The Black Keys are a rock and roll group hailing from Akron, Ohio. As of this writing, they are 8 albums and 13 years into their career, with the moody, psychedelic and soul-influenced Turn Blue being their most recent release. I think that of their records, it has the most consistent tone and the best flow between tracks. It's their most enjoyable for me personally and I've worked with the band before, so it was crazy and exciting to be tasked with handling posters for the entire Canadian leg of the band's 2014 Turn Blue World Tour.
To begin, I listened to Turn Blue until I'd memorized its feel, then I started to draw triangulations between my interests, the band's overall sound, and the tone of the recent record. I remember going some weird places, like associating the 1978 Dawn of The Dead with the title track because of the surreal vibe and the fact that half of the zombies look blue in the movie (it's great). I also found out what that Ghoulardi character was all about, and how that referenced Ohio and influenced the album's aesthetic, promo campaign and hypnotism themes. For me, this also drew out connections to the Bay Area psychedelic rock poster artist Victor Moscoso, who was influenced by the painter and colour theorist Josef Albers (someone I'm pretty sure the band's art director Michael Carney and I are familiar with, having both studied under similar curriculums at CCAD).
Having a bank of associations became helpful in getting moving towards deciding on a narrative idea to pursue. I originally thought I was going to do just one poster, but then the opportunity came to split the dates into two posters, which allowed the idea to go a little more 'widescreen'. A couple of ideas that came close were a literal interpretation of "The Weight of Love," which I pictured as a kind of spiritual sequel of my first Black Keys poster and a split of the band playing on the subway because I could fill it with blue zombies since everyone looks dead and miserable in the mornings. I was kind of okay with them, but neither really excited me enough, so I went back to the drawing board and doodled divers.
And I came to the realization that I could probably do two divers. The reasoning I used was that my first poster was fitting for the time, as it was glistening and packed like El Camino itself, but it only really featured the guitarist and singer Dan, with Patrick appearing as a detail in the glow-in-the-dark ink. I rationalized that by doing a diptych, I could have each main band member occupy their own space, giving Toronto a guitarist image, and Montreal and Ottawa Patrick (since they already got Dan in 2013). I almost submerged them in deep blue water again, but that was reconsidered after some hesitation over the blatant repetition. Instead of doing that, I had the two characters surface, so it read like a sequel from the last poster.
Clayboard doodling. Drawing some sample creatures and playing with techniques. Getting weird and loosening up. I decided on background details like the city skylines, swamp animals, and symbolic birds.
I used the thumbnail sketch as a base upon which to build a collage. Care was taken to ensure the compositions read together and apart. The composition was to feel less cramped than the first poster, symbolizing the new "breathing room," of Turn Blue.
Tracing an approximation of the collage onto a piece of clayboard. I drew out all the details of the composition in miniature because I knew I'd be able to blow this small comp up later. Messing around with type and information placement.
The final rough drawing with notes. The soul-infused afro of Danger Mouse unifies the band's expanding scope.
Toronto comp with Dan Auerbach. Blue jays, blue zombies, fish, and swampy critters.
Ottawa and Montreal comp with Patrick Carney. Ghoulardi zombie and snowy owls.
The sketch was scanned and enlarged again using the vertical projector to transfer the sketch to a 16" x 20" clayboard.
The drawing was sketched out in graphite first.
Full comp with graphite. Also desk junk.
Starting to mix Faber Castell India ink grey markers with the pencils.
Progression. Now mixing up Faber Castell markers with brushy ink work. Getting a feel going and trying to keep the values of the drawing balanced.
Enlarging and detailing Patrick's figure. Taking care to render out the drum set sensibly.
Drawing the heads separately because I was afraid of wrecking the original large piece.
Both faces were added to the illustration in 'post-production.'
All the drawings from the project.
Full scan of the finalized linear drawing.
The scanned drawing was then separated and coloured in Photoshop using layer masks as usual.
Figure detail. Highly chromatic.
About halfway done. Basically airbrushing and oil-smearing chroma over the established values.
Finalized digital composite.
Patrick Carney (glow version).
Final Ottawa/Montreal poster.
Dan Auerbach (glow version).
Final Toronto poster.
Full process video.
Left hand corner of a three-point register. Good for keeping things tight while offering comfortable wiggle room while placing paper down.
Right hand side of the same three-point register. The tabs are made from old trimmings, using carefully placed double-sided tape. The acetate transparency was secured on top of a piece of the same paper to be used for the posters. French Paper usually sends a few extra sheets with every pack to allow for a few duds or test sheets.
Jumping ahead to after the first layer of the first poster was done. Trying to get the top half of the rack to dry quicker so it can be emptied and reused (the order was for 300 prints each, and the rack can only comfortably fit a few over 200).
All of the exposed and taped up screens for the Auerbach Toronto poster.
Christian helping to clean out a used screen.
The second layer of the first poster done.
Drying in the racks.
Registration was very tight this time around. Reason being I left the same sheet of paper secured to the same acetate transparency. Since the registration marks were so plentiful, venly-spaced, and the same across all layers, it was much easier to keep things tight.
Inspecting after the yellow layer.
Full CMYK printing.
Detail of Patrick Carney.
The Toronto posters after the second colour (magenta-red).
The option to separate using Halftone Screen under Bitmap Mode in Photoshop creates stark black-and-white shapes out of circles which vary in size to approximate mid tones from a distance depending on screen angle and dot frequency. Using Dissolve on the other hand transforms black-and-white values into dots of equal size. What changes in dissolve is the frequency of the dots, not the size, which allows for much less blurring, and a greater sensitivity to texture.
The first two layers in particular lined up extremely well since the paper hadn't become soaked and expanded yet. I've upped the weight of the paper up as time has gone on because it helps keep them posters consistent. Thin paper expands a lot more easily and that just sucks.
Glow in the dark ink layer.
Four layers down, one (glow) to go.
A pile of untrimmed prints.
Rack of prints. Also Alejandro.
Studio fisheye view. Although the Filbur Semi-automatic press has a vacuum table, I don't really use it because there's something wrong with it and it doesn't suck the paper down hard enough. That leaves the space quiet enough to blast music, Netflix, or podcasts to keep things interesting once the troubleshooting is over and the auto-pilot hours wear on.
Both prints put together. Very happy with how well registered everything is, as all the details are very visible and the posters will look great for whoever gets both!
Not all were 100% dead-on but a lot were close..
Counting up bundles to make signing go quicker.
Quality control and grouping by bundles of ten.
Final plastic-sealed piles.
All wrapped up and securely-fastened in boxes ready to be distributed...
...to happy fans across Southern Ontario and Quebec.
Final editions came out to 300 each. I kept 150, leaving me to divide 450 posters into clearly-labeled boxes.
The posters were strapped to a hand-cart and walked from my studio in Kensington to the Air Canada Centre at Union Station...
..after which they made it to the merch booth. Hell yeah.
Thank you kindly for reading. These prints may be purchased online through The Store.
*These posters are now sold out