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and say hello. MM: Today I have the out-most privilege of talking to the legendary Greg Hildebrandt, of the famous duo “The Brothers Hildebrandt”. They are best known for painting fantasy & Sci-Fi art and have been in the industy for decades becoming legends in their own right. They painted the original Star Wars movie posters, illustrated Tolkien’s LOTR calendars, hundreds of children book covers, have done countless comic covers for Marvel & DC Comics...pinup posters, advertising art, novels, the list goes on and on ...Again, i bow down to thee and I offer you a warm welcome Greg.MM: So Greg, what was it like growing up in Detroit in 1940’s? Was it an inspirational environment? Did Tim and you draw & paint throughout your childhood?
GH: Tim and I drew as far back as I can remember. We were always making something or drawing or painting. Our childhood days were basically great. Our parents supported our creativity. My Pa brought us paper and pencils and whatever else we needed constantly. Both our parents were really into history, reading and fantasy. So for us it was fabulous.MM: It seems that both Tim and you had ink and lead running through your veins, were your parents or any of your relatives artistically inclined?
GH: No, not really. We were definitely outside the norm for our family. Almost everyone worked in the auto industry on one level or another. Our younger sister, Janie, draws. And she is pretty good too. But she is much younger than I am. Both our parents loved art. They constantly took us to the Detroit Art Museum.MM: You and Tim are twins, was there any competition when it came to art?
GH: No not competition. Tim and I pushed each other. When one of us got frustrated the other one tried that much harder to figure out what we were trying to get. If one of us stopped trying the other one became nuts with getting us back on track. We didn’t choose art. Art chose us. It was as if we were born to do art. My Ma told me we started to draw at 3 and just never stopped. We were obsessed with it.MM: Can you still recall the very first drawings you and Tim did?
GH: When we were five I remember copying comic covers. Before that we were copying the comic strips from the newspapers. We literally did thousands of drawings in our lifetime. But I am going to bet that a lot of what we drew was Disney characters from the features like Pinocchio. We loved Disney.MM: Of all illustrations, paintings and projects you have worked on, which one or two are your favourite or ones you are most proud of?
GH: Everyone asks this question. My answer is always the same. The next one is the answer. Some people do not get that answer so I will try and explain it. By the time a painting is finished my brain has already been working on what’s next for days. The real work in art is in the original design, layout, composition and sketches. That is where all the hard thought is. Once I have done a ton of rough sketches then pick the one I will pose models for I have already decided my composition, lighting and color palette. The painting is then the final execution of the sketch. So you see I try and do things I haven’t done before whenever I am laying out the next idea. Hence the next one is my favorite.MM: In your opinion what is the most important element of an image?
GH: I would have to say composition is the most important element. Without good composition an image falls apart. I don’t care how well it is painted.MM: It’s always great when you come face to face with your idols. Who inspired you and have you had a chance to meet them and shake their hand?
GH: I always wanted to meet Walt Disney but never got the chance. I did get to meet Frank Frazetta a number of times. The first time I met Frank was at a Black Tie gallery opening in NY. I walked up to him, bent down on one knee, took his hand and kissed it. You know like people do when they meet the Pope. Frank was kind of like that for me in the art world. The ultimate meeting for me was when I met George Pal at his home in Beverly Hills. Tim and I brought some of our art to show him. As we were leaving he asked us if we would be interested in working with him on a film about the life of Hieronymus Bosch. We were blown away but unfortunately he died shortly after our meeting.MM: These days, the biggest movie blockbusters are taken from the comic strips you and your friends use to work on. From X-men and LOTR to the anticipated Green Lantern which i know is one of your favourite characters. How in your opinion have the studios done in adapting graphic novels onto the big screen, is there anything you would do different?
GH: This is an impossible question to answer. First of all one of my really good friends is Michael Uslan, Executive Producer of the Batman movies and many others. I learned many years ago that creative people have very strong opinions on everything in the world. Artists all have opinions on films and what they would do differently. But it would take a really long time to discuss and in the end I’m not the one making the films so it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what I would have done differently in the art I have created. Not someone elses.MM: In your opinion what’s changed the most in the art industry over the years?
GH: From when I started professionally, 52 years ago, what hasn’t changed? Today the business of art is just that, mostly a business. When I was young any artist could walk into an ad agency or publisher with a portfolio and see an art director. You met great people had a great time while you were doing what you loved. Today you can’t get an appointment to see most people, everything is done digitally and by emails. Most companies don’t even list phone
numbers on their websites. What is up with that? The world of illustration has shrunk.
People rely on digital art because it is fast. OK so it’s fast and a lot of it is good. Some
of it is great. But a lot of it is crap. So as the expression goes, you get what you pay for.MM: Do you think traditional medium is slowly dying out due to computers & Photoshop, or is it simply another tool in the arsenal of the artist?
GH: I think that unfortunately there are many artists that are very talented that have gravitated to the computer to make a living and don’t do traditional art at all any more. I think Photoshop is great. But at the end of the day what do you hold in your hand that you have created, pixels?MM: What is it about your style and work that so many people love?
GH: Well it is difficult for me to speak for other people. I am considered a realist. Which pretty much means that my art looks real. I have spent my entire life studying light and the effect it has on objects. Many people have said to me that they love my art because it looks real enough to walk into. That is what I think they like the most.MM: What’s your favorite media to work with? Do you paint digitally?
GH: Never painted digitally and don’t want to. Spent a lifetime learning to do what I do so I just stick with it. I work in acrylic. I am fast with it and I really like it. I can paint with watercolor or oil. But I prefer acrylics.MM: Is there anything or anyone you would love to do draw or do?
