From subtle surrealism to 60s psychedelia: Andrew McGranahan on his posters for Paul McCartney
The California-based graphic designer discusses the evolution of his style, from humble beginnings to designing the visuals for Sir Paul’s 2022 Glasto gig.
- Elfie Thomas
- 29 July 2022
In June, Paul McCartney made Glastonbury history when he became the oldest artist to headline the festival. To do justice to the momentous occasion, it was clear that some powerful graphics were in order. Andrew McGranahan was the man for the job. When his friend from the merch company working for McCartney asked if Andrew would help out, it was obviously a no brainer – “I immediately agreed,” he tells us. The designer is known for his knack with retro, psychedelic aesthetics, so it’s no surprise that the piece he came up with paid homage to McCartney’s glory days in the swinging 60s. Like an angelic super-being, McCartney towers above the Glastonbury’s iconic pyramid stage, which draws the eye into its centre with a mesmeric swirl of blue and pink. Medieval-inspired type and decorative embellishments complete the look with a final fantastical flourish.
With such lofty achievements in his oeuvre, it’s amusing to hear about the early days of Andrew’s career. “I’ve never been a particularly good illustrator,” he says. “So I started out working in collage (digital and hand cut) and stuck with that almost exclusively for many years.” With no formal training in design, Andrew got his first job in the industry at a winery in Modesto which took a chance on him and showed him the ropes. “It certainly wasn’t the most creative experience of my life”, he admits, “but I’m eternally grateful for how much I was able to learn on the job.”
Although he’s still partial to a bit of collage now and again, his current style is very different. “In the last couple of years I’ve figured out a way to make illustration work for me so that’s what I’ve been focusing on,” he says. For visual inspiration he looks to the likes of Milton Glaser (and Push Pin Studios), Tadanori Yokoo, Kiyoshi Awazu and Philippe Caza. “I’m also very influenced by music – naturally – and film. I’ve been on a big Tarkovsky kick lately.”
Even now, Andrew’s illustrative style oscillates a lot, with a variety of different moods and references. Take his poster for McCartney’s “Got Back” tour, for example. Completely at odds with the psychedelic boldness and crazy composition of the Glastonbury piece, this poster is quiet and contemplative. It is inspired by the work of Guy Billout, whom Andrew hails as the “master of clever and subtle surrealist illustration”. The challenge here was to come up with “a concept that he hadn’t already experimented with!” Visualising McCartney’s travelling tour in a more conceptual way, Andrew depicted Sir Paul walking Jesus-like out across the ocean, a bridge of earth building itself miraculously before his feet.
Another very different piece, which also incorporates slightly surreal themes, is Andrew’s tour poster for Hermanos Gutiérrez. Inspired by a photograph of the band, the designer imagined the duo on horseback in a desert landscape. Though the Mesoamerican-inspired figures in the landscape pay tribute to the brothers’ Ecuadorian heritage, their two-dimensional appearance and horizontal shadows make them look flimsy, as if the brothers are posing in front of a low-budget theatre set. “This helped to play up the weirdness,” says Andrew. “But, of course, the fact that the only feature on the faces are their moustaches didn’t hurt in that regard either!”
Despite the fact that Andrew takes a fresh perspective for every project and never fully constrains himself to one particular style, you can always count on him to produce lusciously vibrant works with appealing retro aesthetics, all brought to life by his magpie-like eye for spotting a good concept and running with it.
Andrew McGranahan: Paul McCartney at Glastonbury (Copyright © Andrew McGranahan, 2022)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.