Category Archives: Assignment 3 – A Poster

Assignment 3 – Poster

The following link…
Pinterest Board for Assignment 3
…is where I’m collecting visuals from the internet from which to choose images to create a moodboard.

Follow Brian’s board Assignment 3 – A Poster on Pinterest.

I creating a poster for a Jazz event with the following details…

  • Date/Time: Sun 28th July 2019, 7.30pm
  • Title: “Trust Me!”
  • Artists: “Pebbles and the Professors”
  • Place: Jazz Express
  • Genre: “Free Jazz” (optional, as it would be an artist-specific style)
  • This is a Piano, Flute and Double Bass trio.

There’s a certain style for a Jazz music poster – the Saxophone is the quintessential go-to instrument used to represent the genre as a whole. My trio does not include a sax. Also, there’s a certain ‘dress style’ that is indicative of Jazz – a kind of lounge suit including a hat. Often with braces (trouser suspenders). The ‘smokey’ jazz club is now illegal – except when produced using a theatrical haze effect – as smoking in public buildings is now illegal in the UK. However – the smoke-filled room is again a stand in for the atmosphere of a jazz club.

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I found the imagery of the musicians riding their instruments in some ‘bareback’ or ‘untamed’ way quite interesting. It compared well to the experience of ‘riding’ the rapids or surfing – where the rider is harnessing a force of nature. This is slightly out of line with the nature of Jazz as there isn’t a strong sense in which the music exists before the musicians play it – it is created inside them and expressed. Where there is a comparison is the sense of the rider/musician having skill and experience to do the task and it captures some of the essence of Free jazz where the unexpected is to be expected.

More version of this arise from my explorations so far…

Free Fall: This is any time you find yourself not on the ground and not in flight or held aloft by a parachute or similar. You are subject to gravity and will qo where it desires. There are a few familiar scenarios of free fall:

  • Orbit – in this special case your speed enables you to escape the clutches of gravity which continually bends your path in a circle/ellipse rather than drawing you ever closer. It’s an equilibrium that will hold for so long, until conditions change.
  • Parachuting – the part just after you jump out of the aeroplane and before you pull the chute – this is free fall. Initially it is ‘weightless’ as you accelerate at 9.8m/s^-2 until air resistance stabilises your velocity at a fairly constant 124mph. At terminal velocity you’re not weightless but you are ‘floating’ (downwards, very fast).
  • Deep space – In deep space, no one can hear you play jazz, and you can be pretty much stationary, in ‘free fall’ and ‘not moving’. Although all those things become moot when you’re not near anything to be falling relative to.

The common element here is ‘float’… the idea that up and down no longer have sway over your predicament… and perhaps this is the analogy for the Free Jazz player looking for Nirvana in their set: the ability to break free from the familiar and experience something ‘out of this world’. The music itself is from another place and the listener is to be transported to it or by it.

In contrast to the balance and skill of riding the wave or the rapid – activities in which gravity is very present – the ‘Free Fall’ experience is one of surrendering to the environment; the event ceases to become a ‘ride’ and becomes a ‘transportation’ – the emphasis is of the other place, not of the ride.

Both ideas are valid and I propose to work up a suitable poster based on each.

Posters x2

The Ride ; The World


This moodboard makes a connection between the musicians and the sports of surfing and snowboarding. Normally when someone says to a musician “Hey, man, you’re on fire!” it’s a huge compliment rather than a warning about a conflagration. What seems to be demanded here is that the music is recognised as stimulating the senses analogous to the way that these ‘extreme sports’ get the adrenaline pumping. They are both experiences of the moment for the partaker/listener – it’s about being there, and doing it!

Colour is confusing. I don’t see a theme other than the black and white from the historic images and the traditions of having a black piano and for musicians to dress in black from time to time. The strongest highlight is from the fire.

There should be recognition perhaps that Jazz and photography grew up together. These black and white photographs of some of the first legends of jazz were taken at a time when the technology of photography had become more manageable and the camera could now get to the events. Modern photos of Jazz can be immediately made more captivating just by making them black and white! The treatment evokes exactly the golden era of Jazz.


