Most of you might not know the name, but if you are a moviefan you will have seen his work numerous times. Michael Deas is the artist who has painted the Columbia Pictures logo, which has been in use by the company since 1992. I got a chance to interview him about the creation of this iconic image.
How did Columbia Pictures get into contact with you? Was this based on other work you did?
Actually, I was not contacted by Columbia Pictures directly. At that time Columbia was undergoing considerable reorganization, so the redesign was handled outside the studio, by The Mednick Group, a Los Angeles-based design firm.
What was their assignment and how much liberty did you have in creating the new logo?
As I recall, the art director wanted to pattern the current logo after an earlier color version (perhaps late1930s?) version, which depicted the Lady Columbia draped in an American flag. I was asked to follow the original image’s color scheme closely, with emphasis on the colors orange and blue. Later, the concept of draping The Lady in an American flag was dropped, either for legal or trademark issues, I don’t recall exactly, and so now she’s draped in royal blue over a white gown.
The creation of the logo took two months, what does the process of creating such a painting look like?
It’s a slow process, one that would probably bore most of your readers. I start with a wooden panel, which is carefully primed and sanded. Then I begin drawing out the image very carefully, in pencil, using a full range of grays — it’s essentially a 19th-century technique called grisaillle. Over that I gradually begin applying thin layers of color. It takes forever.
Did you run into any problems while making it?
I spent several weeks searching for the right formation of clouds so that I might take multiple reference photographs and then start the final painting. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a drought going on at the time, so it took some while to find a nicely dramatic bank of cumulus clouds. I embellished them considerably, with details taken from here and there, but I did eventually find a cloud formation not unlike the one seen onscreen.
Of course, the most crucial issue was finding exactly the right model. I interviewed several, but meeting Jenny Joseph was providential; she’s a generous, gracious and timelessly beautiful lady. She had never modeled before, and never has since. She was marvelous to work with.
It must be a great feeling to see that the logo still is used by Columbia Pictures. Are you someone who regularly goes to the movies?
Yes, and I confess I do still get quite thrill seeing the image. What artist wouldn’t?
You can find more about Michael Deas on his website.