Part 4: Museum Posters

Exercise Details

This is an exercise with a huge amount of scope and creative possibilities. Below are my initial thoughts about the target audiences:

  • Child aged 5-9.My initial thought is a purely vector based illustration (produced in Adobe Illustrator).  Colourful, bright and charming.  But I want to see what comes out of visual research and brainstorming.  I’m tempted by turning that impulse for vector=children completely on its head and doing something contrary.
  • Teenager aged 13-16.  I think this poster needs to be the most engaging.    This is an extremely visually savvy age group – more so than the general adult target audience.  The impact and interest of the image I produce will need to be very clear.   Judicious choice of subject content will be critical to success.
  • General adult audience.    Perhaps purely traditional media for this one.  Pen/ink, painting? I will see where the visual research and brainstorming take me…

I think that a particular challenge of this exercise is to somehow ensure that the posters are part of a “family” with visual reference to the actual museum itself.  I think this could be challenging, and at worst, constrain the creativity of what I try to do for the different target audiences.  As much as possible I want to be openly creative and not get too straightjacketed in trying to match-up the styles of the three posters.  Ideas on achieving some sort of consistency, I’m sure, will come to me.

Choice of museum and theme

I’ve chosen the Hastings Museum and Art gallery as the focus for this exercise.  There is no traditional “artefact display” museum in my town, so I took the opportunity to visit this Hastings Museum.  It is a lovely place, with a diverse and interesting collection.  The Native American section is particularly extensive and has many fascinating pieces.  I decided to theme this exercise/posters around the Native American collection at the museum. The reason for this is that is a prominent collection in the museum, and perhaps it is a slightly unexpected twist to have a collection of posters celebrating it.

My decision has been to theme all three posters directly on notable objects in the collection or based on decorative elements seen in the museum.  The initial ideas that I want to explore are:

  • Children’s poster – Perhaps a digital vector based artwork? Perhaps based on some of the figures and animals that I saw decorating some of the personal objects (shoes, pouches, jackets)?
  • Adult poster – I definitely want this artwork to be some form of drawn version of the stunning feather headdress of Sitting Bull.  It is an amazing object.  A drawn reproduction could make for a striking poster.  Perhaps even a digital drawing?
  • Teen poster – I want to theme it around the native Earth/Wind/Fire/Water signs.


Producing the children’s poster

I was generally reviewing native American artwork and I was captivated by their representation of nature. Lots of strong thick lines and outlines, combined with block colour.  Animals and birds in particular are simplified into shapes, patterns and blocks.   Pattern features prominently for both decoration and also to define shape and form. Earthy colours are common.   Their artwork demonstrates reverence for nature and pattern (perhaps mimicking the familiar patterns and cycle of nature?).  After my research, my intention to produce a children’s poster showing animals or birds was pretty firm.

I decided that the best way to approach this poster was to treat it as an artwork in its own right… as an end in itself. A self defined success criteria is that it should work as charming a little drawing/artwork to hang in a child’s bedroom.

My rough (concept) sketch is below:

I felt there was enough positives in the concept to take it forward.  The composition worked for me – balancing the positioning of the logo+tagline with the sizing of the birds.   However, as I immediately noted during sketching, the dark lines both for the bird outlines and the decorative border, seemed a little harsh and jarring for a child’s poster.  This should be softened to a dark blue or experimentation with some other colour.

I also had to make a decision for the main advertising text/slogan:  The museum runs children’s activity days, drop-ins and offers hands-on interactive play areas.  I thought I would reference this by adding a tagline.  I decided to go forward with a painting because I felt it may suit the style of Native American art, i.e. giving me bold striking colours, which I could paint with acrylics.  My artwork:

The artwork was produced in mixed media on canvas: The initial layer was put down with watercolour, then some layering of acrylic (various thicknesses), and finally some enhancement and fine detail work with felt pen and coloured pencil.

I then took this forward into Photoshop for the final digital work and poster composition. The final poster concept:

I changed the tagline – it seems more fun.  I think that the poster is fairly eye-catching and, arguably, I’ve been quite successful in the Native Indian aesthetic.  However, I ponder a fundamental question about the target audience.  Is this poster suited to the target audience?  My answer is yes, and no.

There is something quite melancholic about the visual.  Perhaps fairly moody children will like the style?  It is a rather “dark” style.  But perhaps that makes it more unexpected and interesting?   I could have easily done the predictable and stereotypical: fun, bright and charming vector Native Indian characters.  But I think my artwork is probably more of the unexpected for the target audience?


Producing the teen’s poster

One of the things that caught my eye in the museum was the Native American motifs of the elements of earth, sky, wind and fire:

I thought it quite fascinating and perhaps my teen poster could be based on that point of interest.    Going back to the pattern aesthetic of the last exercise (with the Catalina Estrada work), I though that using this sequence of earth, sky, wind and fire circles could make an interesting pattern effect.

Quite a lot of Native American artwork is quite rustic in style – I don’t think it would suit a particularly precise approach.  I therefore decided to produce quite a rough drawing using the cheapest possible sugar paper and cheap felt tip pencils and colouring pencils.

I took this rough drawing and slightly worked the colour curves in Photoshop, and then produced the poster below.  I varied the size and arrangement of the circles to provide some visual interest:

I’m not sure what is particularly “teen” about the poster I’ve produced.  But in defence of what I’ve made, I think I’ve avoided stereotypes of a teen-friendly poster.  I don’t think we should patronise teenagers with visual youth-culture visual stereotypes.   Rather, I wanted to make something interesting that could catch a teenager’s eye and attention, and perhaps provoke a question, “what is that/what does that mean?”  Teens are intellectually open and curious.


Producing the adult poster

I wanted to explore something different for this final poster.  I had a train of thought which combined a number of wishes:

  • For this artwork to feature some fairly precise observational drawing
  • To try out a different media
  • To be themed on the fascinating story of Sitting Bull.  Hastings gallery has a whole room dedicated to this interesting man.  And in a glass case sits his decorative head-dress.

I had taken quite a few pictures of Sitting Bull’s head-dress but I felt it was useful to do some visual research – to gain some inspiration on how I may approach the drawing.  A few points below:

I like the distressed and weathered style of the artwork of this particular stock image


In the background, I particularly like the way that the image is erasing and getting grainy around the edge; fading to a black border along the top edge in particular.  I like the way that the eagle drawing has been partly erased and eroded to show the red layer below.


The stock image above caught my eye for its direct and frontal portrait of the headdress.

Further examples online shows many cliched illustrations – too obvious.   I’m keen to do something that shows off the actual artefact in a good level of detail.  The more I considered, the more I thought of the possibilities of a detailed digital drawing…

Producing the Illustration

I used a Wacom graphics tablet in conjunction with Autodesk Sketchup. This was the first major drawing I’d done digitally, and it was a fascinating exercise.   Although fiddly at first trying to use the graphics pen – and quite time consuming – I’m pleased with the outcome.   The digital paint was particularly pleasurable to use, the way it can be smeared and softened, but yet worked with other precise sharp marks was quite a thrilling new experience.  My poster mock-up is below:

I decided to have a focus on the headdress for this illustration because it is quite striking in itself as an object.  It needs no embellishments – I think it speaks for itself.


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