Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"A Murder of Crows: A Children's Primer"

I just finished up my contribution to a group art show at Gallery Meltdown in L.A.: "A Murder of Crows: A Children's Primer," curated by Linda Pine. She's assembled a really amazing collection of artists (people like Richard Sala, Renee French, Tim Biskup, Dave Cooper, Jason "Wacky Animals" Polan... seriously, I must have been contacted by mistake!) to illustrate an alphabet's worth of "terms of venery;" those wacky 19th-century terms for groups of animals (i.e. "school of fish," "pride of lions," etc).

I chose "a troubling of goldfish," and did it in watercolor & Sharpie (because I apparently can't draw anything without my Sharpies anymore), and I have to say I'm quite happy with it--though I'm sure it will still pale in comparison to everything around it!

The show goes up on October 3rd, and I believe there's an associated shindig from 6-9 PM that evening. If you're in the L.A. area, stop by and check it out! Details here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

White Dog

I wrote this one a while back, actually... not sure why I didn't post it at the time, but here it is now:

As I recall, the initial meeting to discuss the brief for White Dog lasted for hours, as we worked our way through all the various interpretations of this controversial film: is it an unjustly censored masterpiece? A well-meaning but ham-fisted allegory? A bold political statement against racism? A formulaic horror film with delusions of significance? A visionary film that transcends its genre? A nominally anti-racist film that exposes the underlying institutional racism of the filmmakers involved? Opinions were voiced, arguments offered, the whole thing was a rigorous intellectual endeavor. At the end of it all, just as everyone was getting ready to head back to their respective desks, I wanted to get one last point of clarification:

"So... as far as the design goes: big scary dog, right?"

"Oh, yeah. Totally."

So "big scary dog" it was. I was excited about trying to incorporate something like the flat color style I'd used on those Randy Bandits records, so I set to work drawing big scary dogs. Here's the first batch I sent around:

(Re: colors: the white/black/red combo seemed immediate obvious, but I threw those brownish ones in there because sometimes people around here can get burnt out on black/white/red designs. Luckily, we didn't have to go that direction: if there was ever a film that demanded the black/white/red color scheme, this is it.)

Those last two (and okay, a little bit the first one, too) were quickly derided as looking too much like labels for microbrew beer bottles. (And who wouldn't want to crack open an ice cold White Dog after a hard day at the office? Microbrewers of America, call me!) I liked the drawing in #1 the best, (though admittedly the type is weak), but the producer liked the composition in #2, but wanted to see it with some of the snarling energy from the (otherwise lousy) drawing in the last two. So I set about drawing in some snarl to #2, and tried a few new title treatments while I was at it (a couple of which are really bad in retrospect):

I also tried a few variations on that first drawing, but to no avail. (I'm still quite fond of that last one with the red title in the lower right corner, actually.) I did ultimately sneak it onto the menus, though--score one for stubborn designers!

Anyway, we were all set to go with this one:

But then it turned out that there were some legal issues that limited the size of the title treatment (specifically, the size of the credit block on the back cover had to be a certain percentage of the title treatment, which would have taken up literally the entire back cover if we'd sized it according to the title on our cover of choice, which meant, in effect, that the title treatment had to be shrunk down to accommodate the credit block.) I tried resizing the title on the existing cover, but it just didn't work:

So we needed a new solution. Luckily, I had another drawing handy, one we had been planning to use as the booklet cover, to play up the good dog/bad dog dichotomy in the film. Plus, the dog coming out of the blank field of white has a nice, creepy effect that fits the film well. We decided the transition from good dog cover to bad dog booklet made just as much, if not more sense than the other way around, so we preserved the original cover on the insert booklet (free from legal requirements) and used this as the DVD cover (a fine solution, I think!):

(By the way, if you're a Fuller fan but a White Dog skeptic, try watching the film with the chroma turned all the way down (i.e. as a black & white film)--you'll be shocked at how much it starts feeling like classic Fuller once you're not distracted by all the '80s pastel jumpers and whatever.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Years Don't Have Dustjackets

I got a sample of the hardcovers for the ALEC omnibus last week, and boy do they look pretty, if I do say so myself!! The image is silkscreened directly onto the raw board, giving the whole thing a simultaneous high-class / lo-fi effect... (Not to be confused with the high-class / lo-fi effect of this crappy photo taken with my expensive iPhone.*)

And don't forget, there's still time to pre-order!!

