A gig poster is a means for advertising a concert or show in one specific location. The poster is supposed to reflect the feel and sound of the music in a visual format, and gig posters are as vast and diverse as music itself is. For this project, I was inspired by the music of Anamanaguchi, Approaching Nirvana, and Chill Harris (formerly Kill Paris). I knew I wanted to create a poster for electronic/chiptune music, something that sounded heady and celestial. So my first step was to try to describe the music in more visual terms. In conversations with the friend who first introduced me to this genre, I started to come up with ideas.
Here’s a look at the notes I generated:
After coming up with some ideas for what I wanted, it was time to turn to the drawing board. I chose the band name “Cosmic Pinball” after reflecting on this list and deciding that it was an excellent name for a chiptune-based electronic music group.
Sifting Through Ideas
Since I had so many ideas, most of them centering around a first person platformer game, I had to find out how visually feasible they would be. I had just bought a new Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, and I was trying to draw fast and loose to attempt to sketch intuitively. I wasn’t terribly inspired by any of the concepts that I had come up with, except for one. On the second page of my sketches, I had doodled an alien-looking woman with strange clothing and masses of hair. Her eyes were inspired by the artwork in Lady of the Shard by Gigi DG, and I found myself drawn to her and the aesthetic she represented. In conversation with the same friend that had introduced me to this genre of music, we had been discussing the 1968 film Barbarella and the unique aesthetic associated with it. This woman I had drawn represented a little of this 1960’s space age aesthetic, and I wanted to continue perfecting her. So, I basically abandoned my other ideas and took this sketch into Illustrator.
My first alien woman was based directly off of the sketch I had already done. While creating the illustrations, I colored the different segments of the costume randomly before deciding that I actually liked the high contrast in the colors and the values! These specific illustrations were inspired by a variety of 1960’s space age references, from science fiction pulp novel covers, older science fiction movies (like Barbarella), the original Star Trek series, and 1960’s fashion.
Most of the references I found were either hideously dated, sexist and objectifying, or just plain ridiculous. But overall, I tried to emulate the general aesthetic while also bringing it towards the future.
The Initial Draft
The first draft was flatly colored, and at this point, I was looking for preferences on which alien woman they preferred for the final version. After the work I had put in to create these two different women, I was having trouble deciding which one I preferred. After some feedback from my classmates, I decided to change the color scheme of the first woman and use that as the final design. I also received some feedback from my instructor, who suggested that I recess the buildings to make alleyways and increase depth. He also suggested that I desaturate the buildings as they got farther away, placing warmer and brighter colors towards the front and darker and cooler colors towards the back. He wanted me to play with perspective and put more thought into where the buildings hit her, to not hide her hands with text, and to add more squish to her wrists. Other than that, I was free to proceed as planned.
With the recolored version of the first draft in hand, I set off to edit the colors and positions of the buildings.
Using Adobe Photoshop, I created two different value comps to see what colors and values I needed to fix. I wanted to lighten her skin a little to offer better contrast without completely destroying her skintone, and I also needed to fix the arrangement of the colors in the buildings.
The six different illustrations are all of the different arrangements, sizes, and perspectives for the buildings that I tried. I eventually decided on the one in the middle of the second row, because I liked the extra negative space around her head so much. The new colors followed a much better procession from warm and bright to dark and cool, and arranging the buildings differently gave them more depth and dimension.
To more accurately represent the translucent, colorful nature of a galactic background, I started experimenting with blending modes. From there, I wanted to mess with blending modes on the buildings and on the alien woman, to add a more dreamlike feel.
This process was not easy, and it took two full days to a. figure out how the blending modes worked and b. figure out what I wanted from the blending modes. The first image was an experiment with creating a better galactic background. After applying the same effects to the other elements of the poster, I came up with the second image. It looked cool, but it definitely wasn’t what I wanted. The third image came about after a solid three hours of layering, messing with blending modes and colors, and several failed attempts at working with something else. For the fourth image, I tried adding a solid background to the alien woman’s body and clothing, and it worked much better. I wanted the stars to shine through her hair, but having the buildings be visible through her body was not what I had in mind. The fifth image was the closest to what I wanted, as far as the colors and the transparencies. After that, I recalled that another classmate had used the Inner Glow effects really well, and I wanted to try that. The sixth image includes my attempt at Inner Glow and Outer Glow, to make the poster look almost like neon lighting. I loved the effect that it gave, but I needed to tone it down more. I posted the last image to the class Facebook group to gather feedback, and realized I had some other things I wanted to fix before the final draft.
The Final Draft
After receiving feedback from my peers, I decided to keep the gloves and remove the robot arm. It was creating confusion and gaps of color, so I chose to remove it. I increased the saturation of her costume to make it more visible, brightened the buildings, toned down the glow on the stars, and recolored her eyes and lips.
This poster perfectly reflects how I think the music of Cosmic Pinball would feel. It would feel celestial, psychedelic, a little sultry, but ultimately it should make you think of stars, galaxies, and extraterrestrials. This poster is attention-grabbing and gorgeous. The glowing effect is reminiscent of Vegas neon lights, and the galactic background adds to the dreamlike surroundings. If you listen to specific tracks by Chill Harris and Anamanaguchi, specifically Slap Me, U n Me, Endless Fantasy, The Walk, or To a New Earth, this poster should make perfect sense to you. When I listen to that kind of music, this is what I see. I hope that this poster enables you to see it too.