Friday, April 29, 2022

Paper Tears

The classic 1972 Hong Kong film, KING BOXER, was given an English dub and released the following year in North America as THE FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH.

Its enormous popularity opened the door, I should say floodgates, for a wave of kung fu quickie films of the early 1970s. It even preceded Bruce Lee’s ENTER THE DRAGON by several months. Quentin Tarantino called it one of the 10 best films of all time.

That’s high praise.

But when designing cover art you can’t let the pressure get to you. Just do the best you can. In the time you are given.

This cover project was for a large Blu-ray collection of remastered Shaw Brothers martial arts films presented within a digibook style package. So this art would be seen inside the packaging next to the disc itself, and not on the cover of the outer slipcase box. Also it was a “landscape” presentation instead of the normal vertical “portrait” format.

The first version I rendered is below.


I was caring for my ailing father at this time and he passed away while I was drawing this.

At his funeral I had a large black poster board with family photos mounted on it. A few days after the service I removed the photos, unintentionally ripping the poster board. The black paper turned out to be white on the inside. Never one to ignore an interesting texture, I scanned those rips and incorporated them into the design. Jaggedly radiating out from Lo Lieh, dividing the screen into 5 sections (the fingers) and one lower section (the hand/wrist.) 

(If I had a dime for every rusty truck tailgate and crumbling wall I’ve photographed with the hopes of later using it in some design.)

Sadly the client was less than enthused with the design. Particularly pointing out the rips and the "comic book" halftones in the background. So a second (more painterly?) version was done which they accepted. As seen below.

Many months later when I saw the final release, I realized that although I was afforded a full page for my art, many other films shared a single page in the digibook style package. Two movies on a single disc. Therefore, two cover images on a single page. 

And what was the divider between each film’s artwork?

A paper rip. 

So maybe they objected to it because they planned to use it BETWEEN the cover artwork on a page and didn’t want it used within a single film’s art. (Or maybe they got the “rip” idea from me. Ha. Who knows.) But one way or another, that rip is now tearing up 5 out of the 10 pages in the package. Instead of just mine.

Way to go Dad. 

----

Next time. We visit a zoo. To meet a Skinny Tiger... and a Fatty Dragon. 


Ishiro Honda Future Fears


ISHIRO HONDA was the visionary Japanese director of the original classic 1954 film, GODZILLA. As well as a dozen or so more Godzilla and tokusatsu (special effects) films. His lasting legend looms high in the hearts of kaiju (monster film) fans and throughout the annals of cinema history. It was a treat to illustrate images for a double feature of not one, but two, of his works.

Honda’s 1959 space-invaders-attack-the-earth sci-fi extravaganza BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE, contains reused elements, slightly modified model ships and even character names, from Honda’s earlier 1957 film THE MYSTERIANS, but is generally considered only a very “loose” sequel, if at all. With that in mind I could approach this design with no need to tie it into that film. BUT, this being sold as DOUBLE FEATURE meant I had to find a design that worked well set beside a vastly different film altogether, THE H-MAN. Which is a 1958 sci-fi noir thriller, dealing with Tokyo police investigating mysterious disappearances, where only the victims clothes remain. These events are eventually discovered to be linked to the strange effects of radiation fall-out from a hydrogen bomb test. No space invaders to be seen, but creeping slimy monsters none-the-less.

It’s always a challenge to find a cohesive and clever way to meld two different films into a single design. Especially two slightly different genres. Sure I could retrofit two posters side-by-side with little effort. Boring. As nice as the original poster art is, and it is cool, that is not what I'm being paid to do. None of these characters are consistent between the films so finding a single protagonist to represent both films (ala Wong Fei-hung in Tsui Hark’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA series) won’t work either.

I got to thinking… (I know, never a good sign.)

What if the whole was something more than the sum if it’s parts? What if the two films together could somehow create a new image (sort of a MAD Magazine fold-in). What if they conveyed a greater understanding of Honda’s talents than did each film alone.

To that end I decided to try to blend the two “half” images (representing each movie) together to form something more cohesive.


