Thursday, October 8, 2009

Class Time With Edel Rodriguez

Intrigued. Inspired. Impressed.

This was the collective feeling of the Emily Carr University of Art & Design students on Tuesday when Edel Rodriguez stopped by to give a presentation of his art work.

Associate professor Justin Novak welcomed Edel, VO's graphic designer Annie Mack and myself upon arrival and gave us a tour of the university grounds. We then met the class of 20 in one of the lecture rooms.

Edel had brought his macbook laptop with his portfolio in powerpoint. He began by giving a backgrounder of how he came to be an illustrator. He graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, worked as an Art Director for Time Magazine and illustrated for the likes of Newsweek, Communication Arts, Spotco and Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre.

It was after his work with the Toronto theatre, that VO had contacted him to to design this season's art work for Norma, Nixon in China, The Marriage of Figaro and Madama Butterfly.

Opening up with Madama Butterfly, Edel spoke about finding inspiration from pictures of Japanese geishas. He then went on to submit a dozen sketches to VO's Director of Marketing, Doug Tuck for feedback. The bleeding moon with Chou-Chou San's face was a hit.

For The Marriage of Figaro, Edel was surprised that the image of 2 men tucked into woman's bosom (and Edel's personal favourite), was also the preferred choice for VO. Edel had thought that we would pick choice #5 as choice #1 may have been too risque. He told the students that this just goes to prove that illustrators should never underestimate the client and should always go for it.

The concept for Nixon in China was a bit more challenging, as Edel had to find a way to blend Nixon and Mao's heads together. First came an ink drawing. The next step was rolling the red paint on, using his light table and then adding the whites.

Although all of the posters Edel designed shared bold colours and strong images, his favourite poster, hands down, is Norma. He worked with the concept of fire for the image and included pyres in his sketches. Doug loved the original burning face of Norma (top centre picture of sketches) but thought that the expression looked a little depressed, so it was tweaked a bit to what you see today.

Once the images were finalized, Annie Mack took them and reworked them to fit our VO snowboards. Edel went on to say that he was thrilled with the results. More than that, he loved the fact that the art was basically left alone; unlike other art directors who may chop up his images for their own needs.

Throughout the 2 1/2 hour session, Edel went on to share his other experiences in the industry, which included winning the bid to design the Illustration Conference poster in New York. He was also commissioned to design the logo of a flaming stratacaster for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert and illustrating the Dream Girl campaign for German Playboy magazine.

Edel even wrote and illustrated a couple of children's books.

Wrapping up the class, Edel gave some words of wisdom to the fledging artists:

* Work in a lot of different parts of the business and spread work around (magazines, books, posters. illustration vs design)
* Switching materials will change the tone of the art work, like his Che Guevara on papyrus paper
* Combine painting and digital work for versatility
* Mix up your styles so that you remain interesting and not outdated
* Learn to work fast (most of Edel's work takes him 10-15 hours to complete)

But the most important is always continue working on your own projects because that can create work in other areas that you may not have been aware of.

I'm not even an Emily Carr student but I was blown away with Edel's presentation. To be taken along the process of conception to creation and experimentation to final approval of an artist's work was nothing short of incredible. It made me so much more appreciative of how our posters came to be. This season's posters, hung up by my desk, have taken on a whole new meaning.

For more pictures, go to our Flickr.

~ Ling Chan

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