Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our one hundred and thirty-eighth guest has done licensed work on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Transformers, G.I.Joe and more – Steve Anderson.
Lightsabre – Steve, welcome to Lightsabre.
Lightsabre – You’re artwork is a regular and constant fixture in the Star Wars galaxy, adorning book covers, guide books, bookmarks and even the inside of the 30th anniversary figures coin collection box. When did your career as an artist begin?
SA – I started right out of college doing t-shirt designs at a major t-shirt company in Kansas City called Artex. After several years there, I moved to the world headquarters of Hallmark Cards where I stayed for over ten years on the creative staff. I started off in Package Design, transferred to the calendar and puzzle division after about five years, then into the licensing division. That’s where I first started working on Star Wars related items which ignited a passion I hadn’t previously had. I eventually left Hallmark and have been freelancing for Lucasfilm and others ever since.
Lightsabre – What kick-started your interest in Star Wars?
SA – An afternoon in 1977.
I grew up in a city of six thousand, and on weekend nights our local theater was the only place to be to escape the confines of our small town. Within minutes of the Star Wars movie starting, I was transported from my small town theater to the endless reaches of outer space, to the vast moisture farms of Tatooine, and into a world where an evil space slug gangster named Jabba the Hutt ruled the land. I had seen many movies there before, but none of them transported me out of my seat like Star Wars.
SA – It’s different depending on if it’s a portrait or a multi-character collage. For portraits, I start off by deciding how much of the person I want to show- how it’s cropped. Sometimes really zooming in on the face is compelling, but other times doing a bust shot is more appropriate. They might be wearing something something visually interesting that you would like to include, or it might be something crucial that helps expand upon the character. Most of the backgrounds for my portraits are abstract. I usually have a vague idea of what I want to do when I start, and usually start off as planned, but then I just experiment and have fun until I like it. I give myself license to let accidents happen, and then try to work those in.
It’s funny, and this might happen to many artists, but occasionally you’ll have a piece you just can’t get going, something is just not right and you can’t figure out what it is, so you have to just keep working it, and then finally something you do suddenly clicks. You get excited again and you’re off and running. Then it seems to take a life of it’s own and you can’t stop working on it even though it’s 3 am. A little blue over here, a little more contrast to the characters eyes, a little more saturation on the bottom half and so on until everything feels right… or your deadline’s up.
SA – Yes, I had a fantastic time. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hang around after the convention to explore London like I wanted. I’ve been to many parts of Europe, but I really wanted to see some of the sites in and around London. I struck up several friendships during the con as well as some after hours in the pubs and streets around the ExCel Center, and some of those memories I’ll keep forever. I found all the people in London to be incredibly nice, sincere, and fun to be around.
Lightsabre – As well as your Star Wars art, what other works do you produce?
SA – I’ve done a lot of varied work for Hasbro Games the last ten years. It started with Star Wars, and then slowly branched out into other areas. For them I’ve done a handful of Lord of the Rings puzzles in tins, the Lord of the Rings box tops for the games Stratego, Risk and Trivial Pursuit. A Marvel Heroes chess set that never made it to production, four Transformers puzzles and a game, a Disney-Pixar Monopoly, a Spider-Man Monopoly, several action figure packages, a Barack Obama Commemorative Puzzle and several other items. For the new G.I. Joe movie coming out this August, I just finished a collector card that will go into a 4-pack of figures exclusive to K-Mart. A larger version of the art may also be used as store signage. I also just finished the cover art for the official G.I. Joe movie novelization for Random House. The rest of the book cover art has been for Star Wars.
For Lucasfilm, I’ve created styleguide art for classic Indiana Jones as well as the new Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
I’m also one of the artisans for one of my favorite companies in the verse, Quantum Mechanix. Quantum sells a 4-piece portrait poster set I did for Joss Whedon’s movie Serenity, as well as a couple of portrait posters I did. One is of Starbuck named “Eyes of the Prophet” and a Number Six poster called “Deus Ex Machina” from the new reimagined Battlestar Galactica series.
SA – Well… I thought it was the best of the three prequels, but I would have liked Padme to have a bigger role. I thought the previous two started off slower whereas Revenge started off with the huge, exciting space battle. I’ve come to appreciate The Phantom Menace as the years have passed, especially when I watch it with my son. Revenge was great because it bridged the gap between the two trilogies, gave more meaning to a lot of things, and rounded all the main characters out. Now when I watch the classics, I see them differently. I think it was actually a brilliant move to go back in time to see what made Vader turn to the dark side. It sometime feels like George had that plan the whole time.
Lightsabre – Tell us of your interests outside of your artwork and Star Wars.
SA – I love going to the beach, hiking, travelling with my family, riding my bike downtown along the river, playing basketball, skiing and see great flicks.
SA – I think the Cartoon Network Clone Wars series is absolutely brilliant. There wasn’t anything even close to how action packed and dense each episode is.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with for the live action series. Although I think the bar has been set incredibly high with the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, and, without any of the main characters, it’s going to be tough.
Lightsabre – Which of the many characters you have worked on is your favourite?
SA – I used to dislike doing Vader because he’s hard to work in with humans sometimes, but now he’s probably one of my favorites to do a single portrait of. If I had to do one over and over, it’d be Padme.
Lightsabre – What lies ahead for you in the future?
SA – I’m freelance and the economy sucks right now, so God only knows but I have just been confirmed to be a stand-in for Harrison Ford in his new movie Crowley. I’m 6’1″, the exact same as him, so I think that helped a lot. I have less than a week to adjust from artist late night hours to early mornings on the set.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. Yoda, Gollum and Dobby the House Elf are playing poker. All are in the the last hand. Gollum is out of cash and puts in The One Ring, Yoda a Holocron and Dobby the Goblet of Fire. They all have killer hands, but which two fold and why?
SA – Gollum: “I’m putting in The One Ring.”
Yoda: “You don’t want to put in The One Ring.”
Gollum: “Um, I don’t wanna put in The One Ring.”
Yoda: “You want to fold and go back to your cave and rethink your life.”
Gollum: “I wanna fold and go back to my cave and rethink my life.”
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 12th April 2009.