I can't let any more time go by without posting about the most influential artist of my childhood, Ed Emberley. When I was a young boy, Ed Emberley's books taught me everything I knew about drawing, and inspired me to become an artist. My mom would take me to the downtown Nashville library, and I would run to the childrens art section and see what Ed Emberley books I could find there, and when a new one showed up in circulation it was like finding a buried treasure chest. All of Mr. Emberley's drawing books (he has illustrated over 80) center around one main idea: that if you can draw a few basic lines and shapes, you can draw ANYTHING. What a beautiful idea.

One thing I loved about Ed Emberleys books was how they took on such massive topics with each title: Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals. Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Faces. One by one, I discovered his books organized by color: Ed Emberley's Big Red Drawing Book, Ed Emberley's Big Purple Drawing Book, and my personal favorite as a boy, Ed Emberley's Big Orange Drawing Book. I loved how Ed decided what would be in each book in a seemingly arbitrary but perfect way: pandas would be in the Purple book, Santa Claus in the Red book, pirate ships in the Green book. Then came even more specific worlds: Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Weirdos, Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Birds, and Ed Emberley's Halloween Drawing Book.

This massive scope that Emberley would always conjure reached a new level with his next title, one that blew my 10-year-old mind: Ed Emberley's Drawing Book: Make a World. In this book, Emberley laid out his simple, step by step pictoral instructions for how to draw, well, everything. From trees to park benches, policeman to porcupine, bridges, mountains, trains, dinosaurs, from the Empire State Building to an ant (designated as a simple dot). This book was my most cherished possession, and I still have two copies on my bookshelf next to me at all times for comfort and immediate inspiration.

Keep in mind that when I was at that age, there was no internet. I couldn't look up what else Mr. Emberley had done or what other books were out there. Finding out about a new book, or finding an old copy of one I'd never seen before at the library, was always a revelation. I found his Picture Pie books, which saw Mr. Emberley move into a new realm of pictoral design; these instructional books were every bit as simplified as his other books, even more so, as they outlined different pictures and designs that could be created with shapes alone, cut out of construction paper for example.

Only now in my adulthood am I discovering the other books that Emberley wrote and illustrated. Thanks to a Grain Edit post by Amy Cartwright, I just recently discovered and picked up this lovely little childrens book about the Big Dipper, illustrated by EE. Many of the drawing books I've mentioned above are still in print, but in new editions that aren't nearly as charming in their presentation (for some reason they are now oriented vertically instead of horizontally). I encourage any young artists, or anyone who has produced a young artist, to seek them out at your local library.

There has never been an artist who inspired me like Ed Emberley did. To this day, I look to these books as an inspiration to simplify and refine my drawing philosophy, and although these books were written for children, I think that adult artists could learn a lot from him as I still do. More than anything else, I learned from Ed Emberley to let my imagination run free. If I could imagine something in my mind -- an animal, a city, a weirdo -- I could take a swish, a dash, and a dot and make it come to life on a piece of paper.


DESIGN BOOKSHELF: 12 Japanese Masters

I just scored this 2002 book by Graphis titled 12 Japanese Masters, featuring some great work by many designers I didn't know much about. I bought this book looking to get some larger views of Tadanori Yokoo's poster art (I'll be posting more about this badass soon), but I was rewarded with lots of other great stuff as well. Right now I'm stuck on the above image by Kazumasa Nagai entitled "Save Me. please. I'm here." Head over to my Flickr page to see some more pictures. I'll be posting pictures and scans from my bookshelf from time to time, and hopefully the quality of my photos will improve with that... Until then, I hope they inspire you in some way.


Tonight, Nashville becomes Trashville, as Harmony Korine's TRASH HUMPERS premieres at the Belcourt, after which about 400 Nashvillians won't be able to look at a curbside recycling bin the same way ever again. I was honored to create this screenprint celebrating tonight's event with the technical assistance of Andy Vastagh at Boss Construction. It's a two-color print, black and yellow, at 18x24, limited to an edition of 100. They'll be for sale at the Belcourt starting tonight. Here's the first screen down on paper:

We then experimented with yellow ink of varying opacity to create the right effect in the 2nd screen, which has the film's characters set into the background. I wanted them to just be barely visible, or at least not noticeable at first glance, but to still have a strong yellow tone for the central tape label. You can see a nice blueish reflection when looking at the print at an angle.

We ultimately went a little darker with it but I think the basic effect was achieved.

