Juan Esteban Rodriguez is the illustrator of beautifully detailed film posters, gig posters and editorial work for the likes of Lucasfilm, Warner Brothers, Scientific American, and a number of galleries. He’s created officially licensed screen printed posters for Star Wars (he’s illustrated a lot of Star Wars) and The Lord of the Rings, as well as a range of finely textured line work editorial illustrations that transport us into another world – almost more vivid than our own. Juan’s fantastical narratives keep to restricted colour palettes, yet lead to great escapism for even the casual viewer.
Inspired by many things – traditional Baroque paintings, sci-fi, noir cinema, illustration from the 50s and 60s, comic books and more – Juan works both digitally (and traditionally when he can) from his shared studio space with three other friends.
The Valencia-based freelance illustrator is represented by Folio Illustration Agency, and he’s been labelled one to watch in 2018. We find out how he landed his first commissions while studying, his "orthodox" creative approach and learning the "powerful language" of the poster industry.
Take a look at his impeccable style in this feature.
Image: The Empire Strikes Back poster, for Lucasfilm
Miriam Harris: How did you begin working as an artist?
Juan Esteban Rodriguez: "My illustration career began as I was finishing my fine arts studies at the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Having specialised in traditional painting and drawing, followed by animation and illustration, I completed both Masters degrees at the same university.
"It was during my last year that I started to work on magazine editorials and gained my first animation commission, with Diego Guerra's film Desterrada and Pasos Largos Studio. Thanks to these collaborations and my ongoing personal work, I was able to make a good portfolio and begin my first steps in the illustration industry. New Republic magazine, Foreign Affairs, Wired and Bottleneck Gallery were among the first clients to emerge during this period.
"This also led to lots of editorial and advertising enquiries. I then decided to look for representation and had the chance to begin a new stage with the great people at Folio illustration agency."
Image: The Fellowship of the Ring poster, for New Line Productions
MH: What are you hoping to achieve artistically within 2018?
JER: "I hope to work with a wide range of interesting people in different fields. It’s always inspiring to grow with and from other artists, agencies, studios, books, movies and bands, both professionally and artistically. I'm about to do a workshop at Barreira Arte y Diseño Academy in Valencia, as part of a highly regarded Masters degree with a fantastic cast of colleagues and students.
"On a technical note, I want to keep playing in the poster industry and learning its powerful language. The keys to image composition, colour and shapes are an everlasting grounds for research. I’m always on the hunt for new software and resources on art related subjects. Building skills in typography, for instance, has been a long term goal of mine."
Image: Artificial Intelligence, for Scientific American magazine
MH: Tell us a little bit about your creative process.
JER: "My creative process is quite orthodox. I work on an idea, research, brainstorm if needed, sketches, more sketches, decision, and the final approach – which is usually the easiest part. Perhaps colouring causes more headaches than any previous stage, though. It's hard to decide on colours, for me. Thanks, Photoshop.
I must say, music is an important part of my creative process, as is the studio space I share with my friends Coke Navarro, Paun Vals and Fran Parrenyo. They offer me great comfort, and I find being close to great people and artists is a must."
MH: What tools do you use?
JER: "I work almost entirely in digital, using Clip Studio Paint for drawing, inking and Adobe Photoshop for adding colour and texture. Not always, though. Pencils, ink and paper are still necessary, and when I've got some time to dedicate to these, I try to get away from the screen."
Image: Citizen Kane
MH: What do you have a deep fascination for and would like to see more in your artwork?
JER: "I don't know how to answer this question and how to be brief.
"I guess there are a bunch of things that fascinate me. From traditional Baroque paintings to sci-fi and Noir cinema, old magazines and 'Golden Age' illustration from the 50s and 60s, comic books and television from the 80s and 90s.
"Science, nature, rock 'n' roll, and Blues – I would be exaggerating if I said that I would like to see all of this reflected in my work, but somehow I try to live and draw accordingly."
Image: Erebus, for Hero Complex Gallery
MH: Is there a particular thing you like to draw the most, and why?
JER: "A friend of mine once told me that I always draw smoke in my illustrations, and it's true. I guess I'm interested in drawing organic shapes and textures, plus it can be an easy composition solution without being mediocre. I also love architecture and fluids, which I find relaxing to draw."
Image: Tribute to Johnny Winter
MH: What have you been working on recently, and what’s on the horizon for you?
JER: "I worked recently on a 9-page comic for an upcoming sci-fi and terror anthology book by Sergio Albarracín. Stay tuned, there will be crazy stories.
"I also designed some characters for a nice-looking animation project for LaundryLA, and I finished my second poster for the Viñarock 2018 music festival in Spain – it’s coming soon.
"On the horizon, I'm working on some movie posters for Bottleneck Gallery and Grey Matter Art, which is always great news."
Image: Martin Amis, for The New Republic magazine
Image: Star Wars: A New Hope for Lucasfilm