Artist Brian Bysouth has created adverts, storyboards, covers and hundreds of iconic film posters in his 40 year career. 007 collectors probably know him best for his work on the posters for "For Your Eyes Only", A View To A Kill" and "The Living Daylights". But his involvement in the world of Bond has been much more substantial as he kindly shares in this interview:
In November 1958 I left Willesden Art School aged 22, -a late starter because I had served two years National Service in the R.A.F.- I began my first employment as a junior illustrator in the art studio of a leading advertising agency, Downton Advertising. The Agency created advertising for film companies, amongst which were J.Arthur Rank, United Artists and Columbia Pictures. One of the directors, artist Eric Pulford, was at the peak of his career, recognised internationally for his outstanding film poster designs and illustrations. I soon realised that I was very fortunate to have found a job at a studio that was producing such profoundly beautiful paintings and realised that I wanted to become an illustrator of film posters.
In 1962 I was sharing a studio room with distinguished poster artist Bill Wiggins, that year saw the release of the first James Bond film, Dr No. We were very impressed with the excellent American poster art, it was stylish and modern. Downton's were responsible for the UK advertising campaign, which required adapting the art to fit our poster sites. My involvement was modest, I was merely tasked to draw adaptations for line only reproduction in the press.
A couple of years later, the Renato Fratini artwork for, From Russia With Love arrived in the studio to have the title lettering, cast and credits pasted on before being taken to the client for approval. It was from a design by our boss Eric Pulford. We liked the painterly style but were not impressed with the likeness of Connery. In our own work, Bill and I were always expected to achieve a good likeness of the actors. We thought Fratini's likeness of Connery was passable, not an example of his best work but, the client was satisfied and that was all that mattered.
Of, course in those early days of the franchise, Connery was not as famous and recognisable as he was to become after the success of the first two films. Sometimes the box of 10"x8" reference photo stills that came with each film did not always contain a very fine likeness of the star, the illustrator just had to get on with what was supplied.....I never, ever, got to see the particular still that Fratini worked from but, I think it likely, that he proceeded in his usual way, working very fast, saving time by drawing freehand from the reference without carefully tracing the likeness in the manner we always did. If the likeness was good enough, he was satisfied and quickly moved on to his next commission.
Other poster sizes were developed for the advertising campaign and I remember illustrating an alternative design for From Russia With Love. It was a portrait format poster which was intended for use in foreign territories, regrettably I never saw it again and assumed it was not printed because it had been decided to adapt the elements from Quad design to fit all the other poster formats.
For Your Eyes Only 1981
I left the Agency to become a freelance illustrator in 1973 and continued to produce illustrations for a variety of film posters. In 1981, I was commissioned to illustrate the quad For Your Eyes Only, designed by Eric Pulford, my old boss at Downtons. I was asked to produce two separate paintings, which could be used independently or together, to make either quad or one sheet formats. The first part featured the now famous, Bill Gold concept, 'The Legs' with the Bond action figure below. The producers liked the concept and had required Eric to include it in the design. (Amusingly, I was told that to make the image more sexy, the model was asked to wear her bikini pants back to front).
When the legs painting was finished, I took it to the agency for a transparency to be made and then continued with painting the action montage. When my legs illustration was returned to me I stripped it from the backing board, cut around the legs and positioned them with tape onto the montage. There are images pictured on the web, just as I supplied it to Downtons with the two parts taped loosely together, ready to be photographed, the credits to be pasted on and then sent to the printer.
The two background montages contain the same scenes but they have been slightly re-arranged. It is obvious that quad montage is superior and the one sheet less-so. A modified second background was necessary for the one because of limited space.
I recall telling Eddie Shannon, that despite my best efforts, the arrangement of the elements was rather clumsy, not one of Eric Pulford's better compositions, always a compromise somewhere.
My involvement with this film was minimal. I was asked to produce some colour concept roughs for Octopussy. I was shown the strangely elongated art that Dan Goozee had painted, Bond with Girl figure. The image was approved but the producers were doubtful about the background action montage and wanted to know if it could be improved. I went to Pinewood Studios to be briefed by Cubby Broccoli's representative, a pipe-smoking American, whose name was Jerry Juroe. Later, I sent in several rough colour compositions, I was paid for my designs but cannot now remember if the montage was modified. I kept copies, but annoyingly they were lost together with lots of other sketches that I had been keeping, this was in the confusion when I moved my studio to Feref Associates that same year.
A View to a Kill 1985.
My studio was now based at Feref Associates. I was asked by designer Vic Fair to illustrate the finished artwork from his colour rough. This was to be done in two stages; this first part was intended to be a Teaser poster and featured Bond in a white tux with Grace Jones behind. I finished the teaser painting; Vic took it to the client for approval and for a transparency to be made. Afterwards, I added the action montage that completed the design. I was very pleased with the result and so was Vic. I heard no more until he brought me a proof of the teaser and told me about the client's decision not to use the full design for the campaign because, the white tux was not the traditional Bond image. Of course, that was a big disappointment but the teaser has now become a rare and collectable piece of Bond memorabilia.
My original illustration was never given back to me, even though I asked for its return. I am sure it will resurface at auction one day. I will then have the opportunity to demand its return. As you probably know, under English Law, the artist has a legal right to retain his original work. Unless ownership is legally assigned by the artist, the client is only entitled to copyright. I was surprised and disappointed to read in your interview with Robert McGinnis that he accepts that his artwork belongs to the client.
The Living Daylights 1987
Through my association with Feref, I became part of the creative team that designed poster campaigns for their film clients, some of which I was asked to illustrate. When we were asked to submit designs for The Living Daylights, our creative director Robin Behling, took the brief and transparencies and stills were provided. Previous posters had followed a set pattern; Bond would appear dominant, confident and un-threatened, all together with girls and action scenes, an accepted and successful formula. We were also shown dozens of rough designs that had been produced by competing agencies, all very well drawn but had not quite captured the mood required, some were liked by the client and we were asked to modify or improve on these ideas.
