Beatnik Characters - A Hand Drawn Poster Series
I was recently approached by the Arts Council of Wood Buffalo to work on an illustration series. (FYI - For everyone who doesn’t live in Northern Alberta - “Wood Buffalo” is the region that extends around and also encompasses Fort McMurray. Fort McMurray is actually not even a city)! TRIVIA.
I met up with Christina from ACWB at the downtown Starbucks and we chatted about how we had both come to find ourselves in this “city.” We had overlapping similarities, as I learned she was also from Saskatchewan, and also educated in graphic arts.
The conversation moved forward into the subject of commissioning a Beatnik themed poster series for the region’s annual Arts in Excellence Awards show, hosted by the ACWB. The theme this year being “Midnight Coffee House,” Christina and her team were looking for a poster series (and social media) design with a unique illustrated quality, and a fun retro feel. We looked over some visual examples of the movement, and discussed specifics about what would be needed.
Before meeting with Christina, I actually did my homework - I looked into beatnik culture, and realized there was actually a name for the time period and bohemian/intellectual movement of the late 50s early 60s - THE BEAT GENERATION.
Think Mad Men (specifically the Babylon episode when Don Draper accompanies his artist muse from the Village with her beatnik friends to a venue where they hear a woman do a spoken word performance). Think Jack Kerouac, Ken Keensy, berets, black turtle necks, Audrey Hepburn, and high-waisted slacks. Think coffee shops and poetry readings with cushions on the floor. Think bongo drums and incense. Amazing, right? All of a sudden Ned Flanders’ parent’s characters made complete sense.
Now imagine the commercial design from that era. That look is what I would be trying to replicate - except, not exactly. The look the Arts Council was aiming for from the examples they provided, seemed a little more kitschy to me. A parody of the Beat Generation, an exaggeration of the fashion and lifestyle generalizations of the time.
I was personally really excited for the chance to illustrate a beatnik character study. After I sketched a little and sent through my original rough sketches of what I had in mind in regards to colour palette, composition and general style for the series, the council came back to me and asked if we could work on some additional collateral - also adding three more retro characters (YAY).
FIRST ROUGH DRAFTS
I got to work sketching out the characters I had in my mind’s eye. I was also working with a limited palette (three colours), keeping in mind that for the actual event, limited edition posters would be sent out. These would either be screen printed (a definite project on it’s own), or files would be prepared and sent to a print studio to be printed as risographs. If you’re thinking, “Umm what is risograph???”, check out this link. This vintage way of print making is VERY VERY COOL.
All character artwork was created in Procreate on my iPad using an iPencil. I’m really enjoying the trend that’s happening in illustration right now. The use of grainy texturing to give otherwise flat illustrations depth and shape - it creates such intrigue.
THE NOMINATIONS FINISHED POSTER
I did all typography and texture work in Illustrator, and brought in some halftone patterns and rough edge texture. The retro star elements and fun rectangle was based on 50s design trends.