Late last year, Dan Stiles created a poster for a special gig by Jónsi & Alex at the Church of St Paul the Apostle in New York. It's now been put on sale on the Sigur Rós website, so we got in touch with Dan to find out how it came to be.
The gig featured the first performance of the Riceboy Sleeps album by the Sigur Rós frontman and his boyfriend, with vocal and music duties handled by the The Latvian National Choir and the Wordless Music Orchestra -- who also performed the contemporary classical piece Credo by Jónsi's bandmate Kjartan.
Dan has been creating rock posters since 1993, when an interest in DIY culture blossomed into being hired to design posters while he was in college.
"I was a music and rock poster fanatic," he says, "but for some reason [I] never put two and two together until someone else made the connection for me. I got to do posters for most of my favorite bands during the musical explosion of the early 90s."
Since then Dan has created posters for gigs by artists from Death Cab for Cutie and Sonic Youth to the Arctic Monkeys, Sigur Rós and Dizzee Rascal. He says that posters give him almost total freedom to exercise his creativity
"The nice thing about doing rock posters is that there is almost never a brief," he says. "The primary objective is to make the band look even cooler than they already are while also serving the basic function of being advertising, or in this case, merchandise."
The poster for Jónsi & Alex follows a poster Dan created for Sigur Rós in 2006 (below) featuring a bird on an iceberg in an empty sea.
"It was meant to capture the lonely, haunting feeling of their music and to be a reference to the band's native country of Iceland," says Dan. "Step forward to 2010 and Jonsi is on tour with his boyfriend Alex. I wanted to revisit the theme of the first poster, but now there are two birds singing a duet while the sun melts the ice. It's a visual love story.
Dan describes the poster's colour palette as "happy and vibrant". It's a three-colour screenprint, with the secondary colours created from overprinting.
"The way to get the most effect out of an overprint is to use colours from opposing sides of the color wheel," he recommends. "I took yellow, blue, and red and tweaked them a little to become the gold, aqua, and burnt orange you see in the print. The cream-coloured stock adds a level of sophistication and muting that you can't get on bright white."
For the typography, Dan wanted letterforms that matched the colorful geometric nature of the main illustration.
"Often I draw my own type in order to compliment the illustration, however in this particular instance I tried some of my own designs and I didn't like them," he says "I was using a typeface called Motto by Marcus Sterz on a different project and I thought the geometric forms of the characters really suited this piece better than anything I was coming up with.
Dan redrew the letters to match the style of the rest of the geometry and fit with the overprinted colours.
We asked Dan to take us through his creative process.
"My process starts with loose sketches then I head straight to Illustrator," he says. "It is very difficult to mock up geometric designs and overprints using a pencil, the computer allows for much easier visualization and manipulation. Once I get the design squared away, I finalize the palette and then build the mechanical art.
"In screen printing each colour gets a separate screen, so this art needed to be separated into three screens, red, yellow, and blue. Then I make sure everything traps and overprints properly which is a vital step in my work because I don't use a black trap line to cover where the colors butt against each other. Everything needs to be perfect or I [would] get little gaps everywhere.
"This was a large press run of over 700 prints plus an art print edition, so I sent everything up to the team at D&L Screenprinting in Seattle. They printed it up, sent it back down to me for signing and numbering, and I shipped everything off to New York City. The timeline on this one was super tight. I think the prints arrived the day before the show.
Dan is currently working on a lot of projects, including T-shirts for MTV, posters for The National and Yeasayer, I have an animated commercial in production for China, some men's and kid's textile prints in production in Australia, and an ongoing movie poster campaign in France with Canal+.
"I'm a busy guy," he says "which is great because I love my job."