NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN poster

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Here’s a new poster for our pals at the Prince Charles Cinema over in London for their screening of one of my favorite modern movies by the mighty Coen Brothers: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. The movie screens on July 24.

I knowingly approached this poster differently than my previous ones. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is a unique movie on it’s own … there’s no music, the main characters though tied tightly by story never really meet. It’s brutal yet quite funny in parts, all wrapped in a beautiful landscape. It’s a film you need to watch several times to truly appreciate it. So I wanted this poster to have a light touch, something serene that takes cues from one of my favorite scenes near the beginning. A merging of the old west with today’s violent reality.

I started off designing a pretty standard poster, but quickly changed gears. This is also my first landscape movie poster, which took me way out of my comfort zone but ultimately was best for the concept. Here are some ridiculous sketches and conceptual. Things came together rather quickly.

I am working with Mystery Box and the Prince Charles Cinema in order to bring this poster to life through some nice screenprints. Watch this space for details as they become available.

24 Comments

  1. LucasG_Once

    Well done James. At first glance I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of your previous posters, but as I looked closely, and thought more and more about the film, I changed my mind. It is a great representation. Well done.

  2. Jamie

    Lovely stuff.

    “I knowingly approached this poster differently than my previous ones. ”
    Your style has been gradually shifting for quite a while. How did you approach this poster? Would love to see your thinking behind it/sketches.

  3. I do really like both posters for different reasons but at first glance the portrait one edges it for me. You’ve made a good choice to go landscape with your final choice and it has a brilliant understated vibe going for it but there’s something I love about the action and light on the first. It moves my eyes around the composition and the overpowering image of Javier Bardem gives weight to the piece. Did you feel it too closely resembled aspects of the original theatrical poster?

    Tough one really. Maybe it’s just the iconic image of Javier Bardem that stands out to me as I’m so accustomed to seeing actor’s faces on posters rather than true storytelling through imagery.

    Hopefully heading to London soon, would love to see this displayed!

  4. james (Author)

    Lucas, that’s actually a great reaction. Thanks man. This poster is a pretty big swing from my typical stuff and I was hoping to catch people off-guard … which is kind of how I felt watching NO COUNTRY for the first time.

    Jamie, thanks! I’ll do a few scans today and revise the post. I have some sketches right here to show.

  5. james (Author)

    Jason, you hit the nail on the head. I really liked the composition of the first one too, and it was a tough decision, but it really does resemble the official poster too closely. Check it out. Trust me, I really wanted to do that big Bardem portrait.

    I was so torn I had to enlist the help of my friends Dave and Hillary for second opinions. They gave good advice. The one I did was the more unique idea, at least from the standpoint of the official materials and composition.

  6. Yancy

    I would never guess this is your work… which isn’t a bad thing! Great to see you branching out. Maybe a bit of Olly Moss influence here?

  7. This is probably your first work that I really don’t like and I think it’s way below your usual level.
    It’s too simplistic (the smoke is just horrible) and the composition looks like it was taken from a cartoon.
    I feel the poster really doesn’t do the film justice.
    Sorry for being harsh, but that’s the way I see it. This style is not for you.

  8. Love the poster, man. The landscape orientation allows for the illusion of motion with the smoke and the riders on horseback, have those elements oppose each other creates tension as well. Awesome job of storytelling, buddy.

  9. David

    James. First of all, I think it’s rad you’re literally living your dream. You must be so stoked. And it’s all so well deserved because you’re the hardest working man in graphic design. I never comment on your work unless I have something good to say. I have to break my silence on this one. I want this to be constructive because I love your work. Unlike Leukocyt (such a frustrating name, dude. Seriously?) who’s just critical without any solutions. Ok, I think you made two mistakes but first, the positives: The detail you applied to the deputies and their horses is very nice. There are little bits too that share that same detail and visual language: the ground, the actual car itself, the trucks in the distance and Josh Brolin running away. Now here’s where I think you broke that visual language a bit—the smoke and the clouds. I would have connected more to the poster if you added more realistic detail to the smoke. Leukocyt (seriously, change your name) said it was cartoon like. Only accurate thing he said. I’m not saying get in there and go nuts like Ken Taylor or anything. But you’re such a talented illustrator. I would love to see evidence of your raw drawing skills in those KEY features in your posters—like the smoke, like the lightning in the MOTU poster. That’s the stuff, those key features, that need more attention, detail and care. And I think more drawing and scanning to capture the forms more accurately. Because as it stands, the smoke very much reflects a process in illustrator and less a combined effort of hand drawn and then using illustrator to add detail. So, a bit down the Ken Taylor route, but not much. Just enough so that the horses and the smoke are now part of the same visual language. Same goes for the clouds. They’re not very realistic, yet they’re surround by visual elements that are. All in all, that smoke could have been fantastic. But is comes off a little flat. Not the set piece it could have been. I know you were going for story in this piece, but you still have to take care of business, right? The second mistake? The font choice. Is that Neutra? I know it’s not Futura, but it still has the Wes Anderson feel. So it’s a bit more light hearted than the movie actually is. It almost gives it that dark indie comedy feel. That’s it. Sorry for the freaking novel. I just wanted to provide some constructive criticism. And you’re one of the only famous designers out there that listens to his “fans” (is that what we are?) Weird. I guess we’re fans. But you’re such a humble, talented dude and I know you listen to us. So yeah, there you go. BTW, I like the poster.

