Drew Struzan: Oeuvre: by Drew and Dylan Struzan
Introduction by George Lucas
Published by Titan Books, October 2011
Review by Mark Yon
Here’s another review where, to start with, I ask whether you recognise the artist’s name. My thoughts are that in most cases the name is not immediately familiar: it wasn’t for me.
But if I say that you need to think of the film posters for Raiders of the Lost Ark, John Carpenter’s The Thing, First Blood, The Goonies, *batteries not included, the Star Wars rerelease with the tattered effect, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Back to the Future, Star Wars:Episodes I, II and III and, most recently, Cowboys and Aliens (though not included here), you might at least recognise the work. For Drew, once described by Steven Spielberg as ‘my favourite movie artist’, has produced many of those iconic poster images.
After producing art for over thirty years, it is therefore perhaps right that we have a collection of Drew’s work – here, over 250 pieces of artwork, collecting together and celebrating the artist’s portfolio from the late 1970’s to now. This is the second volume of Drew’s art, a companion volume to The Art of Drew Struzan. The intention of Oeuvre is to cover the range of Drew’s work, rather than be a comprehensive collection of all his work.
The Foreword by George Lucas is, as you might expect, a glowing accreditation of this artist, not only mentioning the importance of getting movie artwork right, but highlighting the fact that such artwork adds to the drama of a film, book or item more than just a photograph does.
The Introduction, written by Drew’s wife, gives history of Drew’s career and a little of the background as to how Drew came to be involved in some of his best known projects.
The book is then divided into five main sections: Music, Movies, Publishing, Commercial and Personal.
The Music section is short, but important, for it was here that Drew started, with album covers. I was surprised and pleased to see Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath here: I didn’t know Drew had done that one.
The Movie section is the biggest and perhaps the most interesting for most readers. The section has a lovely range of material, from black and white roughs to final poster art, whether it be that Marty McFly image or Darth Maul. I also liked the stuff previously unseen, including production art and the unused final poster art for movies such as Pan’s Labyrinth, Back to the Future, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Hellboy II, this is a treat for movie buffs and artists alike. Even when the films are not that great (Masters of the Universe and Police Academy spring to mind), the artwork is stunning in its level of activity, detail and vibrant colour.
The Publishing section shows a wealth of material from books, including Superman (with a lovely letter from Jerry Siegel), book covers for Star Trek: the Next Generation, and Star Wars. The Lucasfilm connection is especially strong here, with some great Indiana Jones images I hadn’t seen before.
The Commercial section also has a strong Lucasfilm link, with more great Indiana images, often including Lucas and Spielberg. Some draft Lord of the Rings trading card images are here too, though they are too darkly drawn for my tastes. Star Trek, both Original and Next Generation, are represented by images from some commemorative plates Drew has drawn for. The non-genre area of Drew’s work is included here as well, with images ranging from Lady Diana Spencer to Frank Sinatra and The Three Stooges.
The last section is entitled Personal and, as you might expect, includes a variety of different styles and subjects. A slight word of warning, though – there’s quite a few nudes there, which would perhaps not make this appropriate for a younger audience enticed by the Star Wars and Harry Potter pictures earlier in the book.
Slightly on the downside for me, the artwork and especially the Movie and Commercial art, is usually shown without all the poster paraphernalia: titles, cast, director, producers etc. Presumably this is because the work here has been scanned from the original art rather than the finished product. Whilst this allows us to focus more on the art, it did mean that there were times when I felt that the artwork was diminished by being taken out of its original context.
Similarly, the companion volume, The Art of Drew Struzan, has more writing with the art, about the context of the artwork, how it came about, what was the objective of the artist and so on. There is much less of that here, which is a little disappointing. It would have been more interesting to me had such comments been integrated with the relevant images. Similarly, the list of captions at the back of the book are useful but would have been more use to me had they been with the artwork they were referring to. Like all good art, however, I accept that this is a point of personal preference.
Despite my minor quibbles, this is a quality art book. Though (like me at first) you might not immediately recognise the name, this book indicates that he has been the creator of some of the most iconic film poster images of the last thirty years. This is an effective summation of his work. For those who remember seeing the posters whilst queuing for the movie, this will bring back lots of memories.
Mark Yon, September 2011