For this mood board I’ve focused on the ‘Free Fall’ aspect of my research… weightlessness, flying and falling.

The central image of the Bass Player flying like a flag from a pole was a lucky find – it fitted very well with the subject and the concept. There’s a predominance of blue from sky in the images, even in the spacewalks. The iconic figures of Mary Poppins and a Dumbo-like elephant. A boat guitar that floats on water. The origami rider also reminds me of Santa’s sleigh. The woman floating above a poppy field seems to be the most ‘free’ of all the floters – no wires, no ground rushing up to meet her… just her and she’s floating.

I made two moodboards because I had two concepts that seemed separate – on action, one inaction. To develop these into two concepts to take forward it’s not necessarily the case that each mood board is one of the concepts – there could be two strong compositions from just one of these strands, or a mixture of both.

The trilby-wearing saxophonist in the smoke-filled room is really corny now… it’s an old and tired stereotype associated with the ‘blues’ and jazz’s grass roots. It recalls a lovely, smooth, melancholy sound that will have you weeping into your bourbon.

This trio is part of a Jazz movement that tries to move on from those founding sounds and is a progressive idea – freedom from the standards and the tropes that otherwise classify the music. For this there needs to be new visual representation.


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Exploring the way that the concepts can exist – are the instruments the vehicles (surfboards) or the media (water/surf). There are many touch-points between water and sound because the waves in water are analogous to sound (pressure) waves in air – both are a form of transmission of energy. It’s not surprising that there are overlaps in the terminology. It’s possible this is an idea that could help later… it’s also quite ‘scientific’ or ‘mathematical’ in origin and I wouldn’t like to force things down this route – wider appeal would be helpful.

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The figures on this page are made from fragments of the three instruments. Some of this is doodling to explore those shapes.

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I wondered if the freeness could be represented by flight – in this case a winged musician.

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I like the confluence of the note-head with the shape of the tunnel on the surf – it’s a smooth transition from one concept to the other – a point where they touch. The whole idea of making imagery that has ambiguity and/or double visual meanings I find very powerful.

I had a couple of other thoughts here – in the thumbnails – about radically different approaches drawing on abstract art of one kind or another. That’s for later perhaps.

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The title – Trust Me – goes well with surfing, not by co-incidence, but because of the inherent uncertainty in surfing.

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Looking at what my jazz-surfer should look like. I deliberately tried to find something that was not ‘real’ or ‘objective’ of a person and through doodling here found a striking style using three thick lines to describe a figure with a ‘note’ as a head.

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Once mounted on the Flute this figure looked very striking. It has various suggestive qualities – a pin-striped suit or a a wet-suit maybe. It is derived from the idea of four strings (the white parts) on a double bass but can look like many other parts of music notation.

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I’ve pinned down the overall composition that I think works best from a distance. I’m bearing in mind that posters will be viewed from many distances (unlike books, for example). Posters can be across the road on a notice board or right next to you to the impression that they give at different scales is important. The Thumbnail serves well to scope out the impression at the most distant view.

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Having established an overview for the first poster design I’m looking, going back a stage, for a design for the second. I’m approaching this as an abstract to see if there’s something very eye-catching without the objective view of a jazz concert.

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Exploring forms that I might use to construct an abstract image.

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Upon reviewing the ideas to date I found that very early on I had a compelling idea – although not abstract it is very subjective in representation and can incorporate other more abstract elements if needed.

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The ‘bendy man’ becomes a very flat representation but it is strong and bold and out of the ordinary which are good things for a poster that needs to be eye-catching.

This example currently includes two designs – an abstract pattern similar to my earlier doodles and a bendy-man design through which the abstract pattern is revealed. There is the possible potential here for the two designs to each work more strongly at different view distances.

The representation of the instruments in this latests outline have also moved farther from the more object representation that I had started with. They are now simplified and drawing more strongly on only the most recognisable parts of their forms. The black keys on the piano keyboard are interesting – they stand out, perhaps dominate.

