The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou by Paul Ainsworth
Continuing with our venture to interview up-and-coming and established Film Poster illustrators, we have managed to score an interview with Canadian poster designer and illustrator, Paul Ainsworth. Paul was gracious enough to answer all of the questions we had for him, and we would like to thank Paul for his contribution to what we hope will become a regular part of igotbirds.com. We hope you enjoy a conversation with Paul Ainsworth.
igotbirds: Paul, can you tell our readers a little about yourself? Where you were raised, early life, etc…?
Paul Ainsworth: I’m an illustrator/Graphic Designer/husband/father of a 21 month old girl with a little one on the way come late May, residing just outside of Toronto, Ontario Canada. Born and raised in Timmins, Ontario, 8 hours North of here (Just google “Home of Shania Twain” and you’ll find us). Middle child of three kids, two of which including myself are gingers. Very supportive family. My mother worked for the Diocese and my Father retired as the Director of the Board of Education. Before all that he was my principal in High School. So that might answer the, “Why?” question haha.
igotbirds: What led you to study art and design/illustration? Have you always created art? Myself included, I know many artists/designers have always drawn/painted as far back as they can remember. Was this the case for you?
Paul Ainsworth: Of course! I remember the drawing that stood out for me. I think my mother still has it. It was one of those “What do you want to be when you’re grownup?” type things in grade 2 or 3. I wanted to be a Police Officer and I drew a cop walking beside a cop car. I remember my mother saying, “Boy he sure looks like he’s walking!”. Made me think, “Hmm, I can make things look like something!” so I just kept drawing whenever I got the chance. I have no intention of becoming a Police Officer. Funny enough, my younger brother is actually a Police officer back home so he has fulfilled my early childhood dream. Oh well!
How I really got into drawing was when I was younger my mother tried to get me to join some book clubs. I didn’t care for the books. Sure they had great covers, but I needed visuals. Every Sunday after Mass, my parents would stop at this corner store for ice-cream and I always went for the comic books. My parents were ok with my love for comics because it was reading. Sure, it wasn’t page after page of text, but there was a story. Like any kid reading comics who love the art, I started to copy the artwork. I would never trace, I would do still-life of what I was reading. By the time I was in Grade 7 I was hooked.
Paul Ainsworth “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”
igotbirds: How did you get involved with the whole Poster Art Scene? We have heard from many, many designers that it’s a very difficult scene to break into. Was it a tough road for you?
Paul Ainsworth: It’s still is a tough road. There’s a lot of sacrifice involved in this gig. Time from family, time away from doing paycheque work but there’s some great benefits to it all. You just really need to keep up and push yourself to keep/make a name for yourself. I’ve done a lot of all nighters trying to balance my daily work schedules with my poster work only because of that fear. The worst feeling is when you miss out on a show that everyone is talking about, even more so when you’ve actually put in the work and the work just isn’t up to par with what you think should be submitted.
Oh right!! How I got involved?! Sorry, I go on tangents. When I had an office job working on subject matter that I would never personally choose to do, I would daydream a little about dream projects or just stuff that I would do if I had the choice. I’m a huge film buff and at the time a lot of film posters of different styles were showing up on Google image searches left and right. Olly Moss, Shepard Fairey, and a slew of amazing artists were doing gig posters and alternative film posters and I just wanted to create some on my own. I originally created a poster for The Hunt for Red October. It wasn’t terribly great but it got me creating. I spoke to a Creative Director at one of the top advertising agencies in Canada about my book and he told me that I needed more Typography. He said, “Maybe pick a favourite movie or book and recreate the artwork typographically.” So I did a couple. He loved them. The “Beetlejuice” one still had a little bit of imagery that fed my illustration needs and really got me seriously thinking about poster art. Eventually I found a gallery that was showing a number of Artist and was really young in the world of poster art. I approached Joe Bouganim at Bottleneck Gallery in New York about getting involved and he loved how diverse my portfolio was. He wanted to see something that was more poster related and at the time, I just created my “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” piece and he loved it, so he added me to the list and from there on, it has been a life of networking, art community involvement, gallery shows, commissions and flat out fun for me.
igotbirds: What challenges have you faced in creating a print based on a film? Specifically, have you faced issues with film rights, print runs, etc…?
Paul Ainsworth: Can I answer “no comment” and just explain in an email? Haha! This industry, like all industries, have rules, regulations and suggestions. As long as you play nice and don’t step outside that thin red line, you’re golden. Unfortunately, like any other industry, once you step out of bounds there might be some flags on the field. It’s a learning process for a lot of us. I’ve dealt with a number of corporate and entertainment industries throughout my career, let alone in the Poster world, on a number of different issues and because my poster work is not my bread and butter, I play nice. Only in the recent couple of years, from what I have deducted, have the studios taken interest in our little community of artists and started giving us some taste of the big time. Actors and staff in the film industry all love what we do and don’t hold back on giving us the thumbs-up. “The suits” however are the ones that really care if we’re doing things the right way. It’s also “the suits” that will be the ones that give us the opportunity to do some big legitimate work. You can’t blame any of these folks for sticking to their guns and there’s really no sense in fighting it. I’ve heard of some artists really getting hit hard by these issues and it can get into some heavy shit, and really I can go on and on about this subject, but again, I’m still pretty new at all this, but I know the boundaries and I want to stay within them.
