My poster for Portland Center Stage’s production of Venus in Fur is in The New York Times today.
Erik Piepenburg, the ArtsBeat journalist who interviewed me, was interested my choice of color and composition, as well as who influences me. The published version goes like this:
Black, white and red never fail. They speak to something dark and shadowy. Adding the red gives a level of seductiveness. It says we’re discussing an adult topic, and it should titillate and tantalize. The collar symbolizes power. And anytime you show imagery of a big face, people automatically want to look at it. You can paint her expression how you want.
Our email discussion went a little further:
You asked why black, white and red. More succinctly, I would say that black and white provide a level of formality and sophistication, and red adds the necessary sexuality and sensuality.
The typeface, Bodoni, reinforces that formality and elegance. Playing off the most seductive element, the lips, the title had to be red.
The front-facing woman is very intentional. She is at once vulnerable and powerful, beautiful and imposing. A profile or three-quarters view is too fragile for Vanda [the female protagonist in the play].
As influences go, I have two examples for you that demonstrate what I try to achieve when making a poster.
L’Atlantique by AM Cassandre
I wish every subject matter were as simple as this piece. Posters need to be brief and clear. I want to whittle down a play to just one or two main elements, and then leave it up to the viewer to imagine a story. L’Atlantique is just a boat, but I see myriad adventures on holiday in my mind.
With Venus in Fur, I want the viewer to be transfixed by this mysterious muse and begin to imagine a very dark, sexual story.
Peace by Robert Brownjohn
This sort of shrewdness is exemplary of Brownjohn’s work. It didn’t influence my process on Venus per se, but the clever solution is one worth pursuing. (Being able to realize that solution is another story.)
Michael Buchino is an illustrator and designer in Portland, Oregon. His nescient Twitter ramblings can be found via @buchino. He is reachable by email via michael at buchino.net. His now-quiescent blog Beard Revue was named Best of Portland in 2010.