exploring other outlets for his work, including comics, limited edition art, and the collectible market. As such, his work has been featured on such diverse items as collectible plates produced by the Franklin Mint, including a set of 12 plates commemorating the life of Princess Diana; the 1996 cover for Milton Bradley's board game, Clue 1 (http://home.scarlet.be/~bliek/drew-page/ad-16.htm) ; and even U.S. postage stamps 2 (http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/artofthestamp/SubPage%20table%20images/artwork/arts/Zora%20Neale%20Hurston/zora.htm).

Struzan once lamented on the decline of traditional art in an e-mail exchange: "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."

From 1995 through 1997 Struzan's work was shown throughout Japan in a series of one-man exhibitions, which offered his one sheet work of Lucas and Spielberg films in a successful limited edition program. In 1999, in an exhibit entitled: Drew: Art of the Cinema, Struzan had over 65 pieces of his artwork presented at the prestigious Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, Massachusetts 3 (http://www.tfaoi.com/newsm1/n1m309.htm).

Global Awareness

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Poster. Art by Drew Struzan © Lucasfilm
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Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Poster. Art by Drew Struzan © Lucasfilm
With over 150 movie posters to his credit, among the most well-known of the numerous films that Struzan has created images for are:

In the release of The Phantom Menace, George Lucas dictated that, contractually, Struzan's poster was the only art the foreign distributors could use and, other than the text, it could not be modified in any way. With the dominating global release of that film in nearly every country on the planet, it is regarded that the Struzan poster is the single most viewed piece of art in history. 1 (http://www.starwars.com/episode-i/release/promo/f20000310/index.html)

Creative Process

Although equally talented in other mediums, Struzan's primary work medium is airbrushed acrylics on board with finishing details in colored pencil, which allow him the easy flexibility in having to accommodate any requested changes to the work. Preferring to work on a 1 to 1 scale, Struzan's one-sheet work would be approximately 27 x 40 inches, the size of a printed movie poster. Working from reference photographs and live models, Struzan has been known, at times, to include depictions of himself, family members and friends in his work. Known for working very quickly, typically it would take him two days to finish a painting. With the theatrical release of the Star Wars special editions, Struzan created the three panel triptych poster in 3 weeks. The poster artwork for John Carpenter's 1980 remake of The Thing was created, literally, overnight.

Working from a backyard studio, Struzan lives in California with his wife Dylan. He is father to one son, Christian.

Interviews

Published Collections

Awards

External Links & Other References

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