Sunday, 23 October 2011

My First Commission - Interior Design Cafe Chill

What I consider to be my first proper job was to design and create interior decorations for a new cafe in NUI Maynooth. My Brief for this job was to come up with wall hangings using a colour palette that fit a 60's/70's look.

How I came about this gig was a combination of luck and adaptability. The abridged version is Micheal Shortt, former owner of Rebel Pizza in Maynooth and currant owner of Cafe Chill which is situated directly adjacent the Student Union in the college hired Interior Designer Frances Campbell who was a friend of the family. As Fran related it to me; Micheal said he wanted the cafe to have something like wall hangings or murals reflecting the idea of being chilled out but also to be weird and different to which Fran said "oh yeah, I know someone like that". 

I had about a week to prepare something to show Micheal and Fran after my taking on the job. I hadn't met Micheal face to face at this stage, we had had a brief phone call setting up the first meeting.  First thing was to get reference material that reflected the colour palette. 

The "Casanova" covers were a big help as the story was weird and fun kinetic which is the tone I was looking for. The comic itself is great as the covers contrast the style of the story which is mostly line work with maybe on or two mono chromatic shades used. The story is amazing as well. It's written by Matt Fraction who also wrote a personal favorite of mine which was "The Immortal Iron Fist", also worth a look for the story but also the art... oh the art. The pencils, inks and colour for "Casanova" were by Gabriel Ba who coincidentally worked on another of those comics that I can read again and again, "Umbrella Academy" written by Gerard Way which I implore you to read.

The next stage was to work up a first draft. I hadn't really got a handle on what was being asked of me as thus far all I knew was the colour palette that it was called Cafe Chill and it was in the college. So from this I looked through Google images at group shots of college students. I then walked down to the college to look around. I took pictures of what I thought could work well as a backdrop to the figures.

From here I tried out a bunch of different colour combination that seemed to fit the palette.

I brought in the designs for the meeting to be reviewed by Micheal, Fran, the printer and the branding designer. Needless to say my nervousness turned to a cold pit in my stomach when the work was met with "yyyeah..." "that's the colour but..." "it's good but it's not what I'm after...". I was really lost for words. And then Micheal said the words "So what else have you got.


There was still a wild card to play. I can't remember a time when I wasn't carrying a back pack. And there's always been a sketch pad in there. I had been working on the one I had with me so there was a good spread of drawings in there.
What I knew of Micheal from our brief conversations thus far was that he liked graffiti as he used a stencil graphic of Che Guevara for the Rebel Pizza branding. There was a good chance he'd go for it.

Here are some of the ones he seemed to react to the most.

He liked the idea of the mash up stuff, the tiger Godzilla, Triceratractor and Veloso-spider and he said there was something in the character styles that he liked. From here the conversation went to the idea of taking icons of the different subjects studied in the college and giving them a 50's/70's retro twist. This was a concept I could sink my teeth into. The last thing Micheal said was that he wanted to get the humor of my sketch book across as well.

I really could not have asked for a better scenario. All the artistic guidelines of the project were basically drawn from my work.    
 A few weeks before I took on the job my girlfriend got me a tablet for the computer. I was still playing around and getting a feel for it, but I ended up doing all the sketch work digitally. I'll let the first drafts speak for themselves.

Freud and Loathing

Some of the drafts were more finished than others and just went on to become final pieces after the first attempt. These are presented in the order 

 This was the first sketch that I did and it ended up as you see it now. I wrote "Al along the watch tower" using the tablet thinking it would just be a filler until a font was decided on. Turns out Micheal liked it and said it should be used on all the designs. Mostly I thought Einstein's hair would look like Jimmy Hendricks' if he licked a battery.
So as you aw in the roughs, this one was a pretty straight forward copy and twist exercise. I wanted to work in the idea of the stencil and without the colour "Born to be Wilde" works in that vein.

This one I really liked as an idea, which meant I had to alter another piece which used the same character. To do this one I got the icon Uma Thurman from "Kill Bill" and pasted on an image of Shakespeare's head. A few modifications to the suit later and bam! Shakespeare in blood.

There was an extra element that was going to go in. I was going to draw in a warped cactus between the figures elbow and knees with the silhouette of bats flying from the background to the foreground. The piece was originally titled "So, tell me about this bat country...". The bats and cactus made the composition too crowded. The element was removed and the piece re-titled, as the joke didn't really work nearly as strongly without the actual inclusion of our furry flying friends.   

So another copy and twist. With "Kill Will" making me laugh I had to find a new fiction writer. The next name on my list was Dickens. After the rough I had to redraw Kavanagh's face to match the pose from the characters in the movie. Less was needed to get Dickens to fit.  
These last two images we commissioned After the first five. Micheal said that he wanted these two to be a pair, not part of the retro set. So this one I decided to make bright and warm as well as kinetic and physical.
So to contrast the warm and bright of the last piece, I wanted this to be dark and moody. I also wanted to it to be cerebral and static. I hadn't done anything from Philosophy yet so I typed godfather of philosophy as I was only mostly sure that it was Socrates who was given that title. I either half remembered it from "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" or an episode of "QI". 

The cafe brought in a specialty item as I was working on these and Micheal wanted it to have it's own branding done as well. It was a style of crepes had had seen while over in Japan. They were to be called Oishii Crepes. As we were talking about ideas for what image could be used I remembered an old sketch I had laying around somewhere and I emailed to Micheal to see if it might fit the bill. 

He said it was perfect but asked why the character looked so strange to which I replied "He's a cat-man". Using this as a template I drew up a new colour version.

I liked the red sun and the pink sky but it really didn't work with the green grass.

 So I changed everything everything except the sun and sky.

The last thing I was asked to do was to come up with a design for a new range of pizza that was also brought in. It was called "Wicked Pizza". Originally I was going to do these as a mash up. The ideas that were arrived at were "Werewolf Gang Mozart" which was going to be a werewolf in Elizabethan dress playing the piano. "Ann-Frankenstein's Monster" Which was going to be a girl Frankenstein's Monster hunched over a diary. I wanted to do something with a zombie but it turned out they were getting in a promotional drink that had a zombie theme and part of the contract was that no other zombie related branding or images should be used in the premises. So I was stuck on a vampire mash up when I was looking at the "Wicked Pizza" logo when I decided to try monsters doing extreme sports.

 Originally there was to be a different image for each size of pizza and I used the phases of the moon to correspond with that size. Full moon being large, medium as a 3/4 moon and a small with a 1/4 moon. In the end Micheal settled on one design for all the sizes. which was the vampire one.

 This concludes the overview of my first commission job. I hope this gives you an idea of a method for going about a project. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me, I should have a FAQ and profile worked up soon, but with college and other projects in the works I may not get around to them as quickly as I would like. Thanks for taking the time to read this and I look forward to having more to come soon.


  1. Hah, didn't know it was Cafe Chill you did these for! One of my best friends works in Rebel Pizza atm and knew Michael from when he managed there, he's been telling me about the new place but I haven't been down to it yet.


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