Ed. Note – What follows is an edited transcription from the above audio interview our contributor and podcast cohost Adam Moreau conducted with artist Paul Shipper. Download our Leaguecast, or head over to iTunes to listen!
Paul Shipper specializes in traditional and digitally illustrated works of art. His talents allow him to work with numerous industries; entertainment, advertising and publishing. Working from his Studio in Hamilton, New Zealand, his clients span the globe.
Growing up in the UK, with a pencil permanently attached to his hand, he realized his unique talents. Paul followed his passion for art and design through high school and college. He graduated with a B.A. in Illustration in 1997.
While keeping a full-time job, Paul began illustrating professionally, gathering clients and working on projects in his spare time. While firmly establishing himself in the design industry, he was also becoming an accomplished professional photographer.
His proudest illustration moments have included his work with Lucasfilm on Star Wars, as well as working with well-known clients such as Penguin Books, Sports Illustrated, GQ Magazine, Topps Inc. and JWT.
Paul also enjoys being involved in the collectible print world. He has original work and prints available at a number of Pop Culture Galleries in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
When he isn’t working on illustration projects, you will find Paul sketching, taking photos, making music, playing drums or piano. He loves spending precious time with his family and friends and exploring the New Zealand countryside.
AM: Hello everybody and welcome to a very special edition of the Geek League of America Leaguecast. I suppose for tonight, Paul, it’s going to be the Geek League International instead, right, because I’m talking to you now halfway around the planet. You’re in New Zealand, is that right?
Paul Shipper: That’s right, yeah.
AM: So, once again, I am your host today, Adam Moreau, usual contributor to the site, and instead of my usual fleet of Geek League contributors, tonight, I am joined by a very special guest, the very talented Paul Shipper of Paul Shipper Studios. Paul, again, thanks for talking to me tonight.
PS: Oh, thanks for having me.
AM: I’m going to start by saying that I am a huge fan of your work. I have several of your pieces hanging in my home, your MAN OF STEEL piece, your STAR TREK: ORIGINS piece. I love your style of art and it reminds me of one of my favorite artists of all time, who I’m sure is also one your favorite artists of all time, Drew Struzan. Do you get that a lot?
PS: Well, yeah you can imagine I do. I’ve been a huge fan of his work from a young age. It’s all his fault the reason I’m an illustrator now.
AM: Is he particularly what get into it? What made you decide to become a career illustrator?
PS: I have always drawn pictures from an early age and I’ve always loved film and movies. I used to collect the movie posters and have them on my bedroom wall when I was younger. There came a time when I was looking at them and I realized there was similarity between them and they were all signed by the same person, well, the majority of them were. That signature was Drew and that sort of started [me]looking into who was Drew and I found out it was a job that people did for a living and well, that’s what I want to try to do, that’s my dream.
AM: You are keeping a great dream alive for a lot of us, certainly in the film fan community and you could call us, I guess, the internet nerd. Certainly, the movie posters of recent years have kind of fallen into sad examples of “giant head photoshop” and the work that I see artists like you guys doing, the “Mondo movement”, the tremendous rise of limited edition artwork prints, is really keeping what I feel like the old days, the great times of movie posters, alive. Do you feel the same way? Is it something that you hope to really bring that style back to commercial film again?
PS: I’d love for that to happen. I’ve been rallying the idea to people for a long time now and trying to keep it alive and yeah, it does feel like a lot of the posters that are out there now are not quite what the fans would appreciate as much as they used to. I remember going to cinema and seeing the poster, I’d be staring at the poster before the movie started for ages. I can remember seeing posters like the HOOK poster and the CUTTHROAT ISLAND and things like that. I would be mesmerized by them, I’d be like, “WOW!” It’s like watching the movie before you saw the movie, in a way. You kind of got that feeling of awe and inspiration from the drawings that were in the cinema lobby. Everyone, all the fans, love that type of imagery and that’s what it’s for. It was to make you want to go and see the movie.
