You’ve likely seen his engaging art all over social media. Or perhaps you’ve read blog posts, articles, and paeans to his eminently cool visuals. Regardless, you can’t miss the videotape covers for modern films that artist Steelberg so brilliantly crafts.
Especially in the wake of his Stranger Things cover, released recently, the enigmatic Steelberg has witnessed an explosion of interest in his retro-minded — and period-authentic — visual art.
When I look at these VHS and Beta covers, I’m transported back to my childhood video store. I remember my elementary-aged self scouring scores of VHS titles, often choosing a film solely because of its cover. As an elementary-aged kid in the 80s, this was a pastime up there with playing NES and running around the neighborhood unsupervised, engaging in Nerf wars and other tomfoolery.
In this quick Q&A via email, Steelberg and I talk about those nostalgia pangs, what drives him, and what it’s like to be a sought-after retro-visual designer — among other things. What we didn’t talk about is his real name or where he’s from, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he were from the U.S. or Canada and adopted his pseudonym as some type of homage to Steven Spielberg.
(The following has been edited to adjust the sequence of the questions a tad, and to address any typos or style concerns.)
Vehlinggo: How do you feel about the attention your covers are getting — especially the huge and recent bump in exposure? Have any of the filmmakers approached you?
Steelberg: The attention is just unreal. I’m actually blown away by how kind people are to a perfect stranger. I think “Man, there’s other people out there that like this stuff too? I’m not the only one?” That’s the best part: Knowing you have all these pals in the world that got your back. Yeah, a few of the directors actually have gotten in touch and that’s really the icing on the cake.
Vehlinggo: How did you get into creating this type of art?
Steelberg: Well, I’m a child of the 80s, so it just seemed natural for me — the movies, the music, the TV, you name it. This stuff is just burned into my brain, man!
Vehlinggo: How do you select which titles get your treatment?
Steelberg: They all are movies that I’ve seen and thought, “Man, that really would look great as a VHS tape.” It depends. I try to just follow what inspires me.
Vehlinggo: Along those lines — what inspires you?
Steelberg: Oh man, everything inspires me. Mostly, though, it’s the group of underground artists that have been doing this 80s nostalgia-driven art scene way before I came along. It just blows my mind the amount of talent that is keeping this going, especially the music scene. Let’s keep the party rockin’, dudes.
Vehlinggo: How long does it take to make a typical cover?
Steelberg: They vary. Sometimes they come together really fast and other times I have to scrap it completely and start over. They usually start in one place and end up totally somewhere else. That’s the best part. It’s always a surprise even for me.
Vehlinggo: Which of your covers was the most difficult to make? Which the easiest?
Steelberg: They all have their challenges, to be honest. Sometimes they just come together and it’s great. Some take a bit more work. I try to make sure that I’m doing something a bit different with each one, so I’m always learning.
Vehlinggo: What are you working on now? Also, do you plan to extend your style outside of the film medium to, say, book or album covers?
Steelberg: More Steelberg projects [are] on the way, for sure. I’ve actually been hit up for a few album cover commissions recently, which is super cool.
Vehlinggo: What does the future hold for you?
Steelberg: Well, as long as movies are being made I’ll have material to work with. Been super fun sharing this journey with everyone and I see no chance of it ending anytime soon. 🙂
As of the date of this post, Steelberg’s most recent work is his take on The Neon Demon, taking on a more classic thriller approach that is less stylized than what we’re used to from Refn. Let’s stay tuned to see what else Steelberg’s got in the can.