Designs for all of your movie-related flights of fancy
(Somerville Wire) – Alex Kittle is the creative and mastermind behind Pan and Scan Illustration, a shop that features film and pop culture inspired works, but also zines, pins, and stickers. Thinking of Prince, Barbarella, or David Bowie? Kittle has you covered. She invents “Art for Film Fanatics,” conjuring up classic comedies and cult sci-fi stories as objects of focus. Read on to see how this all began, and learn about other projects she’s had in the works.
You are a digital illustrator inspired by TV, film, music, and aspects of pop culture. What drew you to look at these subjects through your work?
I’ve always loved to draw and took art classes in college, and separately from that I’ve loved movies obsessively since I was a teenager. After undergrad, I was unemployed for a summer, spending my time watching movies in between applying to jobs, and feeling unmotivated creatively. I decided to start a weekly project making art related to the films I was exploring, just as a way to get my hands moving and feel like I was more than a couch potato, and it’s turned into a never-ending source of inspiration since then.
Do you have any favorite pieces you’ve created? What do you like about them?
One of my personal favorite posters I’ve done is my Barbarella piece from 2019—the first major work I made after quitting my day job in 2019 to be a self-employed artist full time. I love the film, and I love Jane Fonda, but most of all I love the costumes! It was a fun way to dig into the details of her many wacky sci-fi outfits, and I’ve continued to develop an interest in fashions in film since then. Another fave is a major book illustration project I completed last year that was just published through Dey Street/Harper Collins: I created 16 black and white illustrations for Scott Meslow’s book From Hollywood With Love: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of the Romantic Comedy. I was so honored to be a part of this book and draw characters from some of my favorite rom-coms!
What drew you to focus on women directors and cult films?
My interests in both women filmmakers and cult films feels like they developed simultaneously when I was in college, mostly because I like to seek out weirder, less conventional stuff. I’m very interested in film and art history in general, as it applies to folks working outside conventional systems, as well as those who have been typically excluded from the “canon.” Since these films and filmmakers inspire me, it’s natural they end up in my work a lot, and I try to use my illustration—and especially my filmmaker zines—to promote and educate others about them, while generally sharing my excitement and enthusiasm for film and cultural history.
What is your creative process for developing a work like, and what gives you inspiration? What do you think makes your work unique?
Generally, I just make myself open to inspiration when I’m watching something and formulate various poster and illustration compositions in my head, sitting with ideas for a long time before actually physically putting pen to paper (so to speak). Sometimes I notice that a movie I love has uninteresting official poster artwork, and I strive to create a more dynamic design or something that represents the film better (this is especially common with movies from the 90s and early 2000s, when illustrated posters were out of fashion, in favor of badly photoshopped images, and especially the generic “big floating heads” style). For my filmmaker zines, I try to make distinctive portraits as a visual aid to help readers learn about each featured director, and I spend a lot of time reading interviews and articles to pull out background and trivia I find inspiring and fascinating. I don’t think my work is necessarily unique, except the way that every artist’s work is due to the unique hand that makes it, and the personal experience, point of view, and passion we bring to it.
Can you describe some of the forms that your art takes—posters, zines, stickers, and book illustrations—and how you approach them?
Almost everything I make starts as a digital drawing; that’s where I spend the most time and energy. I make most work in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet to hand-draw everything. Then if I want to make it into a different product, I typically go back and simplify it as needed, or in the case of zines, I work it into the larger layout with text and design embellishments. For enamel pins, I have to follow certain rules related to their manufacture, limiting my colors and employing bolder, sparser linework than I usually do.
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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.