Finished Works

Hey, I made some posters!

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I’ve been busy lately, and that includes posters. A friend who is a music publicist put me in touch with Brad Cole, who will be playing a residency at Montrose Saloon next month and I made him some posters and social media graphics:

I’ve made a lot of posters, but I haven’t really worked like this with a client before. Usually, I’m either just adding some text to an already-designed poster or the client knows me well enough that I just have free rein. I don’t actually know the correct design process.

I sent Brad some fairly bland samples to get a feel for the direction that he wanted to go in, but none of them clicked. He sent me back some examples of things he liked and I we sort of agreed that, with the time frame we were under, a stylized photo would be a good middle ground between something unique and something obvious.

Now that I’m working an office job full time, I do a lot of doodling in meetings. And that often means making gradients out of dots with text in the negative space. I did that for this picture, using three colors. A medium tone over the whole image, a darker tone for shadows and a bright tone concentrated around the text. There’s a big difference between idly doodling dots while watching a webinar and filling a page with them when it’s your job!

One neat thing about how I made this is that each Photoshop layer only had one color on it, so it was easy to provide color variations. If you go to Montrose Saloon, you’ll see the poster above as well as one in a silver/yellow color palette.

My other main poster outlet is Nighthawk Tavern‘s monthly Concert Series. This is the thing where I normally just add some text to what’s already there. There wasn’t much of a poster for Sade: Bring Me Home Live though, so I composited a few images, including a disco ball, and I was very happy with the results. The Fela In Concert assignment came up right after I finished Brad’s posters, so I was feeling good about my skills! I took the main image from the original media and then added the side elements inspired by Fela’s super cool suit!


Finished Works

Grief, only tangentially inspired by Seripop

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This morning I listened to the Move Your DNA podcast, and the guest talked about the idea of the Wall of Grief: when you think about all of the things that need to be fixed – referring to the state of the world, but I’m not sure if that’s always the context – and become paralyzed with overwhelm. (Can overwhelm be used as a noun, or is that just a David Allen thing?)

I was trying to mimic the style of Seripop – candy color, busy layouts, color fills with black offset lines, scribbly homemade patterns, hand drawn text filling up spaces, hard to read and, in their own words, “weird junk.” Then I got hung up on this bailing-the-ocean-with-a-bucket metaphor and lost the thread. This is one I’ll want to revisit if and when I revisit these posters later.

I had work again today. At the risk of tooting my own horn, I’d forgotten how good I am as an employee. The pay on this assignment is not a lot and the task I’m being asked to do is pretty simple, and I can’t help but add more value. While I’m checking if A matches B, I’m proofreading B, looking up things I’m not sure about, suggesting ways that B can be improved, etc. None of this shows in my resume though. That’s the tricky part.

The text spilling out of the bucket are random bits of industry jargon that caught my eye today at the office. I scribbled them on sticky notes, then Adobe-Captured them into vectors.

Behind the Scenes

Just the posters for now

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I got so much done tonight after my first office day in who can say how long. I made a poster, I did laundry, I scooped two cat boxes, and I put in a big grocery delivery order for tomorrow (before my free trial of the delivery service expires). What I did not do is a long, thoughtful blog post.

Saturday’s poster:

Sunday’s poster:

Today’s poster:

Finished Works

Day 15: Getting Real

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It’s not a good idea to look at LinkedIn first thing in the morning, but that’s what I did. My feed is a mix of friends from art school getting excited over the latest animation techniques, various companies I started following when I was trying to get jobs from them, and recruiters offering advice to those of us still trying desperately to land jobs. It makes for a challenging mix and it put me in a rough mood starting my poster work.

The artist for the day was Luba Lukova. I really like her work. Along with bold shapes and limited palettes, she makes visual puns, like a woman wearing a muzzle with the face of a man for The Taming of the Shrew, or a dove caged in the prosthetic leg of a veteran. For my poster, I already had it in my head to do something self-promotional. I thought about what two ideas I wanted to combine. Being unemployed for as long as I’ve been is very draining and disheartening and yet, every time I apply for a job, I have to project confidence and positivity.

Day 16: In progress

As of this post, I have an image ready, but not the whole poster. The day’s not over, but a nasty trip on the sidewalk has messed up my right pinky and slowed me down. We’ll see how it goes.


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Day 14: Congratulations, Little Friends

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Today’s source is Little Friends of Printmaking, from Madison Wisconsin. Their work, at least in the book tends to be cartoonish in an almost deliberately grotesque kind of way – more tongues and nostrils than I tend to like in a character anyway. They use busy layouts and unusual, desaturated color palettes. Two things they’re known for are chunky typography and what they refer to as “black figures.”

For my poster, I’m congratulating my favorite local tavern on winning Next Door‘s best neighborhood coffee shop. (It’s both a coffee shop and a tavern.)

I tend to make things too cutesy and symmetrical and I knew that working in Illustrator would only exacerbate this. To get around this, I drew small. In fact, I drew on an old pizza receipt. Adobe has a great phone app called Capture, that lets you bring anything into vector format.

There are some aspects of the capture that I don’t have full grasp of, but I got a pretty good scan. I was able to clean things up and arrange things to my liking once I was in Illustrator. For the logo, I traced a copy with Smart Guides turned off, and added a variable-width stroke. I think it adds just enough imperfection to keep it from standing out. The rest of the text is digital. Not how they’d have done in Madison, but I’m ok with the compromise.

My colors are a coffee-with-cream brown, and vivid magenta and chartreuse. But bringing them all to low opacity and stacking them gave me the sort of color palette I was looking for. As always, I left a quarter-inch printing border – my work ends up laser printed, and bleed is not an option – but the barista figure overlaps. On screen at least.

