Q: Randy, you're one of the artists who have set the bar for guys like me and my readers. Who inspired you when you were first breaking into the business?
First off, thank you, that is very kind of you to say. Sometimes I do have to stop and take a look at where I have been for the last 10 years. As you are working, you kind of don’t realize just how much work you are doing or have done. I guess, when you have done enough work and it gets around, you start becoming part of the standard, which is really odd to say, because I have spent much of my career looking up to so many great artists that have been doing this far longer than I have. It’s almost like paradox of sorts, when you become part of what you have a fan of. But it’s exciting, and is something I take great pride in, but I am also very humbled by all of the great talent (artists) that I am associated with and the new talents that are coming up with MUCH fire and desire. Art is such an amazing continuation of creativity and ideas, each generation inspiring the next.
My professional career started very young. I was 16 when I first started working at Magic Mountain drawing Caricatures in the park, but I was also apprenticing for my Dad was an illustrator. Both of my parents were artists so I would have to say they were my biggest influence, but I was really inspired by the master painters like Van Gogh, Degas, Picasso, and Lautrec. The honest truth is I really never paid much attention to the art in popular culture. I always liked Star Wars art, but through out the 80’s and most of the 90’s there really wasn’t much Star Wars art being produced outside of comics.
I was in Art College when the Star Wars Special Edition came out, and Drew Struzan produced those breathtaking one sheets for the trilogy. Those posters, and seeing the movies again really reignited my love for Star Wars. At the time I was really lost artistically, but Struzans art really gave me a glimpse of what I wanted to do with my art. So I began studying Struzans artwork, which led to me discovering artists like Marshall Arisman, CF Pain, and Philip Burk. I did not want to be the next Drew Struzan, I simply wanted to be an illustrator like Struzan who was obviously connected to his artistic soul. Some years later I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Struzan and he actually ended up mentoring me a bit on the finer points of this business!
Q: You're no stranger to Star Wars, so what's been your favorite Star Wars themed project to date?
My Favorite project would have creating the key art for 3 Star Wars Celebrations.
Of course the glory of receiving the call to do such a project is great, but the glory is just a bonus. The Celebration Key Art gig was special to me because it was exactly what I wanted to do as an illustrator. It did not matter at all that it was Star Wars, I was working on a challenging project that required time, critical thinking, team work (with the art director), and a massive amount of creativity. Key art is the corner stone of any event, it’s the face and spirit you will be presenting to the general public. It’s not enough to just paint Darth Vader, you are responsible for setting the tone of the entire show. For CIV, the theme was to promote the 30th Anniversary of Star Wars, not just A New Hope, but ALL of Star Wars. How do you say that in one piece without having a million elements and characters? That is tough, and it took a lot of sketches and conversations with the art director to get it right. Ultimately we felt the overall story of Star Wars was about Anakin and his family, but it was also about the family that is the whole Star Wars fan community. But, we also wanted some nostalgia for the first time we all saw Star Wars which is why we chose to capture the opening moment from A New Hope of Tantive IV being chased down by the Star Destroyer.
Celebration Europe was one of those things where all the stars align and you get magic on the first try. While Star Wars was Celebrating 30 years, the Beatles Sgt. Peppers album was celebrating 40 years. Since the show was going to be in London, we just married Star Wars and Sgt Peppers and it was a huge hit. I mean it said everything! To my amazement, no one had ever created a Star Wars Sgt. Peppers piece of art, so I knew I had to make the definitive version. I had done some 3D art before, but not much. The challenge was the engineering of the piece and figuring out how to get it all together. I got a lot of help from my Mom, who is a great carpenter, and Denise helped me a ton as I assembled the piece.
Celebration V was so much fun, mixing Star Wars with Florida. It was finally time to pull some of my humor out and put it in to the theme. The trick was to not go overboard. While the goal was to set a tone of FUN and Vacation, we did not want to make it seem like the show was about parody. When I attended CV I was very happy to see that the key art was doing its job. People were eating up the art I had done and there really was a tone of FUN and enjoying Star Wars because it was FUN.Finally, I have to say that these projects were awesome because I got to work with Steve Sansweet, who served as the art director of these projects. He’s not only a great a friend of mine but he’s a great creator. He was really a pleasure to work with and brainstorm with. We really came together and worked both of our ides together to create a great a product.
Q: How did you get involved with doing work for Star Wars professionally? What was your first "official" Star wars gig?
