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The Artists - Richard Davies - Captain America and the French poster for Looper...

Every now and then we come across a poster that stops us dead in our tracks. It’s happened twice recently, first with an unofficial poster for “Captain America : The First Avenger”, and then secondly, with the official French poster for the fantastic sci-fi thriller “Looper”.

Imagine our surprise to find that they are by the same artist, the phenomenally talented Richard Davies. We tracked Richard down in deepest Carmarthenshire and were thrilled when he agreed to have a chat with us.

Here are the highlights (packed with lots of great posters). Hope you enjoy them...

 

Richard Davies movie poster for Captain America : The First Avenger Richard Davies French movie poster for the film Looper

Images courtesy of Richard Davies

 

Art of the Movies : Richard, thank you so much for taking time out to talk with us! We are big fans of your work, so this is a real treat. Let’s start at the beginning, when did you start drawing and painting and when did you first think about making a career from it?

Richard : I've been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. In fact, my earliest memories as a child are with a pencil or crayon in my hand! It's something I loved to do growing up so I was pretty sure that I wanted to do something artistic when I was older. It wasn't until my mid-teens that I realised I could make an actual living from drawing and painting!

 

Art of the Movies : Were there particular artists, or pieces of art that inspired you at that time?

Richard : Well, it all goes back to movies really. Growing up as part of the Star Wars generation in the late 1970's and as a teenager throughout the 1980's, movies played a huge part in my imagination. Movies like Star Wars, E.T, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Gremlins were firm favourites with me and I would usually rush home after visiting the cinema to create my own movie posters!

What made it such a special experience was also the amazing hand painted posters which promoted these movies. I would study these posters and try and redraw them. Artists like Drew Struzan, John Alvin and Brian Bysouth were the unsung artists behind these posters at the time so its nice to see they're getting some recognition now.

 

The Back to the Future Movie Poster by Drew Struzan The movie poster for the Lion King by John Alvin The movie poster for Highlander by Brian Bysouth
'Back to the Future' by Drew Struzan 'The Lion King' by John Alvin 'Highlander' by Brian Bysouth

 

 

Art of the Movies : And now it's you producing the posters! How do you go about producing a complex piece of work like a movie poster? Do you sketch ideas on paper or do you purely work digitally?

Richard : It all starts with very simple sketches. I have a little pocket sketch book that I take everywhere and so I use this to sketch out ideas. These crude little thumbnails are the starting point for every poster. I then take these ideas onto the computer and start sketching out a more detailed composition in black and white in Photoshop. I'm not even thinking about colour at this stage, just focusing on getting the composition right.

 

A sketch by Richard Davies for a movie poster for the film Rampage  A sketch by Richard Davies for a movie poster for the film Rampage

Images courtesy of Richard Davies

 

Once I'm happy with an overall composition, I then concentrate on the separate elements. So if it's a poster with multiple characters then I start painting these characters separately and then bringing them into one master composition where the various elements like characters, title, credits etc are all sitting on different layers. You can then control every element of the poster which is particularly useful when a client decides to move things about!

 

 Richard Davies movie poster for the film Rampage

Image courtesy of Richard Davies

 

Art of the Movies : I can imagine! Can you tell us about the poster for “Looper”? How did the commission come about and how were they to work with?

Richard : I was approached by French film distributor, SND Films, to create an alternative poster for their campaign for the movie. They had seen some early posters that I'd done for fun.

As the film was completely new, I didn't have much reference material (apart from a trailer) to work from. Luckily SND sent me a collection of screenshots and publicity material to work from. They wanted a slightly vintage look to the poster, almost reminiscent of the work of Drew Struzan.

I put together a first comp but they wanted it looking a little more aged and worn.

 

Richard Davies first comp illustration for the Looper movie poster

Image courtesy of Richard Davies

 

After a few revisions back and forth they settled on the final piece. They were great to work with as the brief was very loose and not as restrictive as a lot of commissioned work is these days. It was also quite unusual that they accepted the first idea that I sent over and went with it. This is pretty rare these days as clients often like to see multiple ideas.

 

Richard Davies second draft for the movie poster for the film Looper Richard Davies final movie poster for the film Looper

Images courtesy of Richard Davies

 

Art of the Movies : And what about the poster for “Captain America : The First Avenger”? You’ve captured a fantastic 1940's vibe there, even down to recreating the fold lines of an old movie poster. How did that come about?

Richard : It came from a love of the old Buster Crabbe "Flash Gordon" movie posters from the 1940's. I loved the composition and use of typography on these vintage posters and wanted to create a homage to these.

 

An original movie poster from the 1940s for Flash Gordon A 1940s movie poster for Flash Gordon

 

The first Captain America movie is almost a love letter to these serials of the '40s and I thought was a perfect fit for that style. It was just a passion project that I wanted to do for myself really but it gained a lot of notice on social media. It was a lot of fun to create and was a nice contrast to the hyper real Photoshop posters that were coming out at the time.

I also love adding details like the fold textures and using a vintage font to set the tone. It was also a pretty important poster for me too as it started getting noticed on things like Behance and Twitter.

 

Richard Davies movie poster for the film Captain America The First Avenger

Image courtesy of Richard Davies

  

Art of the Movies : Looking at that poster, something that we think differentiates a great illustrator is the ability to capture a face. Drew Struzan can do it. Paul Shipper can do it, and, so can you. Is that something that you work hard at, or has it come naturally?

Richard : My style of poster really depends on getting the likenesses right. Get it wrong and the whole poster falls down so it's vital to get it right. I've always liked drawing faces. So much so that when I was young I used to try and make some money drawing portraits of people. I would sit in pubs or restaurants just studying people's faces and sometimes they would buy the portraits! So, over the years, drawing faces has become something I'm comfortable doing. It's a useful skill particularly when it comes to movie posters.

