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John Alvin, 1948-2008
“Creating the promise of a great experience” is how John Alvin described his role as the preeminent designer and illustrator of cinema art in the entertainment industry. In a business where you are only as good as your last job, Alvin is prolific. He designed and illustrated some of the world’s most widely recognizable movie art.
Of the more than 120 film campaigns he created, E.T. – the Extra-Terrestrial was the most satisfying to Alvin, and appropriately so, as the movie is one of the most successful in cinema history. In addition to receiving the Hollywood Reporter Key Art Awards’ grand prize, Alvin’s E.T. was the only movie art ever to be honored with the Saturn Award from The Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Films.
Alvin has produced many special works for Lucasfilm Ltd.’s Star Wars phenomenon. His Star Wars Concert and Star Wars Tenth Anniversary poster are among the most collectible Star Wars art in the market today. Additionally, The Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C., exhibited Alvin’s The Phantom of the Paradise as one of the best posters of the 20th Century.
The ability to infuse art with feeling was one reason Disney wanted Alvin for The Lion King and the “adult campaigns” for many Disney animated classics. The adult campaign would usually be more elegant, more symbolic, and in Alvin’s masterful hands, imbued with a moody, almost magical aura. “His work inspires us,” say the Disney marketing execs. “Alvin brings emotion into his artwork that can only be captured in an illustration. We call it ‘Alvinizing’.”
Alvin much preferred being involved in the total campaign – including designating what the image will be rather than just illustrating. Thus, at times the right solution for a film may be photographic, or a combination of photography, traditional illustration and digital manipulation, decisions Alvin was not adverse to making and personally executing. His diversely extensive portfolio is a testimony to Alvin’s consistent determination to make the movie’s image that memorable promise of something great and wonderful.
As a youth, Alvin was almost as fascinated with the previews of coming attractions as he was with the movies themselves. He couldn’t wait for the Sunday paper to arrive to see what movies were playing. He reveals, “from the time I was 12, I think I guided myself unconsciously toward the entertainment industry.” Alvin adds, “the closest I could get to the movies without being an actor, author or cinematographer, was to draw ‘terrific art’ about them.”
Alvin acquired a full array of artist’s skills and techniques as a student of the distinguished Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. Soon thereafter, in 1974, he got his chance to put his love of entertainment art and his artist training to work by creating the campaign art for Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles. Looking back, Alvin was surprised at times to realize that he’s been creating cinema art for nearly thirty years.
Alvin has developed and maintained a very loyal following among collectors of cinema art, making his original art and signed reproductions much sought after and treasured pieces of movie memorabilia.
Truly, John Alvin belongs to a very special and very short list of cinema art masters whose works have become icons in Hollywood’s rich and colorful history.
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