An interview with Tom Beauvais

03.04.13

British designer and artist Tom Beauvais is the man behind several classic British posters, including the quads for Fantastic Voyage (1966), Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969) and the cult horror film Zombie Flesh Eaters (pictured below). In a career that lasted over forty years, and continued for twenty more after his ‘retirement’, Tom applied his considerable talents to working on marketing for many of the biggest film studios and collaborated directly with filmmakers such as the late, great Stanley Kubrick. In addition, Tom is also a highly skilled architectural illustrator and it’s this area of work that he concentrated on since leaving the design studio that bore his name, Chapman Beauvais Ltd, in 1992.

Last year I was lucky enough to be able to meet and interview the man himself about his life and career and this article is the result. It contains many exclusive images of Tom and his work, including a handful of never-before-seen concept designs for films such as Star Wars and Blade Runner. I have also included images of his detailed architectural illustrations and other relevant photos which I hope the reader will enjoy.

Tom Beauvais stands with the quad poster for Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesh Eaters, which he both designed and painted in 1979. Photo taken in 2012.

Tom Beauvais stands with the quad poster for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters (AKA Zombie), which he both designed and painted in 1979. Photo taken in 2012.

Mad Max - UK one sheet

The UK one sheet for Mad Max, designed and illustrated by Tom Beauvais, 1979

I’ve split the interview up into seven parts and you can use the links below to jump directly to each part, should you wish.

Part 1 – Origins and starting out at Bateman Artists
Part 2 – The art of film marketing
Part 3 – Time for Change: Chapman Beauvais Ltd.
Part 4 – Working with Stanley Kubrick
Part 5 – Architectural illustration and the genetics of artistry
Part 6 – Iconic posters and unused concepts
Part 7 – A kind of retirement

 

Part 1 – Origins and starting out at Bateman Artists

To begin, you were born in 1932 in Belsize Park, North London?
Yes, that’s correct. In 1939 I was evacuated with my sister and we went with our school to Hertfordshire for a couple of years to avoid the blitz. After that our family moved to Egham in Surrey, so I came back from the evacuation to join them and that’s where I had my schooling. I was only about 10 at the time and, well, I failed the exam for the secondary school. I blame the war because I’d missed several years of education.

I ended up going to Kingston Technical School and I did an engineering course for a couple of years there, which was not a great help for an artist but it did give me a really good grounding, and I enjoyed a lot of the practical side of it, which included woodwork, metalwork and that sort of thing. I did reasonably well there and when I left I imagined that I’d become a draughtsman.

Is that what you’d hoped to become when you first chose the course?
Yes, well drawing was always my strongest subject but when I left the college my father, who was a commercial artist himself, told me that there was a potential job going in London. Somebody he knew was on the look out for a junior to join a studio called Bateman Artists that was part of the Allardyce Palmer advertising agency. I remember going along there with specimens of my work and meeting the boss, Bill Bateman. I recall him saying that I shouldn’t worry about drawing and illustration as they had ‘plenty of people who can do that.’ He told me I should learn to do lettering, how to work with typography and practice designing layouts for adverts and posters. ‘With those skills…’ he told me ‘you’ll never be without a job,’

The Allardyce Palmer studio, circa 1955

Tom Beauvais (front) working at his desk in the Bateman Artists studio, circa 1955. Behind him sits Tom Chantrell (left), Sid Townsend (right) and Les Coggins in the far back.

I started the job as an apprentice and in the beginning I was making cups of tea and buying cigarettes, as well as running studio errands all over London. After a while I was given jobs like trimming out bits of artwork and I was learning all the time about the business of creating graphic art. I recall there were about twelve artists working there and before I had started my father had told me that they were a clever crowd. True enough, you’d look over the shoulder of one of them working, perhaps doing some lettering or retouching a photograph, and it’s amazing how quickly you could learn just by following their example.

Continue reading

An Interview with Brian Bysouth

20.12.12

British designer and artist Brian Bysouth is responsible for some of the most iconic film posters ever printed. In a career lasting over forty years he lent his considerable talents to a wide range of design projects, including product and service adverts, editorial, TV storyboards, VHS and DVD covers and hundreds of fantastic film posters. Over the past year I’ve been lucky to get to spend time with Brian discussing his work and career and I’m very proud to present the following interview article that details his life from his beginnings as a fledgling artist through to his retirement in 2002. It features many images of his brilliant work, including early sketches and the original artwork for several posters. There are also a handful of unused designs and concepts, many of which have never been seen before online.

