Cristina Jurado, our all-time favorite collaborator, brings us today an extremely interesting interview with concept artist Paul Gerrard. It was originally published in Spanish on the miNatura magazine and on Cristina's blog, Más ficción que ciencia, and I am deeply thankful to them for the permission to reproduce it here in English.
Paul Gerrard (http://www.gerrardart.com) is a concept artist, which means that much of his work –thousands of sketches, illustrations and outlines – will never be known by the public. Without them though, a lot of films and videogames could not capture the attention of studios and, ultimately, audiences.
Gerrard was born in Liverpool. In his twenties he decided to focus on his passion: the digital arts. He says that he did not have much of a choice: he could not afford to paint big canvases because that requires too much space. So he bought a computer, which became his main working tool. His career started in the 90s in the gaming industry, becoming Art Director for Unisoft UK. Filmmaker Jonathan Liebesman contacted him to pitch various projects, among those “Battle: Los Angeles”. The British designer has been working on movies since then, creating and shaping impossible creatures from other worlds. Right now he is developing a new version of “Hellraiser”, hoping that the project will came to life in the near future. Cristina Jurado has interviewed him to learn more about his work and the way he faces it.
Cristina Jurado: I have read somewhere that you are a self-taught artist. It is mind blowing to learn that you have not formal training. How did you manage to develop your craft?
Paul Gerrard: I would say I was taught by a great deal of artists. Through books I would study illustrations over any technical applications. Simply study with awe the works of Bob Eggletton, Melvyn Grant, Chris Foss, etc. That whole generation kept me entertained for a millennium. From them I learned to paint, from paint to digital was simply a natural progression over the years. Developing a person style and preference along the way. Something that I feel is lost when taught by a specific path and specific techniques as they do in many professional courses these days. At the end of the day technique and training is irrelevant without the imaginative spark. I would hire imagination over technique any day of the week.
Cristina Jurado: We used to talk about painters, illustrators and sculptors when thinking about visual arts. Now we talk about concept artists, art directors, visual designers or model maker artists. Specialization has come through advances in technology. What are the aesthetic implications of specialization in your work?
Paul Gerrard: I do not paint illustrations, I paint cognitive explorations. The images I present are a springboard for your own mind to explore a wealth of worlds. Through symbolism and sub-conscious imagery. The extraordinary amount of research that goes into the visual connotations of the mind via color, shape, and hidden texture would surprise many. In particularity I work with the psychology of preexisting images of myths buried deep in the subconscious. Taking that information from the viewer and presenting it in different ways. In terms of movie 'concept art' this process is somewhat limited depending on who is in control of the brief. I can however find many ways to work the process into most designs. In terms of the Hellraiser images, these are the most esoteric, psychologically driven designs I have ever produced in my life.
Cristina Jurado: You have been working as a concept artist for more than 15 years. How has the industry changed over the years?
Paul Gerrard: The formulas of movies haven’t changed a great deal. The scope of imagery we can explore has. This is a direct result of CG. As an imaginer I can present 900-foot creatures, I can present worlds that are made from a billion interlocking animals. All of which can be made and made well. That has not always been the case and your scope was somewhat limited depending on budget. CG of course has its many flaws in particularly when moviemakers use it instead of real people and close-ups. I am still an old school fan of prosthetics but you must have a balance to make it work for your audience.
Cristina Jurado: In your own words, yours is fusion art. There is a continuous dialogue between organic and mechanical forms that interact with each other in your illustrations. You explore the plasticity of matter, something considered rigid by everybody, in an almost intimate way. What artists and works in visual arts, literature and philosophy have influenced you?
Paul Gerrard: Beksinski and Giger are probably the most obvious ones, they have managed to make the fusion of bone and machine beautiful and organic. In terms of personal influence, more so Beksinski. An artist I came to in later years. Brian Froud is another that blends elements of nature with mythology and symbolism in a unique way. Others include Francis Bacon, Wojciech Siudmak, Spider Lee. The sculptors of Henry Moore, Mark Powell, Kris Kuksi. In literature I enjoy Arthur Machen, HP Lovecraft, Pascal Barre, Andy Sharrat, Paul Griffiths.
Cristina Jurado: After you accept a new project, how do you approach it?