Finished Works

Day 13 Update: All caught up

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In my earlier post today,  I laid out my plan to make a scratchboard drawing on the computer. It actually turned out better than I was expecting. My first thought was to work in Illustrator and make tapering strokes that would look like chisel strokes. Which I thought I could then bring it into After Effects and turn into a cool logo reveal animation. That turned out to be a non-starter. But I still want to do something similar. Animated logo reveals are a thing now, but the ones I’ve seen are generic, plug-n-play.

I switched over to Photoshop and spent a lot of time trying to find a brush that would give me a chisel look. There are tutorials, but I still just did things my own way. In my brush search I was reminded that I have access to Kyle T. Webster’s custom brushes with Adobe Creative Cloud. They are so cool! I need to spend more time working with these. For now, I used one of his crosshatching brushes – very carefully – to create the scratch marks aro

und my logo. (That’s my logo, btw. I made it.) I didn’t mask off the area I was leaving black, so I had to stop and switch to smaller brushes for inside spaces and I think that added to the realism. The whole project made me want to work with an actual scratchboard, but that will have to wait.

Finished Works

I’m still going! Day 12 recap and Day 13 plan.

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I’m back on track. Promise. The eleventh (Fons Hickmann, from Berlin) and twelfth (Jewboy Corporation, from Tel Aviv) artists in the book had a few things in common, so I did one picture to cover both. One of the Fons Hickmann posters had jumped out at me when I first flipped through the book because it was a large, simple female torso with pubic hair escaping a pair of panties – and the pubes are the actual informational text of a poster. Now I finally got to find out what band or artist chose to market itself this way, right? It was a church rummage sale. Germany and the US are very different places. Jewboy Co. also made a lot of shocking choices, like referencing the Challenger explosion on a poster for a fireworks show. Courting that sort of attention is so far outside my comfort zone, and I’m really glad that it worked out where I didn’t have to face it twice in a row!

Visually, I took more clues from Jewboy Corporation than Fons Hickmann, as they had a more consistent aesthetic. They used a lot of pastels, which you don’t really see much in posters. I took the idea of a silhouette filled with a rainbow gradient directly from one of their posters. They use a lot of scribbly drawings as well, that I was able to replicate very well with Illustrator’s Image Trace feature. The actual posters overlap images to the point where I literally couldn’t figure out what was going on half the time. I still couldn’t bring myself to do that. Is that weird?

For my own attempt at inappropriate imagery, I made a book cover for when this blog’s super-fan Dr. Bartholomew puts out her memoirs. (This is all on spec. She’s not even in talks with publishers yet.)


And that brings me to today. The artist is Andrew Lewis from Vancouver Island, Canada. Nothing really jumped out at me about the style. I think I was put off by seeing something he did for Starbucks; it somehow managed to make everything on the page feel trite and dated. I guess that’s the power of branding.

What I picture when I think of scratchboard

Several of the posters, including the Sbux one linked above, were described as having used a scratchboard technique. They didn’t look like what I picture for scratchboard, but it got me wondering if that was something I could try to replicate digitally.

In case you’re not familiar with scratchboard – or scraperboard, you start with a thin layer of white clay covered in black ink, then scrape away at the ink to make the white space of the drawing. You may have done something similar as a child by covering a page with a thick layer of colorful crayon and then covering that with black.

It seems so fundamentally tied to the constraints of the medium that making this kind of art digitally feels disingenuous. There are, however, tutorials on doing this, and the point of this project is for me  to branch out and try new things. So let’s give it a go.

Finished Works

Day 9: Transience through Jianping He

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The work of Jianping He is impressive to the point it was hard to find anything to take away from it. It’s very dreamy and “high art” and there were examples where he gave text a painterly look. From that, I came up with the idea of specifically trying to make text look painted. In the process, I came up with this. It feels horribly cliche to me, but there’s something about it that I like.

In other news, I spoke with a recruiter today about a possible gig with a company that both makes games and empowers people to make games of their own. It looks amazing. I plan to spend some time this weekend freshening up my site. I haven’t touched it since 2014. The games thing reminded me of the PuzzleScript workshop I attended a few months ago and how fun it can be just to make things.

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Day 8: Nonsense and Pedram Harby

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The artist: Pedram Harby, Tehran, Iran

Pedram Harby‘s work is very minimal. He’s inspired by song lyrics and works a lot with Persian typography, often using lines of type as part of the drawing. As a nod to his Islamic heritage, he often blurs representative images.

My Interpretation: cats

I take a lot of pictures of my cats, Henry and Joseph, so it was just a matter of time until one ended up in these posters. I’m surprised I made it a whole week. I liked the idea of blurred photographs combined with a mixed text line drawing and I felt this picture of the cats in the tree lent itself well.

The text might be familiar to you from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but it goes back much further than that.

Finished Works

Day 7: Hammerpress v gentrification

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Today’s artist is Hammerpress in Kansas City, MO. It’s an aesthetic I really enjoy. Their posters are busy, in a grandma’s attic kind of way. Lot’s of collage, overlap, interesting spacing. Much more rectilinear and white than some of the previous designs. This might have to do with the fact that they work in letterpress.

When I read that, it reminded me that some sort of letterpress printing/ craft space is opening near me. On some level, that’s exciting news, but it’s also a little bit distressing. Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, where I live, is very diverse and an area that has avoided gentrification so far. More and more, however, I’m seeing the evidence of it starting, and this shop is one of the things. (Yes, I appreciate that my living here is also one of the things.)

With that in mind, I decided to make the poster about that. I found a nice quote from Sarah Kendzior’s The View from Flyover Country and based my poster off that: