TORONTO – It was nearly a superhero feat for Toronto artist James Raiz ahead of Friday’s opening of “Avengers: Infinity War.”
In only a month, he had to draw a towering mural and capture the entire creative process on video for an international, in-theatre “Avengers: Infinity War” art installation.
And he did it all in the basement of his home, where he lives with his wife and three children.
“I pretty much had the camera going 24 hours a day, no sleep,” Raiz, 39, said in a phone interview.
“In the end it turned out to be around 250 hours of work crammed into that month. A lot of work to put it together, for sure. I didn’t leave the house for about a month.”
Measuring roughly five metres wide and five metres high, the installation has two sides and is in Scotiabank Theatre Toronto as well as cinemas in China and the U.S.
One side has screens showing him drawing the entire piece. The other is a mural representing characters in each of the 18 Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
“You can’t do this project without being a fan,” Raiz said.
“To put all that work in a matter of a month, unless the money is insane, it’s really hard to do.”
Raiz grew up in Brampton, Ont., and thought he would become a doctor, until he realized art was his passion.
“My mom was like, ‘Can’t you just do that on the weekends, after surgery?'” he recalled with a laugh.
“So I made I deal with my mom: ‘Let me go to school for this, and if I can’t find a job after I’ll get back into medicine.'”
Twenty years later, he’s still working as a professional artist, focusing on comic-book characters that have a realistic, cinematic feel.
His YouTube channel, TheBoxOfficeArtist, has over 66,000 followers.
Raiz was commissioned to do the “Avengers: Infinity War” installation after creating a major “Star Wars” mural for his YouTube channel that got the attention of Marvel president Kevin Feige.
It was also praised on social media by some “Star Wars” cast members, including Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew and Ian McDiarmid.
Raiz started the “Avengers” installation with hand drawings, using pen and ink on bristol board. He then scanned the images and coloured them digitally.
“They were really supportive in whatever I wanted to do,” Raiz said of Disney. “I would say this whole piece is almost completely my vision.”
One of the biggest challenges was trying to nail the facial features of the actors.
“I found that drawing Scarlett Johansson’s face was a bit of a challenge for me, especially because I drew it small,” he said.
Then there was the “extreme pressure” of putting his work out there for fervent “Avengers” fans around the world.
“There are going to be people online who are going to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb,” he said with a laugh.
“It’s always a worry but at the same time, I’m just happy that I got this opportunity to draw something like this for Marvel. If this is the last piece I ever do, I’m happy.
“To be able to touch every single movie, doing a big mural like this — what could possibly top this at this point?”