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Greg and Tim Hildebrandt soar with Star Wars and transform Tolkien


By A. Jaye Williams

T he brothers Hildebrandt gave the world its first glimpse of Luke Skywalker, thanks to their classic movie poster for the original Star Wars, and are the painters most responsible for how we've pictured J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings characters. They have long been a mainstay in the fields of both fantasy and science-fiction art.

Twin brothers, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt were born and raised in Detroit before moving to Rochester 15 years later. Once they completed high school, they enrolled in Meinzinger's art school. Today, they both reside in northern New Jersey, where they continue to work their unique and exquisite magic in the same art studio.



Who were some of your artistic influences? That is, which classic painters do you admire the most and had the greatest impact/influence on you as a painter?

Greg: Some classic painters that we like are Pieter Brueghel, Bosch, Monet and Rembrandt, just to name several of the many, many greats.



What are some of the art books you've done? And what was your first successful commercial sale of a painting? Your first published material?

Greg: Some of the books we've done are The Art of the Brothers Hildebrandt, Fantasy Art Techniques, by Tim, From Tolkien to Oz, by Greg, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, by Greg and Tim, which was also a trading card set, and Greg and Tim Hildebrandt: The Tolkien Years.

Our first commercial sale of a painting was when we were at Jam Handy's, an advertising company we worked for, and it was for the vice president, of an abstract landscape on canvas.

Our first published material was a book named The Man Who Found Out Why. We did two color illustrations, one of them being the cover.



What is it about the sci-fi/fantasy genre that inspires you as artists? What is it about the medium of painting that makes you want to continue in it? What drives you both?

Tim: What we love about the whole sci-Fi/fantasy genre is that it deals with pure imagination. Being able to fully utilize your creative thought is awesome. The whole medium of painting is self-satisfying for us. It's hands-on work. It's organic. You use tools that were invented by the cavemen as an extension of your own hand to move colors around and form an image that's locked up inside your head.

Our drive? Art is an obsession.

Greg: Art chose me, I did not choose it.

Tim: I can't remember ever thinking that I was going to be anything but an artist. It's all I ever knew and will know.



What are some of the most necessary ingredients in a fantasy painting that makes it a good painting? Realistic or believable artistic conception, personal expression, composition, rendering, style, color? And which medium do you prefer to work in most—oil, acrylic, watercolors—and why?

Tim: Everything you just asked in your question is exactly what makes it a good painting. All the elements combine together to create a multitude of emotions for the viewer.

Greg: I like acrylic, it's what I first started using as a kid, plus it dries fast.

Tim: We both like acrylics, but I also love to work in watercolor.



What do you consider to be some of your most important works and why? What are your personal favorites?

Greg: Our favorites are always the ones we are working on now.



You've done countless book covers, movie posters (Star Wars most notably!) over the years. How is the "cover painter" looked upon these days compared to when you first started? With more or less respect?

Greg: Fantasy covers were not looked at as very notable back in the '70s. It was not till after The Lord of the Rings that the genre started to become notable. Back then, cover painters had more freedom to create what they felt would be the best piece for the cover. Art directors wanted you to read the book and choose a cover image. Today they give you specific guidelines of almost exactly what they want to see.



You've done a number of calenders. Most notably may be the Lord of the Rings calendars (the 2002 was spectacular!). Which calendars are your favorites, and why? How did you get associated so strongly with The Lord of the Rings?

Greg: We really like the design on the 2002 Tolkien Calendar. We became closely associated with the LOTR when we did the 1976, 1977 and 1978 calendars for Ballantine Books in the '70s.



Tell me about Spiderwebart Gallery. What exactly is the Web site's goal and purpose? How long has it been running? How successful has it been for you both? What does it offer fans of science-fiction and fantasy art? How many different artists are represented through Spiderwebart? Were they chosen by you or did they themselves seek out Spiderwebart to be represented in the gallery?

Greg: Spiderwebart Gallery was started in 1995. The initial goal was more of an online portfolio for the artists represented. By 1996, it was completely redesigned to be a secure Web site where fans could actually purchase original art, books, collectibles and prints.

It is very successful for us. It has given us a worldwide reach that we of course would never have had without the Internet. Spiderwebart sells quite a bit of our art every year, and of course quite a bit of art from other artists that are in the gallery.

