The Beautiful Art That Shapes & Sells Our Favorite Films & Shows

Sketches, illustrations, storyboards, concept art, posters, digital painting and even 'for your consideration' Emmy ads for print publications like Variety are just a few of the ways in which artists help filmmakers and television creators tell, and sell, their movies and shows. The artwork can be extremely visible to the public, as AMC's Mad Men has done so brilliantly with their poster design for each new season, or simply a tool for filmmakers to use to help them craft a specific scene or sequence.

For a film like Guardians of the Galaxythere was already the illustrated source material to start with, the comic books. Marvel's conceptual illustrators, like Rodney Fuenteblla, Fabian Lacey and Jackson Sze helped James Gunn and the rest of the filmmakers by creating vivid images, inspired by the source material (but not strictly beholden to it), to guide the production process. Sometimes, the images are simply pieces of gorgeous conceptual art to help market the film, like the hero image above. Other times, they're used to storyboard scenes.

The illustration below depicts a crucial scene at the beginning of Guardians. 

Peter Quill meets his destiny as a 9-year old boy in this storyboard illustration. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Studios

The illustration below depicts another scene in Guardians, this one in the Boot of Jemiah, a bar on the mining colony of Knowhere. This wonderful scene pays loving respect to a similar important moment in Star Wars, when Obi Wan Kenobi shepherds an out-of-his-element Luke into the Mos Eisley Cantina, where they meet with some hostility, and, more importantly, Han Solo and Chewbaca. In Guardians, the Boot of Jemiah generates an important moment as well. Before it was shot, it was drawn.

An illustration of the Guardians at the Boot of Jemiah, a bar in the mining colony of Knowhere. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Studios

The below image, which comes after our heroes are captured by the Nova Prime security forces, is reminiscent of the shot of Kevin Pollack, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro (who's also in Guardians), Gabriel Byrne and Kevin Spacey from The Usual Suspects.

The concept art for the sequence in the film which, like 'The Usual Suspects,' helps identify our heroes as outlaws. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Studios

Two of our heroes, Star-Lord and Rocket, prepare for battle.

Star-Lord (aka Peter Quill) and Rocket are ready to fight in this concept art. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Studios

Guardians artists also created fantastic posters for the film. These serve as both ads and keepsakes.

Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Studios Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Studios Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Studios Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Studios

For Warner Bros. upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, each of the heroic shellbacks were given their own bespoke poster, as well as this beautiful illustrated poster with all four of them:


Photo realistic images like the below are appropriate for films like the upcoming This Is Where I Leave You, a comedy about the death of a patriarch and a shiva gone bad.

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

For Into the Storm, which opens next week, a vivid illustration can help showcase the essence of the film in a single, static image. In this case, the depiction of a terrifying moment from the film that showcases both the heroism and hubris that inform the story—while we see a man attempting to save a woman's life, only a few feet away another man just has to get the freakish tornado system on camera.

Heroism and hubris in Warner Bros. 'Into The Storm.' Courtesy Warner Bros.

For AMC's Mad Men, Matthew Weiner and his creative team have not only continually filled the frame with beautiful images, they've made creating beautiful illustrations and print ads into a big part of the show's appeal.

Their poster for the start of their final season is a thing of far out beauty.

Courtesy AMC Networks

Sometimes the art created for films and TV shows involves graphic design. Fitting, then, that a show primarily set at an advertising agency would absolutely crush their Emmy 'For Your Consideration' print ads. These would make Don Draper himself proud.

Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris - Mad Men _ Season 7, EMMY Print Ads - Photo Credit: Courtesy of AMC Courtesy AMC Network. John Slattery as Roger Sterling - Mad Men _ Season 7, EMMY Print Ads - Photo Credit: Courtesy of AMC Jon Hamm as Don Draper. Mad Men, Season 7, EMMY Print Ads - Photo Credit: Courtesy of AMC

For The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, the filmmakers created incredible ads as well, only these exist within the universe of the film—they are a part of the Capitol's propaganda.

President Snow's official portrait. Courtesy Lionsgate Courtesy Lionsgate Films

For Alejandro González Iñárritu's Venice-opening Birdman, Michael Keaton's title character is given the illustrative treatment for a film that promises to be beautiful and strange.

Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures.

And it's never too early to tease your project with some beautiful art. Just look at what Quentin Tarantino's doing for his next film, the western The Hateful Eight, which hasn't even been shot yet. After Gawker published Tarantino's Hateful Eight script, he swiftly filed a lawsuit against them and said he was no longer interested in making it. But then a surprise appearance at Comic-Con proved he had, in fact, been working on a new script, and he recently released this beautiful illustrated poster to Empire Magazine.

The poster reveals both a release date and that it will be presented in 70mm Super CinemaScope. Courtesy Columbia Pictures/Empire Magazine.

Featured image: Guardians of the Galaxy image created by Charles Wen. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Studios.


The Credits

The Credits is an online magazine that tells the story behind the story to celebrate our large and diverse creative community. Focusing on profiles of below-the-line filmmakers, The Credits celebrates the often uncelebrated individuals who are indispensable to the films and TV shows we love.