This is a set of concepts for the Palouse Choral Society summer concert. I wouldn't normally be posting these before the event, but none of these designs was selected so I'm probably safe. The theme, "A Night of Broadway and Opera", features music from classic Broadway and opera shows (making the name particularly germane).
In keeping with the aesthetic of the previous posters, I created a set of silhouette images based on recognizable icons from Broadway and opera: The mask from "The Phantom of the Opera", Brunhilda's helmet from "The Ring Cycle", and Don Quixote's helmet from "Man of La Mancha". Then I tried various colors, background elements, and arrangements hoping to hit on something unique that the clients would like.
I was a cartoonist for years. I tend to infuse most of my work with a little bit of humor because I think it makes most projects more accessible and relatable. This was, once again, my reasoning for the sunglasses in one of the concepts. I think there's a perception for some that Broadway and Opera can be stodgy and uptight and my inclusion of humor was an attempt to diffuse this perception.
Here's the thing: No matter how much I'm wedded to the use of humor in commissioned projects, it just isn't always the right approach. Sometimes it doesn't fit with the context. Sometimes it doesn't portray the feeling/vibe that clients are looking for (yeah, yeah, preposition).
I tend to think there's a line of demarcation between illustrators and artists. I think one of the main differences is that, as an illustrator, I'm hired to produce what clients want. Artists often (though not always) produce their own art without regard for the purchaser's tastes. I've made the mistake in the past of thinking of myself as just some kind of image producing machine: Clients feed their ideas in and illustration comes out. But that's pretty inaccurate. Divorcing myself from creative license just because I'm an illustrator is foolish. Clients don't just hire me because I can draw, they also hire me for my sense of design and for my ability to generate concepts. Often, a client will approach me and say, "Here's what I need, but I don't know how I want it to look yet", and then we work through it together.
Those other aspects (design sense, ability to generate concepts, artistic insight) are beneficial to clients. No doubt about it. But they can also get in the way if I'm wedded to an idea creatively and I'm advocating that idea or concept to a client when they're looking for a different direction. Recognizing what's going to be the best fit for a client and their project can be tough. Every project is different. And, as with this set of concepts, sometimes my creative inclinations lead to concepts that aren't used. The balance between my own creative impulses and a client's needs on a specific project is one that I'll likely be considering for most of my career. I can't say that I'm sorry. It's a great problem to have.
I'd like to be able to give myself advice for the future so that I'd only create concepts the clients love every single time. But, aside from "Ask lots of questions", I don't think there's a magic bullet. There will be hits and misses. But even the misses are fun (there's a Groucho Marx joke in there somewhere).