Before I quit my job at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to play at being a writer, I was a regular contributor to the Eleventh Stack blog. I was free to write about pretty much any material in the Library’s catalog. It was great! On Thursdays, I’ll revisit some of my old faves. A version of this post first appeared on April 11, 2016.
If the name Drew Struzan doesn’t ring a bell, what about names like Indiana Jones, John Rambo, Harry Potter or the Muppets? Now there’s probably so much bell-ringing in your ears you should make an appointment with an audiologist. You might not recognize Struzan’s name, but you’ve certainly seen his work, whether it’s in the form of an album cover…
… a book jacket…
…or one of his over-150 movie posters.
Some of his most famous movie posters are collected in Drew Struzan: Oeuvre and The Art of Drew Struzan. From Batkid Begins to Blade Runner, Hellboy to Hook, The Shawshank Redemption to The Thing, The Walking Dead to Zathura, Struzan’s work is instantly recognizable and unquestionably beautiful. The books also include some of his studio work, like portraits of his grandchildren and his own interpretation of Baba Yaga. I’m someone who can barely draw stick figures, so I admire an artist like Struzan. His artwork almost looks like photographs.
For more on Struzan beyond the art, I highly recommend the 2013 documentary Drew: The Man Behind the Poster. It reveals a taciturn family man, like the sweet grandfather everyone wants. While the details of his early life are fascinating, hearing him talk about his work is the most interesting aspect of the documentary.
Regarding movie posters, he says how important it is for a poster to not only sell the movie’s premise but also evoke the feeling or emotion of the movie. In a world where most movie posters consist of awful photoshopped giant heads, Struzan’s work has a classiness to it that recalls a golden age of cinema, when the multiplex was a portal to another world of imagination and wonder. Often imitated, but seldom replicated, you can look at a Struzan poster and know exactly what kind of movie you’re going to see.
If you’re a fan of Steven Spielberg or Star Wars (read: everyone), or if you just like good art, you should check him out.
One of the commentators in the documentary says it best – Struzan’s works make you nostalgic for something you haven’t seen yet. Revisiting this, I’m now certain one of the reasons Disney’s Sequel Trilogy fell short was because Struzan didn’t do the posters. That or a lack of a unified vision. I’m not bitter, you’re bitter.