Wednesday, 15 January 2014

We Remember - A Game Art Genius - Greg Martin

GamesYouLoved remember Greg Martin as great contributor 80’s and 90’s graphic design and gaming.

In gaming’s infancy the cover was usually the only thing we had to go on to get any insight into what a videogame was about. Many a game would be bought on the merit of some brilliantly detailed fantasy or sci-fi box-art and well designed logo title, and often it would be infinitely better graphically than the very game it was promoting.

Back in my early days of gaming I would often pop down to my local games store to browse the various games available for both the system I owned (Amiga) and other platforms of the time. I spent a great deal of time as a teen, mooching about in the classic games outlets, vying for a go on an imported Super Famicon (And rarely did I get a go!). I consequently spent a lot of time looking at the box-art for games and this imagery has stuck with me.

As with most media, be it album covers, film posters, or video cassettes, much of the best early video game art was hand-drawn, painted or airbrushed. In this was pre-Photoshop era eye-catching design was crucial if you were to try and stand out in the crowd (or the on the shelf). One key artist whose art did stand out from the crowd was Greg martin.

Unfortunately, Greg Martin has recently passed away. He was the man behind box and promo art for countless classic titles for Sega, Hudson, Capcom and Namco for many 8bit and 16bit platforms. His art has been used for covers for games for such famous franchises as Sonic, Pac-Man, the Adventure Island series and cartoon licensed games from Disney and Hanna Barbera.

Early on Martin had worked for Hanna Barbera's studios, learning the the form and characterisations for their most famous characters from Flintstones to Yogi Bear, even working in the same office as a young Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame.

Influenced by other illustration greats such as Frank Frazetta, he would produce beautiful 24 to 30 inch airbrushed paintings that took nearly a week to complete, often working through the night to meet the tight deadlines demanded by the distributors. This didn’t seem to compromise the quality of his work.

I feel that we often took the boxart for granted, overlooking the skill and craft involved in producing something so integral in selling the product. The graphic artists behind such imagery are the unsung heroes of retro gaming, giving many of our favourite retro titles their character and identity; and this is what we remember the most.

Greg Martin was certainly one such craftsman. His art, although often regarded as ‘just pop-art’, is important for us older gamers. His beautifully detailed art is stamped on my mind reminding me of those days of ‘mooching’, and such reminiscing makes me smile. 

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