Actually – maybe all of the shapes need details like the black keys on the piano… the other instruments could have black details, the ‘people’ could have… eyes? buttons? shoes? ?


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This is a line drawing of the main concept. I drew it in pencil initially and though I had the composition in place but as I’ve inked over it with the intention of removing the sketchy lines I’ve explored a slightly different position. I’ve also lost the association between the note and the wave that I was so pleased with initially… I need to adjust this to get that back. I’ve also inadvertently avoided overlapping the figures on their surfing-instruments which makes them look a bit distant.

Possible solutions might be a more dynamic perspective (lower? more ‘into’ or ‘through’ the wave tunnel?)

After looking at this composition for a while I feel it needs improving. The idea of the instruments (surfboards) coming ‘out’ of the picture towards the viewer is weakened by the high angle of view… it feels too safe looking down. also, there are aspects of the instruments themselves that are lost from this angle… the scroll on the double bass is a strong image and would benefit from being shown more side on; the flute needs more of a sideways view of its length to show what it is better. This whole thing reminds me of a graphic novel / superhero image – the Silver Surfer or something, but I’m not familiar enough with these things to know what it is.

There are two things I have to go back and look at with respect to the water… one the the ‘foam’ – where it goes white at the edges – and the other is the shape. This needs to have a strong look of the surf in order to support the ambiguity… so that the surfing aspect can be seen. Otherwise it looks like three daft figures standing on instruments… it might resemble The Borrowers making their escape through the music cupboard.

In respect of colours and layout. I like the text positions overall – the place, date and time info following the shape of the curve is also good.

The title texts seem to be against the ‘sky’ which is also OK  – so long as they don’t stray onto the water. I should probably add a phone number/address for the venue to make it more real.


Interesting. Inverted version of the line drawing. Could possibly draw it on white paper in inverse colours so that it is inverted at the last step.

I mentioned neon at some point… this look is not far off, just needs a bit  colour.


Here’s the result of drawing the wave (left) in the complimentary colours to those that I wanted in the final piece (right), which is simply the drawing inverted.

I’m in two minds about this – it’s either pointless or… or totally invaluable. When I look a the blue version it does look like it could have been done using pastels on black paper, which might be a better thing to try. But it’s interesting how much tonal variation I’ve ended up with in the wave – it has a rich texture which is perhaps party accounted for by the fact that the white parts were achieved by drawing in black… and black obliterated what’s under it in a way that white often cannot. This also means that I can put a lot of detail into the white ‘foam’.

Perhaps the answer here is to collage various pieces of the picture within Photoshop where some have been inverted and some have not. This would give me a greater range and contrast using just pencils on white paper than I might otherwise be able to render, and I could try using coloured paper and other colours like pastels and paints.


Pencil on brown paper (with processed version – inverted and histogram normalised)


Fineliner on brown paper (with processed version – inverted and histogram normalised)


These two pictures are tests of the process – the first in pencil and second in fineliner. The paper is a brown scrapbook which produces a pleasant, but pale blue. I’ve used a ‘Levels’ filter to increase the contrast, the depth of the blue and the whiteness of the white, but retain the textures.

I find the pencil version nicer – the fineliner one is a little ‘exact’ for how I feel water should look. On the other hand, the stylised way in which Im drawing the musicians on their surfing instruments.

There’s a case for thinking that the pencil version will create contrast with the surfers – but I also ned a connection. I might use a mixture of both pencil and pen to create more variation in the texture itself. I also need to create the ‘wake’ from the surfboard in the water.

Comparing the Two styles


The style using white paper and coloured pencils produces rich and beautiful effect – the wave looks painted. The brown paper and pencil produces something very blue but subtler, which makes it more suited to this application perhaps. On this version I’ve also changed the angle of view and the completeness of the ellipse in the end which is to become the note head. It suggests smaller figures on instruments that are overshadowed by the size and power of the wave shape.

I would like to make a heavier impression of the wave to make it stand out more but not go as far as the first version. Perhaps a limited use of coloured pencil on the brown paper could give it more shape and heft.


