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Help Support Features Interviews Joe Corroney
Joe Corroney interview
by Mitchell Hallock - posted on May 5, 2008
Joe Corroney

Artist Joe Corroney is no stranger to the world of Lucasfilm, having drawn the heroes of Star Wars for many years. He is a master at creating the images of Jedi, Sith and aliens from a thousand worlds, but this year, Joe was tapped to draw one of George Lucas' other creations, the one with the man in the hat, namely Indiana Jones. Topps trading cards had requested that Joe draw some of the randomly inserted sketch cards for their new line of Indiana Jones crads. Joe was gracious enough not only to speak with me for this interview, but let us see his series of cards for the new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull set!


Mitchell Hallock: Well, first off, can you tell folks a bit about yourself, have you been drawing all your life?

Joe Corroney: I've been drawing as far back as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is standing in my bed at age two or three and drawing on my bedroom wall at night with crayons I snuck under my blanket. I started private art lessons on Saturdays when I was in grade school, probably around fourth fifth grade I think. So when most kids were outside running around playing tag or football I was inside happily drawing or painting pictures all afternoon. After high school I attended art school at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio. Eventually I became a part time instructor myself there, teaching the Comic Book Illustration Course for the last ten years.

Were there certain subjects you were, excuse the pun, drawn to? Super heroes, sports figures, movies, dinosaurs?

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Darth Vader illustrated by Joe Corroney.

It all started with Star Wars and super heroes for me. I grew up with that stuff on a daily basis, watching the movies, reading comic books, playing with the actions figures, so it was also my favorite subject matter to draw. I was never into sports too much but I loved movies, not just Star Wars, but Indiana Jones of course and lots of science fiction, action and horror movies too. So a lot of my artistic influences and inspirations comes from film.

Now you have done a lot of great Star Wars illustrations? Does it help to be a fan of what you are doing?

It definitely helps being a fan. Sometimes in this industry you take jobs because you have to, because you have to pay the bills and need to keep working and keep your name out there. But it's always great when you're offered work on material that you are already passionate about and intimately familiar with. I'm always thrilled and having the most fun possible when I'm illustrating Star Wars or Indiana Jones because I worshipped and studied these films and all of the other related media like the books, comics, games, toys and so on all of my life. Nothing really beats being able to put my name and stamp on something so universally appealing and adored like Indy or Star Wars especially when I'm just a big a fan as everyone else.

What about Indiana Jones, part of your latest assignment for the Topps Heritage Indiana Jones trading cards, that include randomly inserted one of a kind drawings by yourself and other artists, are you a big fan as well?

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Indy Heritage sketch cards by Joe Corroney.

When I was a kid there was only one other movie trilogy that mattered besides Star Wars and that was Indiana Jones. I've always been fascinated with the character and all of the movies growing up. I remember seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 and loving it so much that my parents ended up taking me to see it twice the same weekend. Throughout junior high and high school I'd watch my VHS copies of the Indy films over and over each day before and after school, picking up where I left off of the day before and then moving on to the next Indy or Star Wars movie. So I've been fan all of my life and getting the opportunity to finally create some Indiana Jones artwork for Topps and Lucasfilm has really been a dream come true for me.

For the Indiana Jones Heritage trading card series I illustrated 56 sketch cards and it was some of the most fun I've had drawing in a long time. They're definitely some of the best sketch card artwork I've produced for any property to date and I hope all of the fans out there trying to collect them enjoy what they see.

I have seen some of the drawings you have done, and they are truly amazing! I have illustrated in the past and always found it a great challenge when it comes to knowing when to stop putting in too much detail. The Indy Topps cards are about 21/2" x 3", how do you work in so much on such a small area?

For certain projects there can never be enough detail and sometimes I don't know when to stop either. With a photo-realistic style like I usually like to work in more detail is often necessary to portray a certain level of believability and consistency in my art. When you're telling a story as an artist, whether it's one singular illustration or a twenty-two page comic book, your trying to convey action, emotion, or whatever the message might be to your audience as clearly and efficiently as possible through the style of your work. Movies are one of my main influences as an artist so I try to make my artwork as cinematic as possible, which means my style ends up being very literal and very detailed to the eye. But because I also love drawing comic books and I was trained as a cartoonist I've been able to find a balance in my style over the last few years by using dynamic light and shade, over-simplifying detail to degree and contrasting that approach with realistic proportions and detail. It creates a sort of hyper-realism in my work that a lot of other comic book artists apply to the medium as well.

Do you work off a lot of reference photos from the films to get into the "Indy" spirit or have John Williams music playing while you work?

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More Indy sketch cards.

I have the soundtracks for the Indy and Star Wars films on my iPod so I'm always listening to John Williams' music actually. Photo reference can be an artist's best friend but it can also end up being a crutch if not used properly. Every artist should really just consider photo reference as another tool like a pencil, a ruler, a computer, etc. There's a careful balance when working from photo reference because you don't want your work to end up looking too stiff of static. Anybody can copy a photo using a lightbox or a projector but it's the amount of style, passion and imagination you put into the interpretation of the photo that elevates it from just being a traced image. I probably spent a few hours on each portrait I drew for the sketch card set so there's a lot of technique and passion in each of those little drawings. I basically just watched all three films back to back a few times each while I was drawing these Indy cards. I hadn't watched them in a number of months so it was especially nice to revisit them during this project.

Are there some Indy characters that you like to draw more than others?

Indiana Jones was my favorite character to draw. He's always been one of my heroes since I was a kid and I've had plenty of practice drawing Harrison as Han Solo over the years so I found myself drawing lots of portraits of Indy for these sketch cards.

Is there a trick in getting Harrison's famous scar right when you draw him?

