The man behind the best hand-painted classic film posters, Steven Chorney

2 March 2015

The reason design blogs and Pinterest are overcrowded with hand-painted signs, hand-made furniture and hand-printed textiles is because (you guessed it) it’s made by hand – and the joy of seeing craftsmanship is never, ever going away. The world is changing, and the more we demand, and the shorter our attention spans become, the less we’re spending time on getting things just right.

To remind us of the glory days when time and effort paid off with actual money, here’s Steven Chorney. Steven has had a whirlwind career in the film industry, creating hand-painted posters for Hollywood blockbusters. His portfolio will whizz you right back to being a kid, nestled on gigantic couch, stuffing crisps in your mouth and devouring children’s adventure movies, but it’ll also remind you that the overly-rendered film posters nowadays just don’t compare to these beauties. Here he is.

Tell us about how you got into painting – what attracted you to it and what age were you?

As far back as I can recollect. From the very earliest of ages I wished to be an artist. The reason for this? My father was an artist, complete with easel, palette and brush, and when I came into this world I just wanted to be like him.


Steven Chorney: The Wizard of Oz

Tell us about your movie posters, how did you begin creating those?

It was a slow process moving into movie art. It was an unfolding, unplanned progression beginning with animated TV commercials, followed by a variety of commercial assignments and programming illustrations for TV Guide, then finally the movie posters.

Were you working to briefs?

Assuming the term “briefs” means art direction and not men’s “tighty whities” then the answer is yes, almost always whether verbal or otherwise there is… ahem…a “brief!" As with any endeavour, there must be a beginning. Even now the process will often start with either a quick sketch or a descriptive idea.  Next comes the more comprehensive drawings for presentations, approvals, edits, etc.

"There has been a trend of sorts to revive a 'craftsman-like' hand-done quality in many areas once again. Will we see it also in commercial illustration? We can hope."

Steven Chorney

How did you start working for Hollywood?

Leaving New York behind, I came for the sunshine. I showed my meagre portfolio and got a job! Just like that! No, not really. When I first arrived it rained for ten days straight, like a harbinger of things to come. It would be a year and a half of discouragement in slow motion before I could truthfully say I was gainfully employed as an artist.

What was it like?

My only point of reference for comparison was the drudge of old factories in New York… It was like sunshine!

Is it difficult to juggle being creative and also working with big money-making corporations?

I make no bones about it – it is a commercial industry! We are making art for a purpose, and yes, there is a lot of juggling and hoops to jump through. But it all adds to the excitement of ridiculous deadlines, last minute changes and the inevitable disappointments.

What’s been the high point of your career?

There have been many, some quite small, but I am still keeping an eye out for that special “high point”!


Steven Chorney: Inherent Vice

Are you into TV and movies? Which posters did you enjoy making the most?

I lean towards older movies most. As for the posters I have been involved in, I look back on my work for Tom Selleck’s Quigley Down Under as special. Then again, I favour horses and the whole cowboy thing. Yippee-I-O!!!

Do you think it’s sad that hardly anyone commissions hand-painted signs, posters, billboards and ads anymore?

The introduction of the computer has had a profound effect on every field both creative and otherwise. Many have adapted and continued to create wonderful things with this “new” tool. It will not be going away any time soon. At the same time there has been a trend of sorts to revive a “craftsman-like” hand-done quality in many areas once again. Will we see it also in commercial illustration? We can hope.


Steven Chorney: Labyrinth


Steven Chorney: Inherent Vice


Steven Chorney: The Distinguished Gentleman


Steven Chorney: Zathura


Steven Chorney: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?


Steven Chorney: Quigley Down Under


Steven Chorney: Hot Tub Time Machine 2


Steven Chorney: Birdman


Steven Chorney: Mythbusters

Share Article

About the Author

Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and worked across online, print and events, and was latterly Features Editor before leaving in May 2015.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.