Interview: Chopping Mall poster artist Corey Wolfe! Plus Archival Treats!
Above: early round comp for the Chopping Mall poster by Corey Wolfe
Last week I wrote about the amazing poster for Chopping Mall (1986) and a little bit about the artist behind it, Corey Wolfe. Corey was actively involved in creating artwork for movie posters and VHS covers for various film companies during the eighties. He also painted the original (non-photographic) poster for Re-animator (1985). In our first interview here at Man is the Warmest Place to Hide, Corey talks about how the Chopping Mall poster came about and gives us a glimpse into what it was like to be a poster artist at that time.
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Do you have any specific memories or stories about working on the Chopping Mall poster? Or any interesting details you'd like to share?
I don't remember there being any reference material at all on this one. Maybe some quickie thumbnail sketches from the art director. I vaguely recall doing 3 or 4 different images. I'll look through my old slides, I should have taken pictures of them. They would be black and white comps, not color at that early a stage. We rarely went to color on more than one sketch (comp). [ed: the images used in this post are what Corey found shortly after] The best part of that piece is that the face in the bag is a friend, the foot is mine. I sold the original art years ago at a SciFi convention.
You mentioned that you had done some other concept sketches that weren't ultimately used; can you describe what those looked like?
I seem to remember body parts on an escalator.
Was it difficult to come up with concepts for this type of poster? I was surprised to hear that you're not a big horror fan, so where did you get your inspiration from?
The art directors or movie producers usually had ideas before artists were brought in. We rarely had free reign, sadly.
I gather that the artwork for the posters sometimes had to be done very quickly. Was that a challenge? Somewhere I read that Drew Struzan did the poster for The Thing overnight, so perhaps this was just standard practice at the time?
Yes it's all true. It was a time of stress and fun. We rarely had more than 2-3 days for concept work, and rarely more than a week for finish work. I remember being called in to a meeting in Hollywood at 4pm one day (imagine the traffic from 20 miles south). It was for a crazy deadline. Around 3 other artists were there as well. We all had to do super tight black and white (painted) finishes for the movie 'Highlander'. With no reference material. These were called 'half sizes' around half the size of a one sheet. Due date - tomorrow at 8am. So i had my dad pose as the main bad guy (name escapes me) [ed: Clancy Brown as "The Kurgan"]. I never saw him so animated as he wielded a sword and screamed at the camera. Since he's gone now, that Polaroid remains dear to me. So the upside is we all got $1,200 for a night's work, which was pretty good pay back then.
What was the artist community like back then for this type of work? Were you friends with some of the other artists?
Yes, I hung out with Richard Hescox , Tim Solliday, Chris Dellorco , and knew a few more.
Do you have any particular favorite posters (or vhs cover art) done by other people during the eighties period? Were you influenced by other artists working in your field or by contemporary artists?
Drew and Bill Garland  were always my favorites. I've met them both. Great guys. And at some point we were all asked to paint something in the 'Drew style'. It was actually quite a fast and relatively easy style, once you got the hang of it. I was known to be able to do likenesses pretty well. I remember once hearing that Bette Midler had likeness approval on everything. I also heard she didn't like her nose, so when I did work on 'Ruthless People', I made sure to go light on the nose cast shadow, and she approved it, first round.
Any thoughts on the current state of poster and cover art? It seems like it's changed a great deal!
Photography is boring! There are some top notch photographers out there, but very few of them know anything about design. How to keep the viewers eye inside the borders of the work, how the human eye goes to the highest contrast area first, be it in tone or color difference. Knowing Photoshop does not make you an artist.
Special Thanks to Corey Wolfe for answering our questions and digging through his archives! We'd also like to thank VHS Collector, who interviewed Corey in 2009, which is where we first found out that he had done the artwork for the Chopping Mall poster.
 Richard Hescox did the paintings that appear throughout the set in House (1986). He has also painted numerous sci-fi book covers (including those for the Edgar Rice Burroughs "Venus" series).
 Chris Dellorco illustrated the original poster for Conan the Barbarian.
 Bill Garland painted the poster for the first Mad Max film.