By Jimmy Lee
New America Media
When Andy Park attended the Hollywood premiere of Iron Man 3 on May 3, with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, he saw the products of his work up on the silver screen. Having the opportunity to bring his wife to the star-studded event was just one perk of being a concept artist for Marvel Studios, where he gets to craft the cinematic look for the heroes and villains of the iconic comic book company.
But reaching this point not only took talent, but also a whole lot of initiative, traveling a road — which included dropping out of UCLA — that his parents certainly didn’t want him taking. But when Image Comics offered him a job as a penciller back in 1995, college would have to wait.
“My first love was comic books. That’s what I dreamed of doing as a kid,” said Park, 37, who would go on to draw for Marvel, DC, and others.
However, as an adult excelling at his profession, Park realized he wanted to expand his artistic horizons.
“As a comic book artist, you’re a penciller, that’s your specific title. You draw the comic book with a pencil, from the script, page by page. Someone else inks it, someone else colors it, another person letters it,” Park said. “It’s all about sound drawing ability. And you need to tell a story, [and] to be able to tell it excitingly. Your drawings just have to be solid.”
His abilities to do just that resulted in a level of success craved by countless comic book artists. It was Park whom publisher Top Cow turned to when the video game Tomb Raider and its singular Lara Croft character were un-digitized into a comic book (Park had developed a reputation for drawing buxom women). So Park, who had by then returned to school to attend the Art Center College of Design, dropped out once again when that opportunity came along.
What Park would end up wanting to do more of was creating complete illustrations and paintings, skills he learned from his formal training at Art Center. That would lead him to the field of concept art, and eventually to Sony Computer Entertainment, creating the designs for many of the main characters in its highly successful God of War video game series.
“But I would not have been able to get a job [as a concept artist] by just showing [employers] my comic book work. I knew I had to start from scratch and build a new portfolio and show them I know how to paint, how to design,” said Park.
“For concept artists — and there’s always exceptions to everything I’m saying — you have to able to paint, not necessarily traditionally, but digitally. And you have to be very versatile, in style, in genre.”
“For many concept art gigs in film, television, and video games, a strong art style is not always welcomed,” he continued. “You have to be adaptable to the style of the project you are working on. For “God of War,” it was a stylized realism. For live-action films like The Avengers, painting in a more photo-real manner is required.”
That opportunity to craft the concept art for the heroes that make up the Avengers and other Marvel characters came after five years at Sony, where he had become one of the leading concept artists.
Park had just become a father in 2008, so the thought of leaving the stability of Sony was daunting, but Marvel Studios, with the success of its Iron Man and Captain America films, had opened a new department to handle the concept art for all of its upcoming movies, and the first person recruited to the Visual Development branch was Park.
That got Park, a self-avowed “Marvel guy,” very excited.
“The fanboy inside of me was just like jumping up and down,” he said. When he joined Marvel in 2010, his first task was preparing 2012’s biggest blockbuster, “The Avengers.” “And if you’re a Marvel fan, it doesn’t get any bigger than ‘The Avengers,’ ” said Park.
In 2012, he traveled to England where “Thor: The Dark World” was in production (the film is slated to be released in November). With Marvel planning to release two movies a year, he bounces between the different projects in the pipeline. In 2014 are the Captain America sequel and a new franchise, the Guardians of the Galaxy. In 2015, expect Ant-Man and the next Avengers film. For the comic book geeks: Park is so tight-lipped about these future releases that he will not even confirm if Thanos will indeed be the villain of The Avengers sequel, as was hinted at the end of the first movie.
“[As a concept artist,] you get hired to work on a film, and you work a couple of months and that’s it. You have to find another gig,” said Park. “But this is unprecedented because a group of guys are hired full-time. We get to work on every single Marvel film. We are the ones responsible to keep a consistent and believable look to the entire Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe. It’s definitely a dream gig whether you’re a self-professed fanboy or not. To work on one Marvel film is amazing, but we get to play in this massive play pen.” (end)