My posters were reworked to fit the new format by the Opera's wonderful designer, Annie Mack.
The staff of The Vancouver Opera invited me to their lovely city last week and I had a great time there. As part of a benefit for the Opera's educational programs, they came up with the idea of putting my poster artwork on snowboards and auctioning them off. They planned a nice reception at The Four Seasons with many of their donors where I showed all of the original art, gave a presentation about my poster making process, and signed the season's posters and the snowboards. I also did a lecture at Emily Carr University along with some newspaper interviews. I was able to get a great tour of the opera's facilities from Terry Harper, their production director. Lots of photographs from the trip below. Articles in the Vancouver Courier here and the Georgia Straight here. The snowboards will go up for auction on Ebay at the beginning of December. I wanted to thank everyone at The Vancouver Opera and their benefactors for their generosity, this really was a fun trip.
The snowboard shop photos were taken by Ling Chan from the VO staff. I wasn't able to make it there, but heard that they were pleased with how it all turned out and might want to work on other snowboard designs in the future, that would be great.
Emily Carr is the main art school in Vancouver, located on Granville Island, an artisans' marketplace near downtown. Nice facilities and bright, young students. Annie Mack and Ling Chan, part of the VO staff, arranged the lecture and helped me navigate the city. Thanks!
Salsa in Vancouver? Yes. If there is a Salsa club, I will find it. They were sooooo good, I was very impressed. The reggae band and general late night goings on around Granville Street were fun to watch too.
One of the highlights of my trip was seeing the preparation that goes into putting operas together. I used to design theatre sets back in college and this was a treat. Tom Wright and Terry Harper went over the details of the design for "Nixon in China" and I learned quite a bit about what goes into producing operas. Terry gave me a couple of books on the subject and we hope to work together on a set design sometime soon. He worked with artist Jun Kaneko on the design of this season's "Madame Butterfly". Terry also took me on a terrific tour of their prop and costume shops, pictures of those below.
On the evening of the Benefactor's reception, I met a nice couple, Craig Tomlinson and Carol Tsuyuki. It turns out that Craig is one of the few people around that build 17th and 18th century replica harpsichords and pianos, this is his website. He lends them to the opera for some of their performances, one will be used for this year's "Marriage of Figaro" performance. Craig offered to take me on a tour of his workshop in West Vancouver and then we headed off to Whistler Mountain, about an hour away. Great road trip, thanks Craig!
This poster for 'The Marriage of Figaro' by Mozart is part of the series of posters I've been working on for The Vancouver Opera's 50th Anniversary Season. Below are some sketches, reference and videos from some past performances that I studied for reference. I thought I'd do something cheeky for such a well known work and the folks at the opera liked the idea.
The Marriage of Figaro: "Figaro and Susanna are to be married. But their master, the Count, is enamoured of the bride and Figaro is being eyed by a much older woman. Also a reckless young man is in love with the Countess, who longs for her husband’s embrace. And that’s not the half of it. Figaro is an unmatchable opera that combines comedy, social commentary and heart-breaking tenderness. The plot is deliriously twisty and the characters are deeply sympathetic. Mozart’s genius work connects to our lives with humanity and compassion."
This is some of the photo reference I found while researching past performances. I find it's important to look through as much reference as possible to get a rough idea of the costumes, hairstyles, scenery, etc.
These are the sketches I sent over. We went with the first sketch and at some point decided to change the female's expression (full face and singing).
I also watch the performances and listen to the music when trying to come up with ideas. Here are a couple of videos.
This poster for the opera Nixon in China is part of the series of images I've worked on The Vancouver Opera's 2009 Season. Some of the color sketches are below, along with video that I watched while working on the project. Here is some background info on the opera from wikipedia:
Nixon in China(1987) is an opera with music by the American composer John Adams and a libretto by Alice Goodman, about the visit of United States President Richard M. Nixon to China in 1972, where he met with China's Chairman Mao Zedong and other Chinese officials. The work premiered at the Houston Grand Opera, October 22, 1987 in a production by Peter Sellars with choreography by Mark Morris.
