I hope this helps out. If you need more or the clarification of any details, please ask.
1. What sort of instructions do studios give you for your assignments?
They vary. Sometimes, and this is the best case, they will ask me to view a rough cut of a feature film. The rough cut is just that-not finished with final sound or F/X but a cohesive assembly of the final product. They will then ask me to submit concepts that I think would make a great poster. Other times, they will already have an idea and they might feel that I am the right talent to develop that particular idea. At other times, they will have gone to another creative source and been disappointed with the results and I’ve been asked to apply my expertise to fix whatever is wrong. My very favorite times are the few occasions wherein they say they are completely stumped and I have been asked to “Alvinize” the assignment. I love it when I’m an adjective!
In general, the marketing departments of the major studios don’t give some one with my reputation a set of specific instructions-they figure I already know what has to be accomplished and every now and then, I get lucky and they are happy they came to me.
2. What are some of your favourite techniques for creating art the way you do? (I’ve noticed some of your trademark styles-love them!)
Almost everything I’ve done in the past thirty-five years has been done with acrylic paint. Sometimes it is used in concert with colored pencil, pastel. inks, and on rare occasion, oil. Currently, I’ve been using this kind of mixed media, except for the oil part. An example of beginning with acrylics and finishing with oil is my “Blade Runner” poster from 1982. The 25th Anniversary version however was in the current mixed media method. Acrylics can be applied in a variety of ways and I use them all, but most especially either airbrush or a watercolor technique, and sometimes both in the same work.
All of my work is analog-by hand in traditional media. I am perfectly capable of creating digitally but digital work does not produce the one unique thing that traditional artwork provides: The One of a Kind Original which patrons like George Lucas and other filmmakers enjoy collecting. They do not pay for and collect a print from a file, which is the closest thing to an “original” that digital work can produce.
3. Where do you get your inspiration when starting a project from (literally) blank canvas?
The proverbial blank canvas is the very mirror of stark raving terror. Many think that a profession in the arts is not very risky or dangerous. They are profoundly wrong. Gambling your very reputation and the full measure of your profession every time you stare into the empty void of a unused canvas, you are taking an emotional and psychological risk that is easily equivalent to the world’s most dangerous and demanding professions. Anyone thinking the contrary should try to subsist on their own artistic skills and survive. Not so easy or casual. It is dangerous to the soul. It is risky to the heart. It is an extraordinary demand and challenge and yet it is the very core of what we aspire to as artists.
That being said, inspiration comes from every tiny moment recorded in one’s life and the very map of the imagination’s memory. Everything one needs is already somewhere in your heart or your mind. Now and then, one has to be a remarkable librarian to find what is needed. The longer it takes, the more one is overtaken by sheer terror-Can I do this? Is my career over? Do I have really nothing to offer? When confronted with the fear of failure, which is a great motivator, I remind myself of two things, both very close to my heart. First are my parents, both of whom were in WWII in the Army, where they met, feel in love and were ultimately married after surviving unimaginable hellishness and danger. Second is my daughter Farah who is a Broadway singer and actress -yes, The “Broadway” in NYC- she thrives on thousands gazing at her and she responds with the voice of an angel time and time again.
In the face of these two inspirational and courageous examples, my task of staring at a blank art surface pales by comparison and I allow myself to accept that if they could do what they could do, then I can certainly do what is asked of me.
4. What are the greatest challenges of your type of work?
Answered above, along with always striving to out do what I’ve done before. Staying the same is certain death and yet one’s patrons expect new work to be of a familiar nature. That’s the real trick: make it new and old at the same time. I pride myself on some success in this. Status Quo, in art and in life is never a serviceable model for the future. Asking your audience to accept the new and Avant Garde is almost as risky as staring at the blank canvas again. A very tough balance, all the while seeking personal satisfaction as an artist. If there were a rule book or a questions book with all the answers in the back, art just wouldn’t be art would it? It would just be like making widgets on an assembly line and I want to be known for greater things than that.
5. What have been your favourite projects to work on?
I love the various special Star Wars assignments that I have had and well as my officially licensed work from Lord of the Rings. I suppose that in my heart, I’m really just an aging fan boy with enough skill to make cool pictures of cool things at will. This has always been my penchant. When I was a kid, being an Army brat, we moved a lot and I had to keep adjusting to new schools and new kids. When they all discovered that “the new kid” could draw dogfighting aircraft from WWII and hot rod cars, they were happy to know me. Later, both they and I discovered the wonder and mystery of drawing of beautiful, naked women. Being an artist is really great!. Always has been.
Each piece of work, from the simplest drawing to the most complex of multi-image posters has some small personal moment in it that makes each one a personal favorite. This has been true all of my life and I hope it remains just that way.
6. If you were to train an artist, what would be the most important thing to teach them?
I have trained an artist. My only apprentice. I told him when he started with me that I was not going to teach him a single thing about making art. He looked at me aghast and disappointed before even beginning. I then said that all I was going to do was to teach him How to Think and How to be Verbally Articulate about the Process. I told him the art would take care of itself. He wanted to know how this could be. I told him that artwork, in the very instant it is imagined, it exists! Somewhere in the ethers it is out there waiting for the artist to bring it into his or her present reality. If one’s Thinking is correct, then one simply has to get out of the way and not screw it up during its arrival in this world. You can and should talk about it later, but staying clear of its “occurrence” is the greatest service one can do to one’s ART and it is the beginning of creative wisdom.
7. How do you perfect your craft?
Daily, like the water of a stream wearing smooth the stones over which it passes. One can only effect what one chooses to engage with. I choose to engage creative thought everyday in some way but I would caution anyone about the idea of “perfecting” one’s craft. If it ever became perfect, in my view, it would no longer be art. If the water completely wore away the very stone itself, would that be “perfection”? No. Just nothing left, so why the effort?
8. Which pieces of your artwork are you most proud of?
There is no answer to this question. In the moment I deem them complete, they are each my most favorite thing in the world and at the same time a hideous demonic thing from another bad dream. They each have the cumulative experience of all my skills and yet they display my most secret failings as a creative individual. What I am proud of is the wherewithal to keep doing it. Again and again, each time seeking that elusive quality of some kind of genuine magic that I believe lives in the soul of every creative person. I am proud of my success with this. I am proud of surviving decades of strange isolationism punctuated by fits of creative power. I am proud of making things that are unlike any other thing in the world. I am proud that I can make pictures that I myself can look at and, love it or hate it, I can say what few really get to say of their work: I MADE THIS. In their simplicity, these are powerful and profound words of creation. I am most proud of being able and entitled to say them.