With galleries closed again, and the pandemic keeping us safely indoors, 2021 is not off to the best start. However, I have been cheered by designing a poster for an art exhibition in summer which features the painting 'Spray' by Harold Williamson (1898–1972).
It has been wonderful to gaze at this joyful, care-free image while I work, looking ahead to summer with a glimmer of anticipation. While life may not be ‘normal’ for many months, simple pleasures like sunbathing and jumping into the English sea on a hot sunny day are coming.
About the exhibition
‘A Century of British Art: Bournemouth Arts Club 1920–2020’ at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum
The Bournemouth Arts Club (BAC) was formed shortly after the ending of the First World War by a group of accomplished artists to support and promote art and artists in the area. The BAC invited contemporary artists to join them for events and exhibitions and still thrives in Bournemouth today. Alongside work by well-known BAC members are works by internationally acclaimed artists including Henry Moore, John Nash, Ben Nicholson, Prunella Clough and William Crozier who inspired them.
Exhibition poster design: The client brief
Goldust Design was asked to design marketing materials to promote the exhibition, starting with the poster. Future work will include booklets, adverts, invitation, social media items and gallery interpretation, so this needed to be considered when creating the poster.
With so many fantastic works of art in the exhibition there were plenty of options for the lead image, but one of the jewels of the show is 'Spray' by Harold Williamson (1898–1972). Originally exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1940, this image is now the most popular in the Russell-Cotes's collection and the curator felt this would be the perfect image to draw visitors to the show.
Exhibition poster design: Challenges
As a sea swimmer myself, I’m a huge fan of this painting, and identify with the anticipation of the girl about to jump into the cold swirling water below. Elegantly poised, with her charming vintage red bikini and white swim hat, her arms thrown up before she takes a breath and launches from the rock, it's a magical moment. (I wish I could be so glamorous!) So lovely to think about summer sunshine and heady days by the sea as I write this in the depths of winter. This new year feels like a leap of faith, jumping into the swirling waters of 2021 and hoping to emerge smiling!
Although I have always wanted to work with this image, I found there were two challenges for making the design work.
Firstly, how to crop it? I adore working with paintings, but when designing with original art, the general rule of thumb is to avoid cropping or changing the image in any way. But as this poster is an upright A4 rectangle I needed to choose an area of image for the poster, some of it would have to be cropped. Should I include both arms, or the full length of the legs, was the tension in the shape of the body, or the sea below? Where was there space for text?
Secondly, knowing just how popular this image is, I felt pressure to not disappoint the painting's fans and create a visual image which captured the excitement of the original, while also including text with the information needed to entice potential visitors to the exhibition.
Exhibition poster design: what we did
Initially, I explored different image crops and typography. With such a glorious image, I felt the typography needed to be clean, and unfussy. I looked at sans serif mid-century fonts, such as Gill Sans and Futura, to complement the era of the painting (1940’s) and sent the curator a handful of initial poster designs.
I had a secret favourite (I always do) and was delighted to hear staff and volunteers at the museum were in agreement. On the chosen poster, the title of the exhibition is vertical, interacting with the swimmer's arm and creating tension. I kept the text white, as adding colour felt like a distraction. To increase legibility of the smaller text, I subtly darkened the rocks behind, apologising to the artist in my mind as I did.
The exhibition will be bold and beautiful, presenting 100 years of incredible art and artists. Not only showcasing glorious talent, but providing a window into a changing world. In this dark winter, let’s find something to look forward to … happiness, art and summer sunshine.
A Century of British Art: Bournemouth Arts Club 1920–2020
Coming in 2021
Russell Cotes Museum and Art Gallery
Goldust Design is working as usual during the pandemic Monday–Friday 9am–5pm