The Humana Festival of New American Plays, hosted by the Actors Theatre of Louisville, is the largest and most well established new play festival in America. The productions draw producers, journalists, critics, playwrights and theatre professionals and fans from around the world.
Each year, an artist is commissioned to create the identity for the festival; I am honored to be this year’s artist. Chip Kidd, Brian Cronin, Tomer Hanuka, Josh Cochran and Heads of State created some of the previous seasons’ posters.
The images created for the poster generally reflect the writer, the writer’s mind and the stage rather than the specific productions. Since there has been a disproportionate number of a male playwright depicted previously, we agreed to make the writer female. The art is now on the recently launched site and will be used for the posters, cover for the program guides, and local and national print advertising, among others. A big thanks to Andy Perez, Art Director and the team at Actors Theatre for the great gig.
As President ofICON8, I have the privilege of commissioning an artist and a designer to create the identity for the conference.
I have been following the wonderful work of acclaimed illustrator Carson Ellis for some time. Her work is intricately detailed, incorporating dark, whimsical imagery with beautiful hand-drawn typography. In other words, awesome! Carson, who makes her home in Portland, will also grace the ICON8 stage as a speaker.
For the design, I asked Paul Buckley, the multi-talented Vice President, Executive Director of Penguin Books, another artist whose work I greatly admire. Paul was a speaker at ICON7, of which I was Programming Chair. Needless to say, I was thrilled when they both graciously said yes.
Similar to ICON7, we decided to print a two-sided poster. I gave them each our theme of Work + Play, as well as the information that needed to be on the poster and watched them do their magic. Carson created a lush, beautiful painting that speaks to our theme and the location of Portland. Paul’s vibrant, eye-popping design plays off of this being ICON’s 8th conference. Their poster images couldn’t be more opposite but yet united since they celebrate the breadth and diversity of our world of image-makers. There has been a great response to the poster, lots of sharing of the images on social media, and we have been inundated with requests for the posters.
ICON8 will not be taking place exclusively in a hotel. Instead we are making full use of the wonderful city of Portland and have coordinated great venues within a short walking distance of each other. The conference presentations will take place at the historic Portland Art Museum, our closing party is at the famed McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, and our preconference events will take place at our partner school, the Pacific Northwest College of Art. The Benson is the official conference hotel. The creative community in Portland could not be more welcoming and we have a team of local advisors helping us with our planning.
Our board members, along with our Conference Director, Mark Heflin, have been busy planning since the beginning of the year. We have a stellar new website, thanks to our Tech/Design Chair, Matt Sundstrom, an illustrator who also works at Instrument, a prominent web firm in Portland. Our PR machine AKA Mark Kaufman has been firing away since our first board meeting in January. The entire board has been lining up great speakers and events that will take place during the conference including a new two-day Educator’s Symposium, headed by Education Chair, Rick Lovell, where educators from art centers around the world will present and share ideas.
Continue to watch ourwebsite and updateswith exciting announcements of speakers. Watch our registration page for an equally impressive list of attendees. It is the social component that continues to be the legacy of ICON and the best reason to attend, with a chance to hang out and trade stories and sketchbooks over drinks. I met Yuko Shimizu and Marcos Chin for the first time at ICON4 in San Francisco. Tickets are flying fast, register now and join us in Portland.
I was recently commissioned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to illustrate the cover for a new novel, The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla. An exuberant novel about reluctant saint and alleged healer Garnet Ferrari—born with the map of the world rendered in port-wine stains on her skin—and her family's rich, tangled and most unusual history, from the Nebrodi Mountains of Sicily to the hilltop mansions of Sweetwater, West Virginia.
The manuscript contained lots of rich imagery including: flaming red hair, globes, volcano fables, cassette tapes, mermaids as well as colorful characters and beautiful settings. The book was a very enjoyable read and I had no trouble coming up with many ideas for the cover. A few of the rough sketches are below, I like to provide at least 10 different ideas for a book jacket. Once the direction was chosen, I was able to draw upon the hundreds of photos I had taken during my trip to Venice for the figures and architecture.
Best of all was a thank you letter I just received from the author. A big thanks to Martha Kennedy, AD for the great project and lovely design.
In the way that life can imitate art, unlikely, was how meeting my deadline seemed during the few weeks I had to complete this project. A computer crash (thank you, Time Machine for the back up), an ICON board meeting to prepare for and attend in Portland and a stomach flu, all seemed to be conspiring against my schedule. Fortunately, I beat the odds and can share more images from The Unlikely issue of Nautilus, I initially posted a few weeks ago. Thanks again to Len Small, Art Director and this wonderful new magazine.
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