There’s a very comprehensive interview with artist Drew Struzan over at Movie Weekly, and the whole thing is well worth reading. However, here are the relevant bits regarding his poster for The Force Awakens:
Well, see it started about a year ago or more, a year and a half ago. I got a call from J.J. Abrams who I have never met, and he was in England shooting the film and he goes ‘Hi, I’ve always loved the work’ and Blah, Blah, Blah, sounding like you, you know, like a fanboy (laughs)… And we were talking along and he just goes ‘…Well, would you?’ and I said ‘…If I was asked.’ And that was the conversation (laughs). By the end of it, there were no other words. So about a year later, we get together and meet and he says we’re using all the original people – John Williams, Kasdan, Harrison Ford’s in it, everybody’s in it and everybody’s writing and making the music and we have to have your art to make it the real thing. So, of course, I’ve got to do it for George and I’ve got to do it for Star Wars. I’ve never worked with J.J before and so we started working on it and he showed me like half the movie and it was just… a wonderful film and I know it’s going to be grand. I got to read the script and subsequently I’ve seen half of it and I can tell you and the fans this, Honest to god, it is far and away probably going to be THE BEST Star Wars you’ve ever seen… it’s beautifully made and it’s a wonderful story.
I worked for seven months on all different kinds of concepts with the studio and J.J and if you really want to know the sacred truth, after I got started and I saw the film and read the script, I was going over it in my mind for weeks – How do I feel about it? How can I represent this film really well? And I did this, like many creatives do, I came up with the concept in my sleep. Just like John Lennon used to write his best music in his sleep, I designed my painting in my sleep. That was the first one I did and I went for seven months doing stuff and in the end, guess which one they picked? The very first thing I did (laughs). So trust your sleep because that’s what I came up with and that’s what they loved from the very beginning.
To me it represents the film. The spirit of the film, the new characters, the battle again to find the truth, to grow up, to find the purpose in life. It’s all those things that Star Wars had to be and is still. And I hope to represent that again to a new generation.
So… the best Star Wars movie? Is that his honest opinion? I think it is, at least right now. Of course, that doesn’t mean it will be the best Star Wars movie for you—it’s all in the eye of the beholder. But it’s a good sign nonetheless.