Miles Tsang

Current project:



Every Time I Die @ The Opera House

Hey there.

I'm Miles Tsang and I've dabbled in posters for a few years but I almost always create in total seclusion so all forms of honest feedback are welcome. Getting real advice and opinions are my motives for doing this, so please humour me if this project gets to you in any way.

The job I've decided to go for for this class is Every Time I Die. I've loved them since high school around when Gutter Phenomenon came out and taught me that metal could be weird but fun while still being hard as hell. They'll be hitting my hometown of Toronto on March 6th, 2013 at the Opera House. I've established a working relationship with the promoter Inertia Entertainment, so after this project is finalized and approved, these posters will be hand-printed by me, the band will get their complimentary commemorative cut, and most will be sold as merch at the performance. I'll be selling the remainder online after the show.

I fucking love this band so I hope their fans and them will connect with it when they see it.

Ctrl/⌘ + Click [ Every Time I Die: Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space ]

Their most recent album was released about a year ago in March of 2012: Ex Lives.

O v e r v i e w

Ctrl/⌘ + Click [ Every Time I Die : Ebolarama ]

Every Time I Die have been together for 14 years as of this writing which is crazily respectable for an off-kilter, hyper-aggressive band that has never really neatly courted the mainstream. To me, a lot of what characterizes their sound has to do with their surreal stories and sometimes downright hilarious lyrics, hardcore punk and southern/groove metal riffs, and a really specific sort of confident urgency that's present in every song. So without getting into detailed research, that's how I feel about this band and that vibe is what will be framing this poster.

Guitarist Jordan Buckley right as he fell on top of me in the mosh pit during a concert circa 2008. Good times.

R e s e a r c h

"Every Time I Die have never been an easy act to categorize and that’s one of the key reasons why the band’s fans have never turned their back on this innovative act’s unique brand of music. While the band started out in the late ’90s hardcore scene, over the past decade they’ve continued to evolve and push the boundaries of heavy music, a process that’s culminating with their sixth full-length Ex Lives…"

Interview: Every Time I Die on Ex Lives, Underwater Bimbos, Warped Tour, and more.
Playlist: The Making of Ex Lives (7 short videos).

"This bands work ethic, unique blend of southern rock and technical “noise core” along with their contagious personalities; which are teeming with cynical humor and a refreshing lightheartedness have helped Every Time I Die amass a fan base of all ages across the country. Their indefinable musical compositions cater to enthusiasts of hardcore, metal, emo, and rock and roll alike without compromising its sincerity or energy. Their live performances are an emotional catharsis as well as an inspiring interaction between the band and their audience. But more so, it shows what happens when a group of five individuals dedicate their lives to their craft."

How their shows start.
How their shows end.

I n s p i r a t i o n

Interview: Every Time I Die at Big Day Out 2013
Like Andy discusses (at around 3:00), inspiration can and should be allowed to come from unexpected places. He can't skate anymore, so he watches skate videos, and he channels that physical want into his art, which is crafting disgustingly dirty guitar riffs. By that same token, I can't play music, but it's one of the few things in life that's kept me connected to people, to places, and to moments in time. So I channel that understanding and need to express it into posters that honour their source. In fact, the first sketches below were drawn under a dim dive bar light while at a Gojira concert. Sometimes inspiration is as easy as being open to being weird.

Ctrl/⌘ + Click [ Every Time I Die : Partying Is Such A Sweet Sorrow ]

Now that that's out of my system, here are some illustrators' specific pieces that I've admired for a while that possess the level of designed professionalism and illustrative refinement that I aspire towards. My posters are super figurative and kind of literal (though I'm working on that), so these are the images and influences I tend to be drawn to. These images serve as inspiration, not references...

Rich Kelly's Circa Survive 2010 Cleveland poster. I love the way all the elements are arranged. Everything is constructed, but because of careful positioning and rendering, there's a pleasant rhyme and reason to everything happening in the image, even though it doesn't make a whole lot of super-literal sense (Circa Survive Snake Swing get points for alliteration. And it looks awesome so whatever). His sense of shape is something I'd like to pick up when the time comes to include more disparate elements. I'm not great at that. Kelly also has a very subtle and specific colour palette that's composed of a lot of velvety, murky greens and greyed-out sepias. This gives his stuff a really measured and calculated atmosphere, which is great.

Gary McGarvey's Bjork poster for Bestival. This is a cool example to me of the vibe you get from a minimal color palette as well as an illustration style that leans more towards the broad, but well-aimed polish of graphic design and less towards detail and the figure, even though this wouldn't make sense without them. I also adore the glittery textures and bold, but sweet typography, which I think fits amazingly with Bjork's quirky but otherwordly identity. I also love the rendering of the background and environment. Another thing I could try for.

Vania Zouravliov. Here's an example of something that isn't concerned with type, but it takes symmetry to an exponential level. The top and bottom figures take up smilar spaces visually, even though rendering details differ. It's interesting beyond just being an insane illustration from an insane designer masquerading as an fine artist-illustrator.

 Sergio Toppi. Anything by this man is crazy inspiring on so many levels, although I'm most drawn to his ability to play with positive and negative space relationships, like a more detail-oriented Mike Mignola. He handles all his vignettes like paintings; you can see variations in shape, texture, line, concentrations of light versus dark within designated zones that could as easily have been gestured as they were designed.

James Flames. An insane contemporary poster artist who goes to crazily creative lengths to get striking, beautiful works. Check out how he got reference to create the background elements. He can draw like a beast, too. His lines are very distinct and I think he draws all of his own transparencies by hand. Achingly gorgeous hand-craftiness.

F i r s t    S k e t c h e s

Ctrl/ + Click [ Every Time I Die : The New Black ]

Starting off by kind of free-versing with figures and gestures and starting to doodle out type samples to see if anything interesting happens. Just getting some bad drawing and baby ideas out of my head. Throwing lots of loose, random stuff against the proverbial wall to see if any shit sticks. I'm a literal person with an affinity for detail, so things will start looking solid, but only after the semi-composite stage...

Type doodles. I don't really expect to implement these in the final design, but I'm finding that it's good to hand-draw your type to get a personable aesthetic. Auto-loading fonts may be cost-effective, but if you're into details, they can sometimes make the poster feel more manufactured than crafted. Which could totally play into the concept of the idea if that's what it's about. But this band already has a great logo and a distinct energy. These are my first forays into playing with those.

Some people use word associations. I'm not different, but I doodle the idea out as chickenscratch because that helps me see how the idea can be expressed visually. Here we have a doodle inspired by The Prestige wherein (spoiler alert) every time Hugh Jackman pulls off the ultimate magic trick, he dies. Another of Keith Buckley just posing and drinking. And a dead man drinking whiskey.

A slightly more detailed thumbnail set. The top left is the band in profile, rocking out in a spread-style composition. The next is an almost Horkey-esque decorative snake design since I associate them so heavily with dirty southern stuff of which rattlesnakes aptly symbolize. And then there's the man getting blown away by something out of frame. What's important to grasp there is that a phoenix is coming out of him. So he can die again. I don't know. Just spitballing, here.

I used to love drawing dinosaurs as a kid and when I was starting out in posters, one of my default go-to's for a quick concept was to switch the head of a member with some sort of animal. Some kind of totemistic force that would be singular and powerful and expressive of how I felt about the band's sound. Simple concept that people can connect with quickly. Like this, this, or this for example. So here's Every Time I Die; I imagine a rock and roll raptor doing rowdy rock and roll raptor stuff. This has already been done by guitarist Jordan Buckley himself, but I could definitely put my own sinister and sharp spin on the idea..

Taking the ornate snake idea little further.

Wrote the concepts out in long hand. Being forced to communicate with words definitely helped me feel out the weaker images. If you can think from multiple angles, it's easier to see which ideas have endurance.

Hoping to refine my ideas over the next few days to perhaps be less literal, or compositionally more well-designed using advice from Module #2. Aiming to have at least another round of well-defined ideas or sketches by the end of the weekend. I know I have a decent handle on my specific style of illustration but I also know that I need to marry that with improved type or an enhanced sense of nuanced atmosphere and/or composition to push things to another level.

My tardiness with solid progress is because I've been busy putting this sucker together. I'll finish up the copy for this and add references and better sketches shortly...

R e f e r e n c e

Now that I've sort of decided to hone in on the dinosaur idea since everyone seems to gravitate towards it, I can zero in on specific photos from around the Internet to that can help with the illustration. I can analyze these and get ideas for lighting and form, which will in turn help me figure out how these figures are going to fill out the space.

S e c o n d   S k e t c h e s

Ctrl/ + Click [ Every Time I Die : Easy Tiger ]

Went kind of crazy brainstorming different ways to lay the type out. It's tricky because the band's name has to be super-legible but I still want to do something to it to kind of leave my mark on it. And it has to fit with the illustration so it can't take up too much space in the final. Also did a sketch from the photo in the Research body. The ideas come easier if I make drawing and details fun. Personally, playing fast and loose wih lines and anatomy with lots of colours helps me do this. It's a fun warm up and a good barometer for the amount of clarity that has to happen in the coming drafts.


  • Right: A part of me wanted to do something relating to the first line off their most recent album : "I want to be dead with my friends", which led to me thinking of maybe doing some figures bursting through a house. Deciding that that was for the birds, I went with a glass window, thinking it'd be easier but impressive once textures were mapped in. Tried working the type into the illustration more in a hand-lettered style. I'd have to wrestle with polished versions of those letterforms in Illustrator later if I went with this.

  • Left: Trying out a composition with a lot of type coverage. A little too loose for my taste, though I might use the figure..