Brian Bysouth with the original sketch for The Living Daylights poster, 2012

Brian Bysouth with the original coloured rough (sketch) for The Living Daylights poster (1987), photograph taken in 2012

The British quad for Big Trouble in Little China, designed and painted by Brian Bysouth, 1986

The British quad for Big Trouble in Little China, designed and painted by Brian Bysouth, 1986

I’ve split the interview into seven parts and you can use the links below to jump quickly to each section if you wish.

Part 1 – Origins
Part 2 – Starting out – Downtons
Part 3 – Rapier Arts and then a return to Downtons
Part 4 – Going freelance
Part 5 – Bysouth and Hayer Associates
Part 6 – FEREF
Part 7 – The end at FEREF and retirement

Part 1 – Origins

I’d like to start with your origins and I understand you were born in October 1936 in London. Your mother was a fashion artist?
Yes, I remember when I was very young seeing some of her work and, looking back, I think it was pretty good. She worked for a firm just off Oxford Street in London, which was the capital of the rag trade then. This would have been whilst my father was away during the war. She always encouraged me to draw and often gave me paints and paper. Most of my time was spent sketching or drawing something.

I had an old watercolour box that a relative had given me and sometimes at the weekends I would fetch some paper and sit up in bed to draw and paint instead of getting up. I really enjoyed it and it absorbed most of my time.

Incidentally, when my mother died a couple of years ago we were clearing out her things and we found one of my old paintings that she had kept. When I was about seven she took me to see the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and afterwards I painted a picture of the dwarves’ mine. It was studded with great gobs of paint, which were meant to represent the jewels.

You’d spend every moment you could sketching and painting when you weren’t at school?
I suppose I did, but I was out with my friends playing cricket and football and later on getting into mischief. I think painting in my spare time subsided a bit in my early teens, but I was encouraged at school by our art teacher, a Mr. Thompson, who was a very nice man. He’d been in the RAF during the war and had a huge military moustache. I think he liked some of the lads in the class that he judged to be talented. He would sometimes pick out our work and say to the class, ‘this is how you should do it.’

Eventually the Eleven-plus came around and I didn’t do very well. I suppose I was reasonably good academically until about the age of nine or ten, but I remember when my father came back from serving in the war it was quite a traumatic time. He’d gone away in 1939 when I was three, and had been involved at Dunkirk. When he came back my mother persuaded him to apply for a commission and he was posted to India, then to West Africa and I didn’t see him until the end of the war. By that time I didn’t really know him and he didn’t know me. After he came home my two sisters were born and my parents were so occupied with them I was allowed freedom to neglect my schoolwork.

Continue reading

Graham Humphreys on the making of The Monster Club quad

30.11.12

After adding the British quad for The Monster Club to the site, I wanted to speak to its designer and illustrator Graham Humphreys about its creation. The poster wasn’t one that we discussed during our 2011 interview and I felt it deserved this ‘making of’ article.

The British quad for The Monster Club, designed and painted by Graham Humphreys

Hi Graham, thanks for agreeing to talk about the poster. First of all, is it true this was the first film poster you ever worked on?
Yes, although in retrospect it was perhaps a bit bit of a false start!

How did you get involved with it?
The client was another random name on a list of people I went to see whilst I was starting out (film distributors, etc) and within two weeks of showing them my folio (my college folder, one of those basic cardboard versions tied by string!), this project turned up. I can’t remember who the company was – though they were one of the big distributors and it was at a time when everything was ‘in house’, ie. they had their own design studio.

What kind of brief were you initially given?
They called me in for a meeting and showed me a series of 35mm transparencies (pre-digital of course) and a drawing of the layout required, which specifically featured a title treatment that had to be copied. So my illustration was merely to flesh out the sketch to full artwork. I was offered the pick of transparencies which were then made into photographic prints that I could use as direct refrence. I had about a week and a half in which to deliver the painting.

The original artwork for The Monster Club by Graham Humpheys

I understand that the first version of the poster was rejected – what did it look like compared to the final printed version?
My original version had blue hues to give it a midnight feel. I spent time carefully making the Vincent Price portrait as true as possible. I took a full week to complete the painting working exclusively on the project. A few days after delivery I had a phone call informing me that it had been rejected and would I come in for a meeting. Apparently it was considered to ‘adult’ and ‘scary’. It had been hoped that kids would see the film as well, but the marketing people thought I had produced a ‘horror’ poster. It would have been futile to argue that a film called ‘The Monster Club’ starring Vincent Price and John Carradine, produced by Milton Subotsky, might already have appeared ‘genre’! However, the client, ‘being right’, were happy to let me repaint the illustration as ‘happier’ more colourful, daytime and ‘not scary’, but I had two days.

