Again I would like to give a brief intro to this series of blog posts because this is only the second post in said series. Simply put, in this series I will showcase an Artist who inspires me. These are artists who, because of their work, influence me and are a major impetus in my yearning to create. In the actual post I will give a brief history of the artist, and also display a myriad of their pieces that stand out to me, and that I love. I will also break down some of what I feel their art means, what stands out about their art, and give a simple analysis. For a final paragraph to the post I will give a short description of why their work appeals to me, and how I try to incorporate it into what I do. Today’s artist is…
Olly Moss is without a doubt one of the top, currently working, artists that I look up to. I cannot count the times in which I look at poster or art work of his and literally, under my breath, utter the word “wow.” His ability to create an image, often times incorporating images made from negative space, that encapsulates the essence of a film or an idea is impressive. There is also a wonderful aspect of simplicity which harkens back to another era, an era where that same simplicity reigned in the design of the movie posters as well as a level of beauty those posters possessed…
The year was 1954, and a man of 34 years from the state of New York, impressed a director so much with his design work that he was asked to design the opening credits for the film Carmen Jones. In designing the opening credits for the Otto Preminger movie, a prolific career had been launched and a man had notched himself a place in history. That man was, Saul Bass, an incredibly talented graphic designer, and one who has influenced so many to come after him with his unique “paper cut” style and penchant for simple design. Now when I bring up “simple design,” which I will undoubtedly do multiple times in the rest of this post, I mean it as a compliment in that it is a design that has just the right ratio of elements to space that doesn’t feel overwhelming in any way. The reason why I am bringing Saul Bass up in a piece about Olly Moss, is because I feel his designs, 55 years earlier, are so key to understanding what Olly Moss is trying to accomplish today.
Saul Bass, born in 1920, studied at the Art Students League in Manhattan, and was a poster/graphic designer, a filmmaker, and is probably most known for the astounding work he did on various opening and credit sequences in a plethora of films. He has worked with the likes of Alfred Hithcock, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese, each director holding their own piece of cinema history. His most notable intro sequences are probably The Man with the Golden Arm, North by Northwest, and Vertigo to name a few. He pioneered an assortment of techniques for the opening sequences of the movie, he also moved the entire opening sequence of movies forward artistically.
In addition to his work on intro sequences, he is also well known for having designed various logos, for example he designed the original Girl Scouts logo, United Airlines, Continental Airlines, and AT&T just to throw out a few. The man was a design legend, and rarely a day goes by where we do not see something influenced by his style and ability. But, we are not here to talk about Saul Bass’s intro sequences or logo’s, we are here to talk about his movie posters and more specifically how they have influenced Olly Moss. I have decided to showcase a few of Saul Bass’s movie posters as well as Olly Moss’s to show the similarities and the era in which the designs of Olly Moss harken back to.
The first poster of Saul Bass that I decided to insert into this post is for the movie Anatomy of A Murder. It is simple, to the point, showcases the talent associated with the film,and gets the point across quickly all of which is wrapped up in a nice yellow, orange, red theme. I really want to focus on the red, yellow, orange theme for a second because it is an oft used color scheme Saul Bass as well as Olly Moss (this is color scheme is present in Olly Moss’s series of posters for the Rolling Roadshow, of which the Dirty Harry poster above, and the Robocop poster below is a part of). Orange, catches the eye because it is a color that, because of its strong presence, isn’t often seen in everyday life and nature. The fact that the color orange has such a high visibility is so key to its use in these movie posters because movie posters need to quickly grab the attention of the viewer, and leave a positive impression with them. In addition to that main reason for using that color, orange can represent excitement, a spark, warmth and, in general as a color, has a level of energy that a lot of other colors don’t possess. In addition to the orange color scheme that Saul Bass puts to work extensively, Saul Bass also has a very key style to his posters one that could be described as cut out pieces of paper portrayed perfectly on a poster. The type present on his posters doesn’t possess a repetitiveness that other type can posses on a posters. Each letter on the poster is unique and evocative, but at the same time every letter also contains the same style as the ones surrounding it. With out a doubt, it is obvious that every letter has its place in the typeface as a whole and yet they are all able to carry that specific Saul Bass Style.