GH: There are a 1000 things I still want to do. So much to do not enough time.
MM: Can you take us through your workflow and process on a project, how for example do you come up with your ideas for the covers?
GH: Everything is different and unique. Some clients want me to come up with an idea from scratch with absolutely no input from them. Others have a basic concept of what they want. And some know exactly what they want. So if it is my process you are interested in I will give you that on a pinup painting for my American Beauties Series. Most of these I paint for me.
When I start an idea for a new pinup first I decide which type of pinup I want to paint. There are good girls, bad girls, cute girls, show girls etc.. Then I do very small thumbnail sketches. I probably draw 50-200 of them before a pose hits me. Then I decide what I want the background setting to be. Once I have determined the location I do more thumb nail sketches from different angles. When I get to the one I like I do more refined sketches. This process can take a day or two weeks. Some come fast some do not. Once I have the sketch the way I want it I give it to Jean Scrocco, my business manager/agent. She finds me a model that looks very similar to the girl I have sketched. She sets up the posing session and makes sure the model has the right clothing for the pose. After the model poses, the shots I want to work from are printed. Then I do a finished sketch. This sketch finalizes the composition and lighting setup for the painting. Then I determine the size I want to paint it. I cut the canvas. I blow up my sketch on a copy machine to the size of the canvas and transfer the sketch with graphite paper. Then I paint it.MM: What’s the most challenging thing about a career as an artist?
GH: Having a good personal relationship with someone. Most artists live in their head. Their head is filled with ideas about art and not much else. So it is a way bigger challenge to have a relationship than it is to paint a painting. MM: ...and what is the best thing about being an artist?
GH: Being able to do the thing you love every day of your life. It doesn’t get better than that.MM: What’s one piece of advice you wish someone gave you when you were starting out in your career?
GH: As I said earlier, personal relationships are extremely difficult to maintain when you are obsessed with art. So if someone had hit me over the head with that when I was young I might have been able to balance my personal life a little better with my art.MM: It’s fair to say, you’ve reached the status of an icon, with that said, how do you remain so grounded and such a nice guy all around?
GH: I appreciate that you think that I’m a nice guy, I try to be. In a world filled with hate, fear, bigotry, intolerance and war an artist’s job is to inspire and transform if possible. Being nice is a choice I make every day. As far as grounded that is also simple. In 1979 I met Jean Scrocco. We decided that she would be my new agent. For the past 32 years she has been my agent/business manager and in 2009 we were married. You want to stay grounded in life Jean keeps you grounded. She has a very simple belief system that she lives by. No one on the planet is better than or less than anyone else. So she treats everyone exactly the same, nicely. And she feels it is her job to make sure the client always gets exactly what they want while at the same time making sure the artist is happy with the job that she took for them. Not easy but very grounded. MM: Which so much competition, what is one thing a struggling young artist can do to stand out or be noticed these days?
GH: I’m not sure I can really answer this. I can tell you that in my opinion young artists should not specialize. They should do many different types of art so they can take many different types of jobs. Jean always tells art students that in her opinion a good portfolio has a little of everything in it. If your primary focus is Fantasy make sure you have a still life in your portfolio. An art director can only make a decision on what you show them you can do. If they have a cover job that calls for roses and all you showed them was dragons it doesn’t matter that you can paint roses they don’t know that. And yes take the job with the roses when you are young. Take every job you can get. Every one is a learning experience. It is like someone paying you to learn. And for God sake don’t mail someone a CD of your work and wait for him or her to call you. The phone won’t ring. You have to aggressively go after work.MM: You heard it here “go and get it!...So, what is your greatest fear?
GH: That someday I go blind. Just had a cataract removed from one eye and am going in for the other eye very soon. I could live in a wheelchair I think because I could still paint. But I would go mad if I couldn’t see.MM: What are the top 3 websites you visit?
GH: Well mostly I am not on a computer. For me it is a waste of time. I am not putting it down at all. It is just that way for me. But the sites I do visit are Google for reference and Facebook.MM: If you could have any Talent in the world, what would that be?
GH: I love music. I would love to be able to compose music and play an instrument. Just never took the time to learn. This is probably why working with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for the past nine years is a dream come true for me.
MM: What are 5 words would your friends use to describe you?
GH: Obsessed, Creative, Nice, Driven and funny. MM: If someone asked you “How do I become the next Greg Hildebrandt” what would you tell them?
GH: OMG why would they want to be me? If you ask “How do I become the next great artist” then I say live your art every second of your life. Never settle with your art. Continuously push yourself to do what you are sure you cannot do. Once you have mastered what you are sure you cannot master go further. If you do this then in your lifetime you will accomplish maybe one thousandth of what you were capable of. MM: Greg, you’ve definitely secured a place in the hearts of millions of fans and artists, including myself. Is there anything
that you would do different throughout your career? Take on a project you missed maybe or give one up?
GH: No I am very happy where my life is. I know if I changed one thing I would not be where I am today.MM: Well this is the end of our interview, it has been a pleasure getting to know you Greg, I’m happy both Tim and yourself contributed to the industry in so many ways and I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone out there when I say you’re truly an inspiration.
GH: Thanks for the interview. I appreciate your interest. As far as being an inspiration, God I hope so. Art should inspire and transform. So God I hope so, Thanks.MM: I’d like to also thank Greg’s agent and partner Jean Scrocco from Spider Web Gallery (www.SpiderWebArt.com) for making this interview happen. I urge everyone to visit Sketchoholic.com/GregHildebrandt to see more of Greg’s work.