Interview: Artist Alex Ross Discusses Drawing The Beatles
When comic book fans mention their favorite artists, one of the names at the top of most lists is probably Alex Ross. His signature realistic style is easily recognizable, and often loved, which is why he's continued to work in the comic book industry since the 1990s.
However, even those not familiar with comic books probably know Ross' work. Not only has he worked in comics, but he's also done artwork for DVD packaging, various pieces of promotional art, covers for TV Guide, video game cover package design and even musical album artwork.
Ross' most recent project, though, takes his love of music and combines it with his art: Ross recently partnered with Apple Corps to create an ongoing series of limited-edition pieces based on The Beatles' 1968 animated film, Yellow Submarine. That film went on to inspire animation as a serious art form, and remains a hit with old and young film fans alike.
In an interview with Tech Times, Ross discusses this new work in detail, and also talks about how the comics industry has changed since he began his career several decades ago.
Taking on The Beatles project was a no-brainer for Ross: he's been a fan of their music for a long time and states that Yellow Submarine is still one of his favorite movies. When Apple Corps contacted him about doing original artwork, he could only answer "yes."
"Someone wanted to include my work as applied to The Beatles in a realistic illustration approach to the Yellow Submarine cartoon," said Ross. " Being a lifelong fan, raised on their music as well as that film, this idea was a perfect fit for me."
However, it wasn't always easy bringing the iconic musical group to life: because of the sheer number of fans the band has had throughout its long history, getting its look just right was important to the artist.
"The greatest challenge for me in drawing the Beatles is capturing their likenesses," said Ross. "Everyone can tell how well or not I did. Doing images of the four group members surrounded by aspects of either their songs or the story elements of Yellow Submarine is hugely inspirational for me. The Beatles' visual history is something I'm very steeped in, so there is a lot of material and images I want to draw from."
Ross also talked about his inspiration for each Yellow Submarine piece that he worked on.
"The idea of treating the Yellow Submarine film as a live-action feature with some mixed animation elements but mostly having the real Beatles there in costume seemed like the perfect fantasy project," he said. "I could play with the visuals of every person and object now seen through new dimension and definition. It's the film I would most like to see in CGI."
For comics fans, though, this departure from comic book art isn't permanent. Ross still has a lot of comics-related projects in the works.
"I am the monthly cover artist for Marvel's Avengers and Spider-Man comics, both of which I've been working on for a year," said Ross. "There will be a great number of collector prints I will produce in 2016 that will cover a number of popular subjects both inside and outside of comics."
However, things have changed since the 1990s, when Ross first got into the comics industry. If anything, though, Ross feels that the art in comic books now tends to favor more realistic styles, similar to his own.
"Because more and more film adaptations of comics material have come since the '90s, the artwork styles of the comics have come to reflect that influence, by using more detail or realistic styling," he said. "The industry has attempted to rekindle all the older, popular ideas and characters to stimulate sales when often new concepts aren't given enough support by readers and retailers. Comic books' greatest appeal still seems to be in their relation to well-known merchandise icons and outside commercial properties like films and video games."
Comics also provides Ross with his favorite piece of work that he's done.
"Some years ago in the late '90s I started work on a painting of the Legion of Super-Heroes that I had no set commission for, and luckily it was accepted and released by DC for the Warner Bros. Studio Stores to release as a print," said the artist. " I've always been pleased with how it turned out, and particularly that it was a labor of love that didn't have to go unseen."
For more details about Ross' work for The Beatles, as well as ongoing projects, visit www.alexrossart.com.