The opera focuses on the personalities and personal histories of the six key players, Nixon and his wife Pat, Jiang Qing and Chairman Mao, and the two close advisors to the two parties, Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai. It is composed of three acts. The first details the anticipation and arrival of the Nixon cortege and the first meeting and evening in China. The second act shifts focus to Pat Nixon, as she makes tours of rural China, including an encounter at a pig farm. The second scene includes a performance of a Communist propaganda play, in which first Pat Nixon, then her husband and then Jiang Qing, intercede in the performance. The last act chronicles the last night in China, in which the characters dance a foxtrot, their thoughts wandering to their own pasts. Musically, the opera perhaps owes more influence to minimalism than any Asian styles. The libretto, by contrast, was written completely in rhymed, metered couplets, reminiscent of poetic and theatrical styles native to China.
I was commissioned by The Vancouver Opera to create a series of posters for their 2009-2010 season of operas. This one is for Madame Butterfly. I spent a lot of time researching costumes and time periods and listening to and watching operas. The images will be used on outdoor advertising in Vancouver, print collateral, posters, and the web. Some of the sketches for the project and a clip of the Chinese soprano Ying Huang performing one of the songs are below.
"Caroline or Change", acrylic and ink on paper, 15" x 20"
I was commissioned by SpotCo to create posters for a series of Tony Kushner plays being performed at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Tony Kushner is best known for the two-part masterwork, Angels in America, which was also produced by HBO as a six-hour television event directed by Mike Nichols. I worked with art director Amanda Spielman on this project. The image above is for "Caroline or Change". Synopsis: "Louisiana, 1963: A nation reeling from the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement and the Kennedy assassination. Caroline, a black maid, and Noah, the son of the Jewish family she works for, struggle to find an identity for their friendship. Through their intimate story, this beautiful new musical portrays the changing rhythms of a nation. Tony Kushner and composer Jeanine Tesori have created a story that addresses contemporary questions of culture, community, race and class through the lens and musical pulse of the 1960s."
SKETCHES for Caroline or Change
"Tiny Kushner", mixed media
This image was for a one night performance of five short plays by Tony Kushner, titled "Tiny Kushner". I went through a number of sketches, trying to get all of the elements of the disparate plays into one image. The various plays deal with issues of war, racism, sex, etc.
Poster for Tiny Kushner
Sketches for "Tiny Kushner"
Poster for new Kushner play
The final assignment was for a new play that Tony Kushner was writing specifically for the Guthrie Theatre. I was basically given the title of the play to work with because, at the time, the story had not been completed. I tried a number of ideas which I've added below. In the end, the title was so long that the designer's typographic solution made more sense for the poster. The first play, Caroline or Change, opens on April 18th in Minneapolis.
Sketches for "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism & Socialism with a key to the Scriptures"
"The Way of the World", poster for Soulpepper Theatre
Acrylic and oil based ink on bark paper, 15" x 15"
This is the art for a play titled "The Way of the World" by William Congreve. The show opened at Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto on July 2 and runs through August 2. Here is a description from the theatre's catalogue:
"William Congreve's Restoration masterpiece is one of the wittiest, sauciest, and most loved of English language comedies. Peopled with a wonderful variety of characters, the play is particularly distinguished in its creation of the unforgettably assertive women. A rare commodity: a very sexy, very smart and very funny play."
These are some of the sketches and notes drawn around the manuscript I was given. The image came to me fairly quickly as I read some of the text.
This painting was used as the cover for Soulpepper's 10th anniversary season catalogue.
Acrylic and oil-based ink on bark paper. 15" x 15"
This is part of the series of posters I've done for Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto. The performance runs through this week. 'Night Mother is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Drama Desk, and Four Tony Awards, and deals with the difficult relationship between a mother and daughter. It takes place during one sitting as the mother and daughter discuss their life, the mother knits, and the daughter threatens suicide. I wanted to work with a red knitting thread in some way to hint at the idea of the family's complicated and violent story unraveling before the audience.
