Remember courtroom sketch artists? The mere fact that they did what they did captured my imagination as a kid, representing as it seemed one of the few remaining vestiges of an older, more askew America, one bound by fewer yet stricter rules and all the more fascinating a component of history for it. These drawings of the shoot of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey remind me of courtroom sketches, albeit on some stylistic levels more than others. And interestingly, just as court reporters once had to use sketch artists because of the supposed disturbance cameras would cause in the courtroom, these drawings result from the pursuit of something less troublesome to a set than a regular still photographer.
From 2001 onwards, Kubrick created illustrated production stills of what happened on his set, rather than having a photographer take noisy and distracting photographs. The illustrations, documenting for the media what happened in front of the camera as well as behind it, would then be sent out in press kits to publications and other media outlets that could promote the film.
Enter, in 1966, English magazine illustrator Brian Sanders (now perhaps best known for the pastiches of that decade he’s done for Mad Men), hired to turn up to the 2001 shoot and quietly draw what he saw. None of these images, however — or the rest of those featured at Kubrickonia — appeared anywhere until the actual year 2001, when The Independent‘s magazine used them in an article. Cinephiles now and again wish for the return of illustrated movie posters, and sometimes we do occasionally see a new one, but looking at what Sanders came up with for 2001, I can’t help but ponder the still-unrealized potential of the illustrated production still. You can see more illustrations — once lost and now found — here.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.