Movies have been capturing the imaginations of younger viewers for generations. George Lucas’ Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises were based on part from film serials he enjoyed as a kid in the 1950s.
UK-artist Paul Shipper can be included among those inspired, especially when it comes to the art created to promote the films. Growing up with the film posters of Drew Struzan adorning his bedroom wall, today Shipper follows in the iconic artist’s footsteps producing artwork for Star Trek, Star Wars and more.
Every Star Trek fan has an origin story, a moment where they realized they were a fan of the franchise. For most, it was discovering a series with their parents or when they were in school.
Count Shipper among the latter; he watched The Next Generation at first before branching out to the other television shows and films. Now at 40, Shipper is paid to create artwork in one of the fandoms he loves most.
Yet, it still took a few fortuitous occurrences for Shipper to begin his official career in the final frontier. With Star Trek Into Darkness about to hit theaters in 2013, websites Blurppy and Planet Pulp sought movie and franchise art for features they were doing on the film. Shipper saw this as a chance to promote his artwork while also illustrating something in which he was passionate.
“When the [first] J.J. Abrams movie came out I was disappointed in the poster that was released,” Shipper recalled. “But it wasn’t until Into Darkness that I decided to do [a poster]. I created one for Into Darkness and one for the first film. I did those, they went live, then viral; Simon Pegg got a hold of it and tweeted it to his millions of followers.”
“A few other people related from the film saw it and not long after IDW e-mailed me and asked if I would be interested in doing official covers for their comic books.”
IDW Publishing’s editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall reached out to Shipper to produce the cover art for the five-part series, Star Trek: Khan. After completing the job, he traveled to San Diego to meet the team at IDW, as just as he was leaving Ryall pulled him aside and asked he if was interested in more Star Trek work – this time covers for Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever mini-series (which we reviewed in 2014).
Those two jobs turned into more as IDW’s Star Trek Editor Sarah Gaydos brought Shipper into produce the covers for Star Trek: New Adventures Volumes 1-2. He was not finished with his time in the final frontier however, as Bye Bye Robot commissioned him in 2015 to create two limited edition prints on the Original Series.
“All the artwork I did for IDW had to be approved by the actors and CBS,” Shipper explained. “So it was always under the noses of CBS and I got to know those guys well. Out of the blue, Bye Bye Robot got in touch with me to do some limited edition prints for TOS.”
“CBS asked me to be a part of the 50th anniversary art show which is travelling the world at the moment. The art show was fabulous. A few of us [artists] who were able to be there were invited to attend the opening of the exhibition during San Diego Comic Con last year, the publisher’s of the art book which coincides with the travelling art exhibit had a booth and we all did a signing. We were besides ourselves about the book itself, as well as the gallery show.”
“The different styles and diversity in [Star Trek: 50 Artists, 50 Years] is so reminiscent of what Star Trek is about.”
Thirteen-year old Shipper would decorate his bedroom walls with his favorite movie posters. Before long, he came to realize they were all illustrated by the same person, Drew. A few years later he researched the name to discover Drew was none other than acclaimed movie poster artist Drew Struzan. More research led to Shipper learning he could do this as a career himself.
Stylistically, Shipper’s work is a lot like that of Struzan’s. In fact, a recent Huffington Post article about why Star Wars needs to return to Struzan-type illustrators for the franchise film posters included Shipper’s work as an example.
“I’ll take that as a huge compliment. I did not know who Drew was when I was younger. When I was a young teenager I started collecting these posters. Drew’s work was a huge inspiration as well as his contemporaries – Richard Amsel, Bob Peak and many more. I used to study Drew’s work by unrolling his one-sheet posters on my bedroom floor, taking out a magnifying glass and examining each image. It kind of became an obsession.”
“I’ve been drawing faces and people forever; it was always my favorite thing to draw growing up. I had a knack for capturing likenesses as well. As it turns out my great, great, great, great grandfather was an art forger, so perhaps I have that as part of my DNA.”