Vertical Sketches (going clockwise starting at the top right)

  • Top right: the original raptor sketch, shrunken down and taken a  bit farther with type and composition. I'm enjoying the type layout on this; it reminds me of a Japanese billboard. Not too hot about the fact that I didn't even noticed that both of ETID's guitar players are rightys. Whoops. Can easily mirror later. Even though that dissimilarity does open the illustration up to the possibility of future art prints. Maybe.

  • Bottom right: Seeing how this might look with two figures. The composition is a little stiff because it adheres to a grid with specific points of interest. Not sure how well it's working, but you can tell they're two raptor people jamming. Also trying some weird psychedelic-inspired type with the date written in long-hand. Subjectively, I enjoy it but objectively, I think the other sketches are more stimulating.

  • Bottom left: This one has the most apparent and eye-catching movement. Went back to one to see if it would be more impactful with radial lines that converge on the center. I forget what facet of Russian Constructivism that is, but that's where that comes from I think. The type is inspired by Chinese signature chops.

  • Top left: The gang's all here! Tried to mash all five members as dinosaurs into one composition. It was tricky since I had to scale it down in my already not-too-large moleskin but it gives me something to work off of. This might work if I can figure out how I'm going to render that many figures in the time I have. Also, the type is too disorganized for my taste; I'll have to think about gridding that up when I get a better handle on how everyone will be placed. If this one is the one.

S e m i - C o m p o s i t e

Ctrl/ + Click [ Every Time I Die : A Typical Miracle ]

A collage made up of the preceding sketches. Though all of the figures are subject to alteration, this is how I'd like the space to be divided. Gave the frame of reference a little tilt to add dynamism. I feel like the background should be hints of stage equipment with strobe-like flashes illuminating them along the gridlines I have set up in Photoshop. This will be the skeleton for the final.

The image was then desaturated and the levels tweaked to eliminate confusing greys. It was then printed out on inkjet paper, sealed with matte spray, and painted and drawn upon before being scanned into the computer again. I'll do this as many times as is necessary, sometimes adding digital tweaks in between scan-and-prints. The endgame here will be to get a purely black and white image that can then be retraced in Illustrator.

Playing with some traditional textures that are just there to help me feel out the movement. Also began tightening up the two figures closest to the viewer and piecing in the two farther figures. Gonna draw the bassist jumping in the top right quadrant soon. Concurrently starting to piece the type together as well as think about background elements. Also, not sure how personalized I want these dinosaurs to look. I'm definitely going to attempt to replicate their tattoos where I can, but should I put handlebars on the Andy-Williams-Rex? These are the important questions...

Continuing to tighten up structure and details on the figure. Tweaked the placement of everything in Photoshop a little to give things more space, balance and a better flow. I also cut the crap and spliced in some Photoshopped elements that I'd have a hard time drawing raw from my brain such a the banjo. I enjoy all the cords on the floor; reminds me of a cramped stage.

Tightened things up. One more rotoscope-inkjet process ought to do it..

This week has been terrible to my workflow, which is why this project has taken so long to progress. Losing to wacom pens, having appointments at all hours of the week (for free because I'm Canadian, so I'm not complaining), and moving for the third time in five months just has a way of stunting one's productivity. Shown here is the finalized semi-composite.

F i n a l

Seen here is an in-progress shot of the re-tracing stage. I liken it to old school rubylithe cutting. Just as pain-staking since I take it upon myself to chise and slice out every shape manually instead of simply scanning a high-resolution file that was imported into the computer. After the traditional skeleton of the semi-comp is laid, I like to deploy the flexibility and speed of digital imaging.

Oh, also I uploaded a quick color /texture study to Instagram and Jordan approves. So that's pretty great!

Printed out the finalized key art and filled in a shade layer using traditional microns. Though I recognize the economy and efficiency of digital, I find that my lines come out much more fluidly by pen and paper. The red was then re-traced.

After the colour and the shape happened, I dealt with the type. Giving the composition more room to breathe meant pushing the type block to the left. This kind of disrupts the original grid I had set up, but I like to think it helps to establish a new flow. Mostly everything is well-placed and evenly spaced apart. I inverted it on the inkjet printout just to see how it would look in blue. Not a huge fan..

Time constraints and my inability to find a fitting font led me to scrappig together letterforms of my own. These are composed of lines and corners that echo other parts of the picture, thrown together with the aid of the shape builder tool.

There were a lot of little steps leading up to this final image. Added texture in the background to give it vibrancy and motion. Consolidated the design into two colours on a hypothetical light whipped cream ground. Masked out both layers, trapped the red under the black, and messed around with lightly painting out sections from both before halftoning everything once.

P r i n t i n g

Still here? Nice. Here are a few pictures I snapped during the prep stage for screenprinting.

I'll be selling my own copies to folks who pop by my booth at Flatstock 2013 first, which, as of this post-signing-and-numbering-until-2AM writing, will be around this time next week. The ones that are left will be released through Big Cartel. Thanks for looking!


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