The left side would feature a circular mushroom cloud with the vertical shaft of the cloud extending straight down underneath. The right side would be a half moon, the same size as the hydrogen bomb cloud. A carefully positioned rocket would mimic the shaft of the explosion, the baseline ground level would line up, and bingo bango jig-a-jog jango, the two images would together create two halves of the same shape. Well, worth a try anyway.

BATTLE was the first I illustrated. The client requested full-cover images of each film on the inside Blu-ray case inlays so that was rendered with cropping it in-half in mind. The first illustration I did was against a white background. I was just going for something I felt was modern and gave it a fresh feel. But once I saw it transferred from my imagination to the physical world, it didn’t please my eyes as much as it did my mind. Back to black. As a designer I feel, if you are afforded the luxury of time, it’s sometimes good to veer a bit “off road” even if you end up getting back on “the path” once you see things more clearly. I tried it. Meh. Maybe it’s more suited for something else in the future, but now I see the value of black space. Especially for a 1950s sci-fi film. But I still couldn't resist the urge to add a subtle splash of color to the blackness of space to give it some life, some visual interest. Space is alive isn’t it? Whatever. It matches the colorful film it represents. Plus I love dreamsicles ice cream treats and it reminds me of those. Mmmmm, I'll be right back. 

Anyway, below is the final cover used.

Then THE- H-MAN came next and was more straight forward to do. Once I knew the size I needed to draw the mushroom cloud and the ground level (and that the sky was now black) it all came together easily. I digitally recreated the films title logos from poster references and gave each film its own color theme.

Oddly enough, after living with this design for a bit, I eventually decided I DIDN’T like the moon rocket cut in half and moved it over to the right. This compromised the initial intent of the composition, but I can’t be tied to any idea, no matter how clever I thought it was, if it’s hurting the overall work. I have to let go if something better comes along. The work is not finished until I send it out to the printer. Usually stepping away from the work for a bit and then returning gives me fresh impressions which can illuminate areas of the art that should be addressed. Sure, you can kill it with improvements. But the more I looked it at, the more I felt it might be seen as a mistake to have the rocket halved right in the middle of the "canvas". So below is the version that finally went to print.

I retrofitted the artwork for use as menu backgrounds and even did WRONG REGION CODE NOTICE backgrounds you only see if your Blu-ray player is set to any region other than 2. I also created white versions of the menus for BATTLE which can be seen below, although they were never used.







It was a fun project as I love 1950s sci-fi, physical media, Blu-ray and Japanese cinema of that period. So combining these elements, and getting paid in the process, was a dream come true. I’ve long considered writing a chronological reference book on 1950s sci-fi/fantasy cinema, but with my limited time this may be as close as I get. For a while anyway.

Next time... we meet the KING BOXER. But don't look him straight in the eyes.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Train Keep a Rollin

THE MILLIONAIRES’ EXPRESS is an all-star Hong Kong action comedy “western” directed by and starring Sammo Hung. It was a 1986 lunar new year release intended to be a fun rollick. Though a modest success at the time, it is perhaps even more highly regarded today for it’s entertaining action sequences.


For the re-released blu-ray cover I didn’t try to get overly artsy with this one. Just straight down the middle exactly what most audiences would expect for an epic like this. Big centered Sammo head shot. Surrounded by headshots of the comedy stars and body shots of the action leads poised for conflict. The exterior set where some key action bits happen gets some prominence below Sammo. Then a new golden title treatment positioned below that. Big, bold and fittingly “western” in it's flavor. With the apostrophe in the right spot. (It’s plural possessive folks. More than one millionaire onboard.) Then the steam-belching train of the title anchors the piece with a hint of actiontwo bandits on horseback approach while Richard Ng trots across the roof of the train in the distance (shuttling from his wife in one car to a potential mistress in another, if memory serves me). All set against blazing orange with a burnt parchment border. (Referencing the stunt-filled fire sequence in the film.) Although the comedy segments perhaps outnumber the action bits in the film overall, it’s the impressive action that wows western audiences so that element naturally gets “played up” in the marketing.

I'd do some things differently if I had a redo, but that's the case with almost all my art if I sit with it long enough. At some point it's "pencils down". But I hopefully take what I learn and apply it to the next one. Train keep a rollin'.  

Originally these HK films feature the Chinese title large and the English subtitle as a smaller afterthought beneath. But for these English-friendly re-releases I have to reverse the emphasis. For this one, my redesign left the Chinese title still on top (like a little hat), but I tried to emulate the WIDESCREEN SCOPE aspect of classic western movies (such as HOW THE WEST WAS WON) in the subtly arching distressed antique English type. Even if you can’t actually read what it says, hopefully you can still comprehend what it conveys, through the careful use of these tropes. 

Although the film boasts many stars, I like to limit the number of actor names on the cover to just a few of the key players so as not to clutter an already busy piece. Blu-ray covers are small enough as it is. And target audiences tend to already be quite familiar with these 40 year old films anyway. There’s no need to list half a dozen names regardless of their popularity.  

Although the slip cover art was rather straight forward, I did get a little cheeky with the included booklet cover concept. Designing it to appear to be the boarding pass for the titular train. With a back cover featuring the “conductor”, director Hung.

I remember back in 1990 I worked for a television station in the production studio. We finished video taping a segment and the on-air talent came into the control room to view the playback. She looked forlorn, then finally turned and asked me if I could make her look thinner. I looked at her inquisitively as if to say “Uh, how?” She then said, “I dunno, can’t you push a button or something?”

Ever since then I’ve had this reoccurring feeling that others who don’t truly understand what you do, what you actually do, always think there is just some button you push. So perhaps I’m writing these reflections down just to express what it is designers actually do, I mean, before we push the magic button that draws all the pictures for us.

These reminisces on past projects are not presented in exact chronological order, just whatever order that strikes my fancy. Next time, we go further back in time… to the late 1950s.

To reflect on a midcentury view of the future of Japan. Which, by now, is already the past. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Vengeance! is Mine

My responsibilities continued to grow. This time I was afforded the opportunity to actually name the release, as it was a collection of 8 action films from the same director. The “Joseph Kuo Collection” just wasn’t gonna cut it, so I suggested CINEMATIC VENGEANCE! 8 KUNG FU CLASSICS FROM DIRECTOR JOSEPH KUO. The exclamation point is key.

It’s always an interesting challenge when tasked to represent several movies in a single image. Especially when it’s not a series of sequel films in a continuing saga, (such as Indiana Jones) but rather films only linked loosely by genre and director. And, sadly, not one who is instantly recognizable (such as Alfred Hitchcock, who used his own silhouette as his logo). 

So with those issues in play, I decided the title, handwritten in a pseudo graffiti style (as hand-made as these films are), should be prominent and perhaps surrounded by his cast of archetypical kung fu characters. All tensed and ready for action. Or more precisely, VENGEANCE!

I divided the cover into eight equal sections, each representing a film in the order they appear in the set. Then filled each with the cast from that film. 

To me the negative space between elements can be as important as the elements themselves. For example, the space between notes in a song, (the semitones) are what give the music its rhythm and character. Otherwise it's all noise. The same can be said to be true in the visual medium. I call an image with no eye-lines “wallpaper”. (Apologies to Jackson Pollack fans.)

I generally try to avoid this. But, in the case of CINEMATIC VENGEANCE! after cramming in a few characters from each film, at least 23 figures in total, into the cover, it came dangerously close to becoming just thatwallpaper. Efforts were taken to keep all the section’s dividing lines leading the viewer's eye toward the title. And all the characters were also facing the center, again, leading the eye toward the title.

Notice the “blue left side” and “red right side”. Adding a consistent lighting scheme to all the painted figures is an easy way to bring them all into the same environment. (This can be done much more easily with illustrated art than when Photoshopping a bunch of separate photos together. Careful attention has to be paid toward getting all the lighting consistent in a composite shot otherwise something just seems off.)    