Paul Ainsworth “Back to The Future”
igotbirds: Your “Back To The Future” print is just awesome! Could you tell us a little about your process? Do you start out with hand drawn illustrations and then scan those into the computer to work in Illustrator/Photoshop?
Paul Ainsworth: First thing I do when I create a poster is watch the film. This is probably the best part of the process. Even if I’ve seen the movie a hundred times, I throw it in again and just get inspired. It’s easy to create a scene when creating sequential art (comics) because you have other frames and shots to support the flow of your storyline. In film posters, it all boils down to one shot. You have create interest in the viewer to want to see the film whether it’s for the first time, or to see it again. So I draw layouts as I watch. I do small thumbnail sketches and plan things out. Drew Struzan mentioned in a documentary that he studied for years on nailing down his technique and his ways of creating likeness, but only through film poster art did he realize that he has to learn how to turn over artwork as quick as possible with his signature, so that the studios can have their say in the process. Like many others in this industry, it’s my side work. I need to quickly do things so that my freelance work doesn’t get hindered or I’m not up all night worrying if Marty’s nose is “button” enough! So on the project or layout I’ve decided to go with I make sure the likeness is there first and foremost. So I find as much reference material as I can. I use Illustrator mostly when it comes to my work. Photoshop is brought in only to add effects if I’m not doing a screen print. If the project is worthy of a screen print (which is costly at times) I have to make sure every colour is set properly and all the traps don’t have issues. Sorry for the shop talk there. Screen printing is a science on it’s own and I am nowhere close to being as great as say a Chris Garofalo when it comes to screens, but I’m getting better. I even had a printer tell me I did 95% of his work. I was so proud of myself. I’ll get it to 100% soon I swear.
“Fargo” by Paul Ainsworth
igotbirds: What artists/designers influence you? Are there designers in the Poster Art Scene whose work you really enjoy?
Some folks whose work I love looking at and who keep me excited about doing this are Chris Garofalo, Matt Ferguson, Matt Tobin, Salvadore Anguiano, Sam Ho, PJ McQuade, Orlando Arocena and pretty much all of my fellow Poster Posse crew.
igotbirds: When you’re in the process of designing a Film Poster, what’s a typical work day like for you?
Paul Ainsworth: Well, because it’s not my actual work, it’s usually a nighttime thing. I won’t bore you with “Feed the little one before day care then off to the gym” stuff, but when I get to work on the poster stuff, I usually either put the movie I’m working on in and minimize it, or I listen to it’s soundtrack so that it’s constantly in my head and yea, just work away. Red eyes and all. I’m not a great coffee drinker. The crashes are hard to handle, so I try to eat well throughout the day to keep energy levels up. When it comes to the process, the layout and overall design is the hardest part of it all. Technique can be treated differently and I’m still in a discovery mode and try different things, but if the design isn’t right, I fold. I worked on a piece for Hero Complex Gallery recently really hard and it just wasn’t to snuff with what I usually do. I had great expectations and it fell short and it really bummed me out. Not only to be part of a great group, but for Adam who works hard to organize these events.
“The Neverending Story” by Paul Ainsworth
igotbirds: We saw you recently released a Poster based on “The Neverending Story“, which is a fabulous print, by the way. What other releases do you have in the pipeline? Is there a “dream” film you would love to design a poster for?
Paul Ainsworth: If I had the luxury of having all the time in the world and no worries of supporting my family with my day-to-day work, I would create works for titles like “InnerSpace”, “Backdraft”, “The Crow” and yeah…the list goes on. I love film and combining that with my love of illustrating and design is just fun. As far as other releases in the books, I have been invited by Gauntlet Gallery in San Francisco to join their show entitled “Daft Punk Deux” which was a huge success last year and I hope to bring something great to the table. Plus I’m a huge Daft Punk fan so that helps. I have one show with Hero Complex Gallery that I’m not sure if it has gone public yet, but I know the subject matter I’m going to be working on will be really fun. I’m not sure if I’m more excited about watching the movie a number of times, or doing the work. Either way, there are a number of gallery shows and who knows what else in store. Getting involved and continuously doing new work open doors all the time. I keep telling people when they don’t find opportunities that they have to create their own and something will definitely come of it.
“The Walking Dead” by Paul Ainsworth
Paul Ainsworth “Flight of The Navigator”
Paul Ainsworth “Pacific Rim”
Paul Ainsworth “Twenty-Four by Thirty-Six”
igotbirds: Can you tell people where to find you online? Your Website, Twitter, Facebook…basically any area of the Web you want people to find you.
Once again, we would like to thank Paul Ainsworth for taking the time out of his schedule to speak with us. Paul will be one of the many illustrators featured in Kevin Burke’s upcoming documentary “Twenty-Four By Thirty-Six“. Please be sure to click on the links in our interview and check out Paul’s work at www.paidesign.net!