FMI Interviews: David Rabbitte

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Today we talked with David Rabbitte, He is an artist who has done extensive work in Star Wars, on a broad range of projects, everything from Topps trading cards to art for star wars celebration. He has also worked on other projects, among other things  the films Anastasia and Titan AE. You can find his website here, and you can find his blog here.


FMI: You’ve worked on tons of pieces with a wide range of mediums can you tell us which media do you prefer the best and why?

David: I’ve been working a lot in Photoshop lately, I guess now that is my preferred media. I used to like working in acrylic and gouache, and sometimes mix them with watercolors and color pencil.

FMI: And the reverse of that topic, which medium do you least like to work in and why?

David: I’d probably say oils, only because I haven’t used them much so I’m not so used to them. But really most mediums I have worked in have their advantages and disadvantages. Acrylic gives a nice finish and dries quickly but it doesn’t blend too easily, you have to work at it. Gouache does blend well, but sometimes ends up looking muddy if you’re not careful in how you apply the paint.

FMI: I grew up watching Anastasia and liked Titan A.E. Can you reflect on what the industry was like during the ’90’s in comparison to today?

David: Well, most departments worked traditionally, but even then digital media was starting creep in. It was a fun and memorable time, one of the best jobs I ever had. It’s a shame there aren’t too many studios that work in 2D left, at least not in the U.S. There were over 300 employees, and yet there was a real sense of family between us. I appreciate and love what the digital realm has given us, but 2D animation has nearly become a lost art. It was always fun to walk around the departments and see what artists were drawing.

FMI: We love your Star Wars sketch cards, can you enlighten us on where you get the ideas for the subjects to create them?

David: I have collected a lot of Star Wars photo reference over the years, mainly searching for those rare shots that few people have seen and work from them. I also work from my Star Wars dvd’s and freeze frame scenes I like. I don’t like to draw all portraits so I try and find some scene from the movies that are interesting and iconic. For my return cards (the cards I sell myself) I did a series of ‘torn poster’ pieces, that give the illusion of a characters face on a worn out poster hanging on a wall somewhere in the Star Wars universe. I think I was a little inspired by Drew Struzan’s A New Hope ‘circus’ poster he did in the 70s.

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FMI: How does working on a sketch card compare in terms of the various challengesyou may face to a larger piece?

David: It’s easier and faster to work on a sketch card than do something larger. Sometimes paint just works better on a small piece, not sure why, I guess maybe because you’re not looking at the image for too long, whereas a larger painting may take a few weeks, and after staring at it for a while you no longer see the problems, which can be a hindrance. Often what has happened to me after I finish a painting I would not look at it for a few months, then look again with a fresh perspective and notice all the faults and think something like “That left eye is way off! How did I not see that before??”

FMI: You’ve created dozens of masterful pieces of Star Wars art can you tell us which subject of the Star Wars universe is your favorite to create?

David: That’s hard to say. I guess I liked illustrating Luke and Vader in a lightsaber duel. Something about those scenes just say ‘Star Wars’ for me. Boba Fett is always fun, as is Han.

FMI: Can you give us any insight into your current projects involving the galaxy far far away?

David: This year I did sketch cards for Topps Empire Strikes Back Illustrated set and Star Wars Journey to The Force Awakens set. Both are out now. Also earlier this year I did a cover piece for a Star Wars novella written by author Abel Pena called ‘Skyewalkers’, part of a collection of lost Clone Wars tales.

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FMI: Doing work for Star Wars Insider, you’ve been able to illustrate some characters who previously had very little visual depiction. What are the challenges and advantages of this over, say, depicting Han, Luke, or other film characters?

David: I have to say first that doing art for the Insider was one of my favorite Star Wars projects, a dream come true, and the editor Jonathan Wilkins is fantastic to work with. My first story, Roll of the Dice, involved designing how Myri Antilles (Wedge’s daughter) would look, on top of that she was in disguise in the story. There was very little reference out there for her, so I pretty much had to use my imagination. The Last Battle of Colonel Jace Malcom had a bit more reference I used from the video games, so that helped a lot. I had to design a sith character for the story which was pretty cool.

FMI: I really enjoy the Biker Scout with No Name piece. Is there anything kinda out there like that that you’d appreciate the chance to draw?

David: A friend commissioned me to paint that Biker Scout art. I asked “Why would he wear a hat when he’s wearing a helmet?” He said “Don’t know, it just looks cool.” Fair enough! So I went with it. I’m working on a piece right now that I kind of consider out there, it’s not really for anything just for myself, that isn’t really an official part of canon. It’s more of a “what if” scenario which I like doing sometimes.

FMI: Is there any particular piece you are proudest of?

David: Last year I created an art print for Acme Archives called ‘Victory’, a scene of the rebels returning after destroying the Death Star. That was something I was pretty proud of how it turned out.

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FMI: You’ve done a few pieces relating to the art of Ralph McQuarrie, what exactly is it that draws you to his work?

David: His creativity and sense of scope are some of the things that draw me to his style. Plus I always like looking at how Star Wars could have been, particularly the Stormtroopers with the lightsabers and shields, and things like Han with with a beard and looking more like a jedi.

FMI: You have obviously done a lot of work on Star Wars material. What was your first exposure to Star Wars?

David: 1977 when A New Hope was released, that was when it all began for me. My brother introduced me to it, and soon after my dad took my brother, my friend and myself to see it at a drive in.

FMI: Were you a fan before you began your art career, or did your interest Star Wars come later?

David: Yeah, I was definitely a fan first, my art career came much later. Star Wars was one of the things that inspired me to do art for a living.

FMI: Did you always want to become an artist?

David: I liked doing art since I was really young, I just didn’t know it was going to be my career.

FMI: Can you tell us how you came to work on Star Wars projects?

David: I had been attending San Diego Comic Con every year and I was trying to get some kind of Star Wars work from any licensee that had a booth. 2004 I talked to the editor at the Topps booth and asked if he needed any more sketch card artists. He said yes and after looking at my portfolio we exchanged contact info – about a week later I heard from him and after getting the approval from Lucasfilm I got to work on sketch cards for the Star Wars Heritage card set. That helped open up a lot of opportunities to do other Star Wars work later on.

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