To me, two of the most important aspects of the design, is tone and composition.

In my previous post I discussed some art I did for a couple horror/action/comedy films.

See below.

The tone reflects the color palette of the predominantly nocturnal stories. While the symmetrical compositions create eye-lines that effectively lock the viewers gaze into the center of the frame. Which is also helped by the direct eye-contact from all the characters. It's an "eye-catching" cover by design, not necessarily by its content or fairly simple rendering.

See below.

Your eyes might not have noticed, but your brain did.    

After considering the age and “rediscovered” nature of the films in this collection, I then decided to add further visual interest by giving the box art some natural distressed wear and tear. As if it’s been on a shelf in some backroom of a long abandoned Taiwanese film studio. But as you open the box the contents get cleaner and cleaner until you get to the gleaming mirror blu-rays themselves. The sparkling jewels within. Giving the customer a subtle feeling of discovery.  

Inside the hard slipcase is housed two separate Amaray style cases with two discs in each. I was asked to come up with names for these as well in case these might get solo releases one day. So I divided the films into two logical groupings, one becoming DEADLY MASTERS and the other FEARLESS SHAOLIN.



The art for these only includes characters from those four films and carries over the graffiti style for the titles as well as a similar framing border. The weathering is noticeably less, but still present to some extent.

I did reversible color-coded covers featuring the original poster art fans may remember. Sadly the posters had to shrunk to fit the available real estate, but I made them as big as I could filling both "front and back" panels of the spread. Personally, I’m a fan of using the original poster art, but I also understand the need for studios to give fans something new, as well as to distinguish their release from others (such a Joy Sales or some Japanese distributors that only use the old poster art) especially when viewed as a thumbnail online. A lot of work goes into these releases so it makes sense to make your product unique so fans don’t order the wrong version. Therefore unique cover art is essential. But I always include as much of the original promo art as I can where I can. As a designer I naturally love that stuff.


And as a longtime collector of HK movie memorabilia (and being married to the owner of a Chinese video rental store), I like to dig thru my archives and include whatever rare old imagery I can.


Beginning with this release I was hired to now do the full layout of the entire package and provide final print-ready files. This now included the interior design of the included book as well. (Not just the front/back covers and photo/poster/lobby card page inserts as I had been doing, along with disc art and MENU background files.) This added level of control allows me to create a visual consistency throughout the entire package and provides a more cohesive final product. It can also contribute to resulting in a better product in other ways. As it gives me more time to dig through my old Cinemarts, Milky Ways, etc., to find rare imagery that I can include in the booklets last minute. Since I don't have to provide this material ahead of time to another layout artist, since now I'm the last one who touches it.

For this release I also retrofitted or redesigned old lobby card art to fit in the package. It's a preciously rare opportunity to combine my personal interests, passionate hobbies and my professional work. It was a blast. 
 

Pack your bags! As we'll be taking a wild ride on... THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS!
Next time. Right here.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Not Afraid of the Dark



Having just finished work on THE LUCKY STARS 3-FILM COLLECTION project there was suddenly a unexpected hold up.

An issue with two of the films meant that new transfers needed to be struck from negatives in Hong Kong. But with COVID-19 now hitting that region and the resulting shutdowns, it became apparent that that would not happen in a timely manner. So with the looming release date ever approaching, the decision was made to push back the LUCKY STARS box set and find a replacement to slot into that month’s release schedule.

Looking forward to the fall schedule, MR. VAMPIRE was deemed ready enough to move up to fill the now vacant summer slot.

But that meant the packaging art had been done ASAP. No problem. Time to get CREEPY.

This being a horror/comedy dealing with Chinese vampireswhich are actually closer in spirit to Western zombies than Western vampiresI felt it needed a moonlit, comic tone. I went with thick and thin black outlines, a limited color pallet of cool blues and greens (mimicking our vision at night) with a few pops of orange (as the complimentary color). The candles flutter out as something enters the room catching the attention of our heroes, fearful, but ready for action. Lots of direct eye contact to intensify the emotional impact. Our Taoist priest protagonist does his best to keep the evil as bay. But for how long? The stylized smoke and flames were a pleasure to draw.

