We sat down with Lucasfilm Star Wars illustrator Brian Rood. He shared his unique approach to blending digital and traditional media, and what his workflow looks like with Astropad Studio.
You singlehandedly illustrated a complete retelling of the Star Wars franchise for Lucasfilm. What was that like?
The storybook project is composed of roughly 80 or more illustrations per film. They’re the most extensive illustrated retelling of the Star Wars franchise in history. Lucasfilm Press publishes the books internationally and turns them into every facet of a storybook product, like 300-page hardcovers, read-along books for kids, coloring books — all kinds of stuff.
Some of the storybooks, like Episode Seven, were done simultaneously while the movie was being filmed. It was a very behind-the-scenes, confidential process.
Recently Time Magazine approached me about doing their Special Edition Star Wars 40th Anniversary cover. We acknowledged that everybody’s favorite bad guy would be a big part of this illustration, and I also wanted to bridge the generations with the Droids from the original and new trilogies.
I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to devote a large portion of my career to creating artwork for one of my all-time favorite film franchises. I’ve been able to dive really deep into the Star Wars universe and discover aspects of the story that I didn’t realize existed.
How do you blend traditional and digital mediums in your art?
My studio literally has two sides to it: I’ve got the big messy side where I throw paint, and then I have the side that stays clean with my iMac, my iPad Pro, and a 44” Giclee printer.
I spent 15 years painting traditionally before I ever dove into the digital realm. Working digitally allows me to get my work done much faster. You really have to go digital now, it’s what everyone’s doing coming out of school.
Still, I really like to keep elements of traditional painting in all of my pieces. So I’ve been printing off my work using museum-grade Giclee papers and archival inks, then finishing it with traditional mediums, such as airbrush, acrylics, watercolor, or colored pencils. I’m able to incorporate my traditional art in every piece I create digitally.
For example, I did about 50% of the Time Magazine cover in Photoshop on my iPad using Astropad Studio. At a certain point, it’s time to put down the digital tools and pick up the brushes. So I printed it out on my large format studio printer and then finished it up with acrylic details, watercolor washes, texturing mediums and colored pencils. Then I scanned it back in, and color-corrected utilizing my iMac, Astropad Studio, and Photoshop. Once I had a high-resolution, color-corrected image, it was ready to send into Time Magazine.
You never stop learning as an artist, and the right set of tools makes any job easier and more enjoyable. Astropad Studio merges the power of your main computer with the intuitiveness of the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. It’s a perfect marriage — a lightweight, comfortable, and powerful graphics tablet.
I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of integrating traditional painting with modern technology. It has unleashed unlimited creative freedom for me. You never stop learning as an artist, and the right set of tools makes any job easier and more enjoyable. Astropad Studio merges the power of your main computer with the intuitiveness of the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. It’s a perfect marriage — a lightweight, comfortable, and powerful graphics tablet.
What’s a typical studio day like for you?
I spend the first hour or two every morning with coffee drawing on my iPad. I like to do some illustrating at my kitchen table or outside on a nice day before I buckle down in the studio.
I typically spend 12+ hours a day between the digital studio and the traditional paint studio. If it wasn’t for Astropad Studio, I would still be tethered to the office, always sitting in an office chair and hunching over a computer. I love the fact that I can get out of the studio and spend the evening with my family. It’s great to watch a little TV with the family in the evening and simultaneously get a little bit of work done if necessary.
If it wasn’t for Astropad Studio, I would still be tethered to the office, always sitting in an office chair and hunching over a computer. Astropad has become an integral part of every single day.
Last night, my kids were decorating the Christmas tree, but I still had a bunch of work to get done. So I brought out the iPad Pro and I was sitting on the couch, having family time while working on a deadline. Astropad has become an integral part of every single day.
Ok, last question: if you could be any character that you’ve illustrated, who would you be?
Ooh, it’s a toss-up. Either Han Solo or Boba Fett. Those two guys seem to have it going on. But I think Han lives longer, so we’ll go with Han.