A Show of Hands 2016: Art Posters

A fairytale experience of attending the “Art of the Poster” Workshop

At the A Show of Hands 2016, International Calligraphy Conference

It's the SPARK

It’s the SPARK

I should really write this article as a fairytale, for I felt like a little girl who became spellbound upon entering the magical world of my instructors, Randall Hasson and Mark Oatis.

If I had thoroughly googled them before I signed up for their class, I would have been terrified. As it stood, I just knew I’d be in the presence of two well-knowledged and well-known artists in their respective fields.

My list for choosing The Art of the Poster was clear. I wanted to take a class that would stretch me in every direction. I didn’t want something safe. I didn’t want to add to anything I already knew. I wanted to walk into the unknown and jump in head first.

I wanted to be challenged and frightened and to overcome my fears. This class just kept “speaking to me” as no other did.

I also had very specific goals in mind. I did not want to come away after a week’s worth of class with a poster that I would then toss in the Never Again to be Seen Pile of Workshop Paraphernalia. I wanted my poster to mean something to me, and I wanted to use my poster. I also wanted to learn how to use the mysterious Showcard Brush. Watching artists on Youtube manipulating this long-bristled brush fascinated me, and I wanted to watch how Mark Oatis wielded his in wonderful ways.

Every goal was met, and then some.

We started our first day with Randall Hasson, a certified Golden Educator, showing us the many attributes of various Golden acrylic paints – High Flow, Matte and Glossy Mediums, Open acrylics, and acrylics in tubes. We painted on three different boards – encaustic, ampersand, and poster board. He showed us how to glaze, which was a technique I’d been wanting to learn for quite some time but had never truly understood.

Choosing my boards and paint, I decided to give myself permission to be free with my broad edged brush. The strokes were wide and arching, starting from the bottom of the board and going upwards, dipping into various colors, then glazing over that layer. Once that layer was dry, the brush and the paint flew over the surface once again to add more color and depth, ending with another layer of glaze. I was mesmerized by the process, forgetting time. I was in a zone where the only things that existed were my board, my paint, my brush, and the feelings that were happening in my body.

I know this might sound really strange, and it has never happened to me before, but I could feel a layer of electricity hover just above my skin. I was experiencing a level of freedom of expression like I’d never felt, and it was exhilarating.

Once we all had a feel for how acrylics work, we set out to work on our posters. I just happened to be ahead of the game, for when Randall was teaching us the techniques of acrylics on our first poster board, I already knew where I wanted to go with my design. I didn’t need to start over with another poster for my finished project. In the process of learning the techniques of acrylics, putting paint to our boards, I had done so with my goal in mind. I wasn’t painting helter skelter. As a result, I was able to move right into the lettering process on the poster.

Let me just take a break and explain that our posters were to be “Showcards.” Think of a Showcard as a smaller version of a giant billboard. Our posters, our Showcards, were to be advertisements. Our posters were to sell something. I knew from the get-go that I wanted my Showcard poster to advertise my Kerrlligraphy business, kind of like a huge business card.

Here’s where Mark Oatis stepped in. Watching him put his Showcard brush to work with all of his techniques was thrilling to me. It was what I had longed to learn, it was one of my goals, and I was standing next to a Master. After demoing with the brush, he handed it over to me, knowing I was eager to learn.

Both Randall and Mark were instrumental in my having great success in this weeklong class. Both taught me techniques that I will continue to use in my artistic endeavors and in my newfound lettering.

I talked to them. I told them about my specific dreams and goals with my poster. Both listened to me, really listened to what I had in mind and where I wanted to go. If I said, “but I don’t know how to go about it,” both said, “Great idea,” and then proceeded to help me get there. They did not make me go where they thought I should go. My ideas were validated and I was inspired to go down my path with their inspirational guidance.

Randy went through “Mind Mapping” with me at the start of my poster which guided me to the specific wording for my project. Then Mark basically gave me private lessons on how to use the Showcard brush to make the letters take shape. He was like a magician who just kept pulling tricks out of his hat.

My poster, my Showcard, took all week to accomplish. Every step took a lot of thought, a lot of help, a lot of patience, and a lot of time. I used the knowledge of acrylics I’d gain from Randy and the knowledge of the Showcard brush from Mark Oatis to accomplish my goal. I even designed the lettering for “Spark.” I had never designed my own lettering before.

There were so many techniques, that it would take another article to explain them and the processes we went through. How about Bumwad paper? It changed my life.

At the end of the week, every student participated in the Show and Share where we used the entire cafeteria to showcase our work. I was shocked when someone wanted to buy my poster! It thrilled me to think that my art reached out and touched someone in a powerful way. I couldn’t have smiled bigger.

If you ever get a chance to study from Randy or from Mark, jump on it. I’m sitting here still thankful for their humbleness yet their magnificent ways of reaching into my thoughts and guiding me into the reality of my dream.

The challenge I took in taking this class, and the fears that came with it, were worth the risk of jumping into the unknown.


by Kerr Pelto, website: Kerrlligraphy
August 31, 2016
Originally written for Carolina Lettering Arts Society (CLAS) Bulletin