One of my favorite recent assignments was a series of hand lettered posters I did to advertise the Creative Writing program at Chester College in New Hampshire.
The project began with Anthony Padilla, the school’s Vice President for Marketing and Admissions. He asked me to design the series and hand letter the art.
It came about because I was one of the school's Visiting Artists last year. Anthony said he had seen my other lettered posters and asked if I'd be interested in the assignment.
As a rule my paintings usually tend to be sculptural. But in this case the volume of lettering seemed to dictate flat surfaces so that the lettering would be readable.
I began the work as I usually do, internalizing the texts and sketching out dozens of concepts without regard to literal interpretation.
At this point I’m just trying to let ideas loose. I don’t try to control them. Over the years I’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to think critically until you have something to think critically about. That means I tend to draw first and think later.
My ideas usually come as discrete images. Sometimes they even stay that way. But more often the elements in the pictures start jumping around from picture to picture until they finally land and settle someplace.
Then I weed out the concepts that don’t make any sense at all and set to work on the particular designs. In this case the posters had a lot of copy, so the challenge was to arrange the elements in such a way that the lettering and the art didn’t crowd each other.
For example, the sketch below would have made a compelling picture, but the image filled the entire space and left me no room for any copy but the headline.
The same was true of the sketch below. I would like to have rendered the different faces in different styles, but I felt the picture and the type were too jigsawed together to be effective in the way I wanted these posters to be.
In the end, the demands of the copy nearly self-selected the final designs. After throwing out more than two dozen rough sketches, I finally sent Anthony only one design for each poster, each with the lettering completely worked out like this.
The school seemed to like the series because they asked me to design a fourth poster for an Open House they conducted on the campus a couple weeks later.
As a rule, I don't do finished drawings before I start. Instead I trace the rough sketches onto a panel and make up the details as I paint. In this case however, I knew I had to get the look of the bass fiddle right. So I added an additional step by doing the drawing below. I didn't feel the need to resolve the figures much more at this point, but I wanted to replace the giant guitar that had passed for a bass fiddle in my first sketch. Once I had that right, I got started.
Anthony and I had previously worked on posters together, when he was at the Laguna College of Art and Design in California. It had always been a great experience, I liked the results we got; and I was very pleased to be working with him again.