Oh My Disney recently collaborated with Austin pop-culture art gallery Mondo to create a series of limited edition original screen printed posters celebrating the universe and characters of DuckTales. While the published pieces obviously had to feature the lead characters of Scrooge McDuck and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, there was one more character that was honored with her very own portrait: Magica de Spell.
We spoke to the artist, Justin Erickson of Phantom City Creative, about the process of poster-making, what it was like working on a property like DuckTales, and more. Take a look at his work and read our conversation below. You can see the rest of the DuckTales posters on Oh My Disney, and can purchase one for yourself starting August 28.
The Disney Insider: As an artist, how does creating a poster compare to the other art you create?
Justin: It doesn’t change too much, actually. Especially since the vast majority of what I do these days are posters! Even if I’m working on a non-poster illustration, I try to approach it in the roughly the same way I would a poster in that there’s a goal in mind but to have fun along the way getting there.
In your opinion, what makes a good poster?
That’s still something I’m working on figuring out! But what I like are posters that are conceptually clever, illustrated well, sum up the subject matter and tell a story in a thoughtful and interesting way. A poster doesn’t need to be conceptually complex or illustrated to death, sometimes the simplest solution is the best one.
What are the steps to creating a poster like this?
With any project first comes a lot of research. Since I only have one image to sum up a character, I need to know everything there is to know about them so the representation is an accurate one. I read into the character’s history, what inspired her creation, her different representation from the comics to the cartoon, etc. Once I feel I have a good grasp on the character I figure out ways to take all of this new knowledge and turn it into a fun image that reflects it. In Magica’s case the main two traits are her quest to get Scrooge’s Number One Dime, and her use of magic to get it. So when I went about drawing up concepts I wanted to make sure each touched on both. After there were a good number of concepts that I was happy with, I sent them off to Mondo for approval. Rob at Mondo has a great eye for what works and what doesn’t, so I always pay close attention to his advice and thoughts. After we choose a final concept the art begins!
What tools did you use to achieve this look?
All of my posters begin as thumbnail scribbles in my sketchbook, then are scanned into my computer and redrawn in Photoshop. I have a wide variety of brushes in Photoshop to create all kinds of looks. Some are downloaded from excellent artists and some I created myself.
How does working with DuckTales compare to the other subject matter you usually create art around?
Primarily I’ve worked in the horror/genre realm my career, but I step out of that and trying new things as often as I can. I try to work with a number of different styles and subject matter at once since I love to explore. Obviously Magica de Spell – being a witch – is still somewhat genre but the style and how to approach the art is different than what I’m accustomed to.
Were you already a DuckTales fan when you heard about the opportunity to design this work?
I’ve been a lifelong cartoon and Disney nut, so I had seen more than a few episodes in my youth and was familiar with the show. I needed a refresher to get up to speed. Magica was always a favourite as were the nephews. I was always getting into some kind of mischief as a kid so something about their wacky adventures resonated with me.
What other concepts did you consider for this assignment that ultimately didn’t get made?
With any project like this I aim to come up with as many concepts as I possibly can, then whittle it down to 3-5 concepts that could work as a poster. Sometimes you get lucky and one is the clear winner, but this was a case where it came down to two and we went back and forth deciding which to go ahead with. Eventually this one went through to completion and I’m glad it did because it was the stronger concept. The other concept involved Magica flying on a broomstick in front of the full moon, and the moon was the Number One Dime.
What inspires or informs your personal style as an artist, besides the subject matter at hand?
I’d say the subject matter is the biggest indicator for a project. Especially if a particular style will help an image be successful more than any other. But if the concept calls for something that goes in a different direction, then I go with something else. With this particular image I was inspired by Charles Addams’ classic comics since Magica was inspired by his Morticia Addams. Generally there are many other artists that inspire me such as Martin Ansin, Mike Mignola, Olly Moss, Reynold Brown, Gary Pullin, Jason Edmiston, James Jean and the list goes on. I also try to take inspiration from other art forms such as graphic design and wherever else I can get it.
Being that you got to work specifically on Magica de Spell, what is your take on her character that led to the depiction you settled on?
I knew that I needed the image to sum up two things in particular: she really wants the Number One Dime, and uses magic in her attempts to get it. Going beyond that, though, the face and body language needed to communicate the personality of that character. For example a sullen and stoic face wouldn’t have suited her. She’s very passionate and maniacal about getting that dime!
Do you have any other Magica moments that you thought were worth remembering, but didn’t make it into the final poster?
I didn’t want to tie the poster into any one particular scheme she cooked up, as I thought it would be ignoring everything else. Instead the poster needed to sum up that she uses magic and wants the dime. I was tempted to do something involving her escaped shadow and the ensuing hijinks, but it never went beyond the doodle phase.
If you could create art around any other Disney characters of your choosing, what would they be?
That’s a tough one! I’ve been a lifelong cartoon nut and have seen most (if not all) Disney cartoon films. My knee jerk reaction would say any of the classic villains like Maleficent and Ursula. Partly because they’re incredibly designed characters, but they’re also very interesting characters with so much personality. But most characters with a good story would be fun to create art for because I could take a different approach than what I’m used to.
As an added bonus, take a look at this special black and white variant: