It’s October again! I just love autumn, when the temperatures (finally) start to drop again, and the world turns especially beautiful! It doesn’t hurt that my birthday is in October: as soon as the forests turn a fiery festival of oranges and yellows, and the air turns crisp and fresh, my mood takes a definite turn for the better.
So I was very excited when in 2010 the UHSK (the history study association I’m part of at Utrecht University) asked me to design a poster for their upcoming party: “I Deny the Autumn”. Of course, I didn’t completely agree with the theme, but it gave me the opportunity to design a poster heavy on the oranges and other fiery colours without immediately returning to the 1970s, or Dante’s Inferno itself. As usual with these history students (virtually all of whom are very much people that think in words and not images), they had come up with an abstract theme that didn’t immediately lend itself to be translated into an image. After all, how does one deny a concept, like autumn, while at the same time having to portray that very subject on the poster to make sense of it in visual terms? I came up with a solution where I’d draw something that would show actions through which one could deny the autumn: I decided to draw a fiery autumn leaf taped back onto the branch with sticky tape.
In this way I could show the futility of refusing to acknowledge the passage of time, while at the same time introducing a note of humour in the design. This was for a party, after all. It also made for a relatively clean design, which would leave a lot of room for text, while the background could be filled up with the leaf-strewn floor of the forest to give unity to the design as a whole so that it wouldn’t have to rely on loose elements placed forlornly in empty space. I always find that a sober image with the elements all in their own space evokes feelings of austerity and seriousness – exactly the opposite of what you’d want for a party! I’d still need the room for acres of text though, as the UHSK committee members always insisted on cramming as many words on there as possible. Usually I compress this to as few words as I can, but it still amounts to far more text than is advisable for a poster.
When drawing in vectors I have a way of always making things spiky yet elegant, so it made sense to chose a maple leaf for my hero leaf. I looked at some simple outlines of these online to make sure I had the correct shape in my head and quickly drew one up. I then decided to use a feature of CorelDraw that was new to me to colour the leaf with: Raster Fill. Basically what this does is it creates a grid inside the object you want to fill using the outlines of that object to determine the shape of the vertical and horizontal lines. You can decide for yourself how many columns and rows you want to have, and the nodes of this grid can be manipulated like any other vector nodes. You can then select the nodes of this grid and give them any colour you want, and the program will create gradients between the adjacent colours. This allowed me to give the outside of the leaf a particular colour and put patches of different colours in different spots of the leaf, and also to place subtle shadows and highlights where required. The sticky tape itself is a simple gradient-filled object with an opacity of less than 100%, and the branch is the same, but without the opacity filter. The background leaves are strewn using a stamp that came with CorelDraw, placed on a meandering path, closer spaced than usual, and with random rotations on them.
As I usually do with designs where I have to fill a lot of space with drawings, I placed a vignette around the poster, and added a glow to the important areas, so I could move the centre of attention to the part of the poster I want. In this case I made the glow yellow, to fit in with the autumn theme, and add to the cheerful atmosphere.
I made this poster for the first party of the year, and they were printed before the start of the academic year. They also made an A6-sized version to distribute as a flyer to the new first year students during their introduction-week. Naturally I obtained several of these small prints myself for my portfolio, and used one as a bookmark for the whole of the autumn term to full satisfaction.