Poster Process : Umphrey's McGee | Summer Tour / by Miles Tsang

Life's junk will suck the will right out you
Hold on Lord I can't do it with out you
Seems like a lot of gray in the world
Women Wine and Song, Women Wine and Song
Will make you all move along to a lovely beat.

-Umphrey's McGee (Women, Wine, And Song)

Umphrey's McGee are a progressive rock band from Indiana known for their year-round tours (often performing 100+ concerts annually), ever-changing setlists, instrumental improvisation, as well as an open taping policy for broadcasting and sharing live performances. As of this writing, the band has been operating under the UM moniker for 18(!) years and although associated with the American jam scene, the group's sound is difficult to categorize due to their reinterpretations of famous songs (covering everything from The Pixies' Where Is My Mind to my personal favourite: Nine Inch Nails' Wish) and a seriously eclectic blend of influences ranging from progressive rock icons like Pink Floyd to heavy metal fundamentalists Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden, and Metallica in addition to classic rockers such as The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.

Umphrey's McGee have achieved notoriety and commanded attention with a consistent work ethic, inter-musical chemistry, and a uniquely experimental spirit, so it was a big pleasure and honour to be tasked with creating my first multi-date gigposter for their summer tour through the Midwest and East Coast!

Umphrey's McGee have achieved notoriety and commanded attention with a consistent work ethic, inter-musical chemistry, and a uniquely experimental spirit, so it was a big pleasure and honour to be tasked with creating my first multi-date gigposter for their summer tour through the Midwest and East Coast!

Brainstorm, Concept & Ideation

Remind me why I'm here again
Assemble me and all my plans
Be sure to read them well, so you can tell

-Umphrey's McGee (Passing)

It's always tricky figuring out where to start when working with new clients. However, the band did provide some direction by advising me to stay away from anything too cartoony or hippie-like (such as tie-dye palettes, rainbows, skulls, and shamrocks)  since the band identifies as a genre-defying act steeped in heavier influences [than other jam bands], commanding a uniquely dark, progressive, and sensual sound (compared to some other groups). Fine by me!

The process was kicked off with some random analog drawing to get the creative juices flowing. While thumb nailing, I gravitated towards microcosmic nature scenes including an underwater vantage with hatching frogs and minnows hunted by kingfishers and a bird's eye view of a forest floor with info and illustrative elements hidden throughout. Although decent starting points, none gave me the jolt I hope for when dreaming up ideas.

At some point, I remembered that this was a tour poster, meaning it would contain a multitude of dates and be sold at (almost) every show from June through September. Because of this, I couldn't really do anything too city-specific (a solid but common idea in gigposters), although I eventually noticed that the tour route roughly matched the migration patterns of certain Midwestern fauna (specifically the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird and the Monarch Butterfly).

Recognizing this, I began collecting reference imagery from (mostly from Google and Pinterest and collated into a streamlined viewer called PureRef) as I doodled. I eventually decided to focus on a female figure since my portfolio is very man and monster-heavy. I then did a small thumbnail, mashing up parts of what I'd researched. The little analog thumbnail was then taken into Photoshop and worked it up into tighter form.

The piece became my riff on the trope of the female-centric decorative poster (inspired a bit by the early work of Alphonse Mucha and the predominant style of Chuck Sperry). The girl is positioned centrally as she strums on a Babicz Spider guitar (the same model Umphrey's Mr. Bayliss' uses) while wearing a dress and adorned in kinetic tattoos.

The piece became my riff on the trope of the female-centric decorative poster (inspired a bit by the early work of Alphonse Mucha and the predominant style of Chuck Sperry). The girl is positioned centrally as she strums on a Babicz Spider guitar (the same model Umphrey's Mr. Bayliss' uses) while wearing a dress and adorned in kinetic tattoos.

Drawing / Traditional Illustration

β€œWe try to make the music very dense.
There are six people pulling in a lot of directions, so you're gonna get a lot of energy.”

-Brendan Bayliss

Once the concept was decided upon and the sketch was approved, I set to work on embellishing the comp into a more polished linear. The digital sketch was printed out and a light table and used to rough in the pencils on a 14"x17" sheet of smooth plate bristol that was then inked and detailed over the course of several days (using primarily Col-Erase coloured pencils, medium-light graphite, Rapidograph technical pens and Pental brushpen).

Studio work desk, cluttered with art supplies, computer equipment, various reference books, and a flower talisman. The secondary vellum layer I used to draw extra details and place the text is also visible.

Studio work desk, cluttered with art supplies, computer equipment, various reference books, and a flower talisman. The secondary vellum layer I used to draw extra details and place the text is also visible.

Final inked linear drawing.

Final inked linear drawing.

Digital Processing / Composition

Could you stick around to tighten
Loose ends, for me
It's not to difficult to tighten
Loose ends

-Umphrey's McGee (Loose Ends)

Once the raw pieces of the illustration were finished, everything was scanned and placed into Photoshop for colouring. The image was flatted and each portion of the drawing separated using Channels and Layer Masking. Organization of the Layer palette (by colour) for efficiency was a must as I tended to jump back and forth between tones, textures, and lighting until I believed that the image felt full and refined enough for production.

Final digital preview of the regular show edition to be sold on tour.

Miles_Tsang-Umphrey's McGee_Gigposter-Summer_Tour_2016-35.png

Screen-Printing

So be demanding, when no ones listening
You will always find an ear.
Set in motion, which your world's missing
There will always be a need.

-Umphrey's McGee (Nemo)

After the image was finally drawn and separated, the file was approved, transparencies were procured. Finally time to fuck up some 800+ screenprints. Manufacturing is a big part of the process and [when there aren't any big hold-ups,] always a joy. There's something very addictive and oddly satisfying about successfully building an image and then watching as it comes together one artfully-placed layer at a time before your eyes.

I was also kindly granted permission to craft some variants to sell in addition to my AP (Artist Proof) copies (separate from the main edition to be taken and sold on the road). So I went back into the work file and tightened up some areas and took the opportunity to add new details, such as creating completely different tattoos and making the acoustic guitar into an electric one. By the end, I'd also switched up most of the textures and tweaked the palettes to effectively imbued the image with a slightly more HD psychedelic feel.

Printing these variants was simple enough although needing to switch out several duplicate screens with minor (but important) differences kept us on my toes. These variants (titled "Mary Jane," and "Purple Princess") also feature a glow in the dark layer, which the main edition (and the AP's) are missing due to glow ink scarcity (and price) and the massive volume of prints. Still, we were able to knock the variants out a couple of days later.

Once the posters were finished and trimmed, they were packaged up and sent to the first stop on the tour. Variants were separated and prepped for online sale as well. Mission accomplished!

Details

If you look I'm sure you'd see / that nothing's really as it seems.
Soon enough you'd realize / You promise more than you'll provide.
The substance that we're hoping for / Will always leave us needing more.
We're calloused 'til we cannot feel / The only moments that were real.

-Umphrey's McGee (The Pig)

"Purple Princess," Variant #/70

"Purple Princess," Variant #/70

"Mary Jane," Variant #/70

"Mary Jane," Variant #/70

Regular AP Edition #/70

Regular AP Edition #/70

If you'd like to purchase one (up to one of each of the three) please ensure that you're on the mailing list to catch the newsletter which will be sent out the evening before the products go live. Thank you so much for your time and attention!