Friday, February 22, 2008

Abandon Ship -- A Gallows poster process...

Getting to do a gig poster for Gallows is a a pretty swanky deal, not least of all because they are a great live band and are causing quite a stir at the moment, but also because there is a wealth of subject matter available to use as imagery -- wolves, sharks, galleons, sea beasts, daggers, old school tattoos, and not to leave out, of course, the faithful old hangman's noose... all fair game.

The first thing I do when approaching a poster design is just work on the idea and direction. I want something which will work well as a poster but which fits the sound and aesthetic of the band. On the other hand, I still want to retain some of my own artistic style in the design and hopefully end up with something that not only am I pleased with but which fans of the band would be excited about displaying on their walls.

I start to sketch out tiny ideas and look through resources to pick out imagery and colours I like. The first batch of ideas revolve around wolves and I sketch up a very rough picture of a werewolf tearing a noose from its neck, full moon beaming in the background, Victorian dressed man shooting a gun in terror in the foreground. I like the idea that the man has been hung but cannot be killed, the moonlight revealing him to be a nasty lycanthrope.

Ultimately, I'm not sure it would work for the band as well as other imagery might. I start looking through some old Sailor Jerry tattoo designs and decide I'd love to do something similar. The image I settle on is that of an evil looking galleon, the prow of which is actually the arm of a gallows, with a noose swinging into the foreground. Add a scroll, perhaps some swallows, and it could be a winner.

I spend the weekend drawing the image of the galleon, and plan to add the scroll etc. as additional elements in Photoshop.

After scanning it in, vectoring the linework, and starting to play with composition on the computer I'm not really happy with how it's looking. I fear I may have moved entirely away from the 'old school tattoo' look by putting waaaaay too much detail into the ship. Bearing in mind I've spent a number of hours already on it, I'm hesitant to ditch it entirely and start on something else, especially since the band are itching to get previews of the poster designs to approve so I need to get something to them sharpish.

Then it hits me. The band have a song called "Abandon Ship". I chuckle to myself as this effectively makes the decision for me. Putting the abandoned ship illustration to one side, I turn back to my sketchbook.

A very, very rough sketch has something about it which I like, and I decide to go with it. Avoiding my previous mistake of killing the design with too much detail, I deliberately use a more restrained approach, inking with nice, solid brush-strokes until I have enough elements to scan in and finish up the design in Photoshop, using my Wacom tablet for colouring and additional linework.

I produce a rough version of the design to send to the band for approval. Once given the all clear, I produce colour seperations and high-tail it down to my local printers who output these onto acetate for me -- three sheets of A2, one for each colour I'll be printing. I also order the card stock and ink I'll be using.

A few days later, after a train journey to the printing studio, the posters are underway (see earlier in this Process blog for a more detailed look at the printing stage).

This part of the process can actually end up being pretty hard graft and I easily spend a full day in the studio, burning the screens, printing each colour 70+ times, making sure the registration is right, and washing everything up at the end.

Once all the posters are dry, I guillotine them to the right size, pack them up in my file case and jump on the train home.

At home I sort through the posters to check I'm happy with each of the prints, removing any which are not up to scratch. Once I know how many are in the edition, they are signed, numbered, stamped on the back and packed up ready to take to the gig.

Shown above are the 50 on 'bloodied nose red', 20 on 'coffee brown', and a very special one off artists' proof on salmon pink. The red will be available at the Leeds date of the Gallows tour on Sunday the 24th and the Leeds Met, with the rest being available via mailorder afterwards.

A lot of work goes into these beasts and, coupled with their limited availability, each one is a unique piece of original art in it's own right.

Cheers for reading!