Illustrator Craig Drake is an enthusiastic interpreter of our modern pop culture. He casts our collective heroes and heroines as demi-Gods, each portrait places the subject on a pedestal. Each piece is Drake at work building his own iconography.
Tonight LA’s Hero Complex Gallery plays host to Drake’s ‘Solo Show II,’ the new collection will open with a reception at 7PM.
Craig Drake’s ‘Solo Show II’
Hero Complex Gallery
2020 South Robertson Blvd. Studio D
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Opening Reception May 22nd, 2015 7PM – 10PM
ETDC: What first grabbed about your work was the familiarity of it. Looking at your bio, you wrote, ‘This is a project based heavily on the iconic style of artist Patrick Nagel. An ever evolving exploration in graphic art and figure illustration.’
CD: That’s definitely out of date. Need to rewrite that. Initially I started doing parody based prints based on that style, but am so happy to have expanded a bit since then.
You’ve absolutely moved beyond ‘parody,’ but It’s interesting that you would call your work a ‘project’ – does that mean that at some point you’ll be moving away from Nagel inspired work and on to another project?
When you started out as an illustrator, was your natural style in the same vein as Nagel, or was that conscious decision to expand on what he created?
It was more of a fun parody project with the first set of Lucasfilm prints I made while working there. Didn’t expect it to take off! It’s not really my intent to carry the Nagel torch. Granted there’s elements that have stuck, especially since the graphic style lends itself to screen print so well.
Were those first prints the series of five women of Star Wars prints release? Was that your first time doing licensed work with Lucasfilm?
It was! I’d done design work before while there but that started it all.
Even with Nagel’s strong visual imprint as your starting point, you’ve used his template and created something all your own. With only a few elements your canvas is compositionally complex. Just looking at your work for the Star Wars Celebration, the designs are more ‘Craig Drake’ than ‘Patrick Nagel.’
CD: I definitely channeled other inspiration for those images. Classic movie posters in general. Even some of the older ones from the ’40s – ’50s. I also love Russian Constructivist posters! So masterful.
You’ve worked in and out of pop culture with galleries like Hero Complex, Mondo, and Gauntlet. For your second solo show at Hero Complex, will be seeing 100% pop culture or will there be a few originals in the bunch?
No originals yet! I did a few of those at Gauntlet last year. Really enjoyed the process. Hopefully more opportunities like that come around. Maybe I’ll draw my friends.
When working with a gallery what are you looking for in the project? Do you like having someone like Mondo saying, ‘We need a Batman piece’ or Hero Complex giving you free reign to do whatever you please?
I do actually, it’s a great system that I continue to be really inspired by. I love applying my take on a creative property that’s highly recognized! ‘Catwoman’ with Mondo was a great example of that.
You’ve printed both on metal and wood at your previous Hero Complex show. These elements don’t work for every artist and every image, but you used them both to their strengths and yours. The sleekness of the Millennium Falcon was amplified. ‘Princess Mononoke’ becomes more grounded and earthen on wood. Are printing materials decided on early in your design process?
YES! ‘Mononoke’ on bamboo was conceived far before the image was designed. I knew she was going on bamboo. Falcon was the same. It’s a bit of a challenge sometimes because you want to let just the right amount of wood / metal show through in your design. There will be a new material for the upcoming solo show.
I always thought you worked completely digital but I’ve seen a few of your pencil sketches for various prints. Are you finishing anything completely analog these days? Any paintings laying about the studio?
I just completed ‘Mia Wallace’ in gouache for the solo show. Normally I start with really tiny scratchy sketches and go right to digital. There have been a few times I drew a very sharp pencil comp on art board. For solo show 2 I have a few of those I may release later!