February 2016
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inspector calls georgian illustration

A Tale of Two Drawings, but Mostly One

Since so much of what I do is design, it can be hard for me to remember I’m also an illustrator. It’s like when you eat cereal for every meal and someone shoves a papaya in your face and you realize that your teeth will work on that, too.

Kirsten, the marketing demi-goddess at Pioneer Theatre, gave me a call last summer and said, “Do you want to eat a papaya? How about two?” Seeing that our fruit metaphor needed a change of direction, I said, “Sure, I’d love to illustrate your cranberries.”

One of them was relatively simple, done in a woodblock-print style. Here’s a peek at the image for Two Dollar Bill. Mostly, though, we’re taking a look at the other, which utilizes a variety of digital techniques, in much the same way a papaya smoothie might blend rich tropical flavors with secret herbs and a hint of smoked iguana.

How it was done is too much to show in this newsletter, so if you want to see a layer-by-layer breakdown of how it came together, click on this YouTube link. There’s a chance it won’t be the most stimulating 11 minutes of your life, but it will be better than that time when you were doing 5-to-30 in Angola prison and “Turk” Hurtwurm sold you that bad pruno.

The project for An Inspector Calls started with pencil sketches of concepts, including the bottle-of-poison-between-two-wine-glasses idea. It was heartily rejected in favor of a sketch that featured the Georgian house where the action takes place, the roof peeling back to show the dark corruption within.

I feel that “Dark Corruption” would not be a good name for a metal band, but “Idle Hands” would. Both are far better than “Fruity Papaya Smoothie.”

The house was constructed in 21 layers in Illustrator. It looked pretty slick when it was done, but too clean and sterile. I was just thrilled to have something in my life be clean and sterile, but took it back to the drawing board and into Photoshop, where it was soon soiled enough for the good patrons of Pioneer Memorial Theatre. Even the stars in the night sky look like they could use a good scrubbing behind the ears.

If you want a print of this, you can get one on the cover of your program when you see the show. It opens February 19, 2016 at Pioneer Theatre, on the University of Utah campus. Yes, I’m as comfortable offering a shameless plug for them as I am with talking about my work in comparisons to the denizens of the middle of the food pyramid.

My Dirty House

There I was, with a snappy picture of a six-bedroom Georgian with three full baths, sauna and walk-in servant throttling room. But it didn’t have the gritty quality needed for a show about genteel-yet-horrid social climbers.

I found this photo of some filthy old paper, because my own, personal filthy old paper wasn’t quite up to par. It was overlaid onto the illustration and given an effect called “hard light.” There’s also one called “soft light,” and even a “linear dodge,” but the names, clearly, are gibberish (or possibly Icelandic). Your best bet is to audition them all and see what exudes just the right touch of whatever weird you need.

The effect gave it a textured, almost painterly quality. And after that—it being a British mystery and all—the only thing left was to spray in a good dose of fog.