Friday, May 4, 2007


JAMES - Recently in April, i was very fortunate to be contacted by a gallery owner in the area. he saw my recent Bold Life cover and got my number from the office. he invited me to a shot at drawing the poster for his yearly art fair (it's 35th year). i didn't know since i'm new to the area, and that's outside my 'circle' anyway, but it was impressed upon me that this was an honor, and these posters were collector's items. our meeting was very friendly and the assignment was to design the 35th annual poster, which should somewhat follow the tradition of the past posters, and MUST include a black cat (for no reason at all, there's been a black cat in every poster, so it's a tradition).

This was a huge challenge. the audience i was trying to reach is an audience that i am completely out of touch with. so i tried to find a way in, while still maintaining some semblence of my style (tho it was important that i 'tone it down' from my usual work). i came up with 7 ideas. i decided to try and fall back on the one aspect of my skill that i thought would reach this audience - composition. so the illustrations became compositional studies in flow and color, of course very loose and simple since they were just conceptual sketches. i can't say i was super psyched about any one in particular, and i soon realized how hard it is to be so versitile right under the gun.

Anyway, i failed. he wasn't impressed with any of them, except maybe for two of them that he kept going back to. he graciously explained why they wouldn't work for the poster, and i began to understand how far i was from what he needed. he was kind enough to give me one more shot at it, but after a weekend of sketching, i had nothing that i thought was good, so i had to concede.

Good lesson. things have been going very well, and a little reality check can only make me better. i do like the idea of doing a series of 5.5" x 7" postcard type illos (these are all marker, brush and watercolorpencils on vellum bristol) with a loose theme. and some of these compositions are good starting points for future pieces


thomas pitilli said...

i wouldn't call it a failure at all. these are all really great starts to future illustrations, and you never know what you can use them for. i really like the first sketch, i like the composition and the way you use the pattern of the bricks to frame the drawing. it has the most personality out of the rest, and in a wierd way it's kind of peaceful. i agreee that these are definetly a big departure from your normal stlye and is the main reason you had so much trouble with them. also the kind opf audience that you were trying to apeal to is very hard to do after doing rock and roll posters for a few months straight. changing subject matters and ideas constantly in order to please a client is something i really have to learn myself if i really want to do this whole illustration thing( whenever i actually get hired!) see you in new york in a few days!

james flames said...

well, yeah it was a failure in the sense that i didn't get the job. but artistically, it was a great exercise and, yeah, there are lots of starting points for future pieces. the brick one is my favorite too - if you notice there's a "35" in the bricks in the middle (since it will be the 35th annual fair this year). i especially like the tail of the lonely cat off-camera. i've been having fun plying with 'off-camera' things affecting things in the frame. for instance: the woman's hand in "Aw, Honey....Hush.", and the foreground arm in my newest Grey Eagle poster (it's on my site).

anyway, yeah, i was totally out of my league there - WAAAY different audience than the R'n'R crowd.

lookin forward to hangin again bro - see you in a few days.

H. Stewart said...

They look great as drawings. I particularly like the fourth and final ones (those with the piano). Nice job turning bricks and bowls of milk into a 35 by the way. (And I'm fond of the futility of the cat trying to get at bees through the window!)

Any way to see past posters on line, to get a better understanding of the sort of style they were looking for?

Sorry it didn't work out, but valuable experience I'm sure. And it's good to make connections. :)
(Does his art fair need a NY Film Correspondent?)