Inspired by the street artists’ high-speed painting techniques and my acquaintance with a local artist Susan Gray, I thought I’d try to produce this wave (in it’s proper colours) using acrylic paint.

From the street artists I took the lesson that texture can be created using the nature of the media. I had been trying to use pencils and pens but these do not give texture of themselves – one has to draw the texture with these implements.

Susan Gray uses primarily acrylic paint to produce her seascapes but one first seeing her work in her gallery I assumed it was oil paint. She was kind enough to explain some of her techniques and I discovered that, approached in the right way, acrylic paint can produce varied effects. When I first produced the inverted version of my pencil image I had thought that it looked like a painting, because of how the white stood out in the way that it can as a thick paint.

For this then I used titanium white, ultramarine blue and two pallet knives to trowel the paint onto a black paper substrate.

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The overall effect is very satisfying… mainly I think because I feel like I’ve had a personal breakthrough with using acrylic paints… but also because there’s a lot of detail and ‘energy’ in the image. The wave needs to have a motion – the real ones are literally made from kinetic and potential energy – to succeed in the illustration in providing the danger and momentum that is intended. Surfing is a rush… it’s not a controlled environment… similar to free jazz.2016-05-08 13.47.55

The trick is now to photograph it so as to capture the physical texture in the paint as well as the colour. A scanner will flatten it completely.

How to Finish

At this point I’m looking at the work I’ve produced so far and trying to match it to the process described in the assignment. There is not an exact match for I didn’t yet reach a point where I had two line visuals where I chose the concepts that I thought worked the best. I’ve got a little carried away with solving the challenges thrown up by the wave and haven’t taken the abstract version to a full ‘Visuals’ stage.

Neither have I taken the wave version to a colour mock-up stage… so I’m a bit out of sync with the requirements.

So I need now…

  • A line visual of the abstract version.
  • Possibly a revised line visual of the wave version as the layout has developed slightly
  • A discussion about the best version to take forwards
  • A colour mock-up of the chosen version
  • A final art work of the chosen version.

Poster Variant two – the more abstract one

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As I was testing out shapes for this I was influenced by seeing Luke Ramsey’s work. Abstract has become less the correct word to describe this variant – it has form but not a familiar one. Among Luke Ramsey portfolio are works that are just black lines describing fantastic creatures with different anatomy but still seeming to be life based on humans. It made me think about not creating a divide between the person and the instrument… perhaps they’re all one creature.

I found my way to specific anatomy for each instrument/musican and produced the following line visual as a proof of concept:

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At the last minute I discovered that I could write the title ‘TRUST ME’ inside the shapes instead of the abstract shapes that I had intended. I hatched them in to try not to disrupt the rest of the image. I forgot to rub out the rest of the pencil before scanning it

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After reviewing the line drawing the ‘Trust Me’ was too pale so I’ve shaded it with a pencil to make it stand out more. There are still problems with its legibility as some of the letter corners are missing where they wall outside the design – mainly the top left of the ‘S’ which makes it hard to identify as an ‘S’.

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In my first rough of this design I ended up with a weak collection of musicians – they faced out and seemed un-dynamic. In this sketch above I’m concentrating only on the figures and how they are arranged as a group of three with the wave.

Pleasingly I can arrange the three heads in a line with the curl of the wave – which is also the vanishing point.

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In changing the layout I’ve also lost the space for the title so its ended up split above and below the foam line.

I’m tempted to dispense with the note in the eye of the wave altogether… although it is a neat link between the two conceptually the visual reality is not very impactful.

The whole title area is cluttered and doesn’t form an ‘image’ of its own, or compliment the main picture. It could do with adjusting slightly so that the whole picture moves down in the frame slightly to allow more room for the lettering to fit in.


