Jeff Soto MSG1 Pearl Jam Poster: The Creation

by Kathy Davis on May 21, 2010

We the impassioned PJ fans know well that Pearl Jam have a long, rich history of offering incredible pieces of artwork at their live shows.  For not too much money and a little bit of tenacity, a beautiful, frameable momento of a great show can be yours.  For their 2010 live dates, the band have used more varied poster artists; along with old standbys Ames Bros. and Brad Klausen, they have also featured Munk One and first-time designer Jeff Soto.

In this amazing blog post from the artist’s JeffSotoArt blog,  we are treated to a step-by-step discussion of the poster creation process.  Never before has the PJ Poster Collector been treated to such an in-depth glimpse from inception to design to production, from the artist’s perspective. With all due respect and props to the artist, we’ll share it again here, but check out Jeff Soto’s site.  Amazing stuff.

Gallery of creation:

Soto’s Story: I did a gig poster for Pearl Jam’s Madison Square Garden show last night, and thought I’d share my process in here. This print seems very polarizing (hmm, kinda like my LOST poster) among PJ fans, they either love it or hate it. I have designed many screenprints over the past 8 years, but this was my first gig poster and it’s a different beast for sure. It’s been fun and I hope I get the opportunity to do more. Thanks go out to Mr. Siglin who made it happen and my friend MAXX242. You guys rule.

I’ve found that all screenprint artists set things up differently. It’s tough to find a good how-to online, especially looking for 100% hand drawn. There are plenty that show the actual screen printing process that are pretty cool, but I was more interested in seeing an artist’s process- what do they ink on? How do they deal with multiple colors? How do they scan in their work?

So I thought I’d show how I have been working. It’s a mix of old fashioned hand drawing and Photoshop. Most artists today are using Wacom tablets and for many the art is completely digital. I got a Wacom after I made this print, and I see it’s going to be very helpful, but I think I still prefer to draw the old fashioned way. Nothing like a sharpened HB pencil grinding away on paper!

1. Brainstorm- I treated this job as more of a fine art project than an illustration. Listened to some Pearl Jam, and started drawing. New York City. So glad I was asked to do the NY show. I love the place. Never lived there, but visited enough that I feel comfortable there and I know my way around (except I still get lost on the western side of Greenwich Village- no grid!!). I wanted to show a piece of NYC that was recognizable but not so epic. No Statue of Liberty, no Empire State Building. Hmmm…

During one of my earlier visits to NYC, we stopped by an internet cafe at Astor Place several times a day for a week. I saw this awesome cube sculpture and a bum sleeping under it. It was dirty and dusty and had tags on it. Everyday I saw it it seemed to change. I finally saw someone turning it! Holy shit! I still smile when I turn a corner and see the cube. That sculpture holds a special little place in my heart and I know many NYers love it as well. The cube had to be in the poster, it is a subtle reference, like, if you’re not from NYC, you probably don’t recognize it. [Edit from Kath: Here is a wee bit of wiki about the Astor Place cube sculpture, entitled "Alamo"; it appears at the top of the poster:

Alamo (The Cube) is an outdoor sculpture by Bernard (Tony) Rosenthal, located on Astor Place, on the island of Manhattan in New York City. It takes the form of a black cube, 8 feet (2.4 m) long on each side, mounted on a corner. The cube weighs about 1100 kg (about 2500 lb). The faces of the cube are not flat but have various indentations, protrusions, and ledges. It is not widely known as Alamo, the name given on a small plaque on one corner of the base. Generally it is simply called The Astor Place Cube or The Cube.

Installed in 1967, it has since become a popular meeting place in the East Village. It stands in the middle of an intersection, across the street from both entrances to the Astor Place station of the New York Subway and the Cooper Union.

The Cube's distinguishing feature is that it can be spun on its vertical axis. One person can usually push it slowly with some exertion, and two or more people without trouble. Many people who move to New York consider turning the Cube to be a ritual signaling that they have "arrived" in the city. Sitting or sleeping in the shade of the Cube is also popular. End of Edit]

The rest was just exploring my Sotofish character. And I wanted to do the teeth as letters so I went for it. Pearl Jam seems to have a pretty quick and easy approval process. They were down so I started working on the final.

2.  Linedrawing- I think this is sometimes called the “key line”, it is basically the outline that ties the whole image together. I enlarged my rough sketch to 18″ x 24″ on the computer, and printed it onto four 8.5 x 11″ sheets and taped them together. Then I taped a large sheet of Bristol Vellum over that and began to ink it on the light table (above). Took me longer than I thought it would- over two days to finish it. I can paint faster than I can draw. I was pretty happy with it, though the supporting band was changed later. Outline finished (below)

3. Shading and highlights- Next I took that first line drawing and taped a large sheet of marker paper over it. Marker paper is thin and very transparent and does not bleed at all, so the lines are very smooth. This is where you have to start planning- how many colors? What order should the colors be printed in? I prefer to figure it all out ahead of time and hopefully make it easy for the printer. I tend to think like a painter even doing screenprinting, so I know I’d like a shadow and some dimension. I did a big drawing of the shadows, highlights and fill for the Cube, shadows on the ground, and shading for the teeth. There were about 10 drawings that I then needed to scan in.

4. Scanning and assembly (kill me)- The scanning was the most difficult part, it is hell taking an 18″ x 24″ ink drawing and scanning it on a letter sized scanner. There were 8 segments that did not want to line up, luckily I know a trick or two. The real problem then becomes scanning all the other drawings and getting everything to line up. I did end up doing a lot of small correcting with a mouse, this will be much easier with the Wacom. I always work larger than needed, so this file was 18 x 24″ at 400dpi, and it was all done in Photoshop.

5. Colors- colors have always been an easy thing for me while painting. But limit my color palette and I find it much harder. I enjoy that aspect of screenprinting, I like the challenge, but I think I still have much to learn. With every print I do, and with seeing other prints from artists I admire, I’m learning some of the tricks. Like shading using a layer that’s bitmapped. Or using transparent inks to make different colors. I didn’t know about those methods while working on this one. I will try them for sure, but I also like the look of strong solid graphics. It reminds me of 80′s skateboard decks or something. My paintings are so dimensional, I like the challenge of breaking that into a few colors for screenprinting. If I do shading in these prints would I be better off just making a painting?

6. Final- colors are picked, all the layers are looked at and checked for out of place marks, and it’s uploaded to the printers. Took a week to finish this. Half of that time drawing, half on the computer. I could have finished a large painting in that same time. I learned a lot, and the next print I finish is much easier.

Collectible Rock!

Kathy Davis ( Twitter: @CrookedArm23 )
A Bay-Area based entrepreneur, co-editor Kathy conceives and writes her share of TFT’s articles and sections. She was co-editor/co-founder of one of the first Pearl Jam fanzines "Footsteps" (1992-1997). Kathy’s first Pearl Jam show was at the Bridge School Benefit on November 1, 1992.

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