Remember that moment when you stopped thinking of festivals as modern day Woodstocks and realised what they really were: enormous parties full of diseased people in Kigus in an arena of sponsorship deals? When you wake up in a shit tent with the side of your bedroom stuck to your disgusting face with only a warm Strongbow and a dead phone to look forward to for three days in a row, it becomes increasingly apparent that you are not in Woodstock, and Jimi Hendrix is not, and never was, going to play Star Spangled Banner for you today.
Back in June 2013 London-based illustrator (and one of my personal favourites) Kyle Platts released a concertina book with Nobrow explaining that very feeling, it was called Festival Frenzy and it was at once hilarious and amazing. Upon seeing this, the good people over at The Pitchfork Review approached him to design their next magazine cover for the festival season. We caught up with Kyle to ask him about the process of doing this, and what to look out for in the sordid and all too familiar crowd he ended up drawing.
Have you ever been asked to do a magazine cover before?
I’ve done a couple now, Computer Arts took my magazine cover virginity a few years ago. The cover story was about spec-work, I drew a huge hand dangling money in front of a group of illustrators and designers – I remember being asked to edit the chin of the main character because it resembled a massive pair of balls. In hindsight maybe they were a bit much.
When did Pitchfork get in touch and what was the brief?
They got in touch at the end of May and said that they were interested in doing a festival scene for the cover of the next issue. I pretty much owe this commission to the Festival Frenzy leporello I did with Nobrow because it turns out Pitchfork have it hung up in their conference room. The brief was basically to do a Festival Frenzy type thing but more turnt up, so I set out to create an even more psychedelic interpretation of a festival.
Did you know what you were going to do straight away, or did you try a few different options?
Yeah I knew from the beginning that I wanted a stage and one of those vans where people queue up to charge their phones. Once I had placed those larger elements it was just a case of fleshing it out with characters, which was super fun. I did have a short list of requests from Pitchfork of people and objects to put in, but after that I was totally free to get weird with it. I really appreciated that freedom because it gave me the opportunity to draw things like the brain wandering around with a bindle, the girl with a Jigglypuff backpack, E.T wearing a fez, and the guy huffing smoke out of an exhaust pipe.
A lot of magazines tend to use photographic covers – do you think illustration works just as well?
It depends on the context and subject matter, for this cover I think illustration was a good choice because it is able to distill the experience of a festival in a way which photography couldn’t. Also there were so many things on this cover that you would struggle to create in a photo shoot, for example the hologram Drake would be a logistical nightmare. Michael Renaud who commissioned me actually got a bit of the cover tattooed on his arm! I love that guy!
Obviously you’ve sent us the version without any text on the cover – was that something you had to take into consideration before laying it out?
Placing the characters and objects around the template of the cover was actually the trickiest bit. I had to draw everything larger than the actual dimensions of the magazine so that I could fit more detail in them, and it took me a long time to get all the maths correct and scale up the template. Also on the last page there was a lot of text they needed to layout, so I drew them lots of bits and bobs and put them in a Photoshop file so they could place them once they had the copy.
You’ve been thrown all number of briefs in the last few years, did you learn anything new from working on a magazine cover?
Working on covers is definitely one of my favourite challenges, this one in particular is in my top ten most fun jobs of all time. I didn’t learn anything new in terms of practical skills because I have done them before but I feel like I made a development in some way when I was working on it. I created a lot of new characters and made this overall aesthetic in the image that I am really proud of and I think represents the direction my style is going in.
I swear I can spot Nick Cave on the cover – can you point out any other celebs lurking (or puking) in the background?
Yes you certainly can see Nick Cave in there wondering around with a beer and gun in his hands, stoked you spotted him! Also look out for Drake, Beyonce, Kurt Vile, School Boy Q, Grimes, E.T, Jeff Magnum, Kendrick Lamar and one of my own characters Dick Nose Van Booben Chin.