The more abstract design has become the poorer relation to the excitement of the surfers. I posted these line visuals side-by-side on social media to get some responses from my acquaintances – the overwhelming response was to favour the surfing image. Digging deeper there was an appreciation for the more abstract design but it didn’t come across with as much impact


This is a first stab at a colour visual… it’s thrown up a lot of questions:

  • Is the water too vivid/saturated/dark? It’s an extremely heavily textured background and the figures tend to get lost in it… having been very prominent in the black and white line visual.
  • I’ve put in computer text… the question is if this is good for all of the text? The hand-drawn text was sometimes nice… but for clarity’s sake, and since I’m not making a statement with the design of the text font, should I choose to use computer fonts? (not necessarily those shown here – just trying thing out).
  • I’ve looked at realistic colours for the instruments… but would something stylised help make the figures more prominent again? My intention was to generate textures using acrylic paint, photograph them and mask them into the instrument drawings. To do this I need to decide on the colours first, for best results.
  • Is the note superfluous? I’ve tried out a few things, and although it is nice conceptually it tends to interfere with the drama of the wave. No-one mentioned it when I showed them the line drawing. It might have to go for the sake of visual clarity.
  • How should the text relate to the artwork? I’ve seen many flyers and posters where the text appeared ‘overprinted’ (although not printed separately in practice…), not following the contours of the artwork beneath… just leaving space for it to be seen adequately. Perhaps this is a cheaper, expedient way to do it but it also creates a layered effect – you can visually separate the text from the image even though the text is printed over the plainer areas of the image. I feel like there’s a case for printing dates, times etc in a plainer way while the title “Trust Me” and perhaps the band name “Pebbles and the Professors” might integrate more with the image.

So these questions have all arisen from trying the colour version… does this mean the black and white line version was inadequate? or does it mean that adding colour changes everything? The latter really calls into question the point of producing a black and white visual of something that is intended to be colour in the end for ‘clients’ – would they be deceived by the line visual? would the colour version look like a whole new design?

The layouts are very similar then there can’t be an argument… but…?!

To get a handle on these questions I’e stripped back the poster to the image without the text. This looks a lot better, so I’m going to decide that the text was artlessly done and needs far more consideration in order to enhance the finished poster rather than overwhelming it or being garish.

I’m going to create the instrument texture using acrylic paint as intended and experiment a bit with variations on the colours used above.

The figures I think I should draw individually and make them much larger (as artworks, not as part of the composition) in order to refine the stances.

I still think the note is redundant.

Instrument Textures

I decided to try using acrylic* to create textures for the instruments that are contrasting with the water. These are the painted textures…

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Flute: I did it twice to give a variety of blueness… I’m expecting the wave to be reflected in the flute so it need to show that.
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Flute: I did it twice to give a variety of blueness… I’m expecting the wave to be reflected in the flute so it need to show that.
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Flute: I did it twice to give a variety of blueness… I’m expecting the wave to be reflected in the flute so it need to show that.

Now it’s a question of masking them into the instrument shapes and finding a way to describe the remaining details on the instruments.

This is the first test of inserting the texturing using a very approximate flute-shape. Initially it matched the colour of the water too well – it was hardly seen. Using a curves layer I adjusted the whiteness (value) of it to make it paler. I’ve also warped the shape to make it follow the perspective of the flute shape into the distance. This now works really well.

Looking at this I think my process will be to first draw the surfers and their instruments as a line drawing in careful detail. Once placed in Photoshop the job will be to accurately mask out each section of each instrument and insert, distort and adjust the colour/brightness etc of each to form the full image.

A4 2_Page_73Checking where my instrument colours need to be to stand out against the wave.

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The Double bass is the most interesting shape – it has elegant classical curves. The scroll is made visible just by shading the curves as they step higher towards the centre.

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The flute is full of shiny artefacts – it’s interesting for being silver and becoming the colour of what’s around it. In my illustrations it can’t be the same colour as the wave or it would vanish, but it can retain the blue-whiteness of the wave which will suggest silver too. It has keys and parts that look like futuristic buildings.

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I’ve not liked the piano going keyboard last so I’ve turned it around to show the keyboard – I think it’s more likely to be recognised as a piano like that.

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looking for relevant ways to write in the lettering.