All of Shipper’s work is now produced digitally, but his background is much like Struzan’s – traditional pencil and airbrush. However, publishers began seeking digital images from artists in the early 2000s. With clients like Penguin Books and GQ Magazine inquiring if he worked digitally, Shipped realized if he wanted to work, he would need to move to the medium.
“I decided to see if I could emulate my style digitally. I had to figure out a way to make it work. I like technology (spoken like a true fan of TNG) and it excites and interests me. It was challenge to see how I could use the tools available at the time. I don’t want my work to look digital, like a photograph, but a painting.”
Right around the time Star Trek was hitting theaters in 2009, Shipper was commissioned for his first actual movie poster job – for Director Daryl Goldberg’s Made for Each Other, starring Patrick Warburton. Speaking with the director, Shipper learned Goldberg wanted a traditional movie poster, a physical poster. Luckily, although Shipper moved to the digital format, he would still paint, allowing him to easily capture the approach Goldberg sought.
The film, which also counted George Segal among its cast, provided a meaningful personal connection for Shipper. “The funny thing for me on a personal level was Drew Struzan’s very first movie poster starred George Segal – It was a sign!”
Commissioned work followed from various clients large and small over the years onto working directly with Hollywood key art design agencies, and more recently Empire magazine, Disney, and Lucasfilm for Star Wars (although his first job with Lucasfilm came in 2007).
An image he created for Empire’s Carrie Fisher tribute issue would go on to have a life of its own. When two artist friends reached out to him for their Leading Ladies Art Show, which opened February 25 in San Francisco, for something to include, Shipper had to turn them down due to his busy work schedule.
“I know Craig Drake and Luke Harrington. They emailed me about it, but I was so busy. Then it just kind of came to me, maybe this Carrie Fisher artwork could go into the show. They loved the idea. I said to them I want to give a portion of the poster sales to the charity we think Carrie Fisher would give money to and in Carrie’s name.”
Social media has become abuzz with his recently released image for this April’s Star Wars Celebration key art. Lucasfilm contacted him and asked if he would be interested in producing the badge and key art poster. Shipper said he only needed to think about the offer for about a half second.
“Star Wars is like the Star Trek universe, they are both so vast, with so many characters – it’s unbelievable really, so creating an indelible image that can attempt to encompass 40 years of storytelling for a franchise so dear to many of us was quite a challenge.”
Star Trek’s Impact
Tumultuous times have led people to spend their free time in the throes of activism across the globe. While these actions can ultimately lead to a positive impact on the world, people can form tunnel vision and forget everything else – which is understandable. However, art among other things is why it is so important to remember why people are campaigning for causes.
Star Trek has inspired so many people to do so many things in their lives – astronauts, doctors, scientists, etc. Yet, even those with other careers, such as an artist, do their parts for people during dark days.
“The world is a beautiful place. You can only hope that with the images artists create, it’s something that can transport you to somewhere, give you a feeling, emotion, touch you, make you feel different and sometimes escape. Art can inspire and broaden horizons. Art shouldn’t be forgotten just because we are going through a tough time – if anything, it’s more important than ever that we keep art alive. Besides, I don’t think it’s going anywhere anyway.”
“The really nice thing about Star Trek is it’s based on where our future may be going; people living in harmony, loving one another despite their race or wherever they come from. I like to think I’m a person who accepts people for who they are and doesn’t judge them or jump to conclusions. I like to think that came from Star Trek’s ideology.”
“Throughout school and college, I always tried to be as good a person as I could be. Even to this day I empathize, try to put myself in other people’s shoes, think before I speak, and be diplomatic. All of these qualities probably stemmed from my exposure to Star Trek.”
Shipper forgets the most obvious impact Star Trek and movies in general have had on him – the ability to follow his dreams. From that young boy hanging movie posters on his bedroom wall to the one that watched TNG, Shipper has is quickly earning his place alongside his idol as one of the prolific poster and print artists of his generation.
“I just feel like I’m scratching the surface. I have not reached the pinnacle of what I am capable of yet. I’m not quite even halfway to where I want to be.”
Spoken like a true Star Trek fan.
Check out Paul’s work at PaulShipperStudio.com.