Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Meet the Poster Artist

Photos of an Alaskan landscape, a window pane and an early sunrise combine to make exquisite “Magi’ poster

Cameron J. Metrejean
Cameron j. Metrejean, a student attending Northwestern Louisiana University in Natchitoches, was in rehearsal  for the college’s production of West Side Story when he first got word that he had been chosen to design a show poster for Slidell Little Theatre.

His enthusiasm quickly gave way to panic.

“Shortly after the excitement wore off I got nervous,” he said. “I suddenly had something to live up to and I had no idea what I was going to do for this poster.”

Slidell Little Theatre routinely relies on the kindness of individuals willing to freely volunteer their talents and earlier in 2013 Cameron had responded to the theatre’s call for poster artists and submitted an application with sample works.

This was not Cameron’s first show poster; he had designed posters and playbills for such shows as The Importance of Being Earnest, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.

But that didn’t calm his nerves when it came to coming up with a design idea for SLT’s production of The Gifts of the Magi.

“I quickly looked up the show and found that I had heard of this story before and a few minutes later I had an idea. That’s what half an hour of nervousness does to me,” he said.

Cameron has “dabbled in photography” for several years, but it wasn’t until he attended college that he started apply his photography to show posters.

“I got that the image would be of a wrapped gift with light shining down on it,” he said, explaining his initial conceptual process. “I wanted the poster to have a sense of being timeless, so it could work for any generation. That is why nothing you see in the picture is out of place or anachronistic aside from the red bow which purposefully stands out brighter in contrast to the rest of the picture.”

The final poster image is an amalgamation of three photos: The frosted window frame, the snowy landscape, and the table with the wrapped gift.

“The landscape picture was one I had taken myself a couple years back while in Anchorage, Alaska, back when I was still taking pictures with a pocket camera,” he said. “I had seen a beautiful gap in the clouds that emitted some wonderful looking sunlight and I had to capture it.”

The table shot proved to take a little more effort though.

“Though I’m much more savvy with Photoshop than the average person I knew I wouldn’t be able to throw too many separate elements together convincingly,” he said. “I needed natural morning light for the picture, and luckily there was a table in my dorm room right in front of a window on the side where the sun rose.”

But there was a tiny detail he still had to overcome – the table belonged to his roommate and Cameron needed to use it right where it was in order to capture the sunrise light. And to state the obvious, Cameron would be creating quite a bit of a commotion early in the morning to catch the sunlight.

Fortunately, his roommate had made plans to spend the night elsewhere and granted Cameron permission to clear the table off for his photo shoot  as long as Cameron promised to “put everything back the way it was.”

“The night before the picture I cleared off his table, dusted it off, spread one of my white bed sheets over it to serve as the likeness of a fine tablecloth, and placed the items on the table,” he explained. “The gift package was some pieces of cardboard that I had wrapped in a brown paper bag wrapped in a piece of elastic (not twine as it is able to emulate from a distance). Perhaps it was the college student in me but I had learned to be resourceful with some things.

“But the center piece package wasn’t the only gift in the picture. I couldn’t help myself and decided to throw in a little nuance to picture referencing the show. If you look closely you’ll see a hair accessory on the corner of the top book on the left side and a gold watch chain hanging out of the wooden box on the right side.”

The next morning’s shoot went as he had planned, resulting in nearly 20 photos of the tableau in varying degrees of sunlight.

Cameron eventually combined the photos of Alaska, the frosted window frame and the sun kissed gifts on the table to create the single poster for “The Gifts of the Magi.”

“It's a poster that I hope piques people's interest and prepares them for an engaging show,” he said.

Cameron is currently majoring in Performance and Directing Theatre at Northwestern State University where he has performed in West Side Story and Touched: a Neutral Mask Piece

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