I’ve had emails over the last few months that have said, “Your poster, even though it wasn’t an official one…” I wanted to do it and that’s one of the things that I’ve been doing, doing the art that I really would like to see and people have been very gracious by emailing me or messaging me saying, “That was the movie poster it should have been,,,” and “I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’ve seen your poster and that makes me want to go and see the movie.” To me, that’s what the movie poster is all about. It’s been really nice getting that kind of feedback because you sit in your studio and you don’t always have people around you to tell you what they think, but thanks to social media these days, people have the opportunity to tell you whatever they think.
AM: Good or bad, I guess!
PS: yeah, good or bad. Mostly, it’s good, so that’s alright.
AM: I imagine it is. I feel the same way as you. I remember when I was kid walking through the cinema, those were the days before the internet. A lot of times, the poster was the thing that told you, “Oh my God, there’s a part two of that” or “Look at this, this looks amazing!” it was the introduction to a movie for most people, whereas now, it’s a story on the internet or a trailer often times comes out before the poster even gets to the cinema.
PS: There’s no doubt that things have changed over the years. I still feel that there is a place for an illustrated movie poster, not for every movie, but for those movies that it would work well with. There’s room for an illustrated poster as much as there is for a Photoshop poster. I know for a fact, that some of the Photoshop posters are amazingly done. The amount of work that goes into them is no question, it has been thought about. People don’t just push a button and it’s ready.
AM: Oh no, there’s no doubt, but you look at the ones that have the oddly Photoshopped heads where you can tell those two people were nowhere near that photo studio on the same day, let alone that it’s even that person’s body. Those are the sad ones.
PS: Yeah, true. Saying that, though, with an illustrated poster, it’s a lot of what I do: a head from here, a body from there, and then it’s drawn, so I suppose there is that more of a human touch to it, maybe, than you would get from just a Photoshop job.
AM: And you can also, I imagine, marry those parts a little bit more organically than they can, being illustrated.
PS: Yeah, I’d like to think so. (laughs)
AM: Now, your portfolio is relatively diverse. Looking through on your site, you have everything from AVENGERS to STAR TREK to TAXI DRIVER to the new movie you seem to be getting a lot of press on there, BAD MILO, is it? Is that right?
PS: Yeah, that’s right.
AM: What is it about different things that makes you select it to go, “That’s something that I’m doing to draw, that’s something I am going to make.” Is it because it’s something that you love? Is it something that you think would be cool? What is the deciding factor for you?
PS: The BAD MILO is an actual commission, that’s the actual film poster. The creative director asked me if I would do an illustration for it and I was like, “Of course!” We got it done and it was selected as the final poster and that’s so gratifying. There’s not many illustrated posters out there that are being used right now, right this minute. When they are used, you know, people seem to really appreciate it and really accept it for being what it is. It’s a great feeling.
The other work I do, like the STAR TREK stuff is really something I wanted to do a long time ago when the first J.J. Abrams movie came out and I saw the poster in the theater and I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting something with a bit more of a nostalgic feel, I suppose. So for years, I kind of, I don’t know, there weren’t many people following me back then, but I did make it known on my blog back in the day that I was going to do something about it. I was going to do a STAR TREK poster, but it took a long time to come. The thing that spurred me on was there was two online groups, one was PLANET PULP, which I have been a member of for some time now and the other was Blurppy.com and they both said all right, PLANET PULP’s having a STAR TREK month and then Blurppy said that they’d like me to do something for INTO DARKNESS and I thought, “This is perfect.”
I have two opportunities to do: the first movie and then the sequel, the J.J. Abrams films, and that was it. What would I like to see on a STAR TREK poster? (laughs) So, that was how that came about and it was because of the love of the movies. I thought J.J. Abrams and his amazing team did such a phenomenal job reinventing the STAR TREK franchise and you know, I have always liked STAR TREK, but STAR WARS was always the one for me growing up, as STAR TREK wasn’t so much. When those movies came out, when that first movie came out that J.J. did, I was blown away, I was like, “I love STAR TREK now.”
