of my favorite illustrated movie posters of the last 30
years or so is the STAR WARS "circus style" design, done
by artists Charles White III and Drew Struzan. It's retro
look pays homage to the billboard-glued marketing campaigns
commonly found on city streets. This was actually an unplanned
design element that happened by necessity, when the artists
realized there wouldn't be enough room at the bottom to
hold all the necessary text. The faux wood background and
ripped paper scraps actually added to the poster's sense
of nostalgic charm.
did the main body of the poster, and asked Struzan to come
in and paint Luke and Leia. Struzan painted them in the
style of the late illustrator J.C. Leyendecker, using bold,
strong lines and bright colors. (Leyendecker was famous
for his Saturday Evening Post covers as well as his ad campaigns
for the Arrow Collar Man; he also was a friend and art mentor
to America's other great illustrator, Norman Rockwell.)
thought it would be fun to see a similar design used for
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, substituting the STAR WARS poster
with "Indy" characters and situations. As much as I enjoy
George Lucas' space opera/adventure, I've always held a
stronger affection for RAIDERS, and Indiana Jones is a character
I've painted many, many times throughout my childhood.
INDY IV was announced back in early 2007, my interest piqued
again and I did two new "Indy" paintings (as well as recent
movie posters for the documentary Indyfans and the Quest
for Fortune & Glory). Neither of my paintings came out as
well as I had hoped, so now that INDY IV is about the be
released, I wanted to make something that I could really
be proud of...and send Indy off with a bona fide bang.
I liked so much about the Struzan/White design is that it's
both nostalgic as well as a little bit cheesy and campy
-- perfectly capturing the fun nature of the movie. My poster
is as much a tribute to their work as it is to RAIDERS.
I wanted to feature the RAIDERS characters in similar action
poses and stances. Instead of Luke & Leia I'd heave Indy
& Marion... Instead of Darth Vader and his lightsaber, I'd
have the ill-fated Arab Swordsman....
For Indy and Marion's pose, I found a great source photo of
my friend Brandon (who, coincidently, is also the INDYFANS director!)
and his girlfriend, Amy, dressed as the characters at San Diego's
Comic-Con. After substituting their faces and adjusting their
bodies' proportions (sorry, Brandon, but we're both a bit shorter
than Harrison Ford!), I started sketching the poster's overall
My chief problem: Tried as I have, it's impossible for me to
emulate Leyendecker's painting style. It looks deceptively simple,
but it's very, very hard to emulate and I'm just not good enough
an artist. But I decided to press on, painting the poster my
own way, using oils on a large 24" x 36" canvas board.
I sketched the basic layout in pencil, then painted Indy and
Marion's faces in color. The other design elements used a different
technique, painting them first in black and white, and adding
the color once the B&W underneaths had tried.
When painting, I try to surround myself with a lot of different
source photos. A problem I often face is that I rely too heavily
on one image or another, and in doing so I focus more attention
on duplicating the image rather than understanding it. Such
was the case of my source pic of Karen Allen, taken from ANIMAL
HOUSE. Though I loved her pose, the lighting in the photo didn't
match the sharp contrast or color style of what's supposed to
be in the painting. I therefore had to guess how different colors
of lighting would look on her face, while trying to paint it
in the accentuated style as the rest of the piece.
Karen Allen's face has, for some reason, always been a big challenge
for me to paint. I've always found her very beautiful, but not
in a traditional sense. Her exotic features -- wide eyes, high
cheekbones, cleft chin -- are damn difficult to capture without
making them seem too exaggerated. I spent more time painting
(and repainting) Marion's face than all the other characters
combined. Compare the early pics to the later ones and you'll
see what I mean -- my depiction of Marion's face looks
like crap, but in the end I think it came out OK.
I took a lot of creative liberties, tooh. To make the lighting
seem more dynamic, I added a bright blue "backlight" to the
left side of Marion's face and arm. I was really nervous about
this at first.
of the painting's size, I also needed to work on an easel.
