Join James White for an in-depth discussion in this video In depth: Alternative movie poster for Jaws, part of The Creative Spark: James White, Visual Artist and Designer.
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So, yeah, the Jaws poster. This was something that was initially meant to be for another project but I got really excited about the the concept right off the bat. Which is something dangerous, you should never fall in love with your first concepts. But I drew this up actually over the Christmas holidays just this last December. And, Jaws is one of my favorite movies, like of all time, and it's, has one of the most iconic posters of all time. So trying to re-imagine and capture like, the atmosphere of that sort of a movie that means so much to you is extremely difficult.
So, I knew that I wanted to do something that was my own, but I knew I wanted it kind of be reflective of the the original poster at the time. So what I came up with was kind of a concept that was kind of the mirror image of the original Jaws poster. So the shape of the shark is in my poster the mimiced by the shape of the the boat. And it kind of turns the tables on the shark in the movie where the the victim, or who's being hunted, is the actual shark. And not the the swimmer, the lady kind of thing. So I wanted them to line up the same.
I wanted the the horizon line to be the same. And that's pretty much the concept that, that I came up with. And it still fit with the theme and the atmosphere of the movie. And kind of has the the book, the Orca and the crew and that kind of stuff. Before I come up with a concept or whatever, I always try to sit myself in front of the movie itself to try to capture that atmosphere and the theme and the characters, and that kind of thing. So, watching the movie with my sketchbook sitting in front of me is typically how I, how I go about doing these things. While I'm doing that, I kind of have my iPad open in front of me and I'll be researching a lot of the materials from back in the day.
Like a lot of the posters, a lot of like alternative posters that were released in, like Poland and Japan, because typically they have different movie posters than we have. And yeah, just trying to capture what, what the marketing was trying to achieve at the time but in my own kind of unique way. After gathering all the references, I've said that's when I really start doing my finalized, kind of rough thumbnails. Doodling different combinations of what the elements might look like, the different combinations the, the composition and what the what the general aesthetic is going to look like. And after that, like I'll do, I'll do a sketch and sometimes it'll take me one or two thumbnails and sometimes, it'll take me you know, 40, in order to kind of nail down what that exact concept is going to be.
And I always try to take my thumbnails to the next step or the next level, in terms of adding some shadings, so I know where lighting is going to be and, and that kind of stuff. Just so it takes some guesswork out of working on the computer. After taking taking the sketch to a point where I think it's, it's good or it's going to be, it's going to help me kind of capture what the concept is going to be. I'll scan it in, and I'll do a really rough kind of color composite of what, where the colors might land, what they might be, what the lighting is going to look like, and that kind of thing. And here we can see my, my original sketch, colored up really, really rough, alongside the original movie poster, so I can make sure that the boat lines up with the shark and, you know, the shark fin lines up with the, the girl's arm and that kind of thing.
And this really is a work in progress, because this one kind of mimics the colors of the original poster, but as I progress I start experimenting with color and making things lighter and darker. So I'm never ever stapled down to that one image that I have in my head. I mean the overall composition will stay the same throughout. But a lot of the effects, a lot of the lighting, a lot of the shadow, a lot of the texture, all that stuff will change as I go because I'm constantly kind of morphing things into making it more unique and more my own. And it's fun, this is like one of the most fun parts of the process actually, because it's before I actually start building it.
It's like mapping out the blue prints to the house before you start hammering in nails. Right? So this is like my rough guide that I can use to kind of figure out where I want to go after this. And it's really fun, it's really fun to build up these little kind of extended thumbnails of what this thing might look like. And I, I experiment with with color as well. Well, I can just switch over, again this isn't Photoshop, but sometimes I'll experiment with different color palettes to see what might work well. So, I'm thinking well, what if it was like the sunset shot, when they're chasing the, chasing the shark when it had the barrel strapped to him and stuff.
And it's like well what, what would the sunset looks like? That'll influence all the color palette, it'll influence what the water looks like What the waves look like, the reflections, like the shadows of lighting, everything and it completely kind of swung the poster in a completely different direction. You know, and I can do these things really quick. Like that's just a water texture I'm throwing in the background in Photoshop, and then you know a big circle representing the sun and some extra, extra lighting and texture and stuff. But doing this stuff kind of, I may not use this stuff but it's worth spending you know, the 20 minutes putting it together just to see these different alternate directions that I might be able to go, go in.
A lot of my process is through,experimentation, I don't, I know kind of where I want to end up at the end, but I'm never ever. I try not to let myself get stapled down to one idea. So I kind of try a bunch of different things to see what's going to work. Now, the color scheme I ended up going with was a result of actually doing the vectors. So, after I've done my thumbnails, and I think I've got a color palette that that I think might work, I'll start building the vectors in Illustrator. So, here's what my vectors, ended up looking like. And as you can see, the color palette swung again differently.
This is kind of a combination of the two, I wanted, I like the the idea of having the orange and this green color. And I thought they worked really well with the colors in the boat, and that kind of thing. So, it was kind of a combination of the two. And while I'm building these vectors, I'm also still looking for a lot of reference material, as well. So like I'm experimenting with my colors, but this is where all of this reference material comes into play. So when I start building the vectors, and this is in Illustrator, again I try to line it up as well as I can with the thumbnail. But of course the thumbnail is so rough and it's just devoid of a lot of detail.
But I have to kind of do a lot of research and use, pull from this reference material while keeping kind of my, my overall composition intact. So building a lot of these vector things, adding ladders, adding little barrels and seats and doors, and that kind of thing, and building every single shape by hand. So, I'll just select it all so you can see. All of the the bezier points, and it's super loose at the beginning, because I want it to kind of get everything in place so it looks like it. And I don't want to spend a lot of time noodling around with the detail. And I'll zoom in. You can see, some of these points don't really line up all that well.
Like the the floorboards kind of don't match up and the, the muffler pipe thing actually looks pretty sloppy. And I'll go in for a second phase. And do another pass and line up every single bezier point with every corner. So everything will be lined up perfectly and it'll be an actual like, model kind of thing. It'll be flat of course, and all the shapes would still be flat on a two-dimensional plane, but everything will line up and I can get it to look like it's actually on a three-dimensional plane. And I don't know 3D, I'm not a 3D guy. So I have to do my best to kind of fake it in Illustrator as much as I can using trickery.
But but yeah, that's pretty much how I go through building the vectors. And what I've found in building posters, whether it's it's boats or trains or cars or characters, or whatever, the longer that I spend in Illustrator. Like noodling around with those little details, ultimately the better the product on the other end. Because, after I'm, I'm finished building these vectors, I go into Photoshop, and that's where I add all of my lighting and all of my texture and all of my brush work, and all that kind of stuff. And if I get all of that detail in Illustrator to begin with, it just amps up the interest and the life on the, on the other end.
So there's more things that I can add lighting to, and it just amps up the the believability of it I guess. So, when I'm, when I'm done doing these vectors and I get them kind of to a place where I think I want to start experimenting with what that final poster might look like. Now this is, I'll flip back over to Photoshop. And what I'm doing now is, I actually took those unfinished vectors into Photoshop and I started doing some paint test to see what the style of the final poster might look like. Because, even though I'm still building the the vectors and I have kind of an idea of what I want to do at the other end.
It's still, there's still a little bit of mystery as to what it exactly it will look like. So, taking a break from doing the vectors about midway through and moving over to Photoshop and starting to rough in what the brushwork might look like, kind of gives me a window into what it might look like when it's finished. Or end something I can actually chase. Like if really like how you know, the roof looks with this color pallete, I might say okay when I'm done building my vectors and I move into Photoshop, that's the kind of thing that I want to chase. Like, that's the kind of effect, and I'll have all my layers already built in the test, so I can know exactly what overlay I used and what opacity and what brush, and all that stuff.
So it'll kind of give me a window and kind of guide me into kind of achieving that final, what that final might look like. These are the straight vectors, like right from Illustrator. Now what I typically like to do is, I don't like kind of flat planes in my, in my final artwork. I like there to be a little bit of interest in there, a little bit of brush work, a little bit of shading. A little bit of grit kind of thing so they don't look like just straight up vectors. Because vectors look very smooth and they just, not, not a lot of interest or dimension to it typically. So I like to add my my texture in there to kind of take those vectors and beat the crap out of them, a little bit, to make them a little bit more interesting.
Now let's say we want to add a little bit of interest to that roof up there, this orange plane. So I'll just take my Magic Wand tool and just select the theorange plane up at the top, really simply and really roughly because this is just the the loose vectors anyway. I'll go into my layer that's labeled Darks. And I have it set at Softlight at about 56%. Then I have a dry brush, like a, a standard kind of templated Brush tool that I use. And I'll select Black. Again, I have this set on 56%, putting the brush at a little bit of an angle.
I'll reverse it there, and then just kind of going in and playing with a little bit of the shading and putting that brush on there. So, you can see, it adds a little bit more interest to the to the roof spot. It gives it a little bit of shadow, a little bit of highlight, a little bit of texture, that kind of thing. I'm the kind of artist that I like, I like layers, I like putting like shading on top of shading, kind of thing to add a little bit more a little bit of extra dimension. So, I have another layer that's just called Super Darks, and it's set to the blending mode is overlay at about 58%. And I'll use the same brush, just set to black, and again I'll just go in and add a couple more dabs onto that to give it a little bit more added dimension, just so the roof looks a little bit better, a little bit more.
It looks like something that might have been painted using, using you know, your hand and a, and a real brush or something. So again, we'll we'll do the same process, just going into the the decking. And what I'll do, is I'll select all the Deck. And it's going to select a couple of other elements. So I'll just deselect some of those. So now we have the deck selected, and I'm going to go into those exact same layers that I was on before. So I'll just put in some darks, and typically I have light coming from this direction. It's just a preference, I don't know why. So we're going to have the light coming from this direction here. So, this wall on this side of the boat is going to be casting a little bit of shadow in there.
So let's go in and put a little bit of shading on the deck. Let's give it a little bit more interest over here. And then I'll go into again my other level of darks and add a little bit more, just to give it a little bit more interest over there. So that's what we end up looking like. So we add, now it looks like that deck has kind of sunken into the boat. So it's getting a little bit, a little bit more dimension added to it. Now again, what I like to do is, I add my shading and stuff, but I also like to add highlights. I have a layer that's labeled Lights, and it's set to blending mode as overlay at about 37%.
Not too crazy, just something to add a little bit of highlight on to the onto the boat. So what I'll do, is I'll go back into my boat layer and I'll select that roof again, because that was fun to, that was fun to work on. So I'll just select this side of the, the the roof again, we have the light coming from this way. Go up to my lights, and I'll just throw a couple of little brushstrokes on there. It's pretty subtle, but it's something that adds a little bit more interest. So again, it covers up that little flat edge of the of the vector that that I typically don't like. I don't like any flat edges.
So again, what I'm going to do, I'm going to do the the side of the the boat here, because this adds quite a bit of dimension. So, I'll select kind of the side, this brown area here. I'll go into my darks, and exact same process, select my, my dry brush. Now the lighting is coming from this way, so we're going to get a little bit of a shadow cast on this side of the boat over here. So let's put a little bit, little bit of brush work over there. Make it look like just a little bit of a shadow over there. Keeping it selected, I can go into my light level, select white.
That actually adds some brush work to the side, because the sun would be hitting the side of it. We can actually go as far as like, going real crazy with it on the back, just add. The more kind of texture that I add, the more I tend to like it, because it just looks a little bit more real. Then then just some some flat vectors. So you can see like the boat is starting to come to life a little bit. And I keep it pretty loose. I don't go for the I don't go crazy with filling entire areas of shadow and stuff. I like texture, I like things that kind of look real, that might mimic wood, or something that's worn out, or, or any of that kind of stuff.
This project is is a little bit of a unique one, in that I'm not really 100% sure what it's going to look like on the other end. Because this has me exploring a couple of different methods of creating it. A couple different processes that I've never done before. and I'll just show you this one. What I did with this kind of color mockup is I took my original vectors that I showed you earlier and I popped it into Adobe Ideas. They're, they're a little iPad app that's that they use for artists can use it for sketching, and that kind of thing.
It's a great little app, and I didn't actually start using it until recently. But I poped my original vectors into that app, and I k, I just kind of hand drew right over top of it. And I put in some dark outlines, and I really liked the, the added kind of dimension that it gave, because I'm not one for adding a lot of outlines to my work. That's kind of like I don't know, a cartoony thing or whatever. But I started doing the outlines on this, and even though it's super rough and super sloppy. I really liked kind of the aesthetic that, that it brought about. So, and then, this was on a whim, like I did this in five minutes before dinner one night and I liked it.
And I went, uh-oh, you know, now, now I've gotta figure out how I'm going to do this for real, you know, as a, as a professional Illustrator. And I had no idea how I'm going to get my outlines to not look static. You know, I might have to redraw the entire boat in, like my sketchbook, in my big sketchbook, in large format using pen and ink, and then scan in that, and then overlay it over top of my vectors and my texture, and my, my lighting and all of that stuff. And then have the, the overlap, the outlines overlaid on top of it.
I really have no idea. And that's what's so exciting about this project in particular is that, the more things that I try, the more things I'm, I'm enjoying about it. And the more scared I'm getting, because I don't know how the heck am going to do half of this stuff. But that's part of you know, being an artist is the journey. You know, like trying to figure out how this thing is going to come together and it's exciting. It's exciting and weird and scary and great.