Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Hard Way to Make a Window Display

My favourite bookstore in Toronto is Pages Books and Magazines on Queen Street. Several years ago, when I was starting out as an illustrator, the owner of Pages, Marc Glassman, took pity on me and let me design his in-store signs. Since then, I've also done the occasional window display for them, usually to promote store events. During the month of January this year, I got the chance to do another window display, this time to promote something a little more personal.

It all began with my friend and fellow toronto cartoonist Brian Mclachlan who suggested we do a display to promote his graphic novel and my children's book at the same time. Since both dealt with "media literacy" and "culture-jamming" (gawd -- I hate that term: it's so 90's), we thought we could do a collaborative display on the theme of "corporate media" vs. "street media". Sounds arty, I know, but bear with me. To keep things simple and stress-free, it was decided that Brian would do most of the "writing" (concepts, jokes, slogans) and I would do most of the "drawing" (style, composition, figure designs).

With that in mind, and after brainstorming with Brian, I drew up my first colour thumbnail sketch, which presented a street scene split in 2 down the centre: 1 side for each window. The left would represent "street media", while the right would represent "corporate media", with mixed figures shown moving between both realms:

After Brian saw the thumbnail, he wrote out his suggestions and ideas for all the blank spots I had left and sent me this:

I then drew up a tighter linear rough incorporating Brian's suggestions and changes:

Then, using the linear rough as a guide, and because I am a totally obsessive nut, I built a scale model maquette of all the various pieces that made up the proposed display. It was made with bristol board and gouache paint over the course of an afternoon. I think this was probably the easiest part of the whole experience:

Of course, things don't ever go that smoothly, and after checking, Brian and I realized our measurements were quite off. It turns out the actual display area is quite a bit shorter than the window area. Hence, I needed to revise the display to add more room to both sides. A new linear rough was drawn with the proper dimensions and incorporating more figures and elements to fill up the space:

Finally, with the drawing and measurements set, we got down to the tedious task of actually painting all the pieces that made up the display. For some obscure reason, we decided to do most of it at Brian's studio, so we spent a few days over the christmas holidays listening to mash-up tunes (Brian has an awesome collection of mash-ups!) and eating take-out while painting in very very close proximity, A real gentleman, he graciously consented to trying to paint in my "style" to make the collaboration go smoother. We broke it down so that Brian handled most of the backgrounds and all the lettering, while I did the foreground figures and the "finesse-y" bits and touch ups:

When all the pieces were ready, we moved the completed display into Pages Bookstore and installed it over the course of a short afternoon. Here is the installed view:

And that's what I did over the Christmas holidays!