John Bellotti Jr. is an American artist most notably known for this various kaiju movie inspired posters.
His work can be found on his main website Robo7.com, where fans can purchase art prints and t-shirts. He can also be found on social media via Facebook at Robo7: The Art of John Bellotti Jr. and Instagram at @roboseven.
Can you tell us about your personal background and what drove you to become an artist?
I was born in Staten Island New York to an Italian-American family of musicians and amateur artists. My father was a printing press mechanic and a drummer, my brother is a guitarist, and my mother always wanted to go to art school in Manhattan to be a window decorator but she never did. My grandmother was a talented artist who used to draw me cartoons of Popeye and Mickey Mouse, but neither of them pursued it due to the times and place they lived in.
It was very, “you graduate high school, get married, and have kids. The End.”
By the time I came along and I was drawing at a young age, my grandmother and parents recognized that I had a love of making art, so they nurtured that. They would buy me sketchbooks, colored pencils, oil pastels etc. They weren’t exactly sure what I could do with it career wise, but they never discouraged me from doing it. So I was lucky that I had my parents, friends and family, even teachers at school always encouraging me and letting me find my way while never letting me fall on my face!
We first came across your work because of your classic kaiju series movie posters. Were you always a fan of kaiju films? Do you have a favorite?
Thank you again for finding me!
To answer your question, YES! I was ALWAYS a fan of kaiju films. In New York, we had WPIX 11 and FOX 5 and they would have double features of classic Toho films and Bruce Lee/kung fu films. I was hooked early in my life.
I was the only kid with an obsession with all things Asian [culture], while my other friends loved Star Wars and such. I also loved Transformers and G.I. Joe. As a kid my favorite kaiju film was Monster Zero, but I always loved all of them equally.
My current favorite from the Showa period is Mothra vs. Godzilla. It’s my favorite representation of Godzilla and I think it really captures his character the best in terms of personality and suit design. My favorite from the Heisei era is Godzilla vs. Biollante and GMK is my favorite millennium [era] film.
Can you walk us through the process of creating a piece? Do you prefer using traditional or digital tools?
I use both traditional and digital mediums to create a poster. Each poster has a unique story that I try to capture, so I always start with photo reference either from the films or a super accurate model kit/vinyl figure. I [used to have] some amazing photos from David Eric Dopko and Steve Harron. I am all about accuracy in terms of the kaiju on my posters looking exactly like they do in the films.
After I find pics I like, I compose my various photographs in Photoshop to get the composition I like. I’m a very visual person so it’s hard for me to do pencil thumbnails and capture what I want so with my photos I can have a quicker look to the size and scale and how each character balances itself on the poster before I even touch a pencil.
After this step, I take my selected photos and make pencil sketches in a small sketchbook (I have yet to take the leap to digital sketching).
Once I have my finished sketches, I take pics of them with my iPhone and open them up in my iMac right into Adobe Illustrator. I then “ink” my pencils into a solid black and white piece, then begin to lay in the basic colors usually starting with mid tones. Then, I apply darker transparent shadow throughout each area of the body.
The final step is the highlight tones and whatever light sourcing I want to add to the kaiju/human characters. I, then, place them in my composition the way I planned it out with my photo comps and I add in the Japanese text in the end (with occasional translation help from August Ragone) and I tweak it for a while, until I am satisfied with it.
Which I never am.
Except maybe on my Terror of Mechagodzilla and Godzilla vs. Destroyer prints.
What have been some of the challenges and most rewarding experiences as an artist?
In terms of being an artist, navigating our daily American society is a challenge to me!
I know that creative types see the world differently than the “normal folks” of the world, so there is a sense of alienation; but I personally love seeing what others don’t, even in the mundane. So many people waste their lives away at jobs they hate to buy stuff that they don’t need (I am quoting Fight Club here); while watching TV shows about rich celebrities who live on another planet as far as I am concerned.
The rewards are tenfold, however, when it comes to making and pushing your art out there. I see it at every show I do when people recognize me and buy my work! I spend so many hours making these things that they drive me bananas and I think they look awful, but then I get such great feedback from fans– it’s very surreal. I’m usually dumbfounded that they are actually buying my work and sometimes I will say to them, “you actually like my art? Really? Did my Mom pay you to say that to me?”
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
I have a Godzilla vs. Biollante poster that is almost finished, I have a Mantago poster that I finished penciling and have to color; and finally I have a Godzilla vs. Megalon poster that I have to finish drawing.
John will be attending MegaCon in Orlando, FL on Memorial Day weekend as well as GFest, one of the most recognized Godzilla and kaiju film franchise conventions in the U.S. hosted by G-Fan magazine. GFest is set for July 14 through July 16th.