Interview with William Stout

GW: Hello William, tell us about yourself.

WS: I was born in Salt Lake City in 1949. At seventeen I won a full California State Scholarship to the Chouinard Art Institute (CalArts) where I obtained my Bachelor's Degree. I began my art career as an advertising illustrator, eventually earning several Gold and Silver Medals from the Society of Illustrators and Spectrum. My poster for Ralph Bakshi's WIZARDS (1977) was the first of the over 120 movie advertising campaigns of which I was involved. Eventually I fell into the film business itself, working as a designer on over 35 feature films. In 1982 I became the youngest production designer in film history with my work on the cult classic Return of the Living Dead. Other films include the Conan movies, First Blood, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dinosaur and Men In Black. My designs helped Pan’s Labyrinth win Art Direction and Special Make-up Effects Academy Awards. My themed entertainment design work for Disney, Universal, LucasFilm and DreamWorks earned me a reputation as that field’s top conceptualist. My 1981 landmark book, THE DINOSAURS-A Fantastic New View of a Lost Era, was followed by The Little Blue Brontosaurus (1984 Children's Choice Award and the basis for The Land Before Time). Michael Crichton acknowledged my work as an inspiration for his book Jurassic Park. I illustrated Richard Matheson’s first children’s book, Abu & The Seven Marvels (Benjamin Franklin Award: Best Young Adult Book; Bram Stoker Award nominee; ASFFA nominee: best book illustration; Gold and Silver Awards from the Society of Illustrators). I have had over 80 international museum exhibitions (including 12 one man shows). Over two million visitors saw my Dinosaurs: Past and Present work at the Smithsonian. I was the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s 1992/93 Antarctic Artists & Writers Program grant. My murals are on permanent display at the San Diego Natural History Museum, the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I'm a CAC Signature Member and serve on their Advisory Board. I also co-founded the Comic Art Professional Society (CAPS) and was their 10th president.

GW: What project are you currently working on?

WS: I am designing a film whose title is currently The Tomb. I am also designing a magic show poster for Steve Cohen, a CD cover for the Moore Brothers and a cover for Prehistoric Times; I'm putting the final touches on my murals book, designing a T-shirt for WonderFest and preparing art and publishing books for this year's Comic-Con International.

GW: What advice would you give to aspiring artists just ready to start in the field?

WS: Pay attention to the business of art and learn to be a skillful negotiator. Study contracts carefully and don't give up your rights and originals just because someone asks you to do so. After the negotiation, always do your absolute best work no matter what you are being paid. Never stop doing life drawing (at least three hours each week) or animal drawing from life. Embrace criticism.

GW: Who has been your biggest inspiration? Why?

WS: Frank Frazetta, because his work dramatically inspired me and his career gave me a path to follow. Jean (Moebius) Giraud's work also profoundly inspired me as well as showing me that even the most commercial of art could still have many layers of depth and discovery. Ron Cobb, because sitting next to a genius for two years (on the Conan the Barbarian film) was bound to rub off in some way. I learned a lot about creativity, composition and design from Cobb.

GW: Is there anyone in the line-up for Workshop Live that you are particularly looking forward to seeing/meeting/hearing? Why?

WS: Iain McCaig, because upon first meeting him (we worked together on the "A Princess of Mars" film project) I felt as if I had just run into my long lost soul brother. Plus, he's a brilliant artist and I don't get to see enough of his work.

GW: Thank you William for joining us!

To see more of William Stout’s work, go to:

*All images courtesy of William Stout.