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GRAHAM HUMPHREYS WALKS US THROUGH HIS PROCESS OF MAKING A MOVIE POSTER


I


you can recognise the lineage from J.C. Ley- endecker’s illustrations, something in the marks and paintwork. In turn, Leyendecker was influ- enced by artists from an earlier period, people like Alphonse Mucha. I consider film posters to be an extension of the old European theatre post- ers. I’d go even further and say that the stained glass windows in European churches were the origin of the modern film poster – brightly co- loured advertisements for fantasy and horror! It’s no coincidence that my first true genre poster for the UK’s release of The Evil Dead looks like a stained glass window.


Now that video stores are no more, and most cinemas are closed or turned into multiplex- es (which rarely, if ever, show low-budget horror), how important are the DVD covers and film posters today?


I’m not sure I’m the best person to judge, but I’d suggest that we crave something of the physical world; after all, we are not yet comprised of sim- ple binary code, we exist in a physical world. A trailer might give you a literal representation of the movie, but a poster might offer something more oblique, a puzzle or intrigue. Or at least an image that can work without motion and sound, it’s why we collect and frame film posters – they are the stained glass windows I mention, the- atre posters for a live performance, colours and shapes that tease the brain.


How has the industry changed since you started, and how has that affected your ca- reer?


It’s been something of a slog, but I began my career in 1980, the year I left college. Without the benefit of the internet, all communication had to be made through telephone calls, letters, and meetings – just getting a meeting was hard


enough. The design process had to be made without the benefit of layout software and Photo- shop. Paste-ups using bits of paper stuck to bits of board, cow gum, rub-down lettering, photocopies, hand drawn linework, typesetting – it seems like alchemy now – none more so than the layers of arcane instructions to the printer: “white out,” 10% percent of this plus 50% of that… I’m happy with a desktop computer, saves all that time. I rarely see clients – not because I’m avoiding them, it’s just that the business is no lon- ger confined to a square mile of London’s Soho. The independent clients have all been bought out and made corporate. Budgets are tight and risks are mini- mized. Mistakes are no longer laughed off! However, commu- nication is easier. The exposure provided by the internet means I can find myself in Rue Morgue! That’s got to be good!


What do you think about the current revival of horror poster art thanks to companies like Mondo and Skuzzles? Can you single out any recent horror posters that have caught your attention?


I’m delighted, of course. There’s so much won- derful (and varied) talent out there, I couldn’t pos- sibly pinpoint any individual piece. Once again, I see a lineage... the flame is being passed and another generation is invited to enter the temple of poster art! Such sights we have to show you!


to guide me for the compositions. I try to create narratives with the imagery – how characters are connected, the expressions and gestures, the settings – all of these will signify context and emotional texture. Where material doesn’t exist, I’ll turn to the internet for body doubles and specific props. Often, I’ll photograph myself, or colleagues. The reference is crucial. Hands are always very expressive.


dentifying key imagery is the start of the process. I rely on my intuition


Once I’ve collated my selection, I print out the images and trace them in pencil. This eliminates the difference in image quality, which can affect the per- ception. The pencilled el- ements are scanned into Photoshop, cut out, and moved around in order to find the most powerful composition and narrative thread. (Sometimes I dream my compositions the night before!) I’ll often provide a few options, though never too many as I have to trust my instinct.


Once the client is happy with a layout, I’ll reintroduce the photographic elements back over the linework, providing the best possible reference for a printout to the chosen final artwork size. The image is traced onto the watercolour paper in pencil, and the paper is taped down onto a board so that my initial washes of colour will not result in a buckled surface. The tape ensures that the paper dries flat. I usually concentrate on key portraiture first (just in case the deadline is tight...


at least the focal points are guaranteed!). The final art (taking anywhere between two and five days, depending on the complexity) is scanned and delivered digitally to the client. I retain the original painting.


GRAHAM HUMPHREYS


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