AM: The STAR TREK reboot, I think, really brought a lot of non-STAR TREK fans to STAR TREK and I imagine a lot of them went back to check out the older stuff as well. I am in the process right now. I watched The NEXT GENERATION when I was a kid, but I never watched the original series. J.J.’s series has kind of inspired me to go back. I’m starting all the way from the beginning of the original series and I’m going to try to watch, which is probably going to take me years, all the STAR TREK television series because it’s something that I feel like I should see, but I never have.
PS: That’s good. He’s done his job so brilliantly because I think that’s what they wanted as well. They wanted to kind of reinvigorate things and get more people on board and they so did that. I remember hearing they’d upset some fans, some hardcore fans or something. At the end of the day, he’s got to be commended for what they all did. I still watch it to this day.
AM: Well that’s going to segue nicely I guess to my next question. I know you are working on the new KHAN series for IDW as the cover artist.
AM: So I guess Benedict Cumberbatch, will he be the person you have drawn the most [times]officially in all of your published work now?
PS: I think you could probably say that?
AM: So does that make you a “Cumberbitch”, as they call his fans?
PS: I don’t know about that! (laughs)
AM: (laughs) We’ll have to see if we can arrange a Benedict Cumberbatch/Paul Shipper meeting and see what comes of that.
PS: Wow, that would be good.
AM: So, I guess now that you are working on the KHAN series and you are such a big fan of the J.J. series, I don’t know if you heard this, but STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS at the recent Las Vegas Star Trek convention, was named the worst STAR TREK movie of all time by a room full of STAR TREK fans. Now, you obviously don’t think that. What would you put as the worst STAR TREK movie of the lot?
PS: Oh my goodness… To be really honest, the one that I didn’t like very much was the very first, THE MOTION PICTURE, that was the one that I just, I don’t know what they were trying to do there, but it wasn’t STAR TREK to me. It was, I don’t’ know. If I had to pick one, it would be that one.
AM: That’s good. That’s probably my second worst. I would probably put STAR TREK V just underneath that, the FINAL FRONTIER. Spock’s brother and all that, just not a good thing.
PS: (laughs) Yeah, fair enough.
AM: Your two STAR TREK posters, staying on the STAR TREK topic here, your two STAR TREK posters, you just did a big social media contest to give away [a set of]the posters which I’m not sure why I’m even interviewing you tonight because I’m still very mad I didn’t win those. There are many people who are making various licensed posters, like yourself, drawing of their favorite franchises and so forth. I know you do not have those for sale and I imagine that has something to do with licensing or legal hurdles. Is that right?
PS: Yeah it is.
AM: Does that kind of make your process… I mean, you obviously would love to get your work into the world, but licensing is everybody’s worst enemy. That is obviously something that is difficult to work through, I would imagine?
PS: Yeah, I have been trying hard to get them out there and I must have had hundreds of emails and messages asking me, “When can I buy one?” The market is there, everyone wants one, which is fantastic. It’s great to hear, I’m really pleased that everyone likes them so much and I’m still actively trying to get something underway to make them available. I mean, when they first hit the internet, it went crazy really, everyone really loved them. It’s something that I am trying to do. It is hard to sort it out. The license issue is a complex one and there’s the franchises, the brand, is owned by someone. In this case, it’s owned by CBS and Paramount and you have to go through a process and it takes time. It’s been hard to try to get it under the noses of the right people to make it happen and this is an opportunity for me to kind of let people know that I have been trying! It is proven to be fairly difficult.
A friend of mine, Mark Ferguson (CAKES AND COMICS – http://www.cakesandcomics.com/), he’s on twitter, you probably recognize the name. He’s done a lot of STAR TREK work as well and his posters, the prints for STAR TREK…
AM: He did the whole series, right? All the movies?
