The Art House: Rough Drafts of 2013 Movie Posters

It’s dawn of a new year, so I’ll level with you: I made a few bad calls during the last twelve months. The odds are in favor of it happening again in the future simply because no amount of effort in the world can yield perfection. And believe me, I’ve tried. Every year, the resolution at the top of my list is to do better work than the year before. And every year, I’ve felt like I’ve edged closer to making that a reality.

2013 was probably the most successful yet, but there were a few missteps along the way. For whatever reason, ideas that seemed appropriate fell to pieces mid-execution. Some of them lead to better avenues, while others hemorrhaged and lead to a set of fresh eyes being brought in to take over. Ultimately what you end up taking from all of this is that, while each project is saddled with it’s own obstructions, often the hardest to overcome are the ones created by yourself.


I liked the idea that the relationship between two young women in Romania was, ultimately, being snuffed out by the religious path that one of them had taken. But while the image of the candle felt like a strong visual that fell in line with that idea, it was incomplete without the women themselves. Trying to bring both elements together resulted in an image that lacked the strength within the original idea, and was scrapped because of it.


For ShortList magazine, I’d promised to contribute a small piece to their alternate Iron Man III poster gallery early in the year. Little was known about the movie at the time, so I focused on building Tony Stark’s iron clad hero through line at a time. As someone who’s accustomed to working in faster, broader strokes, the idea of painstakingly sitting down to build something with so many fine details felt like a smart way of challenging my habits. That was successful; the end result, on the other hand, couldn’t quite make it past feeling half finished.


As much as I try to adhere to a design sensibility rather than a style (one allows for a broader range of projects than the other), I think the absence of a personal, discernible mark made this a tougher assignment than most. This was one of those films where I couldn’t find a way in that didn’t involve a heavy amount of illustration, so I tried to play off of the cheap, B-movie nature of the film while nodding to one of it’s most disgusting scenes. The end result suffered for it.


A great film, but one where I had a maddeningly difficult time trying to capture its tone. Whatever I write here won’t really express how hard it was to see a path in which I could emulate the spirit of the story clearly and effectively. The image above is just one of many directions that fell through.


My favorite idea for ‘A Symphony of Horror’ involved a piece torn from a music sheet where some of the notes were bloody, vampire puncture holes. I never gave it a shot, though, because the audience for that type of overly-simple work is so small it couldn’t fill a paper bag. So instead I tried to build something that was a bit more ornate and gothic to reflect the film’s less expressionist tendencies.

News to me, but apparently, that’d been done before. Darn.


You could call this an example of missing the forest for the trees. Rather than bring out the poetic tone of Claire Denis 2001 film, I couldn’t get past my initial, gut reaction that didn’t extend far beyond “arthouse horror.” Honestly, it wasn’t helped by the fact that it’d also been awhile since I had tried to illustrate a poster and was simply excited by the idea.


There’s a menace here that the direction we wound up going in doesn’t replicate, but that’s perfectly alright. Claire Denis’ latest offers plenty of layers to peel back, which means there were more outfits in the closet to choose from. Next to some of the other work featured here, this was probably the most effortless cut to make.


Who hasn’t done a poster for this movie? Almost every visual angle the film has to offer has been interpreted and reinterpreted several times over by now, with some absolute knockouts from the last few years alone. I wanted to try and find a way through the film that hadn’t been done before while honoring its spirit (and, it should be noted, without falling back on an old concept). Roddy Piper’s indignation towards the system and its ghoulish puppet masters felt like the route to go down.

You can guess why it wasn’t such a big hit.

What’s important to remember is that every misstep is, at the very least, a chance to learn. But, on the bright side, at least my worst decisions to come out of the past year weren’t work related; my clients were mercifully spared from the fallout of me deciding to cut my own hair.

Click here to read previous editions of The Art House.