During an exercise in kindergarten, a five-year-old Iain McCaig was asked to draw a picture of his household pet. Since he didn't have one, he drew a picture he'd memorized of a brontosaurus instead. The astonishment of his classmates and his teacher were enough to send him off to learn how to draw many more things: the Frankenstein Monster, E-type Jaguars, river otters, Sean Connery. When he put them together on the same page, he found they began to interact with each other, and voilà! The world of visual storytelling opened itself to him.
Iain drew this year's THU poster with the theme The Tribe Returns, but most of you know him as the creator of some of the most beloved characters of the Star Wars series. He is an incredible artist and a member of our ever-growing Tribe.
“Last year's THU was like a gathering of superheroes – I just wanted to see them using their mutant powers, or watch them in action saving the world,” says Iain. “It was fun and energizing and a nice reminder that, despite the long solo hours at the drawing board, we are not alone.”
As you know, at THU we like to bring you the stories you can't find anywhere else. Here is an exclusive interview with Iain McCaig about his thoughts on art and the life of an artist, some advice, and what inspired him to create this year's incredible poster.
Is drawing a skill one acquires or a talent one has?
Drawing is a language, and I have yet to find the person who lacks the ability to speak it. Talent gives individuals a head start, of course, but it's the willingness to go the distance and practice, practice, practice that gives you mastery.
What do you do first after getting a new project? Think, sketch, look for inspiration?
Read, if there's a story. Make one up, if there isn't. Story is my main motivator – She Who Must Be Obeyed. It's how I judge whether something works or not in the worlds I create.
How does it feel to create something from nothing and watch it take shape and come to life?
Well, you've just described becoming a parent, as well as an artist. For both, there's a unique connection that you have with your creations, closer than anything you've ever known, and you give them everything you've got as they grow and mature. Then, ready or not, they head out into the world, and you sit back and marvel and applaud as they become their own thing, and a part of the rest of the world.
After all these years in the industry, how do you keep your enthusiasm high? Is it possible to keep enjoying what you do?
Every day, I get to create something out of nothing, helping stories unfold and bringing characters to life. How can you NOT stay enthusiastic about a lifetime of that?!
Where did you get the inspiration for the THU poster: The Tribe Returns? What did you want to convey with it?
THU describes its attendees as a Tribe, yet, by definition, every artist is unique in what they bring to the world. With that in mind, I created a multi-genre stampede of unicorns (the eponymous mascot of THU), racing and encouraging each other onward. And yes, every one of them – the Centaurinacorn, the Firecorn, the Skelecorn, the Zebracorn, the Shire Unicorn, and the mighty Steampunkcorn – I designed especially for this poster.
Do you like the final work?
Of course, though as Norman Rockwell once said, making a painting is like throwing a ball against a wall; it never comes back as hard as you throw it. Which is why it's so important to throw as hard as you can, my friends, with every single painting!
Do you have any advice for the 600 young creatives who are preparing to attend THU 2016?
Gatherings of super-talented artists like these are treasures in the lifetime of an artist. Enjoy, and make the most of every moment!