 

 Close up of illustrated faces by Richard Davies

Image courtesy of Richard Davies

 

Art of the Movies : You've illustrated more than movie posters though. What companies have you worked for and do you have any favourite campaigns?

Richard : I've been very fortunate to work with the likes of Marvel Studios, Warner Bros and Twentieth Century Fox through my work for the Poster Posse art agency as well as my other freelance work. It's also led me to work for publishing companies such as Random House and Penguin.

I really enjoyed working on a recent book illustration for a "Stranger Things" spin off novel, 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town'. It was a lot of fun to do, particularly as it's a show that I really love.

 

Richard Davies book cover for Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher

Image courtesy of Richard Davies

 

Art of the Movies : That's a great cover! You mention the Poster Posse, how does that organisation work and has it lead to any more interesting work for you?

Richard : The Poster Posse has been a massive influence on me doing what I do for a living. Without the Poster Posse involvement, I doubt I would have even come close to making a living creating movie posters. I owe them a great deal.

The Poster Posse is essentially run by the husband and wife team of Don and Rebecca Thompson. It originally started as a small group of artists who created fan art for movies that they loved. However, in recent years the Posse has grown in size (almost 50 artists now from all over the world) to become a legitimate agency who deal directly with the studios themselves and help promote their movies via social media and various other channels.

I've been a member of the Posse since the early days and so I have been lucky enough to work on official releases such as X-Men, Jungle Book, Dumbo, Avengers : Endgame and Ready Player One. The best part of the Posse is the sense of community between the artists and the support everyone gets is fantastic. 

 

Art of the Movies : The Poster Posse, and of course Mondo, are showcasing what today’s great illustrators can do for the movie poster. Do you think that studios and distributors are starting to recognise that to?

Richard : The signs are that the studios are definitely starting to see the worth of illustrated movie posters. There have been a few recent examples of illustrated posters heading massive marketing campaigns namely "Ready Player One", "Baby Driver" and the new Tarantino movie, "Once Upon A Time in Hollywood". This is all great to see, but, they still remain the exception.

 

Paul Shipper's movie poster for Ready Player One Rory Kurtz's movie poster for Baby Driver The movie poster for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Steve Chorney
'Ready Player One' by Paul Shipper 'Baby Driver' by Rory Kurtz 'Once Upon A Time in Hollywood' by Steve Chorney

 

What is interesting is the way studios are now using illustrators like myself and the Poster Posse to create fresh new takes on the poster to promote their movies as a way to connect with fans. Whether they use the posters as giveaways at cinemas or displayed at premieres or even to put on things like T-shirts, they see the worth of artworks created by fans for fans. Film makers especially love illustrated posters so it keeps me busy with smaller indie films too. 

 

Art of the Movies : Let's hope that trend continues. Of those working today. which artists or works still inspire you?

Richard : The alternative movie poster scene is far larger than when I started out. There are so many talented artists out there. I admire and respect so many of them. Some of my favourite current artists are people like Paul Shipper, Rory Kurtz and Grzegorz Domaradzki.

 

Paul Shipper's movie poster for the film Avengers : Infinity War Rory Kurtz's movie poster for Good Omens The movie poster for The Dirty Dozen by Grzegorz Domaradzki
Avengers : Infinity War by Paul Shipper Good Omens by Rory Kurtz The Dirty Dozen by Grzegorz Domaradzki

 

They all manage to combine supreme technical artistry with a great sense of composition. Being in the Poster Posse also means you get to see some great artists work up close and the likes of Orlando Arocena is such an inspiration in terms of his output and technical ability, he is a creativity machine!

 

The movie poster for Detective Pikachu by Orlando Arocena

Detective Pikachu by Orlando Arocena

 

Art of the Movies : Yes, there is some amazing work there, but (and we know this is an unfair question), there must be a poster or two that you have looked at and would love to 're-do' in the Richard Davies style?

Richard : Growing up in the 1980s, it felt like every film had such great poster artwork (way better than the film in a lot of cases!). However there is one film that I loved then and I still do (I'm probably going to get stick for this) and that is David Lynch's epic "Dune".

Movie poster for the film Dune Movie poster for the film Dune

I always thought the posters were a little dull and never seemed to match the scale and tone of that crazy film. I would love to do something like an old one sheet for that film. It would be such fun to do!

 

Art of the Movies : We'd love to see your version, but I imagine you're pretty busy with other projects. What can we expect next from you, is there anything in the pipeline that you can share with us?

Richard : It's going to be a busy summer working on some prints for the Con season later in the year. I'm currently working on a "Starship Troopers" piece followed by a very popular John Carpenter film. I've just finished work on another 1980's favourite, "Flight of the Navigator" for a special edition blu-ray release which was a lot of fun too.

Rich Davies cover for the re-release of The Flight of the Navigator

Image courtesy of Richard Davies

 

I've also started to branch out and work on book cover illustrations which is something I would like to do more on in the future just to keep things fresh. I've also just completed a private commission of "Almost Famous" which I'm really pleased with and hopefully does the film justice.

 

Rich Davies movie poster for the film Almost Famous

Image courtesy of Richard Davies

 

Art of the Movies: We love Flight of the Navigator! The opening scene with the frisbee as a possible UFO is one of our favourites and your poster for "Almost Famous" is amazing. It's what the official movie poster should have been! Hopefully it's a sign of the official Rich Davies movie posters to come. Thank you so much for chatting with us Richard. We can't wait to see what comes next.

 

Richard is definitely an illustrator to watch. He'll be at some of the Comic Cons later in the year, and, you can find more of his phenomenal work at his website, or by following him on TwitterFacebook, Behance or Instagram.

What a talent.

 

Adam and the Art of the Movies team.

 

 

 

 

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