The former Paul Shipper Art blog has returned! As a features blog, it will take a behind the scenes look at the entertainment industry through the art of illustration. We aim to bring you a unique perspective from the art world, and to keep you informed about entertainment news, appearances and events surrounding the artists of film poster illustration and their work. Leading on from this mission, my first task as the features writer is to introduce you to the face behind the words, and it is here that I will attempt it through my experiences of the entertainment industry and a couple of movies that stood out in my childhood highlighting the work of Bob Peak (Excalibur) and Carl Ramsey (Poltergeist).
Growing up in the US in the 80s and 90s, I was inspired by the characters from adventurous plots and mysterious storylines swathed in the enchanting sets of cinema. These films, though not always historically accurate, were full of mystery, adventure, the supernatural and a dash of horror. They made an indelible mark on my inquisitive mind and led me on a sure path to examine ancient mythology. The allure that cinema had encouraged me to examine history on a much deeper level and forgave the historical tangles and (mis)representations that it portrayed. Movies for me, as a child, went hand in hand with their visual and iconic artwork that appeared on their VHS cassette boxes and posters in the local video stores. I rarely went to the cinema growing up, so I understood the long duration of wait time between the big screen release in the cinemas to its arrival at the local video rental store. A high box office earner at a video store would claim an entire wall display and I can recall on many visits there would be ‘no rental copy available’ disappointment. In the event of this, I would examine the shelf video box scanning over its front cover art and (re)reading the movie synopsis on its reverse. Sometimes a video store clerk would just happen to return a top title back on the shelf and I would be there at the right time!
My family are comic-book fans which encouraged my imagination to paint a world around me where anything was possible. I was often outside playing superheroes and ‘fake fighting’ either as Storm, Kitty Pryde or as my own created comic-book character Deadly Princess Kelee to defeat those invisible bad guys. Whether I was performing family comedy skits, or digging for creepy crawlies and catching lightening bugs, it was rare that a weekend would go past that I wasn’t sitting in front of the television enjoying a daytime episode of Star Trek, I Love Lucy, The Munsters or one of the many classic television reruns.
Some of my fondest memories were of my mom rushing to make a massive bowl of popcorn before Doctor Who began, an entertainment family tradition. Like many, the tradition of television and movies wove itself into my family’s everyday life. Two movies stand out instantly in my recollection when I think of family tradition and the 1980s, Excalibur and Poltergeist.
“Behold Excalibur! The sword of power! Forged when birds and beasts and flower were One with Man, and death was but a dream!” - Merlin (Excalibur, 1981)
The 1981 film Excalibur was a tale of King Arthur that combined an element of grit with enchantment, exemplifying how betrayal and drama surrounds any tale of epic proportions. My first striking memory of this movie was Bob Peak’s movie art on our VHS box. It was in the late 80s/early 90s when I remember looking at the fairytale-like enchantment of the light and colours. The arm of the Lady of the Lake and the glinting light reflecting off of the sword in Bob Peak’s art is just as enchanting as the scene in movie. Comparatively, the film was a less misty-eyed version of King Arthur to what you might have read or watched as a child. O Fortuna, the theme of King Arthur’s ride will always be synonymous with this moment. I remember watching Nicol Williamson’s performance as Merlin, each word would rise and fall in every scene, you could not help but share in the sense of being scolded alongside the characters that he spoke to. Helen Mirren was that day forward known as Morgana in my mind and Nicol Williamson as Merlin. This movie swirled a fantastical vision of mythology with a realistic tone. The film made the mystical seem less dreamlike and more a possibility by exhibiting the natural human flaws in personal choice and consequences.
From historical mythology to modern phenomena, the 1982 movie Poltergeist depicted paranormal experiences coming to life where a family draws on their own bond and strength to overcome the unusual events that befall around them. There was a slight documentary feel, not too unlike Close Encounters, which saw the development of paranormal activity through the family’s day to day routine. The name Carol Anne was often uttered in my household followed by warnings of not to go into the light. A snowy television screen often prompted a quote or two from the movie, an iconic image captured by the movie poster by Carl Ramsey. I was both scared and in awe of Poltergeist.
“There is no death. It is only a transition to a different sphere of consciousness.” - Tangina (Poltergeist, 1982)
Poltergeist is a family classic which only added to our shared tales about phenomena and ghost stories. This movie gave me a sense of how a strong bond can guide you through the most complex of situations, it is just a matter of knowing when to stay away from and when to walk towards the light.
Television, movies and its accompanied artwork has made such a strong impression on me as an individual. It is our experiences through the arts that help us identify our interests and even our prospective career path. I welcome you to this new blog series and I look forward to sharing more Movies & Memories with you in the coming weeks.