Now I’m at this stage I recognise this process as being similar to Eric Carl’s method for creating the Hungry Caterpillar. Eric paints acrylic onto tissue paper then cuts out the segments that he requires to make each part of his illustration. My process uses photoshop from the cutting out part onwards, but I find that the textures created by the acrylic paint mixtures are fabulous.
A Question of Sport LogoI’ve just remembered this logo – “A Question of Sport” – one of those TV programmes from my childhood that I remember the theme tune and titles for but never watched. It has the same three-banded design in the lettering. In this case I’m guessing that was derived from running tracks, as it’s sport.


This is the characters drawn in black pen, scanned and cut-out in Photoshop. The green background is added just to check how well they’re cut out and adjust the mask.


Bringing the elements together

Redrawing the figures out of context has altered their relationship with the wave. It’s interesting though seeing the third figure encroach more into the space where the note used to be – it might be a good move.

Started with the bass – it is the texture I’ve most looked forward to using. Having practiced sketching the shape of the double bass and become familiar with it I’ve created the shape directly in Photoshop as four masks and dropped the texture inside each one. The warm tones of the wood work wonderfully against the blue of the water.

The nature of Photoshop from her on is that everything is composed non-destructively… I can go back and re-arrange elements in terms of brightness, size, position etc. Although the overall composition of the poster is decided the fine details of relative positions might change in order to solve problems that did not show up in the earlier stages.

However, this seems like ‘cheating’ in the sense that those compositional problems could be solved using the earlier compositional mock-ups. In my case the hand-drawn component – the three surfers – changes subtly with each rendering. From their point of view they are becoming more cohesive as a group, more dynamic in stance, more like surfers in that posture. But the variances mean that later stages don’t work the way earlier stages worked.

I hop, in the end, when placed side-by-side with the live visual, the final artwork will still be recognisably the same intent and that the overwhelming changes will be the dramatic effect of the colour and overall depth of the image. If this is not the case… if the composition seems to be different, then it calls into question the honesty of the line visual in representing a decided plan for the final work.


As I’m bringing in more elements I’m finding out that there is more potential for adding excitement into the instruments themselves. I had thought that the textures were more subtle and would merely help define each one but the richness of the textures, together with some help from Photoshop’s Brightness/Contrast and Curves controls, is enabling each instrument to mimic the energy in the wave in their own, individual way.

The near side of the piano was interesting as I discovered that the edge of the texture pattern, where it reverts to black, created a rough-water-like effect. Although the effect is weak here I have recently seen artwork by Klaus Pamminger where collaged surfaces created the effect of reflections sometimes.

Poster Artwork with Text

This is the final image with temporary text. At the moment this text is disconnected from the image… which can be OK, but it might look even better if the text was integrated in some way.

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Final artwork for Poster (above, and ‘in the distance’ below). Moving the date and place to the bottom meant moving the image up to avoid cutting the flute off – this enabled the ‘Trust Me’ to pleasingly overlap with the sea foam which revealed the transparency of the lettering making it look whispier; perhaps makes the waves look like they’re in front of the lettering.

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I’m pleased with how this looks ‘from across the street’ – at the smaller scale the dynamics of the composition take over more as well as the more general contrast between the stylised figures and the textures of the wave and instruments. The warmth of the colour of the double bass is really strong against the blue wave… perhaps this would have worked even better for a string quartet! Bot many of those playing free jazz though!

The drawbacks are that the connection with jazz itself may have been weakened by the overall treatment, but this is corrected at closer inspection by the venue name and the instruments, once recognised.


In the interests of not being misleading or leaving any untruth uncorrected I feel I should disclose a small error that I have made, one which, in truest British style, I feel could only have happened to me.

I have been ‘tidying up’ (moving things around a bit) after this assignment and while I was moving my acrylic paints into a different container  (then changing my mind and moving them back) I noticed that they had the word ‘oil’ on them… which explains why these three pictures:

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…took so long to dry. I will have to do a bit more side-by-side tests of oil and acrylic so that I can tell the difference better. Or maybe just read the tubes before I use them.

The wave was actually done in acrylic – I did that in the garden shed and it was a totally different situation.