Interview: Guillermo Ortego — ‘Make Your Own Millennium Falcon’

Hailing from a firm background in comics (Marvel, DC, Dynamite), I caught up with London based Spanish illustrator Guillermo Ortego for a quick chat regarding his latest illustration: the Make Your Own Millennium Falcon illustration featured in last weeks issue of the Spanish publication La Luna De Metropoli, to commemorate the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

RV: Hi Guillermo. How’ve you been?

GO: Well, it’s been a pretty crazy year so far. After moving into a new place in late December, my girlfriend and I had to coordinate renovation works on the flat as well as staying on top of work and life in general. Definitely first world problems but couldn’t be happier. But, I’m also pretty shattered. Trying to ink a monthly Marvel comic book whilst still maintaining a consistent output of illustration work is pretty deadly!

RV: Been there! Minus the amazing job of inking for Marvel of course. So, this Falcon illustration. What was the brief and how’d you bag it?

GO: “La Luna de Metrópoli” has to be THE boldest publication in Spain from a design perspective, especially considering that it’s a supplemental magazine to a major national newspaper and that it’s been running for more than 20 years on a weekly basis. The contents of the magazine don’t differ to those of a Time Out magazine, so mostly culture, restaurants and entertainment, but the covers are always either illustrated or weirdly / creatively designed, featuring the most relevant event of the week; which more often than not, tends to be a movie release. Growing up in Madrid, we always HD a copy at home and it was always a reference and never in a million years did I think I would end up illustrating for them.

The magazine is the brainchild of Rodrigo Sánchez, now the Art Director for the whole newspaper and all its publications. He comes up with the majority of concepts for the covers and, let me stress this, has done so, weekly, for over twenty years. I’ve been lucky enough to be working with Rodrigo for a bit over two years now, ever since I walked into his office with my portfolio in April 2015, two weeks before the second Avengers movie was going to be released. Since I was mostly working as an inker on superhero comics at the time, I guess it seemed like a perfect fit, so I ended up leaving his office with a commission to illustrate the next “Metrópoli” cover, which was [obviously] going to feature the new Avengers movie. I remember being absolutely terrified. But after that, we’ve been working together regularly, not only on “Metrópoli” but also on other magazines and the paper itself.

I think I’ve sort of become the go-to guy when it comes to geeky subjects, which is probably why Rodrigo called me up with this idea he had for the [then] upcoming Solo movie. He actually had two very good concepts, the first of which I couldn’t really make work visually, so we decided to go for the second one; the idea of having a cheap plastic model of the Millennium Falcon for the reader to assemble, which worked really well from a design point of view but also on a conceptual level of going back in time to find the roots of an iconic character like Han Solo.

RV: Well, I love the illustration. It takes me straight to those Ertl kits. They used to terrify me as a kid. But anyway, tell us how you came to this final piece? Can you talk about your process? How long did it take etc.?

GO: As you guys can see, the initial sketch Rodrigo sent my way is very similar to the final piece, but the rendering of the final, high resolution file took quite a while, mostly because I wanted the pieces of the model to be as accurate as possible, since I knew the fans would be watching, and they can be unforgiving (laughs). Luckily there are already a few plastic models of the Falcon available on the market, as well as hyper-detailed plans of the ship’s outer shell and internal room distribution. I knew the Falcon that appears in Solo is slightly different so I tried to incorporate some of these changes as well. I used all this reference to create different pieces that could work with the initial composition Rodrigo had sent me.

It was a bit tricky to decide the actual size the pieces of the model should have on the cover, but after a first round, where I had made them a bit too small we agreed on a size that worked. It was like building a puzzle over and over.

After that, it was a matter of rendering the piece in colour. Since we wanted it to look as close to real plastic as possible, I decided to use no line-work so that it would be the light source and the projected shadow that “sculpted” all the intricate details of each of the pieces of the model. This stage probably took around five days of solid work on its own. There’s so much detail. But hopefully it was worth it!

RV: That sounds exhausting but yes, it was definitely worth it. The final result is great! I’m assuming it’s digital? Though I really shouldn’t assume these days, given some of the talent out there that can sometimes make it difficult to differentiate between digital and hand drawn. Do you have a preference?

GO: Yeah, the piece is 100% digital. Had I done it with traditional media it could have easily taken one or two months to finish and I don’t think I would have been able to be this precise. For commercial work with tight deadlines and where changes are needed all the time, working digitally simply makes sense. For me it’s become second nature. I don’t even notice the software when I’m working. I’m just working!

RV: Makes sense. I personally struggle with drawing digitally. Must. Try. Harder! Have you seen Solo yet? What did you think?

GO: Alas, I haven’t yet. Too many deadlines! Though I hope to be able to escape either this coming weekend or the following one. Wish me luck!

In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck! You can build your own Millennium Falcon by getting your hands on a copy of the magazine La Luna De Metropoli by El Mundo. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer on Spanish shelves so, let the hunt begin! eBay, here I come! And if that all sounds like far too much work, perhaps you can have a bash at building the Falcon using the illustration provided in this article.

You can also check out some of La Luna de Metrópoli’s amazing covers here and you can follow Guillermo’s career on Facebook (@willortego), Twitter (@willortego) and on his website.