Combining the expressive power of a great storyteller with the skill of a master craftsman, Sean Phillips is an artist we’ve come back to time and time again at Criterion. From Sweet Smell of Success to On the Waterfront to The Flight of the Phoenix to the upcoming Buck and the Preacher, Phillips is responsible for some of our most memorable covers, showcasing a dazzling array of styles and techniques while always being recognizable as the work of a singular artist.
Like many artists, Phillips has been drawing for as long as he can remember. But unlike most artistic kids, he was getting paid for it. “Me and a couple of friends used to make comic strips when we were maybe ten or eleven,” he remembers of his childhood in the United Kingdom, “and we had a strip in the local newspaper when I was twelve. It only lasted a couple of months. That sort of made you realize that you could actually get a job drawing.”
Then, at age thirteen, Phillips enrolled in a night-school art class taught by a local comics artist, Ken Houghton. The class was intended for adults, but Phillips and a friend talked their way in, and soon he found himself “ghosting” pages for his teacher. The UK comics business at the time was divided into “boys” comics such as Crisis and 2000 AD and “girls” comics such as Judy and Bunty. It was the latter two titles that published some of Phillips’s earliest work—stories featuring “ballerinas or gymnasts or girls and their ponies or wicked stepmothers,” as he puts it—pushing him outside the comfort zone of the Spider-Man and Conan comics he loved as a boy.
Capturing Arsenic and Old Lace, in One Macabre Image
To capture the spirit of Frank Capra’s dark screwball classic, Criterion enlisted a longtime collaborator to create an image that combines the influences of Old Hollywood illustrator Jacques Kapralik and legendary pen-and-ink artist Edward Gorey.
The Artistic Synthesis That Gave Bloom to Our Exotica Cover
For this new illustration, Spanish artist David de las Heras combined his signature use of bold colors with the lush style of French postimpressionist Henri Rousseau, a key visual influence on Atom Egoyan’s 1994 film.
David Plunkert Shares His Passion for Color and Shape
The graphic designer behind our covers for Diabolique and The Tin Drum takes us inside his Baltimore studio and his idea-driven creative process.
Chris Buck Brings His Off-Kilter Portraiture Style to Dick Johnson Is Dead
The veteran photographer’s gently surreal and comical sensibility drives the artwork of our edition of Kirsten Johnson’s documentary.
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