So I worked two days and two nights (including a visit from the client mid-way to check on progress) until I was a sleep deprived, hallucinating wreck. The painting was rushed and needed another two days, but the deadline was set. The job was delivered, approved and I got paid extra money and slept for a full 24 hours after.

What happened to the artwork for the first version of the poster?
I’ve been racking my brains and I can only conclude that I gave the original version to a friend who has since passed away and thus I will never see the painting again. We lost touch and apparently he became alcoholic and died penniless – I had no idea until recently but it’s a sad tale.

Close up detail of The Monster Club quad artwork by Graham Humphreys

Did you have fun painting the various creatures?
No, I had been shown images from the film and clearly most of the club members are wearing hastily prepared rubber masks, there was no license to be creative with the heads.

They must have liked the poster as the painting was used on a number of international posters as well as multiple VHS covers?
I suspect that this was more to do with budget. Clearly the film was intended to be supplied with a full supporting poster campaign as a package. This is why the marketing department were being so particular. This was an international poster, not domestic. The photo of the original painting shows that the main image descends further in order to facillitate the international format. Only the UK would have got the full width quad version.

Were you happy with the final result?
Absolutely not!

‘Elvira presents…’ – a VHS cover for the film released by Thriller Video – image taken from Bloodsprayer.com

Did this poster help you secure your next job?
Whilst working on ‘The Monster Club’, the same distributor offered me ‘The Funhouse’ and, after supplying initial sketches, the job suddenly changed and was then a double bill with ‘My Bloody Valentine’. So all my ideas for a quad format poster had to adapt to a tall verticle format. Still smarting from the first poster, I was cautious with the imagery and in retrospect should have taken it much further.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me about the poster, it’s much appreciated.

- Graham’s official website can be viewed here.
- This site’s 2011 interview with Graham is available here.
- The other posters I’ve collected that were designed and painted by Graham can be viewed by clicking here.

The Evil Dead & Graham Humphreys – rarely seen items

31.05.12

Following on from my interview with the brilliant British designer and artist Graham Humphreys, I have recently been discussing the original release of the Evil Dead quad with him, and in particular why there are two versions of it that have surfaced over the years. I have the full size (approximately 39 and 3/4″ x 30 and 1/4″) version that has a white border, but there is a more commonly seen version which has been trimmed down to remove the border and measures around 38 and 1/4″ x 28 3/4″. Graham has both of these versions and cannot recall why the smaller version was trimmed. Investigations continue and I will post the findings once all avenues have been exhausted.

In the meantime I thought I’d post some interesting Evil Dead related items that Graham shared with me recently:

First is the picture of both of Graham’s own copies of the quad, showing the difference in size.

This is the poster for the Evil Dead computer game tie-in, which was released by Palace Software who were owned by the Palace Group, of which Palace Pictures (the British distributors of The Evil Dead) were a part. 

Next is a press advert designed by Graham that was announcing the incredible success of the film’s release.

There was a competition set up around the film’s release and the top prize was £500 worth of red meat!

Here are the questions for the quiz

Finally here is an invite for a magazine screening of the sequel, designed by Graham.

New website recommendation – Chantrell Posters

15.05.12

Last weekend a new website was launched that is dedicated to arguably the best, and certainly one of the most prolific, British poster artists of all time, the great Tom Chantrell. Whilst there are several ‘big’ titles Chantrell is known for, including the iconic Star Wars artwork that was used around the world and the brilliant quad for One Million Years BC, his long career saw him illustrate what is thought to be close to 800 pieces of finished art. His brilliant designs and painting added immeasurably to a plethora of sci-fi, horror and exploitation posters, and his gift for selling a film with one exciting, dynamic image can not be denied.

The website has been put together with the full cooperation and blessing of Tom’s family, including his widow Shirley, and features an utterly brilliant biography written by Tom’s friend Sim Branaghan, the author of the essential book British Film Posters: An Illustrated History. It offers the chance to buy original artwork, reference materials and original posters in fantastic, often rolled condition (just like I like ‘em!) and will be updated regularly with new material.

I realise that this may come across as a bit of a sales pitch but I can assure you I’m not affiliated in any way with the site and am not being given any kind of back-hander or discount for posting this. I think the site deserves all the support it can get since it will continue to showcase and highlight Chantrell’s wonderful work, plus the financial benefits will be seen by his family directly.

The address is: http://www.chantrellposter.com/

Below is an image taken from the biography page of Tom posing for a reference photo: