Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Portraits from "Escape From New York"...

Inset portraits to the movie,"Escape From New York."

Sometimes, I wonder what the hell happened here. Sometime in late 1981 or so, I was contacted by a design firm, Butler and Associates to design and illustrate the seven cast members of the movie, "Escape From New York." When I originally came into the upstairs studio, I noticed a movie poster with a large destroyed head of the Statue of Liberty between two buildings and New York pedestrians fleeing for their lives. The painting was quite large and very well done. At the time, the LA based illustrator, Stan Watts, was all the rage and I was told the painting was his. 

It was beautifully done...

Apparently though, as it occasionally happens, another artist doing another "comp" gets the gig and  gets the piece printed. I've done a bit of research and remembered that the poster that was used was Barry Jackson's version, which he created for a rival design studio. It too, was very well done and very well received. So, why do I now bring this all up?

I was asked by an educational film company to send some samples of my portraiture work that is created traditionally... in paint. I've done quite a bit of movie work back before the digital age, but I was maybe a bit too blase about the work I did back then. I couldn't really find too many of my painted portraits. Ah, youth!

The digital age provided art directors and designers the flexibility of creating with little knowledge of how to draw or paint. You just cut and paste and push a few buttons. The computer cut out the cost of using a comp artist for presentations or even an illustrator for the final poster. The studios could just pay one or two on staff designer's to illustrate whatever would be needed. I can't be bitter about it all because I found the computer to be a pretty cool tool, too.

Of course, the difference is, I can paint and draw. 

But, in my search to find print worthy samples, I ran across these inset portraits that were originally painted as comps. Only later, when I received a pretty handsome check for the portraits, that were each illustrated at about four by eight inches in diameter, was I told that it was going to be used for the original poster. I was excited about the check, but once again, wish I had known it was gonna be used as illustration. I would have asked for more time which would have afforded more of me to be put into it. It probably wouldn't have made any difference anyway. I was only given a four day weekend to produce these pieces, regardless.

When the movie came out, the Barry Jackson poster was in the marquee and my work was nowhere to be found. When I asked the designer at the studio about what happened, I was told that they decided to use it for the European market. Today, cruising the internet for pics and posters from the low budget movie, I am amazed at all the reference and the many various treatments to the basic visual premise. I wish that I had had access to all this reference material at that time. And yet...

I never found an ad or poster or anything of my inset artwork.

Like Barry Jackson's story, who apparently never got the original artwork back, I never saw the poster my art was designed for. Maybe it was used... and maybe, not! It's just classic Hollywood. 
But hey, you got paid, right? 

No hard feelings, you know?

Yeh. Right!



Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III







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