Ash Thorp is a graphic designer, illustrator, artist, and creative director for a multitude of media, including feature films, commercial enterprises, and print. With an exceptional style of his own, he has quickly gained recognition among the industry, most notably for his role as lead graphic designer for Ender’s Game and Total Recall. He has also contributed to the design direction and concepts for Person of Interest, Prometheus, X-men First Class, the Amazing Spiderman 2, and many more titles. His work has been featured on Motionographer, ImagineFX, Kotaku, and Art of VFX.
In addition to these feature projects, Ash Thorp is further fueled by his internal drive to develop his own signature imprint on the industry. He directed an international team of over 30 members on the Ghost in the Shell tribute titled ‘Project 2501’. He wrote and directed the main title for OFFF Barcelona 2014 alongside acclaimed director, Anthony Scott Burns. He has created feature film tribute prints for Mondo. He launched his own series of illustrations titled ‘Lost Boy’, which is in development for additional media to be announced soon.
Compelled to give back to others, Ash Thorp has travelled the globe to speak at conferences and help share his journey and industry lessons with other creatives. As creator and host of ‘The Collective’ podcasts, he developed this series in an effort to connect artists together. The topics of conversation are diverse, but they are filled with great advice, humor, industry lessons learned, costly mistakes experienced or avoided, and most importantly, it’s aimed to help motivate one another to live out your passion.
Q&A Interview With Ash Thorp
TG: What were some of your early influences and current ones?
AT: I think both my mom and brother were a big influence on me artistically. They are both incredibly talented and it was common to embrace and encourage art in our house growing up. Most of my family are creative types. My current influences are vast… I am influenced by so many different creative spectrums all the way from David Lynch to Moebius.
TG: How did you get into design and illustration? Do you have any advice for aspiring designers and illustrators?
AT: I first started drawing illustrations as a kid. I always loved escaping into my imagination and pulling the things from my mind out onto paper to scare my mom or impress my friends. Design came to me later in life when I concluded it would be a more sustainable career path for me. Design felt like a natural progression from illustration, and it would still allow me to apply my creative passion. As far as advice, it’s difficult to say since everyone is in different stages in life, but I suppose a unified piece of advice that applies to all of us is: stay hungry, stay humble, expect and encourage change. Most importantly, be in love with what it is that you do.
TG: What are some of your favorite programs, apps, tools that you regularly use to create your artwork and do you have a process?
AT: There are too many to list! I primarily utilize Photoshop and Illustrator, but sometimes I will use InDesign and play around with C4D for 3D work. Most recently, I have started falling back in love with traditional media. I am in the process of building my book “Lost Boy” using ink and paper to get back to that original feeling of authentic drawings. I have been working with digital medium for so long that it will be a nice reconnection. As far as traditional mediums, I am currently researching and reading about what some of The Greats have found success with using. I recently got lots of nibs and pens from Japan that I’m going to try out, along with some different types of paper. Once I lock in the tools that work best for me and help me get what I want out onto paper, I will be sharing these tools with everyone.
TG: How much time is divided between traditional forms and working on the computer, and what do you prefer?
AT: When I design, I usually start with an idea that I quickly put on paper in my sketchbook. These drawings are tremendously raw in form, but I can predict the potential in them. They are often mental snapshots of ideas that I will revisit. Once I get the energy and ideas out onto paper, I will then go into either Photoshop or Illustrator to build out these ideas to its final product. I believe I like the use of both paper and digital for mixed reasons. I try to constantly change things up to keep myself fresh and challenged.
TG: Do you listen to music while working? If so, what’s usually on your playlist?
AT: I absolutely love music, it’s a driving force for my creative passages. I listen to so many different types of music, depending on my mood or if someone has sent me a song/album to check out. I tend to listen to an album over and over again on repeat until I hate it, and then I’ll finally move on to something else. Other than music, I listen to LOTS of film commentary, podcasts, and audio books. Some of the best commentaries I have listened to so far have been by David Fincher, Ridley Scott, and Steven Soderbergh. However, there are so many that I appreciate though, which makes it difficult to really pick a favorite. I am fascinated and in love with the process of making movies, so listening to film commentaries keeps my mind racing while I am building out new content and imagery on my projects.
TG: What TV shows or movies have been huge influences on your work?
AT: I am a bit of a sponge when it comes to my influences. I love certain pieces about so many different shows/movies. I really loved racing home after school to watch Batman, the animated series; it’s such a masterpiece, and it showed me how it’s possible to respectfully portray the superhero genre. I am definitely inspired by comics, anime, manga, and Sci-Fi films. Some pivotal films that changed my life growing up were Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Alien, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, American Beauty, Godfather, Terminator, Fargo… the good stuff. I was lucky to have grown up in such an iconic part of creative history.
TG: What were some of your favorite projects you worked on and why, how excited were you when you got to work on the bigger ones?
AT: I think each project has been special to me in its own right. I really try and give each project my everything, no matter how small or big it may be. I feel that is the only way to create memorable work that stands out. I try to select projects that I feel fit me best or that I will grow the most from working on, so that I can further build and develop myself into the person that I aim to be. Overall, I’m most excited and personally enjoy the more self-propelled projects, where I have more creative direction and control of the process and final outcome.
TG: Any dream projects you would love to tackle?
AT: At this stage in my career, I would really love to build out my own projects with other creative that I admire and trust. I feel that nothing is as gratifying as building your own worlds or seeing your own ideas come to life. There are many creators and directors that I would love to someday have the fortune to collaborate with and merge our talents. Working with Otomo at some point in my life would be an extreme honor to me, as I consider him to a living legend in our industry. There is so much to learn and gain from him, and I admire how he has managed to produce such stunning body of works. It would be a dream to be able to translate his masterpiece “Domu” to film.
TG: What was your first introduction to point cloud?
AT: I was first introduced to the concept from a brief that Ridley Scott and his production designer sent out regarding their needs on the film “Prometheus.” They mentioned a music video by Radiohead that was created using a Lydar scanner. I kept digging for more information which eventually led me to playing with processing and discovering a whole new world of possibilities.
TG: Is there anything you can tell us about your project Lost Boy and how far away are you from kickstarting it?
AT: YES! Lost Boy is everything that I aspired to be able to draw or create as a kid. With each moment of time I have to sit and study or draw, I am getting closer to conveying the energy and ideas that I have in my mind. This process is extremely taxing and rewarding at the same time. I am in midst of creating the “Lost Boy” script with my great friend and close collaborator, Anthony Scott Burns. Once the crazy story of the “Lost Boy” world is locked down, I will then be able to expand the characters and further build out the pages and art details. I want the book to be impressive and inspiring, so I am devoting everything I can to see this project through. Ideally, my plan is to have 50-60% of the book completed before I launch the KickStarter, so that I have a solid foundation to show people and for them to believe in and support. By waiting to launch, it will also help minimize the amount of time the pledged supporters will have to wait to receive the final product. I will only be able to complete this book with the love and support of the community. I want to pay that back by giving them something special. I’m hoping to go public with the KickStarter early next year… Fingers crossed!!! Wish us luck, and thank you EVERYONE for the amazing feedback, love and support.