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!

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

i love that window. you rock.

Mike Thompson said...

Wowm Michael, that is some process! I really enjoyed reading and seeing the detailed steps you followed to finish a design. Did I mention that your style reminds me quite a bit of the clean work of Daniel Clowes and Seth? I'm incredibly impressed with all p[hases of the process, and the limted palette of colors you used is quite striking. The mock-up is pretty neat, too! Great job!

Mike Thompson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jurgen said...

Looks great, thanks for sharing the process.

Daswell Davis said...

Excellent work, I can just imagine how cramped you mustfelt while making that thing.

BiscottiDog said...

Thank you for showing us the process of your work. The finished results are awesome... and just as enjoyable to see the steps along the way. When you were finished, did you hang around the front of the window awhile and watch people stop and look? Nothing like instant feedback. Well done. Show us more!

tacoma cartoonist said...

most excellent

Steam said...

That looks really cool. I can imagine that strolling past the window creates a cool view, as the foreground items move in front of the background.

Lou Vega said...

Hi Michael,
Entertaining and inspiring.
Are you doing any editorial work?
I have a project you would be great for.

m cho said...

Thanks everyone!

Anthony Woodward said...

Looks really good. I was interested in knowing about the blue pencil. I had one of these but I'm not sure were I got it from, is the brand called col-erase?

cheers awcomix@yahoo.com

moocurtis said...

I absolutely love the window display, it is so unusual and creative, really stands out! Is it still on?

m cho said...

Hi Anthony -- yes, the brand is Col-Erase. It's my favourite non-photo blue.

MooCurtis -- Thanks! The window display was only up during January. But the memories (and shoulder aches) remain...

Michael said...

mindblowingly cool Michael! always fun to see the process in these sorts of projects. thanks!

trophiogrande said...

I have done a couple of window displays before and your looks great!

Anonymous said...

Wow, the sketchs are good and their real.

katya said...

Interesting, indeed. Pity the passers-by are not aware of the whole process

Anonymous said...

Very nice! I'm a display artist/window dresser from Norway, and I'm amazed by all the work you've put down in this display. I guess you don't charge this store by all the hours you've worked. It's ART on a high level!

Rahayu said...

inspiring!!

thanks! ;p

Blank Space said...

It is great to see your process! Thanks for sharing. We do window displays and Seattle.

Creative store windows on squidoo said...

Love what you created and thank you for sharing the creative process. Excellent!