Mark Raats a local Perth Lucasfilm artist was recently commissioned by Lucasfilm in Australia to draw some artwork for Solo: A Star Wars Story which for those Australians who are here you can actually win the original artwork if you purchase tickets at eventcinemas.com.au to see the film.
Marks first official project for Lucasfilm was done a little over 25 years ago and has since worked on poster art for Indiana Jones, the 30th Anniversary poster for Return of the Jedi, a 40th Anniversary poster for A New Hope and some of his original pieces have also been purchased by the man himself George Lucas for his private collection.. most recently Mark has also been commissioned to do pieces for Stan Lee.
We sit down to have a chat with Mark about his early days as an artist before moving onto the Solo artwork and his process… take a listen below or you can read the full transcript.
Click here to find out more about Mark Raats.
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in Australia May 24, our review is also now online at this link.
Accessreel – Thanks very much for talking to me today. We’re going to be talking about the Solo artwork that you’ve done here but first things first let’s just go back a bit to early days, when did you find out you had this talent for drawing?
Mark – Darran you know I mean I’ve drawn forever really, it’s something that I’ve always known I’ve wanted to do, you know I think the earliest drawing that my mom found is probably from when I was about four years old so you know clearly I was keen to do it then and I still love doing it.
Accessreel – What was the first piece of art you did that started getting you some attention?
Mark – It’s difficult because you know attention comes in many forms I suppose and if we’re talking about the studio itself … I think the major catalyst in getting known at Lucasfilm if we’re talking about studio work was George and the upper echelons of Lucasfilm knowing the work that I do personally so it’s you know I’ve been working on other projects for them before but it was I can’t remember how long ago now but a while back I did a drawing of George as Yoda which I’d gifted to a very good friend of mine who is the editor of visual effects magazine and through the magic of the Internet this image sort of made its way to Skywalker and George saw it and they want it they wrote to me to find out whether I had in fact done it, I was understandably quite nervous because I thought maybe I had offended him but fortunately I hadn’t and that is the first piece that he acquired from me through the goodness of a friend of mine who sold it to him and from then I think that that it was it was then clear that that he liked what I did and so therefore to get the art in at the top echelons seemed to happen much easier then it had happened before.
Accessreel – You’ve done some incredible pieces of artwork over the years, I’m friends with you on Facebook you post a lot of your stuff up on that and on your Instagram. When you look back on your history is there one piece that you’re most proud of?
Mark – No, I don’t I don’t think there’s ever a one piece that you like you like them fall for different reasons and I find that it’s normally because of an association that takes place with a piece and that is that I think you can like things for two reasons you can you can look at an emotional level from an association and you can like it and I’m more analytical level from a creative point of view. I think creatively those ones that have been given the most free rein on are probably the most satisfying yet from a creative point of view because it it’s understandably very difficult to conform with somebody else’s brand especially when you have a legacy created by people like Drew Struzan and the fabulous Richard Amsel and Bob Peak and you know people like that because you’ve you are required to tie in to a brand in a visual style that they have made very much the brand of the movie. So that becomes quite difficult. It comes with its own challenges. So, in the case of ones where they say look we don’t we don’t want you to conform with it we just want you to do something as in fact happened with a solo piece it’s incredibly invigorating pieces like the Solo piece would be a favorite because of that.
Accessreel – Let’s talk a bit about the Solo artwork, how did it all come about?
Mark – Disney’s radar it wasn’t one that I was really on because you know having come from the Lucasfilm side hadn’t done any work for Disney, a very good friend of mine referred me on to the local Disney representatives here in Perth and it was fortunately she liked what I did and certainly liked the idea of what she could see of the work that I’d done I think it was also comfortable in the fact that that I had done a lot of work over many years with Lucasfilm themselves which she then very generously motivated with Disney over east and they seem to be incredibly comfortable with the fact that I could do whatever they want to do.
Accessreel – When it comes to a piece like this you’re working for a very well-known and loved franchise obviously some movie studios have quite the hold on their franchises like Disney & Marvel or Universal with Jurassic World etc so when they when they approach you to say hey can you do a bit of artwork for us what sort of directives do they give you for a piece like this?
Mark – Every job is different you know that depends on who the art director is it depends on if it’s a new movie or an old movie If it’s if it’s a new movie obviously the regulations and rules that apply are far more rigorously enforced then they would be on an old for example doing work on Solo and also when I did the teaser poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull because the movie hasn’t come out you can’t spoil the movie by yet by putting into the poster something that would give away some of the plot or whatever so it’s very much more regulated and obviously you are required to be very disciplined in the way that you handle the material that’s given to you. However, with older movies like The re-release poster did for Raiders of the Lost Ark and the one that I did for Temple of Doom and Jedi are you know the plots are all everyone knows with this story is so it’s a little easier and there are fewer hurdles to jump through in doing that so every job is different.
