7 Questions With Award-Winning Illustration Legend William Stout
William Stout is an award-winning artist of international renown in many fields: themed entertainment and motion picture design (specializing in science fiction/fantasy/horror effects films), comic book art, book illustration, poster design, CD covers, public murals, and dynamic yet accurate reconstructions of prehistoric life.
His endeavors in the field of motion pictures and comic book art have gained him a loyal following, making him a popular guest at comic book, science fiction and horror movie conventions around the world.
His huge, new book from Insight Editions, Fantastic Worlds – The Art of William Stout, thoroughly covers his fifty-year career as a working artist.
In today’s interview, William Stout – one of the most complete artists in the ink world, speaks about his latest release, trends in the illustration industry and gives advice to the young generation of illustrators.
He is by far the most modest man of his caliber I’ve ever had the honor to interview and a true inspiration to artists all over the spectrum.
To find out more about Artist William Stout, his art and his humanitarian work, please visit his official website.
Esther Rabbit: In 1995, you became the key character designer for the Walt Disney full length computer animated feature Dinosaur (released in 2000), in 1996 you designed “Edgar” the big bug in Men In Black, and let’s not forget your incredible designs for The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, Guillermo del Toro’s horror classic Pan’s Labyrinth, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige and Frank Darabont’s The Mist. If I’d be asking you all this out loud, I’d be out of breath by now…how did you manage to conquer the film industry and what other honorable mentions did I forget to add?
I don’t believe I’ve conquered the film industry. Right now, after two gigantic fights with Disney and Paramount, it often feels like the Film Biz has conquered me. It’s turned very, very nasty.
Most of the people who have prominent positions in the movie biz don’t seem to care much for movies. They tend to be more like attorneys or accountants in their approach to making films.
It was really fun making movies when I got into the business in the late 1970s. You (or a friend) thought up a movie and then you made it. It wasn’t quite that easy, but you get the idea.
It was very important to young film makers to have guys like Roger Corman or wildcat companies like Cannon Films around to give young film makers a chance to break into The Biz.
Looking back, I had enormous power in The Biz. I could get actors parts in films and hire anyone I wanted to work in the art department. I was invited to every private film screening.
If you saw the names and numbers in my old Rolodex, your jaw would drop. Back in my Conan days we shared offices with Steven Spielberg; Kathleen Kennedy was our receptionist; John Milius and Ron Cobb were my bosses and George Lucas was a readily accessible visitor. Those were the days!
Esther Rabbit: You’ve designed album covers for the Who and the Rolling Stones, among others. How has this helped you in your career?
Creating those LP covers was always really fun. I love music with a great passion. I have been in bands beginning when I was fourteen years old.
In the UK I am known more for my album covers than for my dinosaur art. The Who asked permission to use one of my Who bootleg LP covers as the picture disc image on their Odds and Sods CD.
Cat Stevens called me out of the blue and asked me to create the cover for his 12” LP Tell ‘Em I’m Gone a couple of years ago because his son had shown him my book Legends of the Blues. Music and art related to music will always be a vital part of my life.
Esther Rabbit: Muralist, illustrator, comics artist, poster designer, you’re one of the most complete artists the ink world has been blessed with. How did you end up having your fingers in so many pies?
Short attention span, I think. I like doing a variety of jobs and work in a variety of styles. I let each problem dictate its own solution; I don’t try to shoehorn in the same style as the solution for every job problem I receive.
I used to describe my career as “the Pinball School of Career Planning”. I bounced all over the place: comics, film design album covers, theme park design…you name it, I’ve probably done it.
And, as soon as I had conquered a genre, I felt compelled to move on to something new, something I hadn’t done. But when I got my first one-man show (Dinosaurs, Penguins & Whales – The Wildlife of Antarctica) at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, things changed.
When I finished the 45 paintings for the exhibition, I didn’t want to stop. That had never happened before.
It felt like I had emotionally come home, so to speak, and that I had finally found the work that would sustain my interest for the rest of my career. I feel the same way about murals. I could paint murals forever.
Esther Rabbit: Fantastic Worlds -The Art of William Stout is a true gift your followers can cherish. It spans your entire fifty-year career, celebrating both your life and art. Tell us a little bit more about this treasure.
The book is huge — over 300 pages and over 500 images. It’s just the tip of the Stout iceberg, though.
The book has twelve chapters, each on a different aspect of my career: dinosaurs, comics, Antarctica, fantasy illustration, film design, etc. I plan to eventually do entire books on each of those subjects, so Fantastic Worlds is the cream of the cream. It makes a helluva doorstop, too.
Robert Williams wrote a great introduction to the book and Ed Leimbacher wrote an incredibly perceptive text. The reproduction of my art throughout the book is pretty much spot-on, thanks to my assistant and Gal Friday Kris Kobziff.
Esther Rabbit: Can you speak about the trends you’ve witnessed in the illustration industry and their impact on the new generation?
I have learned to roll with the punches as the different kinds of work that have sustained my career have risen and fallen. Two of my former greatest sources of income don’t exist any more for the most part: movie poster illustration and theme park design.
The arenas in which young artists will work in the future may not even exist right now. And the genres they are working in now (or plan to work in) may suddenly disappear.
Be prepared for that, because I can guarantee you it will happen. The only constant in life is change.
Esther Rabbit: What advice do you have for young illustrators trying to define their style?
Produce a concentrated amount of work in a very short time and your own style will emerge. That’s what happened to me when I created THE DINOSAURS – A Fantastic New View of a Lost Era.
I didn’t really have my own style when I began illustrating THE DINOSAURS. I began by mimicking the styles of my favorite artists. I soon ran out of time to do that, as my publication deadline was approaching.
Out of that last concentrated effort to finish my book, my own style emerged.
Esther Rabbit: You have a cultivated talent and passion for your work, more awards and fans than we can count–what’s the secret to creating magic for so long?
Perseverance, mainly. If you hang in long enough, work hard, always try to do your very best work and are kind to the people you meet, magical things will eventually happen.
Are you in the Writing Industry?
Shoot me an email, I’d love to interview you!
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“A new Interplanetary Alliance ambassador on an earthbound mission.
A handful of genetically altered humans to be rescued.
Meeting her changed everything.“