At the end of the run I threw some blue ink on the screen to see what happened:

Off to trim, sign and edition the prints now, then to get my humpin' face on for tonight! Check out the Nashville Scene's cover story on the film, and the video below featuring one of the humpers tracking down Jim "Riddler" Ridley.



A few words about the "minimalist" movie poster movement that's been spreading like a virus around the web for the past 2 years. In late 2008, the young artist from the UK named Olly Moss gained rapid-fire recognition for executing a simple but brilliant postmodern design concept: taking the legendary Marber grid-- the graphic template for book covers released by Penguin in the 60's and 70's-- and fashioning "new" imaginary covers for classic video games.

Olly quickly went on to prove that he had more to offer the design world than a great eye for the perfect mash-up, posting a series of self-initiated movie posters composed in black, white and red.

Around this time I decided that Olly was my hero, combining his love for (and skill with) clean, effective, retro-inspired design with iconic subjects of popular culture. It was just what I wanted to do, but he was doing it first, and better (and younger). Olly has now become a household name in the design community, and has gone on to design apparel, editorial illustrations, and posters galore, from his recent movie poster designs for Empire Magazine (in a monthly entry titled "Ollywood") to his highly sought-after prints designed for the final season of LOST.

Having just moved from the UK to LA, rumor has it Olly is now doing movie title sequences for the movie industry with which he shares his nickname. Cheers, Olly. You've been a huge inspiration to me, and to so many other young designers. I'm a big fan, and I can't wait to see where your career takes you next.

Of course, such a widespread influence inevitably leads to widespread imitation, and while its too early to pinpoint exactly how it all happened so fast, since Olly's breakthrough success there has been an outpouring of "minimalist movie poster" designs hitting the web. Here are some of them.

M.S. Corley serendipitously redesigned the Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, and Spiderwick book series as Marber Penguins...

Meanwhile Spacesick rolled out an awesome and authentic series of "I Can Read Movies" book covers...

...and then before you knew it, minimalist movie posters started popping up everywhere. Ibraheem Youssef's Quentin Tarantino movie posters:

Mehmet Gozetlik's movie posters advertising brands and products as leads:

Brandon Schaefer's minimalist Blu-ray covers:

Matt Needle's minimalist Hitchcock posters:

Nick Tassone's minimalist Stephen King posters:

A massive series of TV show posters by Albert Exergian:

Followed by Exergian's Tim Burton movie posters:

Ty Mattson's minimalist Lost posters, acquired officially by ABC:
"Film the Blanks" movie poster guessing games:

Minimalist movie posters by Jamie Bolton:

Very minimal movie posters by Gary Clarke (Graphic Nothing):

Very very minimal movie posters by Eduardo Prox:

More from Hexagonall...

Robert Cook...

Gidi Vigo...

Alex Eylar...

Marcin Zeglinski...


and Madfishes:

Believe it or not, the list goes on. These designs fill pages upon pages of your basic "minimalist movie poster" Google search, and most of the artists offer their designs for sale in print. Now let me be clear: I do not mean to disparage the efforts of any of these artists. Some of the designs above I really love. But I am interested in observing how this "movement" has e-(de?)volved. It seems that as more of these posters crop up, the range of creativity involved in their execution has become more narrow; to the point where drawing a shape and typing a movie title has become accepted as "design." Perhaps it is, and there's nothing new under the sun. I'm not interested in pointing fingers, and I'm definitely as guilty of this as anyone, having a few MMP's in my portfolio myself. I'm simply interested in looking at this recent trend as a whole. You can judge for yourself which of these designs stand out above the rest, and which designs leave something to be desired to you. If one thing's clear, it's that in the continually-evolving era of the internet, anyone in their bedroom can become a superstar, artists and designers included. But if I'm being honest, the oversaturation of this trend causes me some concern. Scroll back up to Olly Moss' poster for Indiana Jones, and you'll see not just an image, but a concept. I hope that all designers, amateur or professional, would continue to challenge themselves towards a greater synthesis of concept, image, and thus: meaning. So to all the minimalist poster designers out there, I congratulate you on your successes. You have been inspired, and you have inspired others, and your enthusiasm is contagious. Your contributions have helped to make alternate movie posters a continuing force to be reckoned with. As we move forward with the well quickly drying, seize this opportunity to move beyond the "minimal" and take it to the next level. Let's see what else ya got.

(credit for the first image in this post, "Minimalist Movie Poster," goes to the always clever Brandon Schaefer.)