Andy Park living his dream as Marvel Studios concept artist

May 5, 2015
Concept Artist for Marvel Studios Andy Park has worked on many notable films including both "Avengers" films and the upcoming release "Antman." (Courtesy of Marvel Studios/Disney)

Concept Artist for Marvel Studios Andy Park has worked on many notable films including both “Avengers” films and the upcoming release “Antman.” (Courtesy of Marvel Studios/Disney)

By Brian Han

Marvel’s latest Hollywood blockbuster “Avengers: Age of Ultron” will feature all the things the public has grown to love about the franchise — A-list actors, witty dialogue, mind-blowing action, etc.

There are so many elements to keep track of that by the time the credits roll, the average movie-goer will find themselves both satisfied and exhausted.

But that long list of names is where the real magic lies.

“When I see all those names after a great movie, I always call it a mini movie miracle,” says Marvel Studios concept artist Andy Park. “At any point in the process, something could have gone wrong whether it’s the acting, the script, the art, the design, effects, music or editing. It’s a miracle to me.”

Park and his six coworkers on the Visual Development team take on the daunting task of designing the Marvel Cinematic Universe that the audience sees on the silver screen.

From Tony Stark’s latest Iron Man suit to the staggering beauty of Thor’s home in Asgard to the hundreds of Ultron’s evil minions chasing these heroes, this team is responsible for bringing all that to life and more.

“Because we’re in-house artists we can partake in almost every step of the way even down to the marketing,” he said. “The process starts with the script, which we usually read before going off to design the characters.”

At this point, the artists engage in a collaborative process with the director and producer, which in the case of the “Avengers” sequel are Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, respectively.

Park acknowledges that it can be a demanding and sometimes grueling back-and-forth.

“It’s never a case where we do a design and it’s, ‘Yes, perfect, done, let’s move on to the next,’” he said. “It’s almost always a long process. They’re just looking for something and it’s either hard to articulate or we’re helping them find what’s in their head.”

That’s not to say that the team never hits its mark earlier than expected.

“Sometimes the process actually goes by quickly, which is what happened with the character Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), then there are times where it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re killing me here,’” he said.

Chances are that Park may have been referring to the instance where his team went through over 100 hand-drawn designs to finally achieve the final look of the dark elves in “Thor: The Dark World.”

It’s a fast paced environment with expectations that are so colossal. Even Whedon admitted that he almost reached the brink of insanity while editing the latest “Avengers” film.

Park has worked on eight films and counting for Marvel Studios, but he still seems to be fully intact. In fact, he loves it.

“You learn to adapt, but you never really get used to it even after working on a bunch of these,” he said. “One thing I can say is there’s no other position like this in the film industry. It’s a privilege and it’s really a dream job.”

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" character Quicksilver by Marvel Studios concept artist Andy Park (Courtesy of Marvel Studios/Disney)

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” character Quicksilver by Marvel Studios concept artist Andy Park (Courtesy of Marvel Studios/Disney)

Park’s journey is the kind of success story everyone hopes to have.

He found his passion at a very young age, worked incredibly hard at it and made bold choices.

The idea of growing up as a second generation Korean American in a very traditional family and pursuing a career as a comic book artist is about as close to an oxymoron as one can get.

Park dropped out of the University of California, Los Angeles in his sophomore year to follow that dream.

It was met with no resistance from his father.

“My dad was a doctor and I had a very typical upbringing,” he said. “My dad was very strict. A- is unacceptable. But through the years, my dad really evolved and changed. He became more Americanized.”

To take it a step further, his plans were met with full support and he gives a lot of credit to a fellow Korean American and legendary comic book artist and author Jim Lee.

“My dad would see him a lot in newspapers and that helped pave the way,” Park recalled. “I idolized Jim Lee growing up. I even had a Jim Lee wall of all his art. My dad would cut out Jim Lee articles and put it up on my wall. To see a young Korean American artist living the dream, drawing comic books and being one of the most successful comic book creators of all time truly inspired me.”

Now seeing successful Korean artists is quite a common sight especially in the rapidly growing gaming industry according to Park.

He’s one of the very few individuals who has made it to such an elite level and although there’s luck and networking involved, he stresses that hard work is at the root of all his success.

“The Korean work ethic gave me an advantage,” he said. “One of the biggest things my parents instilled in me was a strong work ethic. I’m going to put in the hours and I’ve always done that for art. Even after working as a professional artist for 20 years I still take classes every so often. I’m constantly learning and trying to grow as an artist.”

And after those two decades and many completed Marvel films that same feeling that drove him to this industry still provides all the emotional gratification he needs.

“I’m not jaded!” the 39-year-old artist said. “I’m still impressed with the whole process. I love seeing what comes back whether it’s from the costume department or digital effects or stuff from [Industrial Light & Magic] or whoever it is and it’s always great to see. I always get that inevitable giddy feeling and then I see it up on the screen and think, ‘Oh my gosh! It’s real!’”

 

Painting of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" character Black Widow by Marvel Studios concept artist Andy Park (Courtesy of Marvel Studios/Disney)

Painting of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” character Black Widow by Marvel Studios concept artist Andy Park (Courtesy of Marvel Studios/Disney)

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