Krog Street Billboard Process

In November 2016, I sent one of my pizza boxes to MailChimp HQ here in Atlanta. In December 2016, they reached out about working together on one of their coveted artist billboards that are in a few places around ATL. I eagerly agreed :) Below is a glimpse at the process that I went through to create the billboard artwork. Get in touch if you have any questions! josh@joshlafayette.com


The Initial Flash of Lightning & Sketch

The only direction/restriction that MailChimp gave was that "the basic shape of our mascot Freddie's head remain intact," so I knew there needed to be a singular object there, but I couldn't decide what. I keep a small sketchbook in my back pocket at all times. Most ideas hit me like lightning, but I'm magnificently awful at keeping ideas in my head, so I jot down or sketch out ideas as soon as they hit in order to preserve them. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to draw food because the billboard would be close to Krog Street Market in Atlanta—a place that is full of delicious restaurants. One day, I started sketching out some food inside a rectangle and it hit me—A PLATE OMG IT HAS TO BE A PLATE AND EMPTY PLATE YES


Computer Sketch

I then moved to the computer to do a little tighter sketch (but not much tighter lol). I used the template provided by MailChimp and traced over a stretched-to-size pocket sketch.


Vector Sketch

Next thing's next, I did an even tighter sketch with the Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator. This allows me to get all the geometry, perspective, symmetry, etc. mathematically perfect. I think of it like using french curves and shape templates but way easier and on the computer.

Initial Color Study

I put the vector sketch into Adobe Photoshop and blocked out general color areas with the Paint Bucket tool. This lets me see if I need to move any of the food to a different spot to help the composition. Thank god that wasn't the case here—everything got to stay put lol

"Inking" the Lines

Using the vector sketch as a template, I "inked" the lines digitally, adding detail on the fly. I worked in Photoshop with Kyle T. Webster's brushes. I used an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil with Astropad connected to a Mac Book Pro. Half the time I sat at the kitchen table and the other half I sat in a rocking chair in my family's living room so I could still experience my life while working.

Flat Color

Using the initial color study as a guide, I filled flat color with the Paint Bucket in Photoshop.

B&W Testing

I make it a habit to place a Black & White adjustment layer above my colors so that I can toggle in and out of color and black and white. This helps me get the contrast right across the entire illustration. My main focus when doing this is the spread the lightest lights and darkest darks evenly across the composition.

Shadows and Highlights

To add in shadows and highlights, I make two transparent layers. I draw in black for the shadows and pure white for the highlights. I don't like to use blending modes because they are sometimes unpredictable. I just adjust the transparency until I achieve the right balance.

Plate Time Baby

I literally googled "how to render a realistic dinner plate in photoshop" and followed a tutorial using Freddie's head instead of a circle. As a professional, it's important to know how to research techniques lol

Make It Real Baby

One night after dinner, I looked at my plate and basically shouted, "AH I SHOULD TAKE A PICTURE OF THIS PLATE FOR FREDDIES' HEAD" then my partner, Lou, was like "oh you totally should" and since she agreed I knew it was a good idea so I did it.

Combining the two images didn't take anything too fancy. Basically setting the food layer to Multiply and scooting it around until it looked right.

Altogether Now

Then I plopped the two images together et voila—a real life illustration ready to send to the client.

A couple of weeks later, the billboard was up and now I screech like Jamie Lee Curtis every time I see it.

A couple of weeks later, the billboard was up and now I screech like Jamie Lee Curtis every time I see it.