Friday, December 5, 2008

The Making of The Dreams in the Witch House Poster

During the making of the play The Great God Pan earlier this year, Charlie Athanas documented that play's poster design process pretty thoroughly. Now that The Dreams in the Witch House is up and running and getting good reviews, we thought we would expose the guts of that poster. (Go see the play!)

The play's director and adaptor, Charley Sherman, wanted the poster to feel dark with blues and grays and the feeling of metal to express the city of Arkham. Arkham is H. P. Lovecraft's infamous city of nightmares where the play takes place. Athanas had done a teaser graphic that was photo manipulating via Photoshop filters, but it was a rush job and not what he wanted ultimately.


The Dreams in the Witch House teaser graphic

So when it came time to produce the final graphic, Athanas pulled several photos he had taken at various places and chose three to work with. He often pulls from his random photo files to either place them into designs completely unrelated to the topic or to use as reference for a drawing. He learned from Sparth (one of his favorite concept art artists) at the Massive Black Revelations Symposium this past January in Seattle, that Sparth does this all the time in his concept art designs. He will even take old finished concept art pieces and use them for textures and design elements in newer pieces.

Here are the three photos Athanas choose to work with:


A cool dilapidated iron fence in his neighborhood


A view from inside Northwestern Evanston hospital


A church steeple down the block from his house

He combined the three of them in Photoshop layers and composed and cropped to get this:



Athanas used the Plastic Wrap filter on the two non-steeple photos and adjusted Levels on all of them to get the contrasts he wanted and the textures suitably creepy.

From there he started playing with some type ideas for the title -


In the end, Athanas realized that something needed to be in this landscape and he initially had a hooded, vague shape with a rat's tail sticking out from the cloak to hint at the character, Brown Jenkins. After showing it to the director, they realized that it wasn't strong enough and Athanas went to a clearer rat image. This turned out to be for the best, because rats play a large role in the play and Arkham. After hours of trying to find the right way to fit in Lovecraft's name and his very long story title, this is the final image for the poster:


The Dreams in the Witch House poster graphic


Poster detail

1 comment:

Dr. AC, Fool for Blood said...

That's really cool, Charlie. It's funny how much we take for granted, that poster images (especially ones as memorable and identifiable) do not just spring forth fully formed onto a poster or postcard. Thanks for taking us behind the wings and into your workshop...