Monday, January 16, 2017

Process Post: Antigone, The Poster

Welcome to another process post. I'm really excited to discuss a piece that I felt really proud of and loved working on. This may be out of order with what I've created (I'm missing a process post I think) but whatever, I've been waiting to write about this for a while (though that's more my fault than anything else...)


The reason I value this piece so much was that it was a poster for a show I performed in! Before we even started rehearsals, my director, knowing that I was an illustrator, knew he wanted me to be the one to create the poster. I was pretty excited as 1) I had no knowledge of the play before so it was interesting to have something new to work off of and 2) posters weren't something I had much of experience with.

So. I started by reading the play for both role and art purposes. This was actually a pretty interesting process because I had to read with more attention than I usually do. Whenever I read a script, it's only natural that I prioritize attention to scenes with my character or that revolve around my character to get a stronger understanding of who I'm playing and why. But this time, I had to also focus on major themes, strong visual elements, and even specific scenes that could be called back to in the poster.

The story of Antigone, if I can put it simply, is a story of defiance. A young woman defies the King and tries to uphold tradition. The translation and interpretation that we were playing off of was a little more complicated, offering an honest approach to both sides, making it interesting. Still, Antigone is the clear protagonist and I wanted to show that. There were a few moments that stuck out to me visually. I quickly drew some sketches and sent them to the director. Here's what I had.

Sketch 1 was the most visually interesting to me. Antigone, multiple times [SPOILER ALERT], digs up a grave so her brother can be put to rest (against the King's wishes) or else his soul is doomed to torment. The act is constantly referred to, comparing Antigone to a mad woman or animal, ruthlessly digging up the ground. So, that's what I drew.

The next two images are a little more traditional, so to say. The end of the play [SPOILER ALERT] has a classical ending where Antigone is put to death, and her lover, the King's son, finds her and kills himself. Sketch 2 is a pretty basic representation of that but sketch 3 has what is, in my opinion, the most dramatic moment, where the King finds his son with Antigone. While in the play the King [SPOILER ALERT] finds his son dead with Antigone, I chose not to draw that in order to not give it away (in hindsight, these sketches also give it away).

My director liked the third option but thought that specific image of the prince holding the protagonist was done before and fairly cliché (he was totally right). Instead, he wanted to play up the themes of standing up to authority, tradition, and tyranny, major themes of the play. He asked to see revised versions of the third sketch and also one with just Antigone. I agreed with his feedback and gave him three new options.

This sketch phase was a lot of fun as it gave me a lot of play with different poses and emotion. My absolute favorite was the second one (click the image to see a larger size) because there is so much emotion behind it. Note that the king was holding a cane, as the play's description mentioned but in the first sketch below, I tried to make the king thicker to reflect our play's casting.

The director immediately chose the third one, finding that it best fit the story we were telling. By this time, we had already started rehearsal and it was clear that the third was thematically best. Antigone wasn't a love story, it was a story of conflict between the King and Antigone. The romance between the Prince and Antigone is more of a B-Story and provides an emotional anchor attached to the King.

I quickly moved to make the final piece. Honestly, it wasn't too much work. I kept nearly the identical pose - Antigone holding her toy spade that she used to dig up a grave (the first time) and standing up to the looming king. It was a good pose that conveyed confidence but also a bit of fear, given how small the character was in comparison to the shadow. You can see it here.

I didn't go with a black background because black stands out too much but I did go for a tunnel-like feeling. And after fiddling around a lot with the king's shadow, I settled on an abstract shape to represent the king rather than aim for a more accurate representation of the shadow. Note that the shadow is much darker than the background itself.

Looking back at it now, I'm not sure about whether or not I should've have added more detail, or at least a crown. But keeping it abstract works better because the play speaks very much in abstraction and principles. It reads like a philosophical debate, framed in a story from the past. For this same reason, I also didn't give Antigone a face. While I did work on it initially there were two reasons why I decided against it.

1) it didn't read well at that size and,

 2) I, again, wanted to keep an abstract element to the poster and I liked how it removed some of the human aspect of it. I also changed her hair and dress to better match the actor playing Antigone.

The other interesting part was the title. I went for something dark and angular because the play, ultimately, is a pretty dark tragedy with [SPOILER ALERT] nearly every important character in the play dying somehow, even a character we don't even hear speak! We just know that the character kills themselves as a result of the ending.

Anyway, that was a fun little image that I made. I didn't go out of my comfort zone too much (dark, pastel colors) but it gave me a totally different frame of reference to base my work off of. I also really enjoyed working with the director who had a really strong point of view regarding the play, giving me a confident sense of direction that was needed to create a strong image for the poster. You can see the total poster below, credits and info and all, if that's something you're interested in.