The internet is overloaded with fan art, and the quality of said art can vary terribly from one example to the next.
Sometimes a fan wants to represent an idea, even when lacking all artistic talent. And sometimes, highly experienced professionals of the art world still want to show their love for a certain character or lore.
When you explore the realms of fan art, such as Deviant Art or Red Bubble, you can find anything from childish-looking doodles of the Joker making out with Batman to elaborate oil paintings of Daenerys and her dragons.
While many movies are considered art pieces, the fan art around them can often be brushed off as a simple manifestation of fanaticism with no artistic value.
Fan Art or Something Different?
This is, however, not the most common case with alternative movie posters. So what are alternative movie posters? They’re essentially fan art, but more often than not, they are also high-quality artworks.
They reproduce posters nowadays as they would have been in another time, in a vintage style. Or they follow contemporary trends, such as vector art and layered illustrations.
They are drawn by hand or digitally. They represent the latest blockbuster or a timeless classic. But in all cases, they’re not part of the original advertising campaign of the film. They’re not made in Hollywood; they’re something else.
The artists behind some of the most beautiful alternative movie posters are not hired by an art director or agency nor paid by producers from a certain film.
They do what they do for the love of art, but oddly enough, that is exactly why these posters are so frequently better than the originals.
Official movie posters can be beautiful and artistic, yes, but that is not their main goal. Their main goal is to sell movie tickets.
Tickets are sold based on recognizable formulas. Photographs of hot actors and actresses sell tickets, Futura Bold and Trajan sell tickets, bright saturated colors sell tickets.
Why? Because the target audience has very little time to make a movie poster, and conventions help them process information faster.
So alternative movie posters are a different phenomenon: they are often detailed and handcrafted because they’re not meant to be seen and understood in 10 seconds in the hallway of a cinema.
They’re often meant to be admired for a long time, to be calmly analyzed and interpreted, just like a painting in a museum.
Alternative movie posters are generally more artistic and beautiful than original movie posters, but that does not mean -at all that they could do a better job at promoting the film.
Original movie posters are sale devices. Alternative movie posters are works of art and even different than fan art. However, one should know that copyright protection does exist for movies, and these articles are must-reads:
- Is Fan Art Plagiarism? How To Safely Sell Your Artwork!
- This Is How To Sell Fan Art Legally & Illegally
But back to the point: a flyer handed out on the street versus a carefully written love letter. There’s simply no comparison in style because the goals of both objects are completely divergent.
A direct consequence of this essential difference is the fact that most original movie posters are produced by faceless poster design services called agencies.
Still, some alternative movie poster artists actually have a very well-known name and a decent fan base of their own.
Let’s see some of the most famous examples, shall we?
Lovers of alternative movie posters are bound to be familiar with the art of Tony Stella.
His unique approach combines the composition of vintage movie posters with an unspeakable freshness that appears contemporary.
He mixes traditional materials such as watercolor, crayon or ink, with digital art editions and modern themes. He’s not limited by the conventions of commercial movie posters, but he certainly knows them and uses them in his favor whenever necessary.
It is fan art, but a really elevated version of it. Most of his posters couldn’t work for a major Hollywood hit, but it wouldn’t be too crazy to see his craft in the context of an indie film festival.
He really tries to keep hand-made movie posters alive because that is his way of capturing the soul of a film in a static image.
The interesting thing about his work is how versatile it is: His website shows examples of foreign films such as Empire of Passion or Portrait of a Lady on Fire, but also of classics as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, recent hits such as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or The Irishman, and even huge Marvel project Thor.
Tony Stella proves how real talent doesn’t need to fall into predetermined categories to work. Whatever the subject of the movie, he makes the poster work on his own terms.
Another perfect example of a poster artist who successfully combines elements of older art techniques with contemporary art is Tracie Ching.
This self-taught illustrator uses textures and very restricted color palettes that call engravings and serigraphy to mind, but with the clean, digital look of vector art. In fact, if you are interested in becoming a poster illustrator, you need to read this article.
Tracie Ching managed to accomplish what usually seems impossible to fan artists: she built an audience large enough to attract the big guys’ attention.
With her impeccable portfolio, she reached the goal of making key art for all the main Hollywood studios, Universal, Sony Pictures, MGM, Lionsgate, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and of course, Disney.