'As You Like It', by William Shakespeare, poster for Soulpepper Theater
Acrylic and ink on paper, 15" x 15"
"An evil duke. A motley Fool. A gaggle of country bumpkins. A melancholy philosopher. A girl, pretending to be a boy, pretending to be a girl in order to woo a boy. All the world is a stage, and in this play the stage is crowded with love and laughter and a delicious cast of players."
This is the short description of "As You Like It" by Shakespeare, and this is the painting I came up with for the poster. The play runs at Soulpepper Theater in Toronto from February 27 to April 19. The play is very complex so I went through a lot of thumbnails trying to find an iconic image that would work for the poster. I kept going back to a scene in the play where a character that kills a deer wears the skin and horns over his head. I tried some things in the thumbnails with a harlequin, but the deer image won out in my mind. Long live the deer!
Here are a bunch of thumbnails I quickly jotted down as things popped into my head while I read the play. Here's the part of the play I kept coming back to:
Jacques: Which is he that killed the deer? First Lord: Sir, it was I. Jacques: Let's present him to the duke like a Roman conqueror. And it would do well to set the deer's horns upon his head for a branch of victory.—Have you no song, forester, for this purpose? Second Lord: Yes, sir. Jacques: Sing it. 'Tis no matter how it be in tune, so it make noise enough. Second Lord (sings) What shall he have that killed the deer? His leather skin and horns to wear. Then sing him home. (The rest shall bear this burden.) Take thou no scorn to wear the horn. It was a crest ere thou wast born. Thy father's father wore it, And thy father bore it. The horn, the horn, the lusty horn Is not a thing to laugh to scorn.
Pencil on Paper, 15" x 15"
A lot of times I do these fairly academic drawings and studies so I can figure out the composition and details before going to final.
Acrylic and oil-based ink on bark paper, 15" x 15"
This is part of the series of posters for Soulpepper theater in Toronto. 'The Odd Couple', by Neil Simon, performances begin on February 11th. Some sketches below show people or personalities, but in the end I felt that the characters of Felix and Oscar are so well known, that a better way to go was to stay away from depicting faces. Focusing on their shoes seemed to tell the story in a different way.
This is the final poster. A description of the play: "When fastidious Felix is kicked out of his house he lands at the apartment of his chaotic chum Oscar. The result is a legendary comedic masterpiece about the frustrations of friendship, the insecurities of middle-age, and the explosion of opposites. As tender as it is hilarious, The Odd Couple is theatrical comedy at its most brilliant."
Very rough thumbnails, selections highlighted.
sketch: More of the room.
Sketch: Added frames
Sketch: Profiles out of the negative space.
Sketch: Heart in the negative space?
Sketch: Combo of previous stuff.
Sketch: I kind of liked this one, done over graph paper
'Salt-Water Moon', 15" x 15", Acrylic, oil-based ink and collage on bark paper
I was commissioned by Soulpepper Theater in Toronto to create the posters for their entire 2008 season, eight plays in total. Creating posters for a whole season of plays has been one of my dream jobs. I've always enjoyed the work of Toulouse-Lautrec and others that did posters for plays and musicals. I was also the set designer for plays back in college, and have a great appreciation for everything that goes into putting together a production. The first play of the season is "Salt-Water Moon" by David French. It runs from January 5-31. The final art is above and some of the process and the final poster are below:
Working on 8 plays at once is very complicated. I tried to organize it by working in one sketchbook on all of the work instead of random sheets of paper. I usually start the process by reading the manuscript and the synopses. Then I start sketching thoughts as they pop into my head. There is not much attention paid to composition, I am just trying to find imagery at this time. Some of those thumbnails are above. The creative director for the entire project is Anthony Swaneveld, his website is sandwichcreative.com. Anthony was great throughout the whole process as we tossed ideas back and forth. He has a very good eye for looking at very rough thumbnails and being able to talk about them without having more finished sketches. I trusted him so much that I just started sending these little rough thumbnail sheets just to get his thoughts. We decided that for this poster, the two images highlighted above seemed to work.
More sketches, based on the thumbnails.
