Poster Process : The Avett Brothers (2014 Halloween Set) / by Miles Tsang


The Avett Brothers are an American rock band hailing from Concord, North Carolina. The group is named after its core founding members (brothers Seth and Scott Avett) and is known for its novel sound combining elements of country, folk, indie, pop, and punk rock with deeper Americana-rooted influences like bluegrass, honky tonk, and ragtime. They are great musicians known to commission great posters from great artists, so it was an honour to be introduced to that company by designing for the band's Halloween shows in 2014 (centred around a Wizard of Oz theme).

Brainstorm + Sketch

This poster set needed to fulfill a very specific design goal. Management proposed Scott's idea to create a variant set commemorating the band's two-night stint at Arena on October 31st and November 1st. The trick was that in the Halloween poster, the band would be illustrated in full costume on transparent ground. For the November poster, the band would again be in the same positions, except out of costume. therefore, the job was to make two posters which could stand on their own, but could be laid over of one another (clear plastic/trick with foil/treat), making three posters instead of just two. I did a good handful of sketches which helped me figure out the general composition.

I tried to figure out a composition following band's hierarchy while keeping the instruments in mind. This forced me to think in a more 'designed,' sense because each band member has their own instrument which they were to be interacting with, necessitating poses that were open but interesting enough to work in and out of costume. I was thinking in terms of foreground, middle ground, and background, as well as shape/silhouette.

Collage Ideation

The loose sketch was used as the armature for the reference collage, composed of many photos taken from all across this fine Internet. The sketch was a general guideline; the collage fell away from strict adherence as the figures built up and some compromises needed to be made for the sake of flow and legibility.

Walking the line between the looseness of the raw sketch and the stiff accuracy of processed photographs while trying to keep everything organized for maximize editing ability.

The final digital rough comp, which would be printed out, projected onto traditional ground media, and drawn upon. Typographic and back/fore-ground elements also tossed in. Very rough, but it does the job. The collage merely serves as an intermediary step, ensuring adherence to a sense of design while allowing me to start to consider the other elements of art I'll be focusing on for the final (like modelling of the foliage or the location of light source).

Linear Drawings

Since I draw relatively loosely and likenesses are often a part of the drawing equation, I have no qualms about using photo references to partially trace and strike a balance between both. I often trace some spots very closely to get some areas that feel very tight and a little closer to reality, while altering or free-handing other areas using knowledge of anatomy to keep things exciting, but relatively consistent.

Refining and rendering the graphite under-drawing. Much of this was speedily done in a day or so. Many of these fine details don't really end up showing through in the final but they help me understand things while inking.

Getting right into the inking quickly. Using mixed drawing utensils and applicators on clayboard. Big shadows first, then filling in medium-sized pockets, followed by thin lines and shapes. Chiseling and sculpting with the etching tool for added angularity and sharpness the whole time.

Progression on the India-inked drawing. Scratchboard tool and pens shown for scale. The drawing isn't too big, but the final will be tight enough to blow up to 18" x 24" (the original drawing is on 12"x12" board).

Defining and refining the typography, which blends with the clouds and trees. One of these days, I'll learn how to render type with as much animation and life as my figures. One of these days...

Getting close to finished with the uncostumed variant (November).

Once the first drawing was done, it was scanned. I then worked some Photoshop black magic and cut the figures out, creating a separate preview layer which I used to digitally gesture in the costumes.

I then printed that out and used a vertical projector to project it onto a fresh piece of equally-sized clayboard. The costumes were carefully drawn into the negative space, with some overlap. These would be added to the first piece to come up with the Halloween image.

Workspace setup. Not too messy this time. You can see how the costume layer is almost exactly in proportion and custom fit to the negative spaces in the non-costume original.

Final key drawing in pure black and white on clayboard.

Scan of the secondary pieces, also drawn on clayboard for consistency.

Piecing both posters together.

The combined October 31st poster.

Colours + Finalization

Once both key drawings were finally composed and processed, flat colours were laid down in Photoshop using the colouring plugin BPelt.

Areas of open space were grouped and saved in the Channels palette, allowing for selective colouring and texturing between Layers.

Worked on the non-costumed image first, since I could be more loose with the colours. The costumes needed to be a little more specific, since I was basing their look off of the Wizard of Oz film.

Flats were kept separate and organized. Colours were glazed on using drawn Quick Masks and Channel selections. Everything was built up pretty gradually.

Detail of artistic mastermind Scott Avett.