But she made it into the big leagues while remaining authentic. Tracie Ching can adapt her style to the rules of commercial movie posters, but she still keeps making alternative posters that obey only her will.
She’s also very versatile, taking inspiration for her artworks from all pop culture.
On her website, she shows alternative movie posters for films by Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, and Hayao Miyazaki, but also for big sagas as Star Wars and John Wick, for all kinds of superhero films, and cult classics.
This illustrator earned his spot on this list with his vintage-style alternative movie posters for Marvel movies.
Still, he actually comes from the comics industry (remember when Marvel wasn’t much of a thing in the film industry? Huh!).
He grew up in Florida, went to the Rhode Island School of Design, (do you need a degree in art?), started a promising professional career, and began producing art in oil, the most traditional of means, but then moved on towards the typical style of comics books.
Trust me, that was the right move: if you can think of a famous superhero, Paolo Rivera probably painted the cover of an issue of that comic series at least once.
So what makes his alternative movie posters so special is that they’re not only made by someone that loves movies but also by someone that loves the genre of superheroes in its original form.
His posters are both elegant and dynamic, and they must be admired for a long while to appreciate all the details. Luckily for us fans of details, the artist also has a blog where he describes his work life and creative process.
As versatile as Stella and Ching and as close in style to comic books as Rivera is the Uruguayan Martin Ansin. On his website, he exhibits alternative movie posters for superhero movies such as Spider-Man: Homecoming, Wonder Woman, Batman 66, Man of Steel, and Iron Man 3.
A fan favorite is his alternative poster for Taxi Driver: an intricate and insanely detailed illustration that’s completely solved in barely four colors. We are as far as we can from seeing a poster like that at the movie theater (even the format is radically different from the standard poster dimensions). Still, honestly, you can only be happy such fan work exists.
Ansin’s art is an example of how official and alternative movie posters can coexist and contribute to each other: the original movie poster of Taxi Driver is a collector’s must-have.
That movie poster helped to advertise a movie that eventually became a cult classic, and now the film is so beloved that it’s still producing high-quality fan art decades after its release.
One poster helps the movie grow; the other comes from the movie’s growth. It’s a full circle.
Even if the posters of Rivera and Ansin are detailed, they have nothing on the ones of Tyler Stout. The whole art style of this man is based on detail.
It takes forever to observe every single one of his alternative movie posters because there’s just so much to see. If you want to look at them, the artist’s website exhibits a big collection of pieces based on pop culture and Hollywood history. These posters are horror vacui at their finest, and fans simply love them.
It’s exactly the kind of fan art that wouldn’t be very effective to promote an unknown movie at first, but that’s nonetheless a wonderful treat for fans of well-established films.
And there lays the biggest difference between graphic designers of commercial movie posters, and fan artists of alternative movie posters: the first ones probably love cinema enough to work in the industry, but most of the time they don’t really know that much about the film they’re trying to promote.
Commercial movie posters are often designed by graphic designers and art directors with the input of a creative director before the film is even ready for the premiere, and that means that designers work based on pictures, a title, a copy, some movie star names, and a concept.
But fan artists work based on films they have already seen multiple times and films they love. These posters are made with a deep understanding of the essence of each film, so of course, fans generally like them more.
The original poster takes the glory of being the face of the movie, but the alternative posters take the audience’s heart.
Alternative Movie Posters
So, where are all these alternative movie posters we keep talking about? Where can we see them?
Funny enough, you can actually find a large, curated collection of them at Alternative Movie Posters (thank you, internet). Re Postered has a less obvious name and a tinier collection but shows equally lovely artworks.
These websites are devoted to celebrating alternative movie posters for the art pieces they are.
They help artists gain exhibition and enlarge their audience, and they’re accessible enough when it comes to contact them. So, if you want to explore alternative movie posters or make them, these are interesting options for you.
This platform was born fifteen years ago with the intention of giving independent artists a way of selling their fan work without infringing any laws.
RedBubble takes care of the legal aspects related to copyright and royalties so that artists can focus on producing art.
This makes the website a good tool for cinephiles because it allows fans to find alternative merch of their favorite films and contribute to the original product makers.
If you want to fill the walls of your house with alternative movie posters, this is a good place to start looking for them.
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