Drew Struzan was born on 14th May 1947 and is an artist known for his movie poster artwork, which includes all the films in the Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and Star Wars series. He also completed work on others such as Big Trouble in Little China, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Blade Runner, The Thing, Cannonball Run and Jurassic Park. In his early career also painted album covers for many well-known artists and later in his career moved into collectables and book covers.
Drew Struzan studied at the Art Center College of Design, West Los Angeles, California. During an interview with a career advisor, he was asked about his interests and gave Drew a choice between fine art or illustration. Describing the two career paths he said, as a fine artist he could paint what he wanted, but as an illustrator, he could paint for money. Drew chose to become an illustrator, saying “I need to eat”.
When he began his career, Drew said “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”.
His early career began as an artist for Pacific Eye & Ear (PEE) design studio, where designed album covers under the tutorage of Ernie Cefalu, he relished the creative aspects designing the record packaging afforded him. During his 5 years with PEE he designed album cover artwork for many artists including The Beach Boys, Bee Gees, Roy Orbison, Black Sabbath, Glenn Miller, Iron Butterfly, Alice Cooper, Bach, Earth, Wind and Fire and Liberace. Incidentally, Rolling Stone magazine named Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare album artwork in their Top 100 Album Covers Of All Time.
Drew started a company called Pencil Pushers, with a friend who had a background in the movie industry. This collaboration would last eight years. This is where Drew further developed his now distinctive style and became proficient with an airbrush. His first movie poster appeared in 1975 and although he mainly worked on B-movies, such as Empire of the Ants, Food of the Gods, and Squirm his popularity began to grow.
In 1977, along with Charles White III he created the Style ‘D’ release for Star Wars. Charles had been hired by David Weitzner, VP of Advertising at 20th Century Fox to create a poster design for Star Wars. However, Charles was uncomfortable with portraiture and asked Drew for his help. Drew completed the work on the human characters in oil paints and Charles focused on Darth Vader, C3-P0 and the other details in the poster.
The unique design of the Star Wars Style ‘D’ makes it stand out. Unlike other posters that tended to feature a coloured background, this poster appeared to have torn edges much like a wilding poster used on advertising hoardings. Drew explained that the about the design concept, saying “It was a necessity that invented that”, he went on to say “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.”
As Drew’s popularity grew he went onto produce artwork for a number of films in the 1980s including Blade Runner, The Thing, The Cannonball Run, the Police Academy series, Back to the Future, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Muppet Movie, Coming to America, First Blood, Risky Business, D.C. Cab, Stroker Ace, Batteries not Included, An American Tail, and The Goonies.
It was during this time that Drew’s association with George Lucas began. He designed the original logo for Lucas’s company Industrial Light & Magic and went on to design the artwork for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. For the release of Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace, George Lucas had added a contractual term that stated Drew’s artwork was the only work that foreign distributors could use, and that other than the text, no further modifications could be made.
Drew Struzan retired from actively producing artwork in 2008. Drew’s last major artwork, before retirement, was for Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. He painted the poster artwork before he saw the film in English. “Guillermo screened it for me in Spanish,” he says. “I didn’t understand a word. But Guillermo says the perfect movie is one that’s told in pictures, not through words.” The same can be said of posters. “My job,” says Drew, “is to capture the spirit of the movie, how it feels. People will see it because they want to feel that emotion. It becomes iconic when they can have that feeling every time they look at the poster.”
However, his complete retirement was short lived and is probably best as being described as semi-retirement, as he has completed some new artwork since. Namely for a documentary about Miles Scott who was known as ‘Batkid’, who took the internet by storm in 2013 when the Make-A-Wish Foundation allowed him to save San Francisco from the dastardly plans of The Riddler. Drew Struzan created the poster artwork for Dana Nachman’s Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around The World. His last known work was for J.J. Abrams, Star Wars The Force Awakens released in 2015. Although the not the film’s officially released image, it was a promotional poster produced in limited edition and released only to the fans at D23 Expo 2015.
The recently released book, Drew Struzan: Oeuvre, with a foreword by George Lucas, features over 250 pieces of artwork, including all of Drew’s most iconic movie images, as well as other highlights from his career, including album, book and comic book covers, stamps, trading cards, promotional artwork and very personal original works. The book comes right up to date, including exclusive San Diego Comic-Con poster art produced for the Walking Dead television series (2010) and the Cowboys & Aliens movie (2011), with text by his wife Dylan, providing an intimate look at the man and his legacy. The definitive collection of Drew Struzan’s work; this is an absolute must-have for any movie buff and an unrivalled slice of both art and cinema history.
NOTE: Images used remain the property of Drew Struzan and are used for illustration within the articles.
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