Q&A with ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Concept Artist Andy Park


Avengers: Age of Ultron hulk-busted its way into theaters this last weekend, featuring old favorites and new additions to both its cast and their superhero gear. But before the cast of the Avengers even assembled on set, it was the talented concept artists who first brought the beloved heroes and villains to life.

KoreAm spoke with Andy Park, lead character concept artist at Marvel Studios and one of the creative minds behind the spectacular designs in Marvel’s latest blockbuster.

Park began his career as a comic book artist in 1995 and has provided illustration and concept design for a large scope of comics books, film, television and video games. He has contributed to several high-profile projects, including The Avengers, Thor, Tomb Raider, Uncanny X-men, True Blood and God of War.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron..Conceptual Artwork..?Marvel 2015Quicksilver concept art by Andy Park. (Image courtesy of Disney)

How did you come to create concept art for the Avengers films? And what are your thoughts working for Marvel?

For me, it really is a dream job because I grew up in the 80s loving comic books. That was my passion. I worked in the comic books industry for about 10 years and eventually went into concept art. After making the switch, I worked with Sony Video Games on the God of War series.

Although I enjoyed working on God of War, I’m not a gamer. I don’t really play video games, so my dream was to work in film. And whenever someone would ask me, “Which film would you want to work on?” there was only one answer—The Avengers.

Ryan Meinerding and Charlie Wen were the two guys who started Marvel’s visual development department. We actually worked together at Sony before they moved on and started working on Iron Man and Thor. Marvel commissioned them to form a team of artists who would work on all the Avengers films in the years to come. I was the first one they hired. When I got that call from Charlie, I didn’t even have to say yes. He already knew that’s the team I wanted to be on.

Also, I’m a huge Whedon fan. Buffy and Firefly are two of my all-time favorite works of his. When I heard they hired Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers, I was like, “Yes, that is the perfect fit.”

For the first couple of weeks after they hired me, I’d be drawing at my computer and I’d just stop and be like, “I’m working on The Avengers.” And then I’d draw again, stop ten minutes later and say, “I’m working for Joss Whedon.” I’ve been here for five years and worked on every movie since Captain America. It’s been an amazing journey.

black widow andy parkBlack Widow concept art by Andy Park. (Image courtesy of Disney) 

How do you balance the original source material and the director’s vision for the live-action film when it comes to each design?

That’s definitely one of the biggest challenges. Our department is mainly focusing on the characters, so we’re [essentially] designing all the main Avengers. The first place we go to is the source material. I feel a personal responsibility when I’m doing my designs because I’m always coming from the angle of “OK, I’m designing these characters, but I’m also a fan at heart. What would I want to see as a fan onscreen?”

Of course, at the end of the day, the director, producers and the people at Marvel have a vision, and my job is to help realize that vision. It’s a balancing act of how much I stick to that particular design and how much I can deviate from that. You decide where to take liberties. We keep on fine tuning until we get to a final design.

Which character design did you have the most fun with for Age of Ultron?

I had the most fun with the Hulkbuster, even though what you see in the film isn’t my final version. When I was an adolescent collecting comic books, Iron Man was probably my favorite character, so it’s always fun to design an Iron Man.

What are the major differences between illustrating comics and creating concept art for their film adaptations?

In comics, we start with a script just like in concept art. But in comics, I’m drawing the actual story. It’s almost like storyboarding, where I have a page to sequentially tell the story through panels. Material-wise, I’m drawing 22 pages per issue with only a pencil. You draw, and it gets sent to an inker, a colorist and letterer; then it gets published. It’s collaborative, but it’s very isolated because you have no control over the process before it gets printed out and put on the shelf.

Close up of Alias: Agent Bristow comic book #alias #jjabrams #jennifergarner #michaelvartan #comicbook #pencils

A photo posted by Andy Park (@andyparkart) on

In concept art, it’s purely collaborative. We have meetings every week with the director and producers, and we do all these paintings to show them what a specific character can look like. When we have these meetings, everyone’s in the room and they can judge the art and say, “Ah that’s too whatever” or “we can change this.” I just have to follow what they’re ask for. Of course, I have my own voice and every designer has their own flavor inflected in their designs, but it’s a lot of back and forth. For concept art, I use a computer with Photoshop and a Wacom tablet, and I’m painting directly onto the computer in full color and lighting.

You dropped out of UCLA at the age of 19 to pursue a career in comics. Did you face any resistance from your family about your decision to pursue the arts full-time? 

I think what helped was that I’m the maknae (the youngest) of three children. At that time, my sister was already a lawyer and my brother was on his way to becoming a businessman. They both got it rough from my dad because he was a stereotypical first-generation Korean father–very strict and an A-minus is not acceptable, that kind of thing. I think because my sister and brother had it so rough throughout the years, my dad eased up a lot.

By the time I was a sophomore at UCLA, he knew I was an artist all my life. I had good grades, but he knew how much I loved art and that I was going to do something in art. However, my whole family, myself included, was ignorant on what is actually out there. I didn’t know how you can actually make a living doing art, but because I was 19 and a young, fearless maknae, I just wanted to follow my dreams and ambitions. My siblings really helped out a lot, and they talked to my parents, who surprisingly never even fought me on it. That’s not common among Korean Americans.

Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron..Conceptual Artwork..?Marvel 2015Scarlet Witch concept art by Andy Park. (Image courtesy of Disney)

Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects after Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant Man?

The past year I’ve been working on Captain America: Civil War, which is coming out next year. That’s the project where I became the lead character concept artist (before I was senior concept artist). As you know, Marvel’s already found the movies they’re going to be doing until 2019 or something like that, so I’m assuming I’m working on all of those (laughs). It’s cool to know what comic is up ahead. They have Dr. Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor: Ragnarok, and now I’m just finishing up Civil War.

What advice can you give to young, aspiring artists?

Follow your passion. A lot of people hate their jobs because they’re not passionate, even artists. There are many artists who don’t love what they do despite working on a great project because they’re not really passionate about art or what they’re actually doing.

If you love art, what do you love about art? What do you want to pursue? A job in the arts is very demanding. It’s not just all fun and games. Sustainability can only happen if what you’re doing comes from a source of passion.

There are so many different types of art. You need to find the type you’re passionate about.


To view more of Andy Park’s artworks, visit his official website, Facebook page or Instagram. Featured image courtesy of Andy Park.