Sunday, June 6, 2010

Making an Icon: The Velvet Gentleman

One of our favorite things at Playlab NYC are the wonderful graphics that Robert Ullman has been providing for us for every production.

During the last year, in which we have been working THE VELVET GENTLEMAN, we have been using Suzanne Valadon's 1893 portrait of Erik Satie. Valadon and her portrait figure predominantly in Jon Steinhagen's script so it was a natural choice.

Once the show was accepted into the Fringe this year, we got in touch with Rob and sent him a couple of different pictures of Erik Satie so that we could get started.

Our hope was to generate a graphic that represented some kind of Rob Ullman style riff on Suzanne Valadon's painting. Because Valadon's portrait of Erik Satie appears in the show as a character, our first idea was to have a graphic that suggested René Magritte's 1947 oil painting The Liberator.

Below is the first sketch Rob sent us of Satie as The Liberator.

It looked exactly the way we had imagined. Seeing it on the page, our fear was that it would be too much like our portrayal of Valadon's portrait on stage and perhaps it was too literal a take of an image for the show.

Sticking with Magritte, we pointed Rob towards The Dangerous Liaison from 1926.

The idea was that instead of the woman, it would be something like a Magritte's recurring image of the faceless man in a bowler hat , hiding his face behind the Satie portrait.

The feedback that we got when Jennifer and I passed the image to a couple of friends was that it looked like the silhouette was too similar to the portrait, and perhaps the clothing needed to be more contemporary. With Satie formally dressed in the picture, but with the man holding the picture to be in a t-shirt and jeans or possibly shorts. A more casual look.

Once we saw the sketch above we were sold. The image seemed to convey the idea of the fringe festival itself, with theater being presented on hot August New York days.

Our final request was that Rob would add a circle to the background of the figure. The other images that Rob had created for us were framed in a circle. While we didn't want the man with the portrait framed inside we were eager to keep the circle in some form.

In addition to a black and white illustration, Rob has always provided us with a color version. The color image is evocative not only the Suzanne Valadon painting but it is a wonderful contrast against the simple background.

We really do love having Rob's work on our website and marketing.

Thank you again Rob, for your all your help.

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