It's something I'm not used to, and it's hard to keep a steady
hand while being careful not to smudge the oil paints.
you can see how I paint in layers of color over the black
and white images. I add little by little, and often need time
to allow the paint to dry before applying more. Hot lights
can speed the drying process, but in one instance (something
to do with my accidentally falling asleep for an hour or two)
the lights almost burned a hole into the painting!
style of painting is a bit uneven. Only the dress was painted
in a deliberate "Leyendecker style", but even that was hard
for me. Leyendecker's bold brushstrokes, as intricate as they
look, were usually very fluid and natural; a testament to
the artist's extraordinary talent. But my painting of the
dress was a slow, deliberate process. I'll never cease to
marvel at the powers of the true masters!
down to see the final product. Lettering added digitally.
Found some vintage-style ads from magazines and glued a few
to the "wood" background for creative billboard effect. Everything
else is painted. A
lot of artists have made very successful careers through Photoshop
and digital painting. That's all very well, but to me it seems
so impersonal. I love putting pencils and paint to paper;
there's a tangible, magical thing about them that computers,
despite all their contributions, will never capture.
use Photoshop to touch up my paintings, though -- mainly to
make some minor color adjustments, or fix some little blemishes
that may occur when photographing the artwork. For this piece
I actually went to a professional photographer, who snapped
some pics inside his studio. But even then, there are minor
glares I had to erase, as the oil paint was still drying!
altered the color of the poster's border, changing it from
orange to a light shade of red (and matching the color of
the "RAIDERS" title). I did the same for the circle around
Belloq's face, and added thin black edges along the peripheries
to make it look a little cleaner.
main adjustment was adding some shading to Marion's face.
I was quite nervous about doing it in paint, but Photoshop
allows you to experiment with limitless possibilities.
also added some additional shading to Indy's face, fixes to
his left eye and eyebrow, and reworked the fedora to more closely
match the particular one he wore in RAIDERS. (Diehard Indyfans
know that the style of hat changes subtly from film to film.)
Below is a before-and-after comparison.
Another adjustment I make is on Indy's face. It doesn't quite
look like Harrison Ford's, so I use a tool in Photoshop called
LIQUIFY that's pretty remarkable. It allows you to push
and pull an image -- like warping an ink cartoon pressed on
the face of silly putty -- but with an extraordinary amount
of control. This saved me from having to repaint everything,
and even though it's a digital fix, it maintains the "fidelity"
of the original painting's look. (I also shrink the size of
Indy's head a little, to compensate for the stretched jawline
Here's a before-and-after that illustrates the subtle changes
the LIQUIFY tool can offer. (NOTE: It's also a good way to slim
your waistline in personal photos... Not that I've done
Over six weeks of work. Damn tired now. I'm retiring from painting
Indy this day forward...unless someone pays me for it. A lot.
Of all the Indiana Jones artwork I've done, this is far
and away my favorite. (I think it's Brandon's, too; he got a
big kick out of "posing" in Indy's boots.) Here is
the final painting:
doesn't come easily to me. Everyone assumes artists can make something
perfect without effort. That's bull$h!+, guys. I paint, repaint,
and repaint some more. It's exhausting, tiring, stressful, but
if it comes out OK I love every minute of it.
And here is probably the best compliment I've ever received: this
young man liked my poster design so much, his dad made a T-shirt
out of it!
1/15/2010: To fulfill a new year's resolution, I decided to do
some touchup work on this poster.
and foremost, I was never quite happy with the way I painted
Indy and (especially) Marion. I figured since I had already
invested so much time on this piece, doing a little more to
finally get it right would make all the difference. And so,
after a few hours of digitally tinkering in Photoshop, I made
some significant changes to their faces.
THE IMAGE TO SEE
A BEFORE-AND-AFTER COMPARISON:
why stop there? Since the painting depicted a wall of assorted
pictures, like a bulletin board, I thought it'd be fun to include
references to the other films in the series...