Paul Gerrard: I have a process. I research, I consume, I meditate. In that order. After which I clear my mind and let whatever has formed bleed through onto the paper.
Cristina Jurado: What time of materials and equipment do you work with?
Paul Gerrard: I have two setups, one digital one traditional. A 24gig PC with a Wacom pen (which I use rarely). I work in Photoshop, no other software. Then an easel with 20x30 canvass boards, I work with acrylics and various glosses.
Cristina Jurado: Who really is the Cyberman that you designed for Dr. Who?
Paul Gerrard: He is the re-visioning of the classic character but he is insane!. That insanity has driven his biochemical engineering into overload. His inner turmoil, the constant battle of machine and man has manifested itself upon his fused alloy flesh.
Cristina Jurado: You have work on illustrations, videogames, and movies like Wrath of the Titans, Battle: Los Angeles or Hellraiser: Origins. Can you tell us a bit about your contribution in those films?
Paul Gerrard: I was the lead creature designer on Battle La along with major contributions to the machines, weapons and alien world. Battle LA started with a pitch, that pitch was driven by the director. Illustrated and design for all aliens, crafts, weapons by me. In fact the alien design despite going through a multitude of stages through per-production is very close to the original sketch done way back in the pitch stage. In various pitches to the studio movies and animation where created, I would model ships in 3d max. Illustrate lavish alien landscapes and various proposed alien designs.
For “Wrath of The Titans” my time was limited as I was penned in to work on the Epic and all consuming “Paradise Lost” by Alex Proyas. I created a number of first pass sketches for all the beasts in “Wrath of the Titans” which went on to inspire the final look of said creature. These initial sketches where very much 'out there' in that they where not your mainstream tainted incarnations, they where raw horror versions.
“Hellraiser: Origins” has been a long-term love affair with creating a reboot of the franchise. For over a year a very small team of friends and colleagues has pulled together to make this happen. We shot a teaser where an actor who I chose to play the role of Pinhead was enhanced with prosthetic by the same guys that worked on the first HR! Also the new costume was hand made by one the finest leather makers in the UK. The teaser was an epic event in itself, over 100 extras for a one-day shoot in London.
The teaser is only and added bonus to the main event i.e. the pitch document. A 50-page art/design/ technical exploration of a world, with synopsis and treatment of a story based in said world. The Pitch document has been shown to a few select industry bowfins as we undergo final touches and has already been described as one the most remarkable pitches and indeed stories they had ever come across. We present not only a new story, a new re envisioning of Pinhead and his chums, but we present an entire world literally and visually.
Now we just have to present to the studio and hope they like it and allow us to continue producing this movie. As previously mentioned, the artwork is the most esoteric art I have ever attempted. Every line, curve, symbol etched into the flesh of the character has meaning. Every piece of architecture has meaning. Those layers of visual are continued throughout the story, throughout the mythology presented.
Cristina Jurado: We would like to know more about your future projects.
Paul Gerrard: There are a few movies I worked on that are near complete. Ones, which I am looking forward to such as “Ninja Turtles” and “Seventh son". However, after he experience of “Hellraiser Origins” I believe my future is firmly in creating and pitching new movies of my own making. I will be doing less and less concept art for studios, more for small partnerships that have been formed. Pushing the boundaries of horror and fantasy, creating small scale movies at first then working up to taking on the big guns. Nothing I can release at the moment, lets just say whatever is created you can bet it will be something nobody has EVER seen before.
And now, we have few questions that just require a short answer:
Cristina Jurado: Star Wars or Disney?
Paul Gerrard: Star Wars
Cristina Jurado: Fast food or home made food?
Paul Gerrard: Home made food
Cristina Jurado: If you had to choose to be a character from a movie, which one would it be?
Paul Gerrard: Alex Garnder from “Dreamscape”
Cristina Jurado: Can you tell as the worst book you ever read?
Paul Gerrard: Cant remember, blocked from my mind
Cristina Jurado: And the best book you ever read?
Paul Gerrard: Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung
Paul Gerrard: Industrial
Cristina Jurado: 3D cinema, yes or not?
Paul Gerrard: No
Cristina Jurado: If you had to choose to have a super-power, which one would it be?
Paul Gerrard: Time Travel
About Cristina Jurado: Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue was published in 2012.