We had about week to create a range of pencil sketch concepts for the client to consider. As with previous Bond films, there was a long design process, many designs were submitted, modified, then re-submitted. Gradually, the most-liked concepts emerged. The designs that were thought to have merit were then rendered as colour roughs and the final selection process began. Some of the concepts featured the Gun Barrel, this was liked and I was asked to redesign a more finished, colour montage for approval, the colours chosen were natural and uncomplicated. This final design had to combine many of the action elements that had featured in previously submitted roughs and can easily be recognised for its similarity to the finished poster.
This rough can be seen on Eddie Shannon's website, Film on Paper.
When starting on the finished painting, I had to compromise between being able to physically reach the extremities of the artboard and being able to work comfortably on the likeness of Dalton, whose head appears small when considering the overall size of the poster. Although I had chosen to work as large as possible, the central white circle containing the Bond figure was too small so I decided to make the task easier and painted the figure separately at a larger size because I knew the two elements could easily be stripped together by the printer.
The finished paintings took over two weeks to complete and went for client approval. There was only one comment, I was asked, "will you paint the leading horseman as Art Malik". I was expecting that to be difficult because, as you can see on the poster, his head is really very small, I was relieved, when luckily it went in quite easily.
The various posters were printed using transparencies, so it was not necessary for the paintings to go to the printers. Always a worrying time because it was not uncommon for them to disappear, over the years I lost many pieces. Fortunately though, at that time, it was becoming generally recognised that artwork remains the property of the artist, so I was able to keep the illustrations with me.
Licence to Kill 1989
Feref were asked to submit ideas for the newest Bond film and I took part in the design process. We created a lot of ideas but getting approval became more difficult. Unlike previous campaigns, the concepts were widely circulated, we suspected more people were involved in expressing their opinions and as a result the process became very drawn out. We suspected it was 'design by committee', some of our best ideas were so altered, that the originality and excitement had been lost.
Eventually, the design that became the poster was selected. A very bland, ordinary, photo montage which sadly marked the demise of the painted James Bond Poster. We employed a body-double for the running Dalton figure, the model came to our photo department and I helped to art direct the shoot, I still have the contact sheets. A very large, photo-montage was begun by Frank Hillary, a director of Feref and a very talented and experienced photo-retoucher. He did his best with the piece but privately, we all thought that it was the least distinguished Bond Poster ever. I have seen on the web, that Robin Behling has been credited with the design. As Creative Director of our company he can claim that distinction, but perhaps it may amuse him, if I politely maintain, there were also others to blame for how it turned out.....
Years later, our Managing Director, Ken Paul, came into my studio, he was carrying the dusty and frayed edged, original poster photo art which he had found, stuffed behind a cupboard in his office. He asked, "Brian, do you want to keep this"? I said, "No thanks, should I chuck the thing"? He agreed and that was the end, it was cut-up and went in the bin. I regret that now but only because all things Bond have appreciated in value. Some would say it was an act of vandalism, but we never liked it and were not upset to see the back of the thing and perhaps, in a small way, register our disapproval of, 'design by committee'.
The World Is Not Enough 1999
This was the last Bond poster that I was involved with, the creative team headed by new creative director Gareth Shepherd, gathered in Robin Behling's office to hear the brief and to discuss concept ideas. I remember suggesting we could use Mercator’s Projection of the World as a matrix to contain the action elements. As we spoke we sketched to explain how our ideas could work. Later, pencil visuals of the best ideas that would make a good poster were shown to the client. The selected image looked promising so we began to work on computer visuals. I was very conscious that these needed to be our very best work, so together with Robin and Gareth, I spent a lot of time art directing Andy Simmonds who was one of our fastest and best Photoshop operators.
As we progressed, the Mercator's Projection idea was abandoned to become a simple map style grid, a graphic device to contain the action scenes with Bond and the girls emerging from the centre. Many changes were made before we arrived at the finished poster, probably three weeks or more. One of the last things I remember, was asking Andy to alter the figure of the girl on the left of Bond, we reduced her outline and added to her bust. The subtle and cheeky improvement made us chuckle.
The posters were printed and I think the design that we created at Feref, for, 'The World is not Enough, is arguably one the most outstanding of the computer-generated James Bond Posters.....
For my paintings I usually prepared a surface using Plaka Tempera casein white, which was waterproof when dry and gave a nice texture to paint on. The paint used was Windsor and Newton Gouache. When I started at art school we were told to buy it because it was the best and would help us to graduate to painting in oils. Years later, when acrylics became available, I used them when Vic Fair asked me to illustrate his design for the 'Cromwell' Quadposter, (red background) I found that, because the paint dried quickly it was difficult to blend. The quality of the paint tended to be dull, not as brilliant or luminous as Windsor and Newton Gouache.
The most enjoyment I experienced when painting any large format poster art, was the moment when I began to realise that the difficult opening stage was over, the work was going well and it was beginning to show me it taken on a life of its own. That was always a relief and a satisfying and exciting moment.....
For most of my career, painting was generally the accepted way to create a poster. The computer was yet to achieve the amazing effects that are now accepted to be the most efficient creative tool. I was increasingly being asked to art direct our young computer-operators and in order to make my comments understood, it was vital for me to learn Photoshop. During my last years at Feref I was using a computer and illustrated for our Paramount, Star Trek account.
Thank you very much for this interview Brian!
Also thanks to Eddie from the Film On Paper website for sharing his images.
And finally thanks to Thomas from the Nixdorf Collection for concept sketches and scans.