I got my start in 1999, just after Star Wars Episode I was released. I was attending Star Wars Celebration I as a fan, but a fan with an agenda. I went strapped with all kinds of promotional art work and giveaways in hopes that I might somehow find some work. Well, CI was a disaster. It was held at this old condemned air force hanger in Denver CO. But only half of the show was in the hanger, the other half were in big circus tents. Not the WORST thing, until the monsoon rains hit. Ankle deep in mud, I made my way into the old hanger. I was in the middle of a packed aisle when I finally reached my breaking point. With my hands filled with art, I put my hands up and thought I can’t do this I quit. And in my mind I literally did quit, I was ready to go home and look for something else to do besides art. I turned around ever so sharply and started to stomp towards the exit. Instead of a clear path I smacked right into and knocked down this little guy with a salt and pepper beard, as I reached down to help him up I caught a glimpse of his shiny gold Lucasfilm ID tag. His tag shined with a glowing aura like it was the Holy Grail or something. With out thinking, and having just QUIT just 2 moments earlier, I started pushing my art work in the mans hands as he still sit there on the floor. He saw my excitement, and chuckled “Hey, help me up first”. Once he dusted himself off he began scanning my art with the rest of his Lucasfilm entourage. They loved it; I mean REALY loved the work. The man gave me his card and asks me to call him, which I did, and 2 weeks later I was doing my first illustration for Star Wars Kids Magazine.
Oh, who was that guy I knocked down? Mr. Steve Sansweet.
Q: "Sketch Card Mania" is a fantastic read! How did the idea come about to compile so much great information into a book?
Thank you, glad you like the book.
Sketch Card Mania is 100% Denise (Vasquez) concept. I had just released my first book “Creature Features: Draw Amazing Monsters and Aliens”, when Denise asked if anyone had ever written a book about making sketch cards. She did some research and found that no one had. So we sat down and brain stormed. At that time Denise had only done 2-3 sketch card sets, so I was kind of a resource in the beginning stages of the book, concerning the business. But it’s interesting, because the Book is kind of a journal of everything Denise had learned about Sketch cards in the next year. Both for the book, and for her own business. We each wrote about half of the book each, but Denise really deserves all the credit for the idea and deciding what was going to go into the book. She is really amazing.
Q: You gave me some great advice on being focused on goals, but also to not let myself get caught up in "tunnel vision." Can you reiterate for the readers trying to follow in your footsteps to become Star Wars artists?
Yes, Goals are great, but you have to be open to the idea that your goals can change while you're pursuing your original goals. I’ve seen many artists get burned out and lose their love for their art because they become tunnel visioned and only see their original goals. If you become tunnel visioned you will not see the countless opportunities that come up while you are on your journey. You will meet amazing people, and be exposed to ideas and places you never even knew were there. Star Wars is awesome, and it’s a great goal to have, but it’s only one thing. Being an artist, you can’t really survive on just one thing. You have to be diverse and have your hands in many different opportunities. I certainly don’t just do Star Wars, I do a bit of different projects. Some things no one will ever see or hear about, but I’m creating art for a living and that makes me far happier than any one subject matter could ever do. I’m simply LUCKY that one of those things I do is Star Wars.
Art is so diverse, and there are so many opportunities and avenues to use your talents. Don’t feel like Star Wars, or Comic Books, or anything like that will define you or validate your art journey. What validates you is when you are creating from your heart and spirit. Your personal relationship with your art is something you will have your entire life, listen to it, nurture it, and feed it what it needs.
Q: Do you have any other advice for artists trying to find their first gigs? Or any advice you'd like to share in general?
First gigs? In general, the best advice I can give is to NOT BE DESPERATE. Being desperate can put you in unfavorable situation where you either get underpaid, or not paid at all. Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there who prey on artist’s desperation. They don’t respect the hard work artists put in and try to make artists feel like they should be happy anyone wants to use them, even for free. Meanwhile those same people take that art and use it to make themselves a lot of money. So be careful. Always remember that what you do has value, there is only one of you, and your art is just as unique. Always make sure you feel good about what you are getting in return for your efforts. Sometimes that is exposure, and sometimes it is money, but ideally it is both. Just do your research, ask questions and sniff out who is being honest with you or not.
At the same time, continue to create. Work on your craft and get your work out there by way of websites, conventions, and anything you can think of.
The most important thing I can advise to anyone starting their careers is to have a positive attitude and be cool to people. Bottom line, people want to work with nice people. No one wants to deal with head cases who are always negative. Talent and skills only go so far. I know plenty of uber talented artists who don’t work because they are rude and unpleasant. You have to remember that you are a business person on top of being an artist. The same rules of business apply to you as they do someone working in a suit and tie. The better person you are, the more work you will get.
So just be cool to people, if you don’t know how, hang around positive people, it will rub off. :)
WOW! Let all of that sink in, and then go follow Randy Martinez on DeviantArt and show him some love!!