PS: He did it with CHROME YELLOW, it was amazing. Sal over there, he wrote the review of every movie and Matt did the artwork along with it. It was really great, every week it was a new one. He just had his artwork picked up by BYE BYE ROBOT [neither Paul nor I could remember the name at the time of the interview, so it is added here]. It’s at the Las Vegas Star Trek convention where they launched it and now they are actually on sale, so it’s a little plug for Matt. If you are a fan and you like artwork and Star Trek, check out Matt’s work over there. It’s quite a rare thing to actually get something picked up, so I’m really pleased for him.
AM: As you said, we’re going to take this time right now to say—because I know they are listening obviously—the heads of Paramount, Les Mooves at CBS, I’m sure you’re listening to this too – because, you know Paul, this is a very popular show, ok?
AM: So, Paul Shipper’s STAR TREK posters. Get ‘em done. Get ‘em licensed. Put them out, people want to buy them! You hear that STAR TREK? You hear that CBS? We want them! Git ‘r dun!
PS: Do it! I’m actually coming to Los Angeles next month so if they want to meet up, let me know.
AM: Exactly, J.J. can meet you too! Why not? He’s probably still hanging around the States, I don’t think he’s gone to England for STAR WARS yet, so he should meet you too and help get it done.
PS: Let’s try and do something!
AM: There we go! So what’s next for you? Do you have anything that you are working on besides the KHAN series that you can talk about at this point?
PS: there’s a few things I can tell you, but there’s a few things I can’t tell you. I’m working on cover #4 at the moment for IDW for the KHAN series and #3 has not been announced, no one has seen that yet. Apparently, it’s going to go down quite well with all the fans, so I’ve heard.
AM: Very cool.
PS: I’m really pleased with it and looking forward to finishing this series off. It’s brilliant. It’s great to be a part of. Doing those is fantastic. I’m working on a little something for CLOUD ATLAS at the moment, which is not going to be an official print, but I am working with a friend of mine who actually works for Tom Hanks.
AM: Oh boy…
PS: it’s something that he really wants to see done and I am really excited to be part of it. So yeah, it’s going to be good. It’s an amazing film, hopefully you’ve seen it,
AM: Very ambitious, without a doubt.
PS: The movie was a very ambitious movie and doing a poster is quite ambitious too.
AM: I think, of last year, the CLOUD ATLAS poster was not bad. It kind of felt like, I’m not sure if it was illustrated or if it was closely illustrated, but it resembled that style of poster. It was not terrible.
PS: I remember when it was first announced, a lot of people were like, “Did Drew Struzan do that?” Well, no, it’s a Photoshop composition, but it had a nice feel about it. That’s for certain. John, who I’m working with, is a huge fan of the traditional illustrated posters as am I, so we’re basically going to be doing an illustrated variant of a movie poster for the amazing film that it is. Hopefully, we’ll pull it off and it should be announced sometime toward the middle of next month.
AM: Awesome, awesome.
(Next, I gave Paul a chance to recommend something “geeky” for our listeners. Download our LEAGUECAST from Itunes to hear Paul’s recommendation!)
AM: Now Paul, what would you like to plug? Where can people find you?
PS: I’m pretty much everywhere. You can find me at Paulshipper.com or paulshipperstudio.com. I’m on twitter, @paulshipper, I’m on tumblr, I’m on Facebook. Where else am I? Oh dear… You just type Paul Shipper you can find me.
AM: That’s right. You can be a little bit of everywhere.
PS: Google is your best friend.
AM: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for your time and I look forward to talking to you again. Maybe we will catch up to you in the future once you have some cool new stuff to talk about.
PS: Yeah ok, that sounds good. Been a pleasure talking to you.
AM: Thanks for joining us.
As a sidenote, I completely neglected to mention it to Paul on the recorded portion, but mentioned this afterwards. If Drew Struzan doesn’t come out of retirement, it needs to be Paul Shipper who does the Star Wars Episode VII poster!