When Tim Lee was asked to design a series of posters for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass event in Raleigh, he didn’t have to study up on how bluegrass musicians dress or hold their instruments.
He knows all that stuff firsthand, from years of playing mandolin and singing in bluegrass bands himself.
“It’s part of my life,” he said. “I didn’t use reference – it’s all in my head.”
Lee, news graphic artist for The News & Observer and an artist whose T-shirts, prints and paintings can be seen in galleries in Raleigh and beyond, was tapped to create posters to represent the major events of World of Bluegrass: the five-day conference itself, the weeknight Bluegrass Ramble shows, the IBMA awards show and the Wide Open Bluegrass event on Fayetteville Street and Red Hat Amphitheater.
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Lee and World of Bluegrass designer and art director Landon Elmore, a Raleigh-based graphic designer and Web developer, sketched through ideas (with input from IBMA and the city of Raleigh), then Lee created digital paintings that Elmore made into posters.
“When we started looking at what we wanted to do with the posters this year, my instant feeling was since Raleigh had been introduced last year, we wanted the focus back on the music and musicians this year,” said Elmore, who designed last year’s poster set that prominently displayed the Raleigh skyline.
All of the posters tell a story, but the World of Bluegrass image – a lone woman with a banjo – was given the most thought, Lee said.
“The story was that this is someone from maybe North Carolina who’s coming, connecting the rural with the city,” he said. “...She’s hip, she’s young, so that’s that younger demographic.”
Keeping things accurate in artwork is important, too, especially in a crowd of bluegrass experts. A bluegrass guitarist, for example, doesn’t hold a guitar the same way a rock frontman would, Lee said.
Lee called his work on the IBMA posters “a once in a lifetime chance” to bring many of his personal interests into one project.
“I’ve always done artwork since college, and then I started playing bluegrass,” he said. “And to be able to put the two together – and I live here – it was great.”
Not surprisingly, perhaps, Lee had bluegrass music playing as he worked on the IBMA posters.
“I have days and days worth of music of all kinds on my iPod,” he said. “But when I knew I really needed to jam out – and this is what I do on everything – I listen to bluegrass. Because it’s comforting and it’s upbeat, for the most part.”