What it offers fans is one place that they can see thousands of pieces of art in many genres. There are probably 15 artists represented at this time by Spiderwebart. However, the gallery is always adding new art and artists. Half of the artists on the gallery came to Spiderwebart.



What are some of the most impressive offerings that you have to offer through Spiderwebart? And what are some of the more affordable and popular offerings that you have for sale?

Greg: What are you asking when you say impressive? We believe that every piece of art is impressive in one way or another. So if it is an illustration of a child's book that has a $50 retail or a Lord of the Rings painting that has a $100,000 retail, it is impressive.

Spiderwebart has collectibles that start at $8. Most popular is, of course, the Lord of the Rings art book and prints.



Have you attended any sci-fi/fantasy/comic book or art cons lately? If so, where and when—and how was it? What was some of the feedback from fans like? How would you both describe the relationship you have with your fans and admirers?

Tim: We were at a comic convention in Dallas last year. Fans are always very enthusiastic, and we have a great relationship with them. It's great to get out of the studio sometimes and meet the people who admire your work on a one-to-one, face-to-face basis. It gives you the reassurance that, yeah, someone out there does like what I'm doing.



Is there any special Tim and Greg Hildebrandt project that you'd like to do but haven't had a chance to start? Maybe a follow-up to Urshurak? With all the success of other fantasy movies, such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Spider-Man, X-Men and Star Wars movies, is there any possibility of a movie or TV adaptation of Urshurak? Would you like there to be?

Tim: Yes. We would love to see Urshurak as a film, or even a TV series, animated or live-action. If we had a choice, an animated feature would be awesome.

We would still like to do more film production design.



Who are some of your favorite writers and artists that you like to work with, or that you would like to work with but haven't?

Greg: We really don't have an answer for this. We have a lot of favorites, but mostly we work alone.



Aside from Urshurak, what other written material have you done?

Greg: We wrote and illustrated The Emerald 7. This was created for the Frank Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated magazine. It was a sequential art style fantasy series that ran for several issues. That was fun.



You've done some fully illustrated cards and comic books for Marvel and DC Comics. How did that come about—like Marvel Masterpieces, Superman: The Last God of Krypton and X-Men 2099, and do you have any plans of doing any other comic books? Would you like to? If so, what company or writer would you like to work with, and what character(s)? How about your own?

Greg: Oh, this is an easy question to answer. We wake up one day and tell our agent that we want to do a particular type of project, and she goes and gets it. That would be how those projects came to life.

We have no plans to do another comic, but you never know what the future will bring. We like all the companies, so I guess there is no preference. As far as characters, maybe Captain America, Batman or Wonder Woman.



How challenging—regarding deadlines, interpretation of Simonson's writing, the comic-book medium itself—was doing the Superman comic book? And how did you both overcome these challenges?

Greg: Sequential art is always a challenge. It is a very sophisticated art form. You must make the person read and also move the story ahead with pictures. The greatest challenge is to place the pictures and talk balloons in the space you have. You take it head-on and get it done. You have to design it into a tight deadline.



What is it that you, Tim, wanted most to get across with The Fantasy Art Techniques of Tim Hildebrandt? What special or notable art books by you both would you recommend to your fans who would like to pursue fantasy painting?

Tim: The main point I was trying to get across in the book was how I paint. How the entire process comes together from concept to completion.

Greg: A book that we would recommend, not just for fantasy painting, but any kind of painting, is called Figure Drawing for All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis. I think it may be out of print, but it can still be found in old bookstores and maybe online. He also did a book called Creative Illustration, which is another one that we still reference that is very good.



What other projects do you have coming up in the future?

Greg: We are working on stories for an illustrated book on Genesis, the first book of the Bible, which is slated to be a three-year project as of now.



Anything else you'd like to mention or point out that wasn't covered?

Greg: Well, in the last few years we have done about 50 to 75 pieces of art for Wizards of the Coast, for their Harry Potter game. That was a lot of fun. We also work with Wizards of the Coast on their Magic: The Gathering trading-card game. We have done dozens of Magic paintings, and we really enjoy those.

I have been working on a series of retro pinup paintings for the last three years that I love! I've completed 32 of them so far, and I am having a blast painting these.

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