The story behind the prints
Let me apologize in advance for the length of the story behind the poster, but these have been long in the making.
I’ve been playing guitar for a little over 8 years now (and I’ve become really skilled… or not). Right when I started playing guitar, I also started to be passionate about the gear my favorite guitar players were using. That’s when I learned about tube amplifiers and solid state amplifier. Right after that, I learned about their price, and ended up buying a solid state Marshall amp, and focusing on buying a cool guitar instead.
The year after starting to learn guitar, I also started to study industrial and product design. This is probably what educated me to appreciate the beauty of objects sometimes designed solely for industrial purposes: big industrial fans, factories, product building chains (think about car factories), computer chips, etc.
That’s also the year when I started to discover the beauty of grunge music: Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam, etc. Nirvana naturally led me to Foo Fighters, even if it was late. The Foo Fighters ended up leading me to this release, which cover has been designed by the immensely talented folks at Invisible Creature. I put my hands on this album when it came out, and forgot about it for a while.
Then, last year, as we geared up to get the 13 Spade collection ready, I saw that cover art again. And then I came across the image below:
And then, I found the National Valve Museum. Which has stuff like this on file:
Being a sucker for vintage stuff like this, and because the strange complexity of their inner filaments and components combined with the tiny scale, I decided I absolutely needed to do a tube based poster. I reached out to Allan, who’s the man behind the impressive, massive and meticulously organized collection at the National Valve Museum in order to get reference photos, which he kindly provided.
Then, I set out to try to conceptualize something… and failed. Then work and life happened, and we moved on to other concepts for the 13 Spade first series of posters.
A few weeks ago, the holidays were giving me the perfect excuse to do some more “personal” work again (especially since Project 52 was on hold). So I started drawing again. My first intention was to draw/trace the tube, and then to ink it digitally.
The digital inking attempt:
This one obviously failed because my drawing was way too crude (on this topic, I’d recommend reading Von Glitschka’s Vector Basic Training! More about this soon). I made a second attempt:
I deem this 2nd attempt as failed as well. I don’t know why, but this just wasn’t hitting home. So I decided to scrap this altogether and to use another technique I’ve learned on the GoMediaZine to digitize and vectorize the tube, starting from the picture Allen provided for me:
The result was much more satisfying to me:
Not only was it closer to what I was envisioning in terms of details (even the sweet vintage type and logos made it), it was also much cleaner in a way. After further refinements (and a halftone treatment) and the selection of my color palette, I was finally ready to start my texture magic.
Once Warm tone was done, I decided that a sister print pointing out the difference between tube sound and transistor (solid state) sound was in order. And that’s how the diptych is born. The awesome Homestead font by Luke Lisi was just a perfect fit, even though I was hesitating at some point for the Cold tone type treatment. You can follow the steps of my progression through the design process starting at this Dribbble shot and by following the rebound stream.
A special thank you to…
I would like to take the time to thank Allan Wyatte, the man behind the National Valve Museum.
Without his willingness to share the high resolution EL34 picture for free, this crazy idea would have never happened. Or at least, the result wouldn’t have been the same. His efforts to build the Museum are just incredible, and he’s done an amazing job at collecting, photographing and sorting all of these references. And since we donated some money and purchased the Museum’s DVD, maybe there’ll be other tube themed prints, who knows…
Thanks for following this in its entirety! We’ll let you know as soon as these are added to the shop (requests/willingness to pre-order could speed up the process).