Interview with Brian Miller
Our interview with Star Wars artist Brian Miller, one of the featured artists at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, a well known colorist in the comics industry, and a long time collaborator with fellow Star Wars artist Joe Corroney.
How did you get started as an artist?
In first grade when they asked what you wanted to be when you grow up and al the kids say, fireman, policeman, banker, etc. I always said artist. It’s been a lifelong pursuit. For me the struggle was always between fine-art and pop-culture. Luckily I fell-in with a comic artist early on and was introduced to self-publishing and comic conventions. After about 5 years of struggle working on comics you’ve never heard of I got the call from Rob Liefeld to help out coloring some pages of Cable #75. After that Marvel called and asked me to start coloring Cable full-time, then Wolverine, then X-Men, and more. I invited several other colorists to join me and Hi-Fi was born. We’ve been coloring comic books for Image, Marvel, Dark Horse, IDW, DC, and more ever since.
How did you hook up with Joe Corroney?
Joe and I met at Mid-Ohio Con sometime in the late 1990’s through a mutual friend (Justin Chung from World Famous Comics), and while it would be years before we would collaborate we definitely hit it off and became fans of one another’s work. When Joe got the call to illustrate some Star Wars comics we finally had the chance to work together and it has become a long and happy collaboration.
Now you do both illustration and coloring. What’s it like coloring someone else’s work?
I love coloring and painting other illustrator’s line-art. Each creator brings their own unique flair to an illustration. I’ve had the good fortune to color not only Joe’s incredible artwork but also artwork by legends like J. Scott Campbell, George Perez, Dan Jurgens, Howard Porter, and many more. Collaborating with other creators and coloring their work inspires me to push harder on every project.
How do you go about visualizing what colors and tones to use?
That’s a good question. Typically I think about the mood and story of an illustration first. I imagine the scene in my mind and once I have the light and shadow values worked out I’ll start thinking in terms of hue. An example would be the Tarkin illustration Joe created for Star Wars Insider. I chose to push the blacks and grays of Tarkin and Vader warmer to move them forward in the composition and then I used cooler blue values to force the background elements to recede. In essence this makes the characters “pop” visually and makes the finished color composition more dynamic.
What’s your process like? What tools do you use?
All my color work is done is Adobe Photoshop. I use a Wacom tablet to paint in the colors and lighting. Since my background is in fine-art I combine many of the traditional oil painting and airbrush techniques to achieve the results I want for each illustration. When I color Joe Corroney’s Star Wars art I tend to take a very painterly approach with some visible brush strokes to emphasize the illustrative nature of Joe’s work. This stands in contrast when compared with something like Superman that needs to look smooth and airbrushed so I adjust my technique and style based on the demands of the artwork and the needs of each project.
When you go about coloring, how do you decide how much of the original drawing to hid when you replace it with color, texture and lighting effects?
I tend to be very respectful of the original artwork. Something like a lightsaber or a blaster bolt needs to effect the area around it of course. Other than those instances I would not erase or paint over the artist’s line-work unless we had discussed it in advance or I was specifically instructed to do so by an editor. I prefer the black and white art and color find harmony together than the color trying to overpower the original illustration.
What were you thoughts on “The Inquisitor’s Gift”?
Once Joe explained the concept to me and how it is inspired by a moment in Conan lore it really clicked for me. Joe is great at illustrating this iconic imagery and the way he managed to work in the Inquisitor was subtle genius! Joe entrusted me to paint directly over his pencil artwork and while it is a challenge it is also a pleasure too as Joe has already worked out all the compositional details and knows exactly what he wants from the final composition. Collaborating in this way is a learning experience for me as I get a deeper glimpse into Joe’s creative process. He is truly the Jedi master when it comes to Star Wars artwork. With the painting completed I know many fans are speculating about who the fallen Jedi is and that is part of the mystery too. Maybe we’ll never know.
In contrast, what was your idea behind “Remember the Death Star” and “Defend the Death Star”?
My pop-culture propaganda artwork is always informed by the past and I took much inspiration from World War II posters for “Remember the Death Star”. I imagined the Empire would react to the the destruction of the Death Star in much the same way the U.S. reacted to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Once I had that parallel concept in mind it was time to start sketching out ideas. I wanted to create something that would be awe inspiring and illicit feelings of patriotism from supporters of the Empire and yet at the same time strike fear into the hearts and minds of the Rebel Alliance. In the final composition Darth Vader and the glowing energy of his saber blade represent the symbolic power of the Empire while the TIE Fighters and TIE Bombers are the physical manifestation of the Empire’s might. The Empire is not going to take the destruction of the Death Star lying down. They are going to build up their forces and STRIKE BACK!
“Crush the Rebellion” and “Defend the Death Star” are two in a series of three Imperial recruitment posters I’ve created for ACME Archives. Each focuses on a specific location from the original trilogy as it relates to the Empire. I was blown away by all the Scout Troopers who wanted to get their hands on “Defend the Death Star”. I had so much fun creating that illustration! From the cream colored French art paper, to the retro inspired color palette of the screen print, it really has the look and feel of a vintage poster you might have found if Star Wars had existed in the 1930’s.
You also just did a The Force Awakens print with Joe Corroney. How awesome was that?
Joe and I are not just Star Wars artists, we are fans too and just like everyone else we are excited for Episode VII. Joe had an idea to do this mere weeks before Celebration and we worked around the clock to get it done and printed in time for the event. We gave away 50 of these each day at the booth and we were not expecting a mob of people waiting at the booth every morning trying to get one of these prints. I think it is a testimony to Joe’s sense of design and incredible illustration skills that his first artwork for The Force Awakens is so striking and memorable. We had fans from all over the world taking these back, framing them, and displaying them with pride. We’re so thrilled to see everyone as excited for The Force Awakens as we are and honored to be able to share this special moment in time with Star Wars fans.
Are there any upcoming or recent projects fans can look forward to, or upcoming con appearances?
Joe and I will both be at Phoenix Comicon (May 28-31) and San Diego Comic-Con International (July 9-12) where we will be featuring Star Wars artwork we have created for Topps, Star Wars Insider, ACME Archives and more. Plenty of surprises yet to come so stay tuned!
We want to thank Brian for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to seeing what awesome Star Wars art he does in the future. To find out more about Brian Miller and to see all of his excellent artwork, be sure to visit Oktopolis.com.