There's no trick to it really, as long as I have decent photo reference I'm always good to go. After the first few sketches though I'd find myself just eyeballing it, more or less approximating the size and positioning of the scar and it always seems to work out fine. I think it was much trickier drawing the hat and getting the size and curves of it just right.

Having done Harrison Ford drawings as Han Solo as well as, Indiana Jones, have you ever had some fun combing the two worlds for a secret portfolio or just for fun? Say Marion with Salacious Crumb rather than that little Nazi monkey, Indiana Jones being chased by Stormtroopers or a Golden Idol shaped like C-3PO instead of the fertility Goddess in Raiders?

I wish I had time to draw for myself but I never draw for fun anymore. Just kidding. Seriously, everything I do is usually for both work and fun but that's the tricky balance of the business. It's not too often I find time to just draw for myself, I miss that. Fortunately though, I'm a fan of most of the projects I'm offered so it never feels like work at all anyway. Most of my portfolio is actually for published projects since I'm working all of the time to make a living with my artwork. When I'm not working, I want a break from drawing so that's when I'm usually playing video games or going to the movies.

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More Indiana Jones Heritage sketch cards by Joe Corroney.

What's up next that you can tell our Indy fans about? Any Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull sketch cards?

I've just completed fifty-six more sketch cards for Topps upcoming Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trading card set and those were really fun to draw also. I worked non-stop on them for about a week and half but they're pretty much the same quality, consistency and style as my cards I drew for the Indiana Jones Heritage set. I hope all of the fans and collectors who see them soon enjoy those cards too.

We have been all dying to see images of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. What type of secrecy is involved when you get information and images on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?

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Indiana Jones 4 sketch cards by Joe Corroney.

Most of us artists out there who have been doing Star Wars art for years already had our bodies surgically altered with the "Lucasfilm implant". Right after I signed the contract for my very first Star Wars project about twelve years ago all I can remember are a couple of guys in stormtrooper armor showing up at my apartment and abducting me in the middle of the night and then waking up at Skywalker Ranch the next day wandering around Lake Ewok in my pajamas with some fresh stitches in the back of my head. The implant keeps us from talking about scripts, sharing photographs and exposing other top secret information about their movies before they are released for fear of our heads exploding.

So drawing Star Wars and Indiana Jones just isn't about reliving the magic as an adult that I experienced as a child, it's also about keeping my head on my shoulders.

As an Indyfan yourself, did getting any of this information ruin the movie for you?

Honestly, Spielberg and company have kept the secrecy on this film so tight that even people working on the licensed tie-in projects probably still have no idea how the story goes from A to B to C. Of course some of the writers and artists who are working on the direct adaptations of the movie like the novels, storybooks, comic books, etc. know everything but only being able to participate on Indy 4 through Topps has only really allowed me to be involved behind the scenes in more of an ancillary way as an artist.

With the Star Wars prequels I was much more involved as an artist working on a variety of projects that allowed me access to more sensitive material like scripts and top secret images and so on which was really exciting. But with either film series, it still didn't ruin the experience for me because as much of the story you may already know or as many photos or clips from the films you may have seen privately on your computer, nothing compares to experiencing the actual film and the visceral bonding experience that comes with it in a dark theater full of hundreds of strangers. It's the signature Lucas and Spielberg style of filmmaking that you can only truly experience as the finished product that makes it all so exciting.

Was there a certain Indy from a particular movie you liked drawing more than the others - Young Indy from Last Crusade, playboy/tux Indy in Temple of Doom, or the older Indy from Crystal Skull?

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More Indiana Jones 4 sketch cards by Joe.

I have to admit drawing older Indy was really fun and even a bit of challenge sometimes. If I put too many lines in his face he'd end up looking a little older than her really does and he already looks great for his age. So it was just a matter of pulling back a little bit and adjusting the shape of his jaw line or eyes that have only changed somewhat over the years. I've drawn Han Solo and younger Indy so many times over the years that it was refreshing to tackle Harrison as this older version of the character. I hope everyone likes what they see that I came up with.

Will you be doing work for the planned Topps Indy Masterpiece series later in the year?

Yes I will. I'm really looking forward to that project and I'm excited to see what I end up coming up with for it. Any excuse to draw the further adventures of Indiana Jones is a good excuse for me, no matter how busy I may happen to be with other projects.

Any advice to future artists out there reading this?

If there artists out there interested in drawing Indiana Jones or Star Wars or pursuing other licensed work then I'd suggest get your portfolio approved by a publisher who has that license, someone who is producing Star Wars or Indy material for Lucasfilm for example. It's just like sending a portfolio to any editor at a comic book company. Send your best stuff to them in the mail either on disc or as high quality print outs. Perhaps email them small jepgs directly or, even better, links to your best pieces in an online portfolio or personal website. It wouldn't hurt to have a few of your art pieces related to their property to show them how you can handle their characters and are familiar with the content they are producing. Just don't let it all be the same material. Showing them a variety of styles, themes and compositions will present to them how flexible and versatile you can be and will hopefully entice them to call on you to adapt your unique vision to their projects. Sometimes at comic book conventions publishers, editors and art directors will review portfolios personally and those are good opportunities to get your work seen by the company themselves.

If I had any more advice it would be to find what it is that drives you, what inspires you and what you're passionate about and pursue it at any cost. For me it's always been Star Wars, Indiana Jones and comic books, all the fun stuff I loved as a kid. Because those things inspired me at such an early age and I never lost sight of them it's allowed me to be successful in a career as an artist. I'm really grateful for that.

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More Kingdom of the Crystal Skull sketch cards by Joe.

Thanks Joe and if Indy fans or art lovers want to see more of Joe's great work simply head on over to his official website, or pay a visit to his MySpace page.


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