Hey! So what's this play about? Here's a short description from some of the material I have: " A moonlit night in Coley's Point, Newfoundland in 1926. Young Jacob Mercer returns from Toronto to woo his beloved Mary. If this night goes the way he plans, Jacob Mercer will marry his Mary, and the resulting union will give birth to a playwright named David. David French will write several beautiful plays about his family including 'Leaving Home' and this play, the most popular romantic comedy of the Canadian stage."
The next step in my process was to try several color options before working on the final. I did these digitally so I could change colors quickly and compare them to one another. I liked the dark blue background, gave it moodier look than the brown. I also tried something with the lighthouse, but preferred the face. The idea of portraiture, or faces, began to appear on the sketches for the other posters and I started carrying it through as a theme for the series. I will post the rest of the posters when the plays open this year.
The next step for me was to do a more refined pencil and charcoal study before going to final art. This just helps develop the sketch some more. I ended up collaging the edges of a doily to create the lace trim of the dress.
This is the final poster which should be up around Toronto now. All the posters will be printed like this. Some might be printed as large as five feet tall to go on bus shelters.
I've got 50 of these posters that I will put up on my illogator.com shop when I set that up.
If you'd like a poster now, send me a request by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
$50 American Dollars, 18" x 28", offset heidelberg litho posters, signed, price includes shipping in a fancy tube. The shop accepts checks!
Doing illustration work on a regular basis, one gets used to seeing their work in print. At first, I got excited about seeing even the smallest reproduction of my work. Over time, I got used to getting published and the idea began to seem normal.
Occasionally, there’s a job that makes me realize just how special this occupation is. In August, I worked with Gail Anderson of SpotCo on a great project for a new production of Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway. The main actor and producer is Kevin Kline. Also starring in the production are Jennifer Garner and Daniel Sunjata. There is more info on the production at Playbill.com and Broadway.com.
The neat thing about Broadway posters is that the actors and producers really get involved in picking the artist. Gail showed my portrait work to the producers and Kevin Kline really liked it and wanted me to be the artist to do the artwork for his poster. Pretty cool!
The process of creating a Broadway poster is complicated, there are a lot of sketches and ideas discussed. I’ll post some of that in the future. For now, I just wanted to show you guys how the final artwork is being used.
I was walking down 46th street wondering if the art was up yet at the theater. From 8th avenue, there was nothing to be seen. As I walked past the theater and looked up, I saw about a 20 foot image on the side of the building that faces Broadway. When I stood there and look at that, I realized why I love illustration. It made me feel the way I imagine a kid from a small town feels when they star in a Broadway show—an overwhelming sense of pride for my parents, the place I came from, and where I am today. Here I am, a little guy, from a dirty little town in Havana, up there on Broadway with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner. Crazy.
The finished artwork.
Up, up, up in the New York City sky!
The BIG poster on the side of the building.
If there is an illustration god, I will meet Jennifer Garner soon.
The poster also ran as a full page ad in The New York Times.
Performances of Cyrano de Bergerac begin on October 12th and continue for 10 weeks at the Richard Rodgers theater, 46 street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue, NYC. Walk by if you're in the area. I'll be the guy standing across the street staring up at the theater!
Many thanks to Kevin Kline, Drew Hodges, Gail Anderson, Darren, Jeff, and the rest of the staff at Spot Co. This was really a team effort, everyone at Spot had a lot of great ideas and helped me greatly with photo reference and costume ideas, and did a great job on the design of the entire campaign.
I was asked by SpotCo to work with them on a poster for a big Broadway Musical production with opening dates to be determined. The assignment was to create an illustration that they could design into a poster. This is the final illustration.
This is a poster I did for a Broadway play called "Defiance". It's by the writer of a previous play called "Doubt". The plot revolves around trouble in a military family. I like doing projects where I do some of the type by hand. I thought the soldier's medals would be a great spot to work in all the type. I also wanted to go with a simple color scheme on the main art so that the colorful medals would stand out. The client went for that idea. I think I did about 60 different thumbnails for this poster. That's my usual process on large poster projects.