This is one of my favorite pieces, bar none.
Years ago, when I was still doing their marketing designs, the Hanover College Theatre put on a revue of sketches, short plays and songs under the banner title, “I Have to Say I Love You.” The only caveat for the artwork: don’t use hearts, don’t do the cliches.
I tried design after design, I went to rehearsals and watched the show, but nothing was coming to me. Finally, I asked the director what his idea of the show was, because–aside from love and all the cliches–it was escaping me. “Well, I’d like to think it’s like an issue of the New Yorker.” Stories, cartoons, short pieces. The first image popped into my head. Within the week, there were approximately 40 faux New Yorker cartoons, all in various styles, from Thurber to Addams, Arno to Chast, Gorey to BEK.
This was before I had children or cats roaming my home at will.
Eventually, all of the cartoons wound up on posters, cards, even programs. There were four variant programs, each with unique artwork on the cover and throughout. We mixed and matched so that–hopefully–no two people sitting next to each other got the same artwork.
This poster is one that I’ve captioned Nightdogs. It’s Edward Hopper’s famous Nighthawks painting as James Thurber might have redrawn it, albeit with a lot more chiaroscuro than Thurber would’ve used. A lot more.
Of course, that was the challenge, balancing the Thurber dogs with the Hopper style and staying as true to each as possible.
There are a couple of small in-jokes, too. If you look at the sign over the window, you’ll see the phrase, “My Diner and Welcome to It,” which refers to the celebrated 1969 sitcom My World and Welcome To It, adapted from Thurber’s writing. (You can see some of the show here if you’re curious.)
There’s also a reference in the sign to Thurber and Hopper as well as Charles Schulz, who acknowledged Thurber as an influence. If you look really closely, you might even spot where that influence went…
What did this image have to do with the show? Not much by itself. But as part of a larger campaign–with twelve different poster designs, six different flyers and four different programs–it set the mood. You were going to see something like an issue of the New Yorker unfold on stage. Some of the cartoons had more to do with the specific theme of love than others–and I do plan to share some of those later.
But this one’s my favorite of all.