  10. I love the poster but I hate the film. Really nice composition and palette choice. :)

  11. @David

    Having trouble with the name? Seriously?

    I will not tell James what he should do with his works, because I’m in no position to do so. He’s more experienced than me and his work is very focused.

    I will, however, voice my opinion about his work, because by positing it on a blog he gives me that very opportunity. Especially that being who he is – a well known and respected artist – I expect his stuff be of a certain level of quality and this piece, in my opinion, is just not on par.

    Whether people agree with that opinion is not my concern, because it is mine to express.

    James’s work is one of the biggest sources of inspiration for me, which doesn’t mean I will praise his every piece.
    Everyone, however famous and talented, will release a weak piece every once in a while – Scott Hansen does it, Olly Moss does it, Josh Smith does it. I love their work, but they are not infallible.

    James took a risk with this one and it doesn’t work. That’s it.

  12. So simple and beautiful. Composition, colors, font… are just awesome!

  13. james (Author)

    David and Leukocyt (Pawel), feel I need to chime in.

    While I appreciate all the comments I receive, I got both of yours yesterday afternoon and here’s how it truthfully went down. Pawel, I read yours, shrugged, then continued on with whatever I was working on. David, I read yours then started looking at Ken Taylor’s work and sketching some clouds. See the difference?

    Pawel, I think you’re missing the point David was trying to make regarding constructive criticism. Let me draw a simple situation here. You’re in the computer lab at school and a classmate is working on a logo or whatever. You walk by and pause long enough to look at the logo and say “I don’t like that” and continue walking. Did you offer guidance or cite reference for improvement? Was your classmate helped at all by your saying that? If the answer is no, then you didn’t say that for their benefit, you said it to voice your opinion … which makes it about you, not them. That’s the difference, and it’s a big one.

    When you offer guidance (no matter what your experience) it opens dialogue, and that’s important. Everyone may not agree but at least there is some kind of anchor for why you feel that way. Leaving negative criticism just because you feel you have the right doesn’t help anyone.

    A design instructor told us a long time ago to always be positive, especially when your criticizing the weak parts of someone’s work. Good advice there.

    I’d normally let this stuff roll off my back as I’m no stranger to negative comments, but I feel pretty strongly about being constructive as it seems there is less and less of it happening out there, y’know? We’re all in this together.

  14. Great artwork, very simple yet has a bold feel to it.

  15. James, I really respect you and your work but intend to be an asshole in this case.

    I didn’t get the feeling that you required feedback about this poster. I got the feeling you’re showing a finished piece. And since it’s finished you obviously deemed it “good enough” and with that I disagree.

    As a general rule I do not tell people how they should do their work unless asked to. And I especially don’t feel the need to give pointers to someone with such recognizable style as you. Therefore I’m not here to offer “constructive criticism” I’m here to say whether I like the poster or not.

    I also don’t feel the need to be positive about it, because we’re not 5 and this is not a crayon picture. We are adults and we can all take a beating every once in a while.

    David didn’t provide constructive criticism. What he did is throw a few sweet lines your way and tell you that even though he thinks the poster is terrible he still likes it. And I quote “I never comment on your work unless I have something good to say”. Does it even need an additional comment.

    You say that there is less and less constructive criticism and maybe it’s true, I don’t know. What I do know, is that we have suck-ups in abundance and that is something I don’t appreciate. Criticism is not about kissing ass of the big and famous it’s about what the name suggest – criticizing.

    You want constructive criticism then you shall have it.

    The composition is unbalanced and you focus too much attention on text at the cost of the actual image. The colour scheme is muddled and in no way representative of the movie’s mood and atmosphere. Additionally, choosing black and orange in this day and age, when 3/4 of action movie posters use that combination is not a very good idea and gives people the wrong idea about the movie. The contrast between the background elements is too low making it too hard to distinguish planes.
    The smoke is too simplistic and childish which fits neither the poster nor the movie. The foreground lack details and looks like it was drawn with a black magic marker.
    You wanted to go minimalisitc with this and it’s apparent you are not comfortable with that style.

    And if someone gets offended by anything I write here it’s all the better because at least it shows they care about something enough to get offended.

    I say grow a pair and say what you really think instead of dipping everything you say in a sweet sauce.

  16. Roque

    James, first time I’ve encountered your work. Really, really like the finished product. That mix of old West imagery and the modern car is what drives it home for me.

    Don’t sweat the unconstructive comments: some people will always have trouble distinguishing between helpful and unhelpful responses.

