Fun, challenging gig this week from Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto Canada. Make a poster for the animated Noam Chomsky documentary “Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?”. Its a super stylized, psychedelic film directed and animated by Michel Gondry. It was a bit to wrap my head around at first but I found a way to make an original illustration that I feel pays tribute to the animation style and touches on some of the themes and conversation featured in the film. Thanks for looking 😉
I first heard of Hot Docs around 2007 while going to college for Graphic Design, one of my favourite teachers was a documentary film maker and turned me on to the festival. I was blown away. Equal parts surprise, excitement, and dumb luck. Documentary had been a long time favourite genre of film of mine, and not only was there a festival that exclusively played docs in a cinema – but it was right here in the city I had just moved to. I think I had seen Fahrenheit 9/11 in a cinema, but otherwise I would get documentaries from the library or History Channel. I don’t remember Blockbusters having much of a documentary section and this was before Netflix took over (the dark ages).
Fastforward (movie pun intended) five-ish years and I joined a little documentary film club that met every month to see a film and then go out after for discussion. My ideal night out. I talk to the leader of the HS Doc Club about maybe perhaps I could do posters and illustrations each month to help promote the club. My long-con plan was to do posters for free for her (occasionally got some free passes) and establish my illustration and poster style as something that would be cool for documentaries. I love visual metaphors, simple colour, and not really giving away any of the story other than what it was basically about. Heavily inspired by Saul Bass and contemporary gig posters. I did one illustration a month for her club for about 3 years before getting my first paid gig from the festival, doing simple promotional stuff for one of their other year-round events. Hot Docs is the name of the festival that runs in the spring, as well as the name of the theatre that exclusively shows docs year round. So getting to do stuff for one of their many many events was a step closer. It wasn’t my white whale, but it was a foot in the door and some healthy reassurance my long-con plan was working. I was on their radar. Just had to keep on keep’n on and eventually I might be lucky enough to work for the main event, the annual festival.
The big email came in just before Christmas 2018. Not really a holiday guy but couldn’t have asked for a better present. 5 years of working for free paid off. In no way do I mean to sound like I was owed, its about time, or anything like that. I legitimately LOVE documentaries and doing posters each month and helping to promote events was in no way “work”. Thats what I want to do, and has been what I wanted to grow up and do for as far back as I can remember. I was asked to create artwork for the 2019 festival and I couldn’t be happier. I will get into some of the creative and behind the scenes process, but I really wanted to write this blog to get out how important this gig was for me. Maybe it will inspire others to have goals or whatever, but also for me to remember why I do what I do.
The concept for this years festival was “open your eyes”. I was brought in early of the development of the creative, and at the time it wasn’t decided if this was going to be a tagline printed along side anything, or would just be an underlining theme of stepping outside your comfort zone and looking more closely at things you either haven’t noticed or have never thought to look into. One of the early concepts we talked about was a kaleidoscope and maybe that could be a visual element we could work with.
Another obvious direction was focus on the word eye. Maybe we could do something that used eye graphics or insinuated watching. Obviously, this was too obvious and the direction was scrapped. Thats a good thing though. I always feel like exploring a bad idea and being sure is better than not touching it and second guessing later if there might have been something there.
I was making some pretty complicated collage type illustrations (like I love to do) but one of the simpler pieces of a bigger image caught the eye of the festival team. I raised fist holding a lantern. The lantern supports on each side had two faces looking at each other, to imply conversation taking place. It spoke to the open your eyes idea with a leading the way kind of feel, and the closed hand also worked as a representation of a revolution.
From there, we tried to think of different ways to handle the light rays coming off the lantern. Different patterns, hidden images, and even a few tries to bring back the kaleidoscope imagery.
We needed up dropping the taking faces aspect and making the first larger. We felt having too many pieces diluted the overall idea and the simpler, the better. Next was to start experimenting with colour and seeing where we could push thing while still staying on brand with the green and yellow.
The festival team was pretty into all the colour experiments I did and end up going with the wild card idea of using all of them. I love wild card ideas. I made up a bunch of different posters with different schemes at the festival would mix and match them for different uses. Thinking that instead of plastering the whole city with the same image, if it changed up a bit maybe it would stand out more and get extra attention.
Me and some pals got to work with Collective Arts Brewing to make a four pack! We will also be doing some kind of live art thing June 14 and 15 at Liquid Art Fest in Hamilton. Our Surround Sound Four Pack should be in all LCBOs now
In my downtime between projects Ive been making weird youtube tribute videos called VHS ReAnimated where I talk about and recomend some 80s horror slashers that are either so bad they are good, or they are just regular good. Here are a few of the posters that I use in videos.
“Greetings and Goodbyes” is a poster series I created last summer at DEPO2015 in Pilsen Czech Republic. It’s a reflection and celebration of my last year traveling around Europe, meeting new people and really pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Not everything went as planned, but I don’t regret any risks or chances I took. Actually, all the stuff that went wrong make the best stories and inspire more art. So I guess I’m looking forward to the next time I get locked out, miss a flight, take a train to the wrong city, or you know… get banned from a whole continent
Partially inspired by the song “I Drove All Night” by Roy Orbison, and partially a reaction to my time away from home. This painting is meant to be a reminder the most wonderful things in life are worth working hard for. Graniti is a beautiful town hidden away in the mountains, I would like people (locals and travellers) to see this piece and be reminded how special this place is. This is a painting about love, romance, anticipation and coming home.
“Girls That Smoke” is an animated short I’ve been working on for the last two months at Pinea Linea de Costa A.I.R in Rota Spain. It was created by linocutting the artwork and then composing and animating the puppets in AfterEffects, incredibly time consuming but I am really happy with the final look. Im always looking for new ways to combine traditional art styles with modern technology.
Ive been traveling for about 10 months now, meeting lots of great people along the way. As fun as that is, its not so fun to say goodbye and head on to the next place. This film is inspired by and a response to those bitter sweet feelings. Looking forward to showing it for the first time Tonight Wednesday June 21st, my last night here in Spain (how fitting)