John Alvin was an American movie artist who painted movie poster art for over 130 films, including E.T., Blade Runner, The Lion King, The Princess Bride and Jurassic Park, as well as the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean film series. He also produced work for Disney Fine Art (Disney character official portraits).
The Book Review
I have been going afoot with The Art of John Alvin under my arm for about a week now, and I have been stopped by people who recognize the E.T. image. Once I say, “yes, it’s the art of John Alvin”, they just stare back at me blankly.
The book’s first line of introduction surmises, rather well, the career and work of John Alvin:
“Hollywood’s best kept secret”
No doubt reading through the list of films in the editors note you had a vivid image of each of the movie posters mentioned. John Alvin’s artwork is entwined with movie history, with many of his poster just as memorable as the films themselves.
Reading through the book you get a real sense of what Mr Alvin built, and what boundaries he broke. Way before photo compositions were common place, he was achieving them using friskets made from transparent paper. There is a nice quote right at the end of the book that perfectly sums up Mr Alvin’s work ethic and his keenness for innovation, written by Farah Alvin (John’s daughter), she says:
“If there was no tool to make something happen, he’d make it himself”
One of the things I really appreciated about this book is that 30+ plus posters have at least two dedicated pages each. The first page of each poster explains the clients requirements, any possible problem, and the solution. It is a real treat to have this amount of insight. It also helps you admire the work, that little bit more, knowing the restrictions faced.
Another interesting tidbit I found out from reading the book was that John Alvin was allowed to sign a few of his movie posters. I bet you have never spotted the small “Alvin” hidden in his posters despite probably staring at them hundreds of times. I naturally then spent the following hour carefully looking for his signature in many of his posters. If like me, you now have time and that uncontrollable urge to satisfy, you can start with the Blade Runner poster.
I get the feeling Mr Alvin was quite content contributing to such a prodigious industry from in the adumbrate walls of his studio. However, it is somewhat a shame an artist like John Alvin with work so recognizable to have his name be virtually unknown. Thankfully The Art of John Alvin aims to remedy this, with a beautiful collection of work, cementing his name to the art for moviegoers and illustrators alike.
Small sidenote: It is particularly enjoyable if you were a child of the 80s and 90s when whilst reading the book you suddenly realize that John Alvin is responsible for a great deal of your moviegoing joy.