By Ashleigh Stevenson

Digitally illustrated/designed movie posters are everywhere. However, things were not always that way, with the art of hand drawn movie posters remembered fondly by many, including illustrator Mark Raats, who, after a dalliance with digital, now prefers to create his works the old-fashioned way, using pencils and paints.

“I think that in certain genres of movies, a traditional hand drawn poster is still very important,” Mark tells us after his illustration inspired by SOLO: A Star Wars Story was blown up as a billboard to promote the upcoming cinema release. “I’m not saying necessarily for every movie. For example, if somebody asked me to do a poster for The Martian with Matt Damon, I’d probably say you can do that digitally because it’s a modern story and a modern movie and I wouldn’t have too much of an issue with that being a digital composition. However, with something as classic as Star Wars or Indiana Jones, the franchises that I’ve worked on, or the Marvel stuff that I’ve done for Stan Lee, those should be traditional art.”

And what’s his favourite movie poster? “Jaws,” he answers without pause. “You’ve got a simple solution, a real solution that tells the entire story at a glance and I don’t believe that has ever been surpassed.”

Perth based Raats first worked for Lucasfilm more than 25 years ago, and the work has included a teaser poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a 30th anniversary poster for Return of the Jedi, and even the official poster for the IMAX and Blu-ray release of Raiders of the Lost Ark. George Lucas has personally purchased most of the original art Raats has created for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, and the artist recently completed a privately commissioned illustration for Stan Lee. In this highly digitised age, not bad for someone whose medium of choice for his illustrations is a marker pen, gouache pant and coloured and graphite pencils.

Harking back, it was a dream of Mark’s to work for Lucasfilm. “I loved the stories and I loved the way Star Wars had been made, and I decided then and there that I needed to work for George Lucas.”

When it was announced that a film was being made about Han Solo, Mark was sceptical at first. “I have drawn Harrison [Ford] probably a thousand times over the years that I’ve been working on Star Wars and Indiana Jones so to me, Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones or Han Solo. But I have to be honest, after working on this poster and seeing the trailers that are coming out, I’m very excited about it. I think it’s going to be an awesome movie and I’m also really happy that it appears that Alden [Ehrenreich], having taken over the reigns from Harrison has really done his job, it really looks like it’s going to be a fantastic show.”

Mark’s latest illustration can now be seen on a billboard in Melbourne’s CBD, on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth St, to be precise. And he reckons this is the highlight of his career. “I’ve been very lucky, for example, the Raiders of the Lost Ark piece I did that was used extensively but I have to be honest, this is another level entirely. I mean, to take up the side of a whole building with poster art that I’ve done, I’d have to be made of stone to pretend that it didn’t matter. It matters a lot and I’m very, very proud of the fact that it’s been done. I am honoured that Disney felt that it added enough value to the franchise to be able to do that because they really seem to have embraced it very well.”

For more on Mark Raats, head over to his website.

SOLO: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas May 24

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