I designed a title font sporting rotting fangs and a matching color gradient.

For the booklet cover we get a tight grouping of the main cast of characters huddled together as night unfolds and a full moon looms overhead. Even nature cannot be trusted as tree branches grope and grab in all directions. But with no warm orange fire as protection this time.

Knowing more films in this genre could be forthcoming, I felt this visual approach could function as a suitable style for a matching series when similar titles get greenlit for re-release. 

And so it was... for another classic HK horror/comedy was indeed in the pipeline.

Sammo Hung's seminal 1980 martial arts action/horror/comedy classic ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND (aka SPOOKY ENCOUNTERS) was given the remastered blu-ray treatment and released the following year.

Working within the style guide I set for myself with MR. VAMPIRE, I went with a slightly more purple tone for the background here so the characters could be edge lit and pop out. 

Again the characters challenge the viewer, as if our POV is that of the Jiangshi (Chinese hopping vampire) itself. It features two large gnarly, burning hands reach out to engulf the title. Again orange is used as the pop color, with blue-green gradients.


For the booklet cover we have Sammo as "Bold" Cheung holding his breath, cowering next to an open coffin while a Jiangshi (played by Yuen Biao) rises up, coming to life. This scene was one of the many highlights of the film. As you may know, Chinese vampires can find you by sensing your breath. If they get you, they can take your qi (life force) away. Which I'm told is a bad thing. Just FYI.


I know most fans want to see Hung posed as a confident action hero, but his character is afraid through most of the film until the very end. So to convey the threat of the undead, I also did a version where he actually looks fearful.


It was fun working in this style and I hope to do more sometime. We shall see.


Next up... enter the shapes
We'll open up a BOX OF KUNG FU and get our CINEMATIC VENGEANCE!

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Counting My Lucky Stars



I’ve been a huge Jackie Chan fan since the 1980s. Pretty sure my friends would label me fanatical. (You can view a video tour of 86 Chan postersall I could fit hanging in my garage on the Hong Kong Rescue release of WHEELS ON MEALS. Just a sample of my overall Chan collection.)  So it was fun to get a chance to design a cover for not one, but three films, featuring Jackie from back in his glory days.

Although Chan plays only a supporting character, he does some great action work and co-stars among a who’s who of Golden Era Hong Kong film actors, including two of his “Opera School” mates Sammo Hung (who also directed) and Yuen Biao.

This blu-ray collection featured the first 3 films in the loosely connected 8-film LUCKY STARS series. The main attraction in the West is of course Chan, and he only appears in the first three installments. So the other sequels get no love here.

The first film, 1983’s surprise hit, WINNERS AND SINNERS, is more of a template for what was solidified in the second outing, as the characters have different names and backgrounds in that film. But it is included here as it is generally considered the beginning of the series. (Similar to the way SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW laid the basic template for DRUNKEN MASTER to follow and improve on. Same cast, crew and overall premise. Sort of a "dry run" at the idea, that proved popular enough to redo with more polish.) Plus the Chinese title for WINNERS translates in English to THE 5 LUCKY STARS, so it feels connected and includes most of the same cast in similar roles. So, okay, it's Part One.


Approaching a cover project that is meant to represent multiple films presents a unique challenge. But it is helped in this case because the cast is the same and the tone of each film is nearly identical. All action comedies. So a single visually cohesive design can accurately capture the feel of all three films in the collection. I suggested the title as it is just that. Not a trilogy per say, certainly not a complete collection as I think there are 8 films total, but a "3-film collection" of LUCKY STARS films. 

I remember seeing some 1980s artwork of athletes rendered in a splashy paint style that I felt I could translate, albeit in a subtle way, to the world of martial arts fighting. Adding in some old “Wonder Woman TV show”-style bold flying graphics in primary colors to emphasize the “star theme” (both the LUCKY STARS of the title as well as popular stars of the film).

