Thursday, October 4, 2012

Exclusive Interview: Star Wars: The Essential Reader's Companion Artist Chris Trevas


One of my favorite aspects of the Essential Guide series in recent years, is the emphasis on original artwork featured in these books.

One of the most talented and prolific artists to contribute to the Star Wars franchise is Chris Trevas (@christrevas).

Image Source: ChrisTrevas.com
If you have been around Star Wars fandom for any period of time, then you have probably seen Mr. Trevas art.

He has worked on such books as Random House's The Essential Atlas, DK's Blueprints: Rebel Editions, and becker&mayer!'s The Jedi Path.  He has also worked on numerous magazine illustrations, trading cards and role playing game books in the Star Wars universe.

Mr. Trevas was nice enough to sit down with me and answer a few questions regarding his work on Pablo Hidalgo's The Essential Reader's Companion.

Lightsaber Rattling (LR): Hi Chris, thank you for taking the time to talk to us at LightsaberRattling.com. Before we get in to discussing the your work on The Essential Reader's Companion, I was wondering if you could tell us what it was about Star Wars that first captured your imagination? Was there a specific character or scene?

Chris Trevas (CT): I first saw Star Wars at the age of three so I don't remember much about that first time. The overall concept is inspiring to me with aliens, spaceships, magical powers, and far off worlds. It's a rich mix of the best parts of science fiction and fantasy. The lightsaber is probably the best example of this: a sword of energy instead of steel.

LR: I understand from your website, that your first work professionally in the Star Wars universe was in 1995 for West End Games' Heroes and Rogues. How did that opportunity come about?

CT: I was in college when Lucasfilm started recruiting for Episode I. I was only a sophomore at the time and not quite ready for a job of that magnitude, but I started a creature design sketchbook to submit to Lucasfilm. I didn't get a job at the Ranch, but that summer I met the people of West End Games at a convention and they really liked those sketches. A couple months later they called me to work on my first Star Wars project, Heroes and Rogues.

LR: It looks like the folks at Del Rey kept you busy on The Essential Reader's Companion, by my count you have 23 illustrations in the book. Out of those, is there one piece that stands out as your favorite?

CT: It's tough to pick just one. They were all pretty fun for different reasons. The piece showing Lando escorting Luke, Han and Chewie onto the skiff at Jabba's was fun since it's a scene taking place within the classic movie timeline, but not shown on screen. Those are my favorite pieces to do. I also like to illustrate the Millennium Falcon's history so I enjoyed painting young Han from the Han Solo Adventures.

LR: Were there any illustrations that were especially difficult to get right?

CT: The MedStar piece was a little difficult to compose and feature all 8 characters. Depicting Dooku as a kid at the Jedi Temple was tricky too.

LR: There are a series of incredible illustrations featuring Han Solo. I am curious is it easier or harder to illustrate a character that is based on an actual person?

Image Source: SUVUDU.com
CT: I find it easier when there's a real person to base work on even though there is an added pressure to get the likeness just right. Illustrating a character that has many different looks from past illustrators or has never been seen it all is usually more challenging. Also when illustrating actors I'll have a better feel for how they'd react which helps when first picturing a scene in my mind's eye.

LR: In the book you also have a series of illustration featuring couples. I particularly love the Jaina and Jag piece. Can you discuss a bit about how you approached that illustration and what you where trying to accomplish.

CT: I designed that piece to almost mirror Han and Leia's first kiss aboard the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back. There's a publicity photo from ESB with Han and Leia framed within the doorway head to toe. In this case, Jaina and Jag are framed by the borders of the tall narrow format of the book. It's nice to illustrate those small intimate moments.

LR: As someone who's artistic peak was finger painting, can you describe your style of art and the material and techniques that you use to create your artwork?

CT: I do everything from drawing to final color in Photoshop. Since I work so realistically I shoot a lot of photo reference to get the lighting, folds in clothes, and other details right. I do an initial black and white drawing with some minimal shading. I start the coloring process by painting underneath the drawing (the drawing layer being transparent). The color starts rough and gradually gets more detailed. Final details are added on top of the drawing layer. I use a lot of layers in Photoshop for different effects, but my method is based primarily on three layers.

LR: How did the process of choosing what scenes you depicted in the Essential Reader's Companion work?

CT: The scenes for each book were previously decided on by our publisher and the author, Pablo Hidalgo. Our editor, Erich Schoeneweiss, at Del Rey divided up the work based on size, subject matter, and our schedules.

LR: How did you go about researching the scenes you depicted in order to capture the characters and the story involved?

Image Source: Chris Trevas Facebook Fan Page
CT: Pablo kept good notes about the particular scenes he thought would be great for the book. Those notes were extremely helpful. I also went back to the novels to reread some sections myself. Sometimes it helped to wrap my head around a scene by putting it in context with what happened before and after. I have a good size library of Star Wars books, but there were still a few that I had to go pick up over the course of the project.

LR: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. In closing is there any new or forthcoming work that fans of your artwork should keep an eye out for?

CT: The Star Wars Galactic Files trading cards from Topps were just released. My artwork is featured on 18 cards in the set depicting expanded universe characters. I have a few more Star Wars books lined up in the near future, but I'm pretty sure none of them have been publicly announced yet. The big one I'm just starting now won't wrap up until May 2013 and maybe hit stores by summer.

For more on Chris Trevas, please visit his website or his Facebook page. A special thanks to Mr. Trevas for taking the time for this interview and to Random House publicity for facilitating the interview.



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