Star Wars Artist Spotlight: John Burns

Star Wars Artist Spotlight: John Burns
There are so many talented Star Wars fans out there that create beautiful pieces of Star Wars art. However, there is a smaller number of these Star Wars artists that create consistently awesome art from a unique perspective or an original style . One of these artists is John Burns. Here is my interview with him:

John BurnsIn what part of our galaxy do you reside in? are you a full-time artist?

I’m currently a part-time artist living in Kansas, US, although I’d love to work full-time!

How long have you been a Star Wars fan? Can you recall your first Star Wars memory?

I’ve always enjoyed the movies; especially Revenge Of The Sith. I remember watching it for the first time and being amazed by Anakin’s transformation; it’s so poetic how it mirrors his redemption in Return of the Jedi. But early 2014 was when I really became a fan of the franchise—Making Star Wars and Star Wars News Net did a fantastic job generating hype for The Force Awakens (which turned out to be my favorite Star Wars movie). I think the overall buildup to that film is my favorite Star Wars memory—that and seeing the cast come up on stage at Celebration 2015. It was just a great time.

What did you think of Rogue One?

I just love it. Gareth and the story group captured a classic feel, but also brought something new and exciting to the table. It’s very much unlike the Saga movies, in a lot of ways, but its core and essence are the same. I think that’s what matters more than anything else. But my favorite thing about it is how it enhances A New HopeRogue One truly is its first half, and I think that because of what happened in the movie, the events of A New Hope are a lot more impactful.

Who is your favorite Star Wars character in the saga?

Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, hands down. There are so many layers and sides to his character… he’s absolutely fascinating, and is proof that anyone can be redeemed. And I can’t think of a more iconic costume in cinema than the Darth Vader suit.

Grandfather's Shadow by John Burns
Grandfather’s Shadow by John Burns

How did you begin creating Star Wars art? How would you define your style?

2015 was when I really began; it was sort of a reaction to all the hype for The Force Awakens. I did a lot of fan art, and I drew sketches of leaked concept art; stuff like that. It was so much fun, and it’s still the main thing I do, although I’ve also been designing original Star Wars concepts and costume designs. I’d love to work on the actual movies! I think my style is a sort of blend between Darren Tan and Glyn Dillon’s styles, both of whom influence me greatly.

Rey by John Burns
Rey by John Burns

Do you have any favorite artists or influences in your work?

So many! Ralph McQuarrie, Doug Chiang, Glyn Dillon, Matt Allsopp, Darren Tan, Ryan Meinerding… If you’re unfamiliar with any of these names, you have to check them out! They’re just incredible. But going further back in time, Rembrandt and Gustave Doré have always inspired me to no end. I love Doré’s illustration of the Leviathan; I don’t think anyone has ever understood the principles of light and darkness as well as he did.

Which is your favorite character to create art of?

Kylo Ren, easily! Like Vader, there are so many layers and sides to his character, and there’s no end to the number of ways you can portray him in a painting. He’s complex and deeply tormented; conflicted between the light and the dark. But mostly he’s in pain. That’s a lot of material to work with; I never get tired of painting him.

Snoke’s Hand by John Burns
Snoke’s Hand by John Burns

Which are your favorite Star Wars art pieces that you have made?

I like both iterations of “Grandfather’s Shadow”—I wanted to express some of the conflicts and pressures that Kylo faces, and the pain that results from them. It’s a piece I’ll paint again and again. And “Rey”, “Opulent Leader”, and “Kadros” would be a few more I’m happy with.

Opulent Leader by John Burns
Opulent Leader by John Burns

How do you usually go about making your art? What’s your process/timeline from start to finish?

If it’s a concept, I tend to gather reference first—usually historical—and then sketch up a ton of simple, rough designs. I’ll pick the one I’m most happy with, and then illustrate it until I’m satisfied with the detail and overall result. It’s kind of like sculpting; you start with really rough, relatively amorphous ideas, and then shape and refine them until satisfied. But I think the most important thing is to imagine something that tells a story, or otherwise provides information. When you look at any costume in Star Wars, you immediately know a lot about the character who wears it—I think that’s the key to any good concept.

Are you working on any more Star Wars art? Or have any planned for the future?

Always! 2017 is going to packed with The Last Jedi fan art, and I also have an unofficial Star Wars comic coming out later on, which is set in-between Episodes VI and VII. So there will be no shortage of Star Wars art from me!

The Last Jedi by John Burns
The Last Jedi by John Burns

How excited are you for The Last Jedi? What questions do you hope are answered in the film?

Unbelievably excited! I’m looking forward to Rey’s parentage being revealed, but more importantly, I want to know where Luke is at. It’s been 30 years since we’ve seen him last, and that period of time has been filled with extreme loss and tragedy. Kylo Ren, who we know was one of his students, burned Luke’s Jedi Academy to the ground, slaughtered Luke’s students, and killed his own father and Luke’s best friend, Han Solo. No one can go through horrors like that and come out the same person. I want to know who Luke Skywalker is in this trilogy.

Last Jedi Poster by John Burns
Last Jedi Poster by John Burns

Be sure to check out John Burn’s art on Artstation to see all his past art and follow him on Twitter and Instagram

You can see more artist spotlights here.

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