Interview with cover artist Drew Struzan
(November 28, 2002)
Drew Struzan, award-winning artist in motion picture advertising,
recently illustrated the cover for Indiana Jones® and the
Emperor's TombT. We are pleased to debut this artwork here
along with an interview with the artist.
LucasArts.com: What was your first Indy related
Drew Struzan: The movie Raiders of the Lost Ark
was the first. I was commissioned to do a painting for the
international promotion of the film. What I did was used
and seen everywhere in the world as the poster that represented
the film except in the domestic, North American market.
LucasArts.com: What other video game related art
have you done?
Drew Struzan: This is a relatively new area for
the application of my art. It is still rare for me to have
the opportunity to do a painting for a video game. What
I have done to date is art for the box covers of the games
that may also be used for promotional posters. The first
art I did for a video game box cover was for Star Trek Next
Generation way back in '93. Then it was a long time until
the next one came my way. I did a painting for the game
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine® in 2000. It was
designed and used as a poster. I had also done a painting
for the cover of the box but they didn't use it on the cover.
[Editor's note: This art was featured on the back cover
of the box.] Recently, this year, I created the artwork
for the cover of the game titled Crimson Skies and most
recently, of course, the cover for Indiana Jones and the
LucasArts.com: How does your approach for a game
box cover differ from other types of projects?
Drew Struzan: Every project has its similarities
and every project is different unto itself. The thing that
stands out as different with games seems to be the lack
of related materials to work from. With movies, there is
usually a great deal of photography from the film to refer
to when I need inspiration or reference to paint from. For
the most part, with video games, they are created digitally
and are not "real" in their appearance.
I am called for my work because of its general natural
or "real" appearance and for the emotional response it generates.
That is usually based upon reality, not a digital creation.
So for me to produce an image that they expect from me,
I cannot base my work on the digital images. It's in the
translation from digital generalities to a simulation of
reality from me that the difficulty arises. What is in the
mind of a client as to what a certain character may look
like if they were real is really only in the mind's eye,
their minds. For me to try to figure out what they think
they see and what I have to paint is the real treasure hunt.
Ever try to paint what is in someone else' s mind? Ever
see one of those artist sketches based upon the eyewitness
description provided to the police? Do they ever look like
whom the person turns out to be? That's my dilemma in dealing
with digital descriptions.
With the Indy projects it is not so bad. Indy exists in
Harrison Ford, so no guessing there. It's the other characters
that present a problem.
LucasArts.com: What reference materials did you
use to create the Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb cover?
Drew Struzan: I have many pictures of Harrison Ford
in the role of Indiana Jones. I fortunately kept these from
the times I worked on the movies. So Indy was no problem.
I just went to the storage box marked Indy and wa-la! For
the Messerschmitts, German warplanes, I went to books on
my bookshelf and onto the web searching for photos of the
planes that worked best in the composition. For the Nazi
officer I researched photos of real officers from the war
and based the painting on one who looked to fulfill the
typecast look expected, same for the girl. I found many
pictures of the Terracotta Warriors but wound up ordering
a statue made in China by people who live right by the actual
site where the originals are located. They make beautiful
and accurate reproductions from the originals. I ordered
one to work from to get it in the correct position I wanted
to paint from for the picture. The dragons came from a search
for what are real Chinese dragons and ones that pleased
my aesthetic taste.
LucasArts.com: How long did this piece take you
Drew Struzan: I did a composition sketch, a drawing, first.
Once it was approved, I could move onto the final painting.
It took about two weeks to complete.
LucasArts.com: What artistic choices did you make
to ensure this game cover would be compelling?
Drew Struzan: I just included what the game promises.
The subject matter is rich and full and all drawn from the
game itself. I compose the picture and elements in a strong
and classical manner to set the scene with the proper emotional
tone; that of secure and powerful, rock steady design. The
color composition is warm, as is the trademark of so many
of the Indy pieces, making it at that magic hour with the
setting sun. Of course the reason I was asked to do the
piece in the first place is that my style and taste is recognizable
as the authentic Indy representation. With me doing it,
it says immediately that this product is the real thing.
LucasArts.com: What do you think the art coveys
about the game to the viewer?
Drew Struzan: Many things I would hope but mostly
the adventure, the authenticity of the game, the quality
it promises and the promise of the thrill we have come to
expect from anything Indy.
Many thanks to Drew for taking the time to do this interview