Accessreel – With the solo piece now I’m really intrigued by this because obviously we know that you’re an incredible artist and you can do faces incredibly well like I’ve seen you Harrison Ford artwork and I don’t think he would be incredibly easy to draw so in regards to this solo artwork how long does it take you to draw it?
Mark – The final painting is fairly large so it’s about 600 by 900 so it’s about the size of a normal lobby poster that you would find in the theatres the original art so it’s relatively big and of course the concept are quite complicated but I suppose from the time I put the first pencil to the board in drawing the layout to the time I put down the last brush stroke it’s probably about six or seven days that it would take me to do it if I was to work uninterrupted of course.
Accessreel – Okay so let’s get into your process a little bit, when you for instance with this one when you started doing your concepts what’s your process like how do you sit down and figure out where to put what character etc?
Mark – I think again it depends on what you’ve been instructed to do by the client to the client to be very specific about what they want and you just follow their lead. In a case like the solo one which was done as I said earlier sort of pretty much up to my own devices it’s really a case of trying to figure out what is important to the poster or to the illustration and in this case what I was quite keen to do was avoid the floating head layer that is so popular in movie posters these days. Now that’s not to say that I think it’s wrong floating heads work and they’ve been refined to the point of perfection by people like Drew Struzan and John Alvin because of the fact that it works a concept. However, it is a concept that is used a lot to break away from that would be really nice so in this case I felt that the actors themselves were the words Alden or whether it’s the young Glover or say Woody Harrelson whoever else is in it they are not really associated with the franchise at this point in time yet we’ve seen them in the trailers but we haven’t seen them in the movie so although we might recognize them from other work we don’t know them as solo or as the characters of them I felt that in this case to add a portrait of Alden to the layout would have been easy to do but I don’t believe it would necessarily have added an enormous amount of value for the fan who is looking at the poster they wouldn’t look and say Alden’s in this I have to go see it as they would if they saw Harrison’s face so I think that in this case it was it was quite nice to be able not to put the actors themselves in but that said I looked at the layout and felt that it was important to have something related to the to the audience and that one thing that relates to that audience is a character that we do associate with a franchise and that of course is Chewbacca not only is he Han Solo’s partner but he’s also a character that we know recognize and love and we do associate with a franchise for the rest of the layout what I tried to do was rather capture the spirit of the movie so the movie a space cowboy type heist thing so it’s like a Clint Eastwood vibe where you’ve got this menacing gunslinger kind of guy who is a maverick who’s a bit of a loon and so it was trying to capture more of the spirit of the movie rather than just having a wonderful portrait layouts of all actors who are going to be in the movie. That said if I have to do a sequel poster probably wouldn’t be allowed to do the same because now the actors would be associated with the franchise and therefore it would be a different set of challenges that would be given if I was to do so sequel post.
Accessreel – When you decided to put Chewie on the poster did a part of you die inside a little bit because of the amount of hair? Because when I saw your artwork for the first time I just thought that would have taken forever!
Mark – That’s a good point. I’m not a great fan of doing hair I don’t mind hair on people so much but doing it on some kind of animal. I’m not a huge fan. I find you know a big challenge and you’re right I mean it’s one of the things that you’ve got it you’ve got to just think you must be honest when I started doing it I thought how am I going to do this and that and I’ve got to keep convincing myself look you’ve done it before plenty of time so you can do it so just relax it’s not as terrifying as it seems but it’s always it is always a huge challenge to do, that’s for sure.
Accessreel – How’s whole experience been for you because obviously the other weekend you were flown to Sydney and you went to their Star Wars weekend, you were involved in a bunch of panels and then you jumped on a plane and went down to Melbourne and you got to see your artwork on the side of a building five stories…. How’s the last few weeks been?
Mark – They’ve been phenomenal you know it’s safe to say that it’s the biggest push of any of the artwork that I’ve done that I’ve experienced. With Raiders of the Lost Ark poster I did and things like that they’ve obviously been very very big promotional activities around that but this one has just taken everything to another level, I mean standing on a windy Melbourne street looking up at the building and seeing the poster as you say five stories tall side of the building is just it blows you away so no it has been the most wonderful thing and I have to be honest the whole project rollout working with Disney has just been the most enjoyable process they were very supportive very very good about putting my ideas forward on to Burbank getting feedback coming up with things so all in all this has to be one of the most enjoyable projects certainly the one that is bringing me the most personal and professional satisfaction so I couldn’t be happier.
Accessreel.com – Well that’s great to hear Mark thanks very much.