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Art Sims: Red Tails Poster Artist

Red Tails poster artist Art Sims
When it comes to memorable movie poster imagery, it's a pretty safe bet that at least one Star Wars or Indiana Jones title will rate pretty high on one's list of favorites. No small part of a poster's memorability is owed to the popularity of those films, of course, but the artwork itself -- imagery that by design must capture the essence of a movie in an instant -- deserves some special praise, composed by the incredible talents of artists like Drew Struzan, Tom Jung, Roger Kastel, and Kazo Sano.

For Lucasfilm's latest cinematic endeavor -- Red Tails -- that legacy of memorable movie poster graphics lives on in the stunning artwork of Art Sims.

As CEO of 11:24 Design in Los Angeles, Sims has overseen the print campaigns for several Spike Lee productions, including Clockers, Do the Right Thing, and Malcom X, as well as Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple, among others.

For Red Tails, Sims wanted to honor the tradition of Lucasfilm's legacy of movie poster illustration, but offer it in a fresh, unexpected way.

"We absolutely didn't want it to make it look like previous [WWII-type] blockbuster one-sheets," says Sims, who cites the action of the Red Tails movie trailers as the inspiration for his teaser poster composition. "I did some research on previous Lucasfilm campaigns, and action seemed to be the trademark to Lucas imagery -- it's their brand of recognition. So when I was looking at the aerial effects that were in the trailer, I thought we really needed to capture that excitement. The planes are turning, flying over other planes, shooting down others -- it kind of had an aerobatic 'ballet in the sky' kind of feel."

That "ballet in the sky" was effectively captured by Sims' use of a tilted horizon on the teaser poster as well as the deliberate but delicate positioning of the planes within the frame, all working to deliver a high-impact, elegant image (Sims' teaser poster is shown at left -- click here to view the final release one-sheet).

The painterly look of the digitally-composed illustrations also harks back to the romantic style of some iconic World War II aerial illustrators. "I was inspired by artists like Troy White, Robert Taylor, and artists who painted tributes to aerial dogfights," says Sims, who claims he wanted to capture the look of a photograph with an "over-the-top" animated feel to it. "They felt very heroic, the way these paintings were done. I thought they were probably inspired by the stories pilots told about their heroic efforts, since there were no cameras to capture the romance and beauty of some of these dogfights, which must have been spectacular."

For Sims, the Red Tails poster project represents a personal milestone for both him and his company, 11:24 Design. "I think it's the biggest project I've ever done for my company," he says. "I mean I've worked on The Color Purple, Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, etc., but Lucas to me was the pinnacle. I always wanted to work for a Lucasfilm production, so to me, this is the best one-sheet I've ever done. And the response has been great from all the fans of Lucasfilm productions over the years. People were actually going in and dissecting the art from a critical standpoint. I've never had that with other films I've worked on. It was an honor to work on it."

You can check out some of Sims' other poster compositions at Red Tails will be released on January 20, 2012.