Welcome to the sixth episode of Let’s Talk Art. This time we chat with legendary artist Paul Shipper, who is known far and wide by illustrators and fans for his work with some of the biggest brands in film and T.V. Including Lucasfilm, Disney, Marvel, HBO, Rolling Stone, Topps and more.
In this interview, Paul talks about how he established himself as an illustrator, as well as giving tips and tricks on how to make it in the industry. Paul also shares his inspirations and where he sees himself in the future.
So, let´s talk art.
Like many artists, it’s taken many years for you to get to where you are now. Were there any moments in your career where you wanted to give up? How did you overcome those feelings?
There was one time when I was taken advantage of by someone who really took me for a ride. It was a really horrible place to be in and this guy almost made me throw in the towel due to trust issues. But with the help of friends and some of my peers, I got through it and overcome it. Feeling a lot worldlier and wise at the end of it all.
You recently did a Carrie Fisher tribute piece for Empire Magazine, how was that experience for you as both a fan and as an artist?
Working for Empire magazine was a definite bucket list job for me, and being asked to create a tribute to the late Carrie Fisher I regarded as a great honour for their 24 page love letter to the actress.
Given you’ve illustrated for various movies and TV shows over the years, is there any particular title that you love working on the most?
It’s difficult to say you have a favorite, but there are the occasional jobs that stand out as being a little bit extra special. I would have to say being asked to create the Key Art and badge art for this year’s Star Wars Celebration in Orlando was one of those special jobs.
Growing up, what inspired you to start drawing or experimenting with movie poster art?
I’ve always drawn pictures from an early age and it was in my early teens that I was starting to gravitate to the illustrated film poster. I collected them from my local video shop and studied them.
Composition, style, technique… it was all there. It became an obsession and it excited me. It was at that moment, realising there was a job called an “illustrator” that I decided to follow this path.
You’ve mentioned in the past that Drew Struzan is a large inspiration for your career in movie posters. What is your favourite Drew Struzan piece of art and why?
Drew’s incredible film posters were among those I collected and loved growing up. He created over 100 illustrated posters during his career and picking out one would be very difficult indeed. But the ones that impacted me the most growing up would have been his Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade art, Adventures in Babysitting, Goonies along with the Back to the Future trilogy.
There is also a poster that drew illustrated for the 10th Anniversary of Star Wars. It’s a signed Giclée that I have had framed and it has traveled the world with me.
Although you primarily work in a digital medium, your art has a traditional feel to it, harking back to those classic movie posters that inspired you during your childhood. How have these affected your work?
I started out using traditional methods, the way that Drew Struzan worked. He was my main inspiration and became my virtual mentor by way of studying his poster art.
It wasn’t until the turn of the millennium that I began to dabble in digital illustration. It was due to a couple of clients requesting that the artwork should be digital, that made me look into it.
I decided that I would only do it if I could somehow replicate the traditional style that I loved so much. With a bit of trial and error, I was on my way to making it happen, something which I have been continually trying to perfect ever since that time.
To create my digital art I use my trusty old Intuos Pro and my new Cintiq 27QHD.
Freelancing can be tough, getting clients, sticking to a dedicated schedule and for artists starting out, even paying the bills can be hard. Is there anything you can recommend for artists who are either considering freelancing or those who have just started?
It is tough, but as I have told many up and coming artists who are still employees at some place or other – you won’t regret it. It will be hard, it won’t be easy but you cannot beat doing something you love and being able to pay the bills with the fruits of your own work.
Do you have your own freelance daily routine?
I don’t really have a routine that I stick to on a daily basis but I do take breaks between work so I can go back to things and reflect at what I’m working on with fresh eyes so to speak. So I might play my guitar or keyboard… I like to play games on my Playstation with friends too.
Your illustrations are usually of famous faces and recognisable actors and actresses. Do you have any tips for getting likenesses right?
Likenesses are something I always strive to get right; they can be difficult. Reference, good reference is the key, as well as being aware of the actor and their previous performances.
Is there anything you really want to tackle during the rest of your career as an artist?
Honestly, I’m just going with the flow right now, which is thankfully keeping me very busy. The future is not known, and that is exciting. I’m getting to work with some really great and passionate people, which is a great deal. I don’t have any far-flung aspirations right now, I really just want to try and be one of the best at what I am doing, and for me, that is enough… for now.
Finally, for those reading this who want to get into movie poster illustration, what advice can you give in regards to finding the right visual cues and imagery for an evocative piece of art?
There are a lot of people trying to do this now it seems. When I was younger I almost felt like I was among the very few. The best advice for creating compositions would be to trust your own instincts and aesthetics. They will serve you well… Follow your heart always… or as often as you can (sometimes you can’t call all of the shots).
Thank you for reading!
Paul’s skill and dedication have helped to propel him through his career and hopefully, some of his advice will help aspiring artists reading this to achieve their own individual goals.
Let’s Talk Art will begin again shortly with more insights into the mind of the artist as I chat with more illustrators from around the world. Thank you to everyone who’s been supportive of this series and I’ll catch you soon.
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Let’s Talk Art series is written by Jack Woodhams, founder of PosterSpy.
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