*For the record, I'm not an iPhone hater, I do love mine, but fair is fair: the camera sucks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pigs, Pimps and Prostitutes

So... Pigs, Pimps and Prostitutes! This is a recent favorite of mine--three great films, and I was very happy with how the design came together. A different animal than my previous Imammura cover, Vengeance is Mine, but both are personal favorites, actually.

Here's the first idea I had, which is pretty close to the final covers:

I immediately liked the idea of this hand-drawnlettering for it's tightly contained energy, very strictly structured but dirty and human at the same time... it just seemed like a good fit for Imammura. There's obviously a Dr. Strangelove influence there, and Stop Making Sense and a dozen other things, (most of which, as an anonymous commenter points out, are designs by the great Pablo Ferro), but to be honest the most immediate influence was this. (That's not a value judgment by any means, it's just what I happened to notice on a bookshelf while working on this project)

That type isn't a font, it's hand-drawn. (Or, well, I did build a font set out of these letterforms for the packaging and menus, but the covers were drawn before that.) I set the titles in various weights of a font called Agenda, then traced over them. Here's what it looked like in font-only form--not very pretty! (For the record, that's a recreation--I don't seem to have saved the original, but it looked pretty much like that.)

The other element worth commenting on in those covers (apart from the film images, which hopefully speak for themselves), is the silhouetted "critters." Each of these films features a prominent insect or animal as a central metaphor, (the pigs in Pigs and Battleships, the bug from the opening credits of Insect Woman, the silkworms and/or that centipede-looking thing that crawls up her thigh in Intentions of Murder), so it seemed like a good way to link them all together.

Anyway, next came a variation on that theme, but replacing the silhouetted "critters" with photos of same, and bringing in some color for variety:

Here instead of the framegrab used for the previous slipcase cover, I found a similar, but graphically stronger, image on Corbis. The idea of mimicking that scene from Pigs & Battleships for the cover was immediately appealing to me--writhing dirty masses of pigflesh just seem like the perfect encapsulation of Imammura's views on humanity in these movies, and I especially love the way the pigs are converging downward in this image, almost like they're being sucked down a drain... I was initially a little concerned that there might be some objection to using an image that isn't really from the film, (which is why I tried the framegrab version above, but it doesn't have the same punch), but luckily everyone was up for it. (I also think it sits nicely next to my cover for the Bergman Film Trilogy slipcase from back in the day, but that's neither here nor there.)

And finally, just in case everyone hated the hand-drawn type, I tried this idea, which I have literally no justification for.. it seemed like a good idea at the time, but thankfully everyone DID like the hand-drawn type.

After a little back and forth, I took the best bits from options 1 and 2, swapped in a new image for Insect Woman and a new and better "critter" for Pigs and Battleships, thickened up the lettering on the slipcase to make sure it was readable, and as a last minute decision (literally I was about to press "print" on the first proof loop), added that hot pink color to the interior of the slipcase, which I think really holds the whole set together, somehow. And that's that! Here's the final covers:

Sorry!! Also: Stumblebum Brass Band!

So, wow, long time between posts, huh? Sorry about that, been CRAZY busy, with lots of fun stuff which I'll post about as soon as I can. But I've finally got some time, sitting here by the lake at scenic Kutsher's resort before today's line-up of ATP bands gets started, so I'll try to knock out a couple of these, then spread them out over the next few weeks, so as to give the illusion of consistency. We'll see how that goes...

And in addition to just generally being a bad blogger, I really should apologize for not posting this with any punctuality:

The Stumblebums are a great NYC-based band, one of the more fun shows you'll see (especially if you catch one of their subway sets, which have a tendency to turn into impromptu platform dance parties.) So I was psyched to do a poster for the kickoff to their Alaskan tour, but not only did I forget to post it in time for the kickoff show (which I also stupidly forgot to go to--I'm not lying when I say I've been busy!), I missed the whole damn Alaska tour! Sorry, guys! But if you're in NYC, or if they make their way to your town, do yourselves a favor and check them out, you won't be disappointed!