The annual Cooper-Young Festival is coming up next month, and this year I had the honor and pleasure of creating the festival poster! Each year for the past 25+ years, the festival committee has selected an artist who lives or works in the neighborhood to design the poster. I was happily surprised to be asked to take on the job this year!
My studio is located in the heart of the Cooper-Young neighborhood of Memphis, so in the weeks after receiving the assignment, I spent some time walking around the neighborhood taking photos, thinking about objects, textures and landmarks that I could use for the poster. I also spent some time with Tamara Cook in the CYBA office––we looked at all of the posters from the past years and discussed what we liked about them, what seemed to work best, and what message the festival committee wanted to communicate with the poster.
Cooper Street is lined with gingko trees, so I knew I wanted to incorporate the gingko leaf into the poster. My first few drafts of the poster focused primarily on the gingko leaf, but I also wanted to use more elements from the neighborhood in the final design.
I was also drawn to the geometry of the gazebo that sits on the corner of Cooper Street and Young Avenue. I started thinking it would be a nice contrast to have the organic nature of the gingko leaves juxtaposed with the strong lines of the gazebo. I used my photos as a loose guide to create the elements of the gazebo. I first drew the gazebo in Adobe Illustrator. It’s easy for me to create something perfectly geometric in that program.
Once I'd created the template for the gazebo in Illustrator, I saved the image and took it over to my iPad Pro, where I opened the image in Adobe Draw. There I traced it and added some decorative lines other elements.
I then added some color so that when I took it back into Illustrator I could change those as much as I wanted to.
Once I had the gazebo drawn it was time to play around some more in Illustrator and Draw. I drew some flowers in Draw to represent the beds at the bottom of the gazebo. And since I see birds and squirrels out my window every day here in Cooper-Young, I thought it would be cool to put them in the mix. I also knew I wanted to include a kitty cat or two, in honor of the House of Mews cat rescue agency a couple of blocks from my studio.
And finally I wanted to add something related to the great music we hear at the festival each year, so I added the guitars. These were also drawn in Adobe Draw. I found an image of a guitar using Adobe Stock and then loosely traced it and added a pattern fill of those gingko leaves.
Here are a few of the rough drafts and early versions I came up with along the way.
Each year at the festival the neighborhood association sells posters and t-shirts featuring the poster design. In addition to the color posters, we also printed some in black and white for people to color!
Last week we had a poster reveal and kickoff party, and I signed posters for the guests. I brought some markers and lots of people colored their posters while they enjoyed some great music and wine. I also created an original piece of art based on the poster design and we auctioned that off as well. For the original piece I had the black and white poster printed on canvas and I used paint and markers to color it.
As you can see from the posters, the festival is Saturday, September 17th, and I'll have a booth in my usual spot on Cooper in front of my studio. If you attend the festival, I hope you'll stop by and say hello! I'll be selling coloring books, fabrics and lots of other fun stuff. Hope to see you there!