    Anyhow, I’m curious, because everyone does it differently: what’s your approach to getting texture just the way you want it? Feel free to be very technical in your answer. Thanks in advance!

  17. Roque

    Pawel, there’s a way to not be pretend-positive and still be constructive. Suck-ups are indeed in abundance and authentic criticism is needed, but your choice of words (e.g., cartoon, crayon, magic marker, etc.) is needlessly condescending and not especially insightful, regardless of whether your point is taken.

    This is a minimalist poster and more contrast to distinguish between planes in the background seems to run against the minimalist style. The contrast after all is bold where it should be: the foreground and the properly receded background. Verisimilitude isn’t the right approach here. Regarding the palette: black, orange, and light sandy blue is neither (a) muddled, as I think it hits a fine balance of contrast and complement; nor (b) deviant from the film’s mood/atmosphere. If you watch the film, blue and gold (yes, like many of today’s action movies) is indeed a prominent pairing in many scenes, owing largely to the milieu. I’m curious what exactly is the “wrong idea” communicated by the poster’s colors. For instance, I certainly don’t see the poster and think, oh, this is going to be like the Transformers.

  18. I’m not a graphic designer or knowledgeable about that arena (other than what appeals to me vs what doesn’t) and I really like your aesthetic in this one (had a quick boo through the rest of your blog, too, and like that as well). I see what you’re saying about the mock-up with Javier Bardem, and yeah, it shares similarities with the original poster, but I think it’s an extremely powerful image and really nails the whole story in one simple, powerful punch. When I saw the final version that you’re going with via Laughing Squid, I was “wow, cool! what a great poster for that movie”, then I saw the other mock-up and was “oh, that’s even better, I hope that’s the one that’ll be available” but sigh, not. Ah well. Neat stuff. Thanks for sharing your work and your workings – I really enjoy the behind the scenes stuff with artists’ work; it makes the final decision that much more interesting, to me, if I’ve seen some of the process involved.

  19. @Roque.
    Some good points, but I have to disagree to some extend.

    The point of a minimalist style is to strip away all the unnecessary elements in order to accentuate the core idea. However this piece doesn’t really do that because a) James “hides” important elements in the background b) exposes something that is not the core focus of the movie.

    When I look at it I don’t really see that it’s a movie about psychosis, greed and violence. I see a movie about cowboys burning cars.
    The foreground is so prominent that I have to look really hard to see there’s some additional elements in the background that are not just that – background. And that is why I say the colour scheme is muddled. If the foreground was just a darker shade of that background color, or blue, or green, or any other colour that was not as contrasting, then the planes would make much more sense.

    Yes, there is a lot of orange/back in the movie, and actually I would be fine with that combination… if the background was orange. As an example a few works by Olly Moss http://ollymoss.com//media/images/o/empire.jpg http://ollymoss.com//media/images/o/The+Evil+Dead+Screen+Print+by+Olly+Moss.jpg http://ollymoss.com//media/images/o/There%20Will%20Be%20Blood.jpg

    The first 2 give a good idea of what I mean – yes, there’s high contrast, but the planes are easily distinguishable giving them proper definition. The third one does what James did… but there is nothing in the 2nd and 3rd planes that is of any vital importance.

    Perhaps my comment about the colour combination and the wrong ideas it conveys was poorly made. But I still think the combination is risky at best.

    As for my choice of words regarding the simplicity, I stand by it. Creating clouds or smoke by combining circles is a technique used in cartoons and it shouldn’t be used on a poster for such a movie.
    This is absolutely my biggest gripe about the poster. On the one hand you have a well defined silhouettes of the riders and the car, and on the other you have the simplistic smoke, clouds and mountains. There is a terrible, terrible discord of styles here.

    @James
    I was hoping that by now you would know that I only criticize your stuff if there’s something that I really don’t like and that I don’t do it just for the sake of it.

  20. james (Author)

    Pawel, it’s fine that you don’t like my poster and I wasn’t disputing you on the reasons why. I never would. However I still think the original point in my comment above was missed, man. I also noticed the tweet you wrote (the #loadofcrap one) which again wasn’t what I was trying to say.

    Criticism should be about encouragement, man. That was my point. You don’t have to be “nice” or “sweet”, just offer a bit of insight as to why you think that way and perhaps a method of improvement. That’s it. Real simple. Positive outcome.

    I truly don’t understand why there’s a disagreement here, but to each their own. If you think it helps to leave the “I don’t like it” comments on people’s art I guess that’s your prerogative. I would never tell you or anyone what to do, just wanted to offer a bit of insight through my experience.

  21. Jamie

    I like that you included Josh Brolin running off in the distance. Did you make it hard to see intentionally? Very impressed by it.

  22. This is a clean simple poster that is very well done James. I definitely see some Draplin inspiration in the typography. Which is not a bad thing that guy is an inspiration to us all. I shall be at WMCfest and look forward to meeting you in person.

  23. awesome, love the preliminary work as well!

  24. Zach Findley

    Anyone…..Where can we buy this poster??

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