The following is an Neatorama-exclusive interview with Matt Busch, the "Rock Star of Illustration" (a tagline given to him by Real Detroit Weekly), who's famous for his Star Wars drawings, and more recently, the Zombie posters series. I met Matt at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego and was immediately impressed by his art (Don't let the "rock star" nickname mislead you, Matt's actually super nice guy.)
Here's a quickie interview with Matt Busch, as conducted by our very own David Israel:
NEATORAMA: For many years, you've been creating "official" Star Wars art and illustrations. This is, of course, a geek-artists wet dream job. How'd you score it?
Matt Busch: Way back in 1994. Hard to believe I’ve been doing it for over 15 years! It’s kind of an odd story when I managed to get West End Games (one of the Star Wars licensees working with Lucasfilm at the time) to look at a script I had written. They didn’t need artists but I decided to illustrate my story anyway. They didn’t care for my story much, but they did like my art. I was told they’d keep my work on file, but actually got a call the very next day when another artist flaked out. The rest is history.
Episode 3 - Drawing
NEATORAMA: You've got an awesome series called You Can Draw Star Wars. Some of the vids have been seen tens of thousands of times. Tell us about them, their inception, the purpose, etc.
MB: They combine my three loves, Star Wars, drawing, and teaching. So to say I’ve had a blast doing them has been an understatement. The videos began as a side project to help promote the book You Can Draw Star Wars, which was written by Bonnie Burton, and illustrated by Tom Hodges and yours truly. I was asked if I could make a couple quick videos of me sketching some Star Wars characters. The way I saw it, if I was given the green light from Lucasfilm to create official videos, I wanted to go all out and do a top notch job. The videos have definitely been a huge milestone in my career. I have two more left to do, which will complete the 21 video series.
NEATORAMA: Of all the Star Wars characters, who's the hardest to draw?
MB: Vader. Drawing all the planes of his face and helmet is extremely difficult. If you don’t get each angle correct, it doesn’t look like him any more. I’d say See Threepio is a runner up, though. He’s so reflective, but if you focus too much on the contrast, it won’t look like him any more.
NEATORAMA: You work in a lot of different mediums, acrylics, pencil, etc. Which do you prefer?
MB: Mostly because I get bored. I like to experiment and play around with different mediums and techniques. For regular drawing, I like to use lead holders with 2B leads- that way my pencil always stays the same length. For painting, I prefer acrylics. They dry quick, are non-toxic, and the colors last longer than any other paint.
Matt Busch's Zombie Posters (signed series - NeatoShop Exclusive) - $19.95
NEATORAMA: What's the deal with the zombie posters? They seem to be really big suddenly.
MB: Zombies have always been cool, it’s just the last year or so that the rest of the world have caught on. Last year, Lucasfilm asked me to do something that infused Star Wars and zombies, so my first reaction was to do the classic Star Wars posters zombified. That was a big hit, and everyone started emailing me asking when we were going to see zombie Indiana Jones, and zombie Harry Potter. So it kind of grew into this big project I have called Hollywood is Dead. There are nearly 30 posters in the collection now, with many more on the way.
Matt Busch's Zombie Posters
NEATORAMA: Let's back up. When did you first realize you had some serious talent?
MB: No such thing as talent. People hate when I say that, but it’s absolutely what I believe. I think what people call talent, I call “when inspiration meets perspiration.” Meaning, you need to be inspired and passionate, and you need to put in the effort and do the hard work. If you don’t have both ingredients, you got nothing. You mix those two together… Instant talent!
NEATORAMA: Talk a little about your background. Did you train at an art school?
MB: Yeah, I’ve studied at numerous art schools, but I spent most of my time building my chops in the Media and Communication Arts Department at Macomb College here in Michigan, studying Illustration and Film at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, and studying Entertainment Art at the Los Angeles Art Academy. Because I dig teaching so much, I’m back at Macomb College on the other side of the desk. I’m actually a professor. Haha!
NEATORAMA: Okay, back to the present. You had the honor of having a droid figure named after you: MB-RA-7. What did that feel like?
MB: That was very surreal, but definitely cool. Truth be told, when Hasbro named the figure MB-RA-7, they just asked Lucasfilm for a name other than “Death Star Droid.” Looking through their files, Lucasfilm noted that the Droid that taught the How to Draw Star Wars exercises in Star Wars Kids Magazines was called MB-RA-7. These were a series of articles that were written and illustrated by myself, but I no one really knew that the MB stood for Matt Busch. It’s still cool, but it’s not like Hasbro awarded me with my name on a figure or anything.
NEATORAMA: What was it like drawing Obama? Did you work off a photo or did he model for you, old-school style?
MB: Ha! No, I worked from several photos and stitched them together. I did get some weird hassle from his peeps, though. They kept getting paranoid, like I was sneaking anti-Obama secret messages in the art. I think they didn’t like the idea of using an artist whose last name is Busch.
NEATORAMA: Tell me about the film Conjure, which you pretty much made all by yourself. How'd you get the idea?
MB: The idea kind of exploded when visiting my manager at the time, who lived in this crazy-cool castle in North Hollywood. My idea was to give the illusion that all the creepy stuff that I drew would manifest and come to life. It’s a unique spin on a haunted house kind of film. The movie was really more of an experiment, but kept getting better and bigger. In the end, I was able to nab both national and international distribution on DVD.
NEATORAMA: With the success of Conjure, are you moving more toward film now? What can we expect in the future?
MB: Yes, but knew that I wanted to hone my filmmaking chops, so I could come back bigger and better. The You Can Draw STAR WARS series has been an incredible Film School for me, as each episode has its own flavor to it. My next film will be less of an experiment, and more of a concise plan to hopefully dazzle and delight. I’m going to take my time with it, so I guess we’ll see.
NEATORAMA: Anything you wish we'd asked?
MB: Yes, I’m a little bummed out that you didn’t ask about my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I make the best chocolate chip cookies this side of tattooine!