You’d be forgiven for presuming the debauchery of New Year’s Eve was a contemporary invention, but in fact this widely celebrated excuse to let loose dates back to medieval times. The Feast of Fools, illustrator Sophy Hollington explains, was a medieval New Year festival celebrated around Europe on 1 January until it was eradicated by the church in the 1600s, and it’s this day of decadence that provided ample visual inspiration for the Dropbox collaborative poster for January’s Nicer Tuesdays.
Brighton-based Sophy worked with Vancouver-based designer and visual artist JS Aurelius on the poster via Dropbox Paper, a collaborative workspace that allowed the two very different creatives to develop a concept online having never actually met. Sharing written notes, sketches, videos, photos and scans on one thread, the two hashed out their ideas and we watched excitedly as they unfolded and evolved into the brilliant final poster. This will be given away to every Nicer Tuesdays attendee on 30 January.
After being given the theme of January by It’s Nice That, Sophy kicked off by suggesting a focus on The Feast of Fools. “This was a medieval new year festival celebrated on the 1st of January around Europe until it was eradicated by the church in the 1600s. It basically involved getting wasted, dressing up as the pope, or your boss, or… a donkey.” JS said it reminded him of a Fernando Arrabal play, or a Borges poem, and picks out a section from archival descriptions of the festival where social roles are reversed and characters such as “Abbot of Unreason” and “Lord of Misrule” are named. JS also felt the theme aptly reflected the creative freedom of the project itself: “how established rituals and processes are abandoned, the usual utilitarian aims are superfluous.”
Sophy suggested combining her “relatively light and humorous approach” with JS’ “cerebral attack”, and adding text. The two then discussed how their disparate working practices might complement one another. Sophy handcuts every tiny detail of her largely black and white linocut prints. Meanwhile JS uses a broad range of processes from illustration and hand lettering to photo and digital collage. They decided to combine their two visual approaches together, with Sophy handcutting the final shapes out of lino and the duo digitally finishing with colour afterwards.
So the uploading commenced. The stream of consciousness from both designers unfurled on the Dropbox Paper feed, starting with sketches from Sophy, and 60s and 70s underground press magazines from JS. The two agreed on featuring one central illustration in the composition, a starring character to represent the festival’s outlandish personas, and early on they pick out a sketch of a jester as their potential star. JS shares experiments with collage and type, using a biblical painting called Flight into Egypt, 1493 but “drunkenly mangled into absurdity” by JS “to reflect that tradition, and the backwardness and sacrilegious nature of the whole thing”.
Refining that idea to bring the “unbridled hedonism and bawdy nature” of the festival to the visuals, the two designers looked at more psychedelic posters and pages from a magazine called Destroy All Monsters for further inspiration. Finally, the jester came to life, straddling a horse backwards, carrying a flag, and framed by his title “Lord of Misrule”. After much to-ing and fro-ing with colour combinations, textures and type layout, the final design was nailed, and handcut by Sophy before being digitally finished with flourishes of colour.
“Like Sophy, I was curious about where a pairing like ours might lead,” JS comments on the project. “Collaborating in this way lends itself to really taking risks, and trying some new things.” The final Dropbox collaborative poster will be available to everyone attending Nicer Tuesdays in January.
Dropbox Paper is a collaborative workspace that eliminates distractions that get in the way of creativity. Because you can work with all types of content – from video, to sound to code – in Paper, you and your collaborators can easily edit and discuss all aspects of your project in one centralised place.