Process: National Retrospecticus poster

The National Poster Retrospecticus is a traveling collection of hand-printed posters from over 50 local, regional, and national artists. With a selection of 300 posters curated by JP Boneyard, the show makes a series of one-night stops to melt eyeballs and lighten wallets across the land. I was conscripted to produce a design for one of the stops on the tour. Here is how I made it.

In with the bad

My sketchbooks are filled with terrible, unfathomably bad ideas—and rightfully so. Getting poor ideas on the page and out of my head helps narrow my focus. For this poster I wanted to hand draw as much of the art as possible. I thought I might play up the “bad ideas” angle by putting a damn bird on the poster. I have lots of bird drawings laying around, so I drew a few more and put them aside. Alternatively, I toyed with the idea of a gridded poster with fancy type in each rectangle. I’d not really done it before, but I always like the look. So I set out to draw a bunch of fancy letters, finding out soon enough that the roughness of my drawing style wasn’t going to really work with the tidy design in my head.

I did a little more sketching on the type and found some classic display faces that I liked. Rather than scan them from a Dover book I drew and cut them out of paper , which would help marry them to the messier looking images that I knew were yet to come.

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I made this odd drawing of a squinting face using a brush pen.

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Photoshop work began in earnest. The scanned text had some nice texture hiding in it, so I pushed that a little. The bird wasn’t working; no problem.

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I didn’t care for the line drawing of the head. It was too busy, not enough variation in line weight, and no focal points to pull it together. But there was good stuff in there, so I began cutting up the drawing and piecing it back together. I also added extra texture by making a grid of lines, printing it out very small, and scanning the now-roughened lines back in.

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A bit more tweaking and resizing happened, color comps, slapped on the logo, and this is what the final looks like.

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