We Danced Together
“Pain is just a french word for bread.”
The Illustration-series ›We Danced Together‹ is about a mysterious conflict between two individuals, their passion and a tragic dance with the death on the roofs of New York City.
Inspired by modern dancing, my passion for illustrations of the 60’s, british (rock)music, action movies of the 70’s and 80’s and my deep affection for handwritten typography, I decided to create a set of 8 lobby cards.
Title: ›We Danced Together‹
Status: university project
Medium: lobby cards
Tech. spec.: giclée prints,
355 × 278 mm
University: HBK Braunschweig
Mentoring: Prof. Ulrike Stoltz, Juliane Wenzl
Layout: Klaas van Kreis
Fonts: ITC Franklin Gothic
Illustrations: Klaas van Kreis
I created an entire fictitious cast for this project, so that I actually had some names to appear in the billing block – including the movie director, actors, producers, d.o.p. (director of photography), etc. The logotypes are custom made and can be reused in future illustrations. I needed them to appeal like big budget film companies, though I added little jokes and hidden messages in them.
These are some early sketches with some basic head construction notes and a character turn around. I didn’t really end up using these ideas and decided to give Pepper a more naturalistic, slightly androgynous appearance.
Step by step preview of the illustration process:  pencils,  inks,  flat colours,  shadows,  special fx,  colour correction & texturing,  typography.
Here’s the final set of 8 pictures.
“Silvery moonshine. The amazon hails the night, while the woods languish.”
The first picture is to be understood as an overture. It establishes the story by showing the audience some of the striking characteristics of the protagonist Pepper Rouge. She appears to be hard, uncompromising and determined. Her gaze is pointed towards the audience and seems to pierce them. This redheaded woman, that wanders through a river with a heavy gun in the deepest night, appears threatening and intimidating. This is taken even further by the double meaning of the word ›amazon‹ in the accompanying haiku, referring to the jungle in southern America as to the female warriors in Greek mythology. With this introduction the audience has a certain expectation to what is about to come.
“Glaring neon lights. Two shady figures jumping. Sense of foreboding.”
In strong contrast to the jungle are the concrete buildings of New York in the following illustration. Two tiny, lighthearted figures, illuminated by neon lights, seem to be jumping over the roofs of this metropolis. There seems to be no connection to the previous image. But the dark of the night, the harsh artificial light, the shifted horizon and the inverted reading direction slowly raise a feeling of discomfort in the viewer. It gets strengthened by the word ›foreboding‹ in the haiku. It seems unbelievable, that this delicate and unconcerned person is the same as the ultralarge, rough and tense woman from the prior image. The newly introduced character (Reel McCoy) attracts the attention of the audience by his elegant posture, and invites us to learn more about him.
“When dawn calls the day, two spirits share an instant floating in the air.”
While dawn is approaching slowly, the two figures get closer in the shadow of the Empire State Building. They defy gravitation and fly in dancing poses through the air. But the ambience seems to quiet for a city like New York – the audience anticipates the calm before the storm.
“Pink light tints New York. While night slowly fades away they dance on the roof.”
The fourth picture is the prelude to the upcoming climax. Both characters take a bigger space in the composition, they seem to be fighting and quarreling. The background is convoluted and disquietingly. The viewer gets lost easily in all the details. The shifted horizon emphasises the psychological uneasiness and tension of the subjects. The multitude of triangular shapes increases the dynamic and suspense. At this point a handgun (hidden between the text) is introduced, indicating a bad outcome to this situation.
“Early morning dew. Two silhouettes contrasting the chiselled skyline.”
Reel, with a calm and austere look on his face, is holding Pepper steady. While balancing on the ridge of the roof, she’s trying to tear herself away from Reel. Her posture, the short jacket and the high-waist trousers remind the viewer of a spanish matador. At this point, the cold blooded warrior emerges and her grace diminishes. The emotions culminate and the first shot gets fired from the gun. As a metaphor for the rising storm the clouds draw together in the background.
“Passion and contempt. Two souls dancing on the edge. Hellhounds are barking.”
Both figures occupy the majority of the image now, and therefore create proximity to the audience. The overdimensioned letters are eye-catching and hit the viewer hard in the face. The title has come true and the couples dance gave way to a wrestling match. They push and pull each other – a struggle between toro and matador. The oversized title between the two characters is trying to separate them, but the hellhounds are already barking.
“Bright light, bursting sound. Her passion has found its end. She pulled the trigger.”
The bright and aggressive background colour works as a caesura at this point. Red is usually an alarming, dynamic and stimulating colour. It indicates that the climax is about to be reached. In strong contrast to the warmth of the light, is Peppers penetrating gaze and her firm grip of the steel gun. The dark blue shadows emanate a nightmarish cold. This image predicts no good ending and insinuates that the title ›We Danced Together‹ could mean more than just a passionate dance between two people.
“Inhale, exhale. His body is struggling in vain. Harrowing of Hell.”
Another gunshot is fired, but this time it hits its target. Gasping for air and with hollow eyes, Reel is lying on the floor in a puddle of blood. The blood has an unreal colour and the world around him has become meaningless and disappeared. The focus of attention lies on Reel and should not be distracted by anything. In order to emphasise the contrast between life and death, I decided to apply a little trick and inverted the colour of the lights and shadows in comparison to the prior image.