So it's mostly the colorful, light-hearted, energetic tone of the film drove the visual direction of my design. (Of course some of the humor is non-PC by today’s standards, but that is neither here nor there as it relates to the cover art. Nothing is everyone's cup of tea. And variety in art is important at the very least to show different personal and cultural perspectives and allow the viewer to judge for themselves what to them has merit and why. If nothing creates discussion, then nothing is ever discussed. And if no one pushes the edges, we never know the boundaries. Perhaps behavior that was humorous only 30 years ago that has now become strictly verboten does at the very least serve one purpose. It proves society is progressing.) 

Anyway, back to the cover, we get hero shots of the three big star attractions coiled for action. One fist fighting, one gunplay, and one using tennis rackets as weapons to indicate the comedic side of the action. Each film also featured a female lead and they get the “star” treatment, flying out from behind the men. And little vignettes of other notable scenes are sprinkled around the edges to fill out the composition.



Each film got it’s own related disc art highlighting one of it’s stars, and the booklet cover features more of the supporting cast along with some villains... all being corralled by ringleader Big Brother Sammo. Of course baddie Richard Norton gets in his trademark line for the back cover. 

As far as design styles go, I’ve never been a fan of approaching all projects with a "signature" style and forcing that into whatever film I’m representing. If, as an artist, the look of your art is famously recognizable and closely associated with the work within, such as Dr. Seuss or Charles M. Schulz who illustrated text they wrote, then it makes perfect sense as that art style is part and parcel of the whole. Just imagine Seuss illustrating Schulz's comics as opposed to his own books. Weird huh? So in some circumstances a viewer expects a certain art style from a specific author. But since I'm doing a promotional image for someone else's work, I prefer to take myself out of the project as much as possible and approach everything with a blank slate. I try to answer the question: What style would naturally work best for this film given its genre, tone and era it was made? What would I want to see as a cover image that hasn't already been done? A single "signature" style does not fit all films.

To that end, it forces me as an artist to push myself in new creative directions and that challenge is a way I can grow beyond my comfort zone. All creators, from musicians to visual artists tend to have their “go-to fall-backs” when left unchallenged. So with more variety in my projects, the more new things I discover I can (or can't) do. My first professional illustration job was in 1984 so I’ve been at this for a while, but I find I never stop learning from each project. And that’s the fun part.

Of course, I don’t have the luxury of just illustrating characters I’ve done 100s of times already. Usually each actor’s likeness is my “first take”. These project's budgets don’t allow for “roughs” so the final product is pretty much my first stab at it. Of course, after I finish, THEN I go “Oh okay, NOW I have a better idea of how to render that actor. But alas I’m done already. Onto another one.” Hopefully I can apply what I’ve learned going forward. As someone once said, it's the journey, not the destination.

For the blu-ray menu art I mixed elements of the wonderful original poster art with new elements to create what I thought was a cohesive composition with a good balance of positive/negative space. The first film’s poster art (subjectively) flowed to the right so it was positioned on the left leaving room for menu text buttons on the other side of the frame.


The next two films originally did the OPPOSITE. The vintage poster art flowed to the left so was positioned on the right, allowing space on the left for menu buttons. So the illustrated characters led your eyes to the menu and not off the page. And with those two films being tied more closely together than the first, I felt it worked well that way. They ARE a little different. 

But as is sometimes the case, for any number of reasons, clients make their own 11th hour edits to the work. In the case of MY LUCKY STARS and TWINKLE, TWINKLE LUCKY STARS they surprised me by flipping my blu-ray menu art horizontally. Here is how I intended the menus to look.



Perhaps it was done so the menu coder could plop the text menu buttons in the same place on all three films. (Sorry Biao fans. I know he holds his sword in his right hand. At least he did in my version.) This little nitpick aside, they're still a dream client and we would work even more closely in the future. 

