Visual artist Popate shares with us details about the craftsmanship that goes into designing alternative film & television posters as well as his sources of inspiration in the following interview. Enjoy the discussion and be sure to explore Popate’s art on his official website and on social media.
Alex Sitaras: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions! The first question that comes to mind relates to your alias Popate. How did you come up with the name?
Popate: Thank you for having me. I’m very grateful for this. The genesis of Popate comes from combining two words: ‘POP’ (Pop Art) and ‘ATE’ (Create).
Alex: You’re a self-taught designer and illustrator. What made you want to learn about graphic design and, in particular, what made you choose to focus on designing film and television posters?
Popate: We’re discussing this on June 7th, 2019. 9 years ago today, I finished my first Photoshop tutorial. I remember it took me about 4 hours to go through it and finish with decent output. I did it because I was curious about Photoshop. At the time, it was a term almost everyone online threw around, but nobody actually knew how it worked. I wanted to know more, so I started doing a few tutorials online. I learned the basics but eventually lost touch because I was busy with school.
I have always been a huge fan of movies, especially Hollywood films. I’m from India and English wasn’t my first language when I was a kid. Elders in my family watched Hollywood films on TV. They would laugh at all the jokes and understood all the references. I wanted to understand too. I hated not being in on the joke or worse not even understanding it. When I got my hands on broadband internet, it was a point of no return for me. I set about watching every movie on the iMDB top 250 list. This was before iMDB was bought by Amazon.
In October 2015, I started Popate as a blog and I needed a logo. So I dusted off my old skill set and made the first draft of the logo which is about the same to this day. Halfway through creating the logo, I realized that I was having fun. I didn’t feel the same thrill when I was writing blog posts, analyzing movies and their various references, editing the articles, selecting cover images, or managing the website.
So two months after I started the blog, I found myself reconsidering my objectives. It was around this time that I stumbled upon alternative movie posters on Instagram. I was fascinated with the designs and the clever ways this community online was expressing core ideas of various movies and TV Shows. It was basically what I wanted to do with Popate but expressed graphically, instead of textually. In fact, creating posters was better because I got to make something unique on top of the movies and shows I loved. And so I made my first poster on March 1st, 2016. And another one the next day. And another one the next day. And so on and so forth. I’ve made a new poster every day for 3 years, and I also make new designs every day. But they’re not always posters.
I could have become a UX designer, gone into logo design, or even branding. I had the technical skills and experience for it. I could have done those things just as well, just not as happily. Movies and shows are what gets me the most excited. To quote Guillermo Del Toro, “You can’t fuck without a boner!”
Alex: Your film posters are minimalist in style. As far as inspiration, would you say you’re influenced more by the fine arts or film poster art?
Popate: I’d say I’m inspired by a lot of different art styles. I like the work of Saul Bass, the Bauhaus art movement, modernism, vintage pulp magazines, etc. Anything that excites me will do. I find inspiration anywhere. I once found a black dust paper bin with this colorful polka dot pattern on it. That influenced the design for a Reservoir Dogs poster.
Alex: How do you decide which films and television shows to make posters of?
Popate: Usually, I just pick the movie or show I’ve recently watched or re-watched. Being a cinephile, I’m watching something every day. I frequently get requests for posters for various movies and TV shows so sometimes I’ll fulfill those requests. But the general rule for me is to pick movies and shows that I’m actually passionate about.
Alex: Can you speak a little about the creative process that goes into designing a poster? Is there a typical amount of time, from start to finish, that it takes to create a poster or does it vary?
Popate: Most times, I will come up with an original idea from scratch. I very rarely draw inspiration from the original movie poster. Sometimes, I will have an idea but I might not have the time to execute it. So, I will work on it for a few hours every day until it is done. Other times, I will go online actively seeking inspiration for the day’s poster. I never touch pen to paper unless I know exactly where it is I want to go. 90% of my time goes into research and development of good ideas.
Once I have a feasible idea that can be executed in a practical time-frame, the execution is fairly easy, often taking less than a day while coming up with ideas and research can take weeks, sometimes months. To be frank, I’m always thinking about poster ideas, constantly seeking inspiration in everyday life. From billboards to my social media feed, inspiration can come from anywhere and at any time. My job is to capture the idea, cultivate it, develop it and create the most unconventional poster I can.
Alex: And on the technical side, what programs or software do you use?
Popate: I use Adobe Illustrator with a Huion USB Pen Tablet or a mouse for my illustrations. Certain posters require Photoshop. On the printing side, I use CorelDraw.
Popate: My sense of humor is weird. I have my moments but I’m seldom intentionally funny. I do intend to incorporate more parody into my posters however. To that effect, I made three posters for Bojack Horseman. Two parodied Mad Men and the third parodied The Sopranos. I’m also working on new designs for phone cases which will soon be launched on Popate. With phone cases, I’ll get to explore funnier design concepts.
Alex: Judging from your Instagram, you’ve designed somewhere in the ballpark of 750-1,000 posters over the course of three years. Are there certain posters that come to mind as being your favorites, either to design or in how well they turned out?
Popate: Designing a poster every day is like a marathon. When you’re that invested in a creative process, it quickly becomes an obsession. Especially when you see the scale at which amazing artwork is being put online every day. There would be times when I worked hard on a poster but it didn’t turn out well. Other times, I have worked on posters with the simplest concept and execution and they work out great. “Hits”, if you will:
Is there a formula to somehow make only “hits”? No. You can certainly learn from your mistakes and experiences, but there is no one size fits all formula. Fact is, I realized, that the road to a “hit” is paved with several “flops”. That is why I strive to work on new posters every day. You never know when you might end up making that one poster that will change everything for you.
Alex: In the future, do you see yourself continuing to create digital poster art, or is there some other type of art form you’d like to pursue as well?
Popate: Currently I’m focusing on venturing into other merchandise like t-shirts, phone cases, and mugs. It’s a different design approach because you get maybe 2 seconds to convey your concept to the viewer as opposed to a poster, which people might stop and stare at for a few seconds. Three-plus years creating alternative posters, I have learned more than I ever learned in university or school. Now I do illustration, design, printing, packaging, shipping, business management, website administration, marketing, customer service, and social media, amongst other tasks. I get to wear many hats every day. In the future, I’m working on a few podcast ideas. New products and content are the next frontier for my art.