Developing the rest of the composition. Throughout the colouring of these posters, I made use of a CMYK-style layer setup, manually filling in specific areas with reasoned portions of colour. To illustrate what I mean, the background was coloured by selecting the Channel selection (easily saved thanks to the effects of the auto-colouring plugin BPelt), then going to the white and mid-tone layers groups, and applying a 20-35% Fill to the Cyan and Yellow Channels (there may be a bit of Magenta in there too, though).

Here you can see copying and pasting the layers from one document to the other. Again, using saved Channel selections, it was simple to reorganize the colours as necessary rather than start over. Since the faces were mostly identical, [in addition to the new background] I only needed to rework the costumes, with some minor touch-ups added for the sake of differentiation.

Differentiating. At some point, I decided to make the October poster cooler and the November poster warmer. Which is actually a little backwards, but who cares.

Coming along with the costumes. Making sure to keep that white under-base in there since this sucker is going to printed on clear ground.

Seth Avett / Tin Man progress detail.

Originally, the posters were intended to be a screenprinted so although circumstances ended up making giclee printing the more feasible option, the posters are still separated into 4-colours, layer by layer.

Second poster seps.

Final October 31st, 2014 poster.

Final November 1st, 2014 poster.

Details + Remarque

My print shop is only outfitted to put water and acrylic-based fluids down the drain. Printing on coated papers such as foil and plastic necessitates the use of oil-based inks, which I can't legally do within the city limits of Toronto without risking crazy fines. So although I have never tried it before, outsourcing made sense here. Once artwork for the posters was finalized, printing responsibilities were handed off to the DuPriest Company in Dallas, Texas. Originally, the posters were supposed to be screen prints, although we eventually went with giclee printing for speed and accuracy. Some went to their respective shows while a smaller portion of the run was sent to me.

Though the printing came out beautifully, it was still sort of weird to be so divorced from printing after its been a part of my process for such a while. So In order to avoid the cognitive dissonance of printer's guilt, I spent an extra week remarque-ing all of the posters I'd be putting up for sale in order to inject some hand-crafted-ness.

Laying out a small pile of prints. To be remarqued individually.

Each poster varies greatly. No two are alike. Bit of a pain in the ass but pretty worth it.

Some posters were marked up very lightly or loosely, while others have a denser feel.

You can see from the glare that the posters feature thick layers of ink. The sheen of the plastic blends nicely with the metallic accents.

Close-up of a foil poster with some random remarque action.

A particularly dense, wormy one.

Close-up of the acoustic guitar. The posters were designed to allow the foil to show through the background and instruments when the two are framed together.

Close-up of the typography.

A little more rainbow mirror foil porn.

"Clean," Halloween poster.

Layered plastic to show off how different each one is.

Up top.

Product shot of the plastic October poster.

Product shot of the foil November poster.

Lottery / Purchase

I don't have a ton of these posters so they are being sold through an email lottery hosted at the foot of this process page. This is based on the Tyler Stout / Marq Spusta models. This might become a thing I occasionally implement to keep lower-quantity runs somewhat democratic. We'll see how this one goes. Anyway. Rules:

1. Both the October 31st and November 1st posters will each be $75 + ($20 North America / $30 International) shipping (flat). The sets will be $150 + shipping (same). 2. There are very limited quantities of both and neither will be reprinted. 3. Please enter just once. Names that appear more than once, or Paypal recipients with mis-matched shipping addresses will result in disqualification / refunds. Please make sure your contact and shipping info are correct. 4. If interested, please post a comment here and be sure to use your Paypal email address (also mention if you’re shipping to an address outside of North America). 5. In your comment, please specify which poster you would prefer over the other once the sets run out, or if you would only like to shoot for a specific single poster. Priority of choice will be given to those drawn earlier. 6. Entries will be accepted until 11:59PM Eastern on Monday, November 24th, 2014. 7. Customers will be selected randomly, and invoices will be sent through Paypal.

Many thanks for your time and best of luck to those entering!

*EDIT: Again, please specify which poster(s) you are going for, as well as the desired order. Otherwise if you win, I will be forced to decide for you. If you do not see your comment pop up right away, please don't worry as it will show up soon. Thanks y'all!

*EDIT #2: The October (Halloween) poster is printed on plastic. The November poster is printed on foil. You cannot get an October foil, November plastic, or a foil set.

*EDIT #3: This lottery is now closed. Winning entries have had their invoices sent. Please check your emails. Thanks everybody!

*EDIT #4: Those who do not pay for their packages by Saturday, November 29th (a week after the lottery was first opened) will forfeit their purchase and their package will be redirected to another name in the pool. Any cancelled orders will also be redirected to someone who haven't won yet.

*EDIT #5: This poster won Pollstar's Poster of The Year Award!