And once the work was done on this project… my luck had run out. Things were about to get scary. More on that - next time.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Bride Scorned

 

THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR has long been a favorite of mine. (You’ll probably hear me say that about a LOT of the films I have done blu-ray covers for. But, not ALL of them.) The original HK poster for BRIDE hung on my studio wall for over a decade and, as much as I loved the image with its deep colors and photogenic leads, the fact that the bride with "white hair" sported "black hair" in the poster always bugged me. So I knew right away when doing the art for the film that I would represent her AFTER her hair transitioned to white. My white haired bride would have white hair. Naturally.

I’ve also never been a fan of anachronistic packaging. So for instance, if the film was made in 1955 then the packaging or marketing materials should look as if they were made around that same time, with a 1955 approach to the art style. After all, the cover is meant to represent the product inside. (Hong Kong action fans who bared witness to that ubiquitous mid-90s Jackie Chan "black t-shirt photo" used on dozens of re-released films dating back to his teen years know what I mean.) Come on. Try a little harder.

So in representing a romantic action fantasy film from 1993, the requisite I set for myself was to create a cover piece that prominently featured the two famous leads, hints at their interaction and teases the action element, while setting the tone and atmosphere in a bold visual style befitting a film from that era.

Many currently popular art styles, commonly represented in the awesome work of Mondo, reinterpret the visual tone of old films with modern graphic art styles. As if to say, “What if John Carpenter’s THE THING were made TODAY? How would it marketed to a younger generation? What if it looked more like the cover of a graphic novel?” I considered this, but ultimately felt old school was the proper way to go to represent it respectfully. Plus I’m kinda old school myself (or maybe just old), so it was just more natural for me to go that way. Who knows.

This was another Hong Kong film that didn't have a "designed" font for the English title. Just a boring sans-serif ARIAL. So I created a distressed jagged logo with flowing strands of the word BRIDE literally turning white. Set against a blood red swath of watercolor. The billowing snow and hair, and the cracking whip give it some movement, even if the characters are static in their poses. Much like the start/stop feel of the film's action. You can almost hear the image. Leslie Cheung protects the magical rose (as it blooms in his heart) with his broken sword.   

But I felt the main focus should be, of course, Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia's dramatic intense stare. Angry and hurt. Tearful and shocked. Scorned and bitter. Powerful and vengeful to the very end.

For the cover of the Limited Edition book, I fast forwarded to the climax of the film. I felt the image is a bit too "spoilery" for the outer cover, but was just too cool a mental image NOT to create for the book. I had fun with this one. I actually posed for photo reference as all the dead soldiers.  


For the disc art I went with a simpler more graphic style approach. I had less than a hour to do something so I did a simple image (emphasizing Lin's flowing locks) that would hopefully reproduce well when printed on a plastic disc. (I was fairly new to this UK client and wasn't sure of the image quality of their on-disc printing.) I live in the US and their products are not commonly found on shelves here. Heck, blu-rays are getting harder to find in stores in general, much less 30 year-old Hong Kong films re-released by UK companies in Region B.


Surprisingly, a month later I was approached by a German company who particularly liked my disc artwork and asked if they could license it for the outer box cover of THEIR release of the film (packaged along with a new transfer of it's sequel, which sadly wasn't available at the time of the UK release). But it didn't sit well with me to sell the same art to two clients, nor did I want any potential confusion in the marketplace from having the same art on two totally different releases of the film. That defeats the whole point of creating new art for these old films
it's a selling point that differentiates your release of the film from others. 

So for the German company I created new art in a similar flat style. I spent the better part of a week just drawing individual strands of Brigitte's hair. But her HAIR is the visual 'hook' of the film, so it HAD to be done. Lin looms large over a small figure of Leslie, nestled on his snowy perch, patiently awaiting the rare bloom of the magic flower that will return his love to him. 


It's curious how one thing leads to another. I don't think I would've been approached by the German company to do the art for THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR, if I had not ALREADY done the same thing for the UK company. But this stereotyping as a "Brigitte Lin Artist" would not last long, as I was soon off to illustrate JACKIE CHAN, SAMMO HUNG, and YUEN BIAO in three exciting adventures.

But that's another story. For next time.