A Tale of 2 Beard Posters

I’ve often found that when I create work, the process falls into one of two categories: the Flash or the Fog. I’m sure it’s pretty typical of most creatives. A project gets solved in a bold bolt of inspiration, or it stews in a vague form until something finally clicks. The Misprint Beard & Moustache Competition posters for our 4th and 5th anniversaries fall into those two categories. For 2010’s 4th annual poster, the idea of a dude with a huge beard populated with a bunch of random stuff came to me quickly. I sketched it out and then in one late night created the entire poster. It was an exhilarating moment. The process for 2011’s 5th annual poster, however, was one of the lowest points of my career and almost proved (in my mind) that I was probably a hack. MORE+

Let me just state right now, we are talking about beard contest posters. This isn’t rocket science. It’s not even algebra II. But for whatever reason, this year’s beard contest poster formed a mental block in my mind. Maybe I was just tired of doing beard art. Maybe there was way too much other stuff orbiting in my life. Maybe I was in fact a hack.

I’m an avid sketcher, and over a period of two weeks with the event fast approaching I tried to solve the problem. My initial, hazy thought for the artwork was something architectural. It was our 5th year, a big deal. Sometimes I overthink design, and my initial explorations of architectural forms, Masonic ascension, large cart mammals, and military monuments was an obvious false start after a few days.

Then, my first inspiration hit me. Imagine, if you will, a dude with a huge beard with helium balloons tied to it. The balloons lift up his beard to reveal a smattering of gnarly and stupid neck tattoos underneath. Seemed legit to me. So I went full speed ahead and generated a more polished vector sketch. I could tell right away this was a shit idea. But it was the only idea I had, so I kept refining it. Maybe he only needed one balloon? I just couldn’t let this concept go, because otherwise I had nothing but failure.

Like any bad relationship, I finally let the stupid beardo balloon guy go. It was like starting over, and all of my sketches after that failed concept seemed to be desperate retreads of things I already hated. One evening, dejected, I went to my gym. While I was there doing gym stuff I noticed a guy walk by who was wearing a shirt with a giant stylized “3” on it. In that moment, what was to become the 2011 poster art materialized in my head. I sketched it in my mind during endless rope reps, and when I got back home I sketched it out properly. A late night later I had a finished poster that’s among my favorites.

I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t go to the gym that night. Or if I wasn’t in the right frame of mind and glossed right over that guy’s shirt. My hope is that something else would have struck me, and in a parallel world I would have an equally good poster. I think the takeaway from this experience is that you always have to be prepared, at any given moment, to be mentally fit enough to see what’s happening around you, process it, and, if it makes sense, put it into your work. Unfortunately the 6th annual beard contest is happening in February of 2012.