I've known Jake Kelly for something like fifteen or sixteen years. We've both been doing the same thing for probably most of that time, but the ways we go about doing it couldn't possibly be more different.
He draws hundreds of fliers in black and white, completely by hand and knows about as much about digital art and design as somebody's grampa.
I draw comparatively fewer fliers and posters, almost all in full color, also by hand but then I use digital moves to take the crazy mess of drawings and turn them into finished pieces.
He mostly does stuff for The Beachland and Grog Shop. I mostly do stuff for a wide range of various gangsters and vigilantes.
He's drawing amazing epic murals for Melt. I'm doing next level posters for Melt, every month.
Tomorrow night, April 9th, he's doing an exhibit at Asterisk, hanging every flier he's ever done. On Thursday, May 13th I'm doing an exhibit at Front Room hanging a lot of the past year's worth of what I've done.
He signs his name J. Kelly. I, am John G.
He's got blonde hair. I've got dark hair. Sometimes he's bearded and I'm cleaner shaven.
We're both kind of a mess, though.
So when it came down to making this poster for The Cleveland Lottery League's Big Show, we sat down and figured it out in a shockingly easy but unsurprisingly creative way. We knew we needed to figure out a way to not have to have to put all the horrific band names on the poster, mostly because they're some seriously horrific band names. I mean, I guess there's worse band names in the history of bands... but, goddamn. What we came up with, I think worked incredibly well. It's something neither of us really ever do, unless specifically asked for. To draw a literal visual pun of the band names. In the industry, we call this "The Hess". I don't like to do this because a lot of times, there's a more creative way to communicate what the sound and vibe of the band is like. Also, I got shit to say with my posters. I'm making a point. I'm telling a story. I'm not saying that can't happen with literal visual puns, but it's definitely more limiting. As much as people absolutely love it, I think it's kinda, sorta, boring.
And that's what we decided would be the best way to do this! I love Grid Systems, and once we decided to not have any band names, it was logical to try and not have any text at all. We knew that wouldn't entirely fly with the League Chiefs, so I we kept that upper left corner with the only real text being there. We wrote out the list of band names. Jake took the first one, and I took the second. Without planning it out or knowing which band names we would get, we split them up evenly. The result was that we both got some really fun easy ones (Dead Wrestler, Super Macho Tough Guy Cowboy), but neither of us escaped having to illustrate some real head scratchers (Precious Bodily Fluids/ XFERQYRAD$).
A couple days later I got an email from Jake:
"The visual pun is... liberating.
No thought whatsoever!
After knowing each other so long, it's pretty appropriate that we finally collaborate on a poster for the first time, for the Lottery League. For The Big Show of 2008's League, we drew two separate posters that had nothing to do with each other, I drew one with every participants' name, he drew one with every band name. This poster feels a lot more... in league with what the League is all about.
I think this poster actually came out really great.
The Big Show is this Saturday at the Beachland Ballroom. It promises to be a blast of epic proportions. We have a limited edition of 33 signed and numbered 17 x 28 high quality digital prints of this poster we'll be selling for $20 a piece. There are only 33, so get 'em while they're hot!