For those that are regular readers of this column, you will know that so far we have only written about great people who have sadly passed away. But we thought why not celebrate some of the true geniuses who are still very much alive and working today? It makes sense to make the most of someone’s work whilst you still have the chance to maybe one day meet up with them and thank them for it in person. So with that we have the latest entry into this hall-of-fame-of-sorts.
Drew Struzan is unlike all the other entries in the Cultoid Heroes cannon. That’s because Drew is not involved in the film making process. He is, however, as much of a master as the greatest movie directors. That is because Drew Struzan has created the most iconic film artwork of all time. Think back to the movie posters of old; when film studios commissioned actual artists to create their one page banners, rather than just photoshopping a few actor’s faces together below a tagline. I guarantee that if you cast your mind across those golden years of movie artwork, the images that you pull out as the best will have been created by Struzan.
The reason for this is that Struzan is a story teller. He takes the true essence of a film and arranges it in such a way on the page that it can excite, scare, thrill or even create empathy for a character you have not yet seen come to life.
Drew started out not really knowing what to do with his artistic talents, but knowing that he would make a living using them come hell or high water. His constant search for work, and dedication to his craft led him to become the ‘starving artist’. He has remarked that there was even a time when he had to go to hospital suffering from malnutrition. But this did not deter him and he pressed on in any direction that offered him an opportunity.
After graduating from a Master of Fine Art program, Drew began work for an LA based design agency where his true calling began to come clear. He created iconic album artwork for Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper, which grabbed the attention of Hollywood executives.
He gained some movie commissions and his early work indicated the very thing that would make him universally loved and in demand. His poster for ‘The Food of the Gods’ reflected his creative ethic. About the work Struzan said “My approach to horror was very different from the art that was being done at the time. I avoided the gory depiction that would have been typical for the time and genre, choosing instead to give this ‘B’ movie a sense of depth, class, and dignity. I emphasised the situation between the girl and the rat because that was the element that sparked the emotion. I chose to build tension, using anticipation to evoke the feeling of what might be.”
But creative instinct is not enough, and Drew understood that from an early age. His work is more than meticulous. There are elements in his composition creation (“a couple of touches of colour”, “a slight movement”) which many may see as superfluous. But it is this incredible attention to detail, emotion and story within a single frame that mean Struzan has stood above all of his peers for over 35 years.
One of my favourite Struzan pieces (and also one of my favourite films) is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This poster came at the peak of Struzan’s popularity and when his abilities had made him confident to take a few liberties with the composition. He painted sharp teeth on Mola Ram (the main villain) which the character does not have, and when questioned said it simply “felt right”. By now fully trusted by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Struzan’s decision was accepted and the menace of the image does more to sell the mythical evil of the film.
The wonderful thing about Drew Struzan’s art is that there is so much to remember/rediscover/love and that every person has a different favourite. My personal testament to the man would be that on looking back at his art I want to re-watch each of the films. My love of all things cinema related is captured perfectly on each of Struzan’s canvases and I sincerely hope that we get many more new works from the best there has ever been. His is one hell of a legacy and is as magical to me as the greatest story, score, performance or entire film.
To see all of Struzan’s amazing artwork in one place (your coffee table), you should most definitely buy this book. Your eyes will thank me.
Keep up the good work Mr Struzan! Oh and if you’re reading this and feel generous, I’d love the original print for The Thing!