Sunday, 15 May 2011

Jay Ryan - Posters

I often spend many a free hour in the Richard Goodall Gallery in Manchester – normally as Im looking for new vinyl figures – but recently a couple of poster prints caught my eye.. shame it didn’t do this earlier as the place is a poster gallery first and an art shop second. Anyway, They have a large selection of prints by one artist in particular – Mr. Jay Ryan – who is renowned for drawing animals and objects in and out of water (that’s the title of one of his books actually)… but he draws cutesy looking critters, uses a limited colour palette, screens them all himself AND doesn’t use a computer AT ALL. What I admire about his work is that his final prints include the uneven pencil line from his original sketches but also some of the mistakes he made in the initial work. Often his work focuses on these animal characters in human situations from riding a bike, sitting on chairs or dressed in clothes but it’s his style of drawing that initially caught my eye. I often thought my own cutesy characters wouldn’t get me anywhere and that it was childish but Ryan’s work is another prime example that my ideas of what I can and can’t do are wrong.

By using a screen printed method, his work usually consists of 2 or 3 colours but sometimes he does get chance to be more elaborate, using more colours, enlarging the scale and including more detail.. often these prints range anywhere from £30 for the simple ones up to £600 for the more time consuming and limited edition ones. As I said though, it was his use of just line work that drew me in as I had this irrational fear that all my work had to be digital. Within his prints you still get to see and almost feel the quality of his pencilled line drawing… the mistakes he includes gives you an insight into his own thought process, seeing how he thinks about representing the subject, where one line is better placed than another… within my own work I too prefer my sketches to any of the finished pieces but is that because I am never happy with the medium I choose in which to create the piece or because I too see more of my thought process and ideas in the sketch than the final realisation?

The fact Ryan only produces posters makes me wonder about the subject matter he gets away with… Im not saying that they are adult in nature when compared to that of Marc McKee’s but in designing gig posters there are little limitations given to the artist as is the same with designing a t-shirt for yourself, but even when Ryan receives commissions for his work, the client already knows his work and seeks him out as a result of it… He has built up a following of fans with his cute animals so much so that he can almost illustrate anything he wants but I wonder if he would do the same thing if he was given the opportunity to illustrate for editorials. I have slowly realised that I too can somewhat get away with illustrating what I want (after all.. it is my idea and I just need to make sure it would tie in with an editorial piece) but Ryan would be able to use his animals as characters in editorial pieces much like Gary Taxali does in his own work. What I’m trying to say is, is there more freedom and allowing for creativity in creating work for a gig poster or does it require more creativity to illustrate for an article you have no interest in and to make it appealing to others?

He actually has a Q&A section on his website and there I found a couple of answers that at least cover some of the above questions I raised.. (slightly)..

4. What is your favourite [sic] band to work with?

"my favorite bands are the ones who simply trust me in what i will do for them. shellac is a great customer (since we share a sense of what is funny). andrew bird is one of the few who's suggestions i readily welcome, since i think we see eye to eye on some of his music. the decemberists are easy to work for, since their music plainly lays out stories; their songs are like picture books already, which just need to be drawn. it's also fun to work for my own band, dianogah, since i have absolutely no one to satisfy but myself."

5. What techniques do you use to design your posters ?

"the vast majority of my posters are made without the use of computers. the originals are drawn in pencil on paper. the layers of color are cut from a film called rubylith, using an exacto knife. the screen printing is done at the bird machine print shop."

7. Do you have any advice for me to improve my skills and become a
master of poster design ?

"whatever you are doing, do a lot of it. no, that's not enough, there: keep going. don't show me three posters or paintings. show me three hundred. now do fifty more. now we're talking."

8. When making a poster for a band do you listen to the music and try and creat something that matches the sound?

"i try to react to the music in some way - either depicting what i think a song is about (either literally or figuratively), or i take some element of a record cover and make something else with it. sometimes the link between the poster and the band is not obvious. there are times when making a poster is basically the act of being a big fan of the band - it's a way to take part in the show on a personal level, as a fan."

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