Sunday, June 23, 2013

Process: Archers Poster

As promised, here's a window into my process for creating the poster in my previous post.

Please, proceed:

In order to enter the world of this band, I listened to their two recorded songs on repeat for two or three hours while I drew.  This was a great approach for me, partly because I really like their music, and also because drawing with their voices in my studio felt like I was working as their collaborator, visually riffing off of their imagery and transmitting as best I could the rich emotional experiences that their songs elicit for me.

Initial pencils with a tree branches lettering idea:

Next pencil phase with what would become the final lettering:

At this point I spent some time looking at the image backwards (flipped horizontally) and realized that the composition felt pretty imbalanced.  It seemed like moving the well farther to right was one way to help.  I also increased the size of the cave on the right, creating a weightier, rounder black space to counterbalance all of the details and blacks in the left and bottom of the drawing:

I liked where I'd gotten so far with the pencil drawing, and was afraid that adding ink might ruin the subtle tonal shifts.  In order to procrastinate and in a somewhat desperate attempt to forgo inking, I experimented with dodging (lightening) and burning (darkening) various parts of the image in photoshop, and added some white highlights to the foreground figure and color to the lettering.  I liked this look, which reminded me of "variant" comic book covers that showcase the artist's pencils sans ink and color.  

After all of that photoshop finagling, I still knew that the poster needed to capture people's attention (probably with color) and be clearly legible, so I dunked my little brush in the ink jar and got to work.  I experimented with textures and using parallel strokes side by side instead of filling in with solid black the darker areas of the foreground, which I think helped me preserve some of the tonal quality mentioned above.  Here are the finished inks:

When I started coloring with layers in photoshop, I lay down a "flat" (a layer of solid color) in the background and kept the inks layer in multiply mode, which allows the color to show through from behind.  I erased the flat behind the figures and the well, unifying and drawing attention to all of them.  This stage reminded me of chine colle, a collage technique in lithography (and other types of printmaking?) that simultaneously adheres and prints on a small piece of cut paper added to your print.  Please see anywhere else on the internet for a better explanation of chine colle.  Anyway, I wanted to preserve that quality in the final image, and returned again and again to this look during the many different color trials I went through to get to the final poster.  Here's one early permutation, showing the flat with whitened figures, yellow lettering, and a red strip at the bottom for handwritten show info:

And once again, here are the final colors.  I kept the white for the figure triad in the fore and mid grounds, and connected the archers to the well with their blue hue.  I find limiting my palette keeps my image from a state of complete disunity, and also reminds me of the simplified colors of old comic books, which I love, and enjoy emulating whenever possible.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. wow, ben...loved that you showed us the progression of your drawings & the techniques used as well as your thought very proud of your incredible gifts & talents!

  2. Thank you thank you! I am very happy to share with you! I'm glad that you enjoy the work and learning about the process!

    1. ben, did the little book i gave you help with technique or is it more inate for you? ljb

    2. in this case i didn't reference the book but kind of went with my normal working method, then a bit of experimentation, and again to an approached i've used in the past for the computer coloring part. i'm glad you reminded me of that book, though, as i just plucked it off the shelf and spent some time with it... there are a lot of interesting materials and technique ideas that i need to try!