I have friends who are good with remembering people’s names. They can see a poster or movie and list ten people involved with either piece of art. I’m not that way at all. I can remember just about everything else about a person, but not their name. So, it was no surprise to me that I hadn’t heard the name Drew Struzan when I added “Drew: The Man Behind the Poster” to my Netflix queue. But Struzan’s art? That I knew the moment I saw it.
Struzen made the most iconic posters of the recent Golden Age of Cinema. From Blade Runner to Star Wars, from Indiana Jones all the way down to Cutthroat Island, Struzan’s art has been seen all over the world.
And that’s the first part of “Drew: The Man Behind the Poster”. Then, it quickly jumps into how Struzen got his start. He was poor. He was a genius struggling artist and he was poor. His living expenses were subsidized by his wife’s income.
The movie doesn’t go into this at all but I can tell you from experience that while people talk about having a sugar momma, it’s not easy, socially. There are a thousand little social cues letting you know how much of a loser you are. But, you know your spouse is a valid human and she wants to help. More than that, you can’t do what you’re doing without that help. So you suck it up. You endure it and keep going.
After a few years, Struzen got a job designing album covers and even there he shined, rising quickly, creating some of the best album art ever made, on albums you’ll have heard of.
Unlike many movies that have deeply layered metaphors for art, “Drew: The Man Behind the Poster” isn’t a metaphor. It’s a clear, largely unfiltered picture of what it is to be a great artist. The movie goes into the pitfalls and the highs. Struzan partnered with a company that screwed him for 8 years. He eventually got out of that, but it changed him.
The other aspect of this I found fascinating, and true in my own life as well, is how focused Struzan is on his art. It’s all he does. When he was poor, he chose to eat two meals a week and spend the rest of the money on paint. Struzen’s now retired, but even when he goes on vacation, he brings something to create his art. His unwavering devotion to his craft reminds me of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”.
Maybe that’s what it takes to be great… at anything. Richard Feynman dreamed of physics. Jiro dreams of sushi. Stephen King dreams of horrors and fantasies. And Drew Struzen dreams of art. Its his life. And we are better for it.