Saul Bass’s posters were just as unique as the type upon that paper. With the Vertigo poster, he relays the theme of the plot with a detective following a lady, to find out what she is up to. It also incorporates a swirling pattern, that could be easily associated with actual vertigo, but that swirling pattern is also used to focus in on the two central characters. In the poster for Bird Man of Alcatraz you have the representation of the bars of jail cell, as well three birds in flight and the “Bird Man” himself. Out of all of the previous posters of Saul Bass that I have posted, this one, I feel, is a direct link that connects the wonderful work of Saul Bass to the astounding work of Olly Moss. The representation of a human character, the presence of the three birds, each one seeming closer to freedom out of the cage then the one previous to it and the jail bars locking the entire piece together are just a hop away from the work of Olly Moss. Saul Bass is influential, in terms of design, and his work spanned more than 5 decades, and his influence is very much present in the work of Olly Moss. Both artists have a very simple style, both artists have such striking pieces of poster art, that will undoubtedly influence other artists after them. Both artists often used, or are using a similar color scheme, and both artists have an element of age to their pieces, an age to the posters that is developed by the artist.
Olly Moss, was born in the United Kingdom in 1987. Yes, he is a very young artist (turning 24 at some point during this year), and yet his art exhibits a level of maturity and patience that is not often found in the fervor of youth. As an artist, Olly is trying to get back to a time where movie posters weren’t overcomplicated and where the images on the posters themselves speak to what is going on in the movie. Moss has a clairvoyant like ability to find an image out of the negative space of an object, and to use that knowledge to his advantage. In addition to his use of negative space, he also excels at having the content in an image create another image all together (seen in the Star Wars posters as well as the Robocop poster, seen later in this post). Olly Moss is a master of a variety of styles, and in a lot of his work you will see that he gives the images a weathered feel, possibly by creating an opacity mask and inserting a texture over the original image to create some of that weathered image. Regardless how he does it though, it looks wonderful and it gives his pieces that extra element that makes them appear as if they are from another epoch.
In the Lost inspired poster to the left, the Saul Bass influence is unmistakable. The Locke poster contains that cut-out paper style that is so similar to that of Saul Bass. In addition the imperfect yet stylistic type that makes up the words “Terry O’Quinn is Locke,” is in the exact same style as the letters of Saul Bass(used in Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder). Take a quick look at the Locke poster, now scroll up and look at the Anatomy of a Murder poster, it is clear that Olly Moss was specifically working off the Anatomy of a Murder poster for inspiration and to evoke the specific style of that is present in the Saul Bass designed poster. From the jagged edges on the squares of color, the line of text in the top right corner, to the all caps, outlined typeface set ragged right. Olly Moss found the style of Saul Bass, and executed it perfectly with a modern context. The Saul Bass influence is clear in this poster, which was created earlier in the career of Olly Moss, and despite other posters created after this not borrowing the style of Saul Bass to the same extent, you can still see elements of Bass’s style in a large majority of the posters created by Moss.
The next poster I want to talk about is the poster Olly Moss created for Indiana Jone and the Last Crusade. Obviously this was created after the original movie came out but it is a wonderful piece for everyone who fondly remembers the third Indy movie. This minimalist image captures the entirety of the film in a single poster, and does so, in such an incredible way. Playing off of the well-known Rubin’s Vase concept, Olly incorporates Indy as well as his father, Henry Jones, two make up the two faces in Rubin’s Vase. Showing both of the Jones is smart because their relationship plays a fair role in the movie. The vase created from the silhouettes of the two men makes up the Holy Grail, another key element of the movie. The Holy Grail, is the main artifact in the movie, and plays a titular role in the meaning of the film itself and how the movie concludes, so again it is wonderful that Moss incorporated it into the poster. When looking at the two silhouettes it is obvious which character they represent which is so monumental to the piece as a whole. The poster would not be nearly as striking if the two silhouettes were unrecognizable figures, or if you couldn’t tell that the red space in the piece made up the Holy Grail. Looking beyond the Rubin’s Vas the colors at use are simple, the typeface is simple, the overall poster is simple, yet, as a whole, the design is astounding and wondrous. Through a lot of Olly’s pieces he integrates minimalistic design into the post, and yet so much is said in what is seemingly so little, his work is truly expressive.
One of the final pieces that I want to showcase today is a triptych of sorts, that Olly Moss designed for Mondo’s series of Star Wars posters. To say that the three Star Wars posters, designed and created by Olly Moss, are breathtaking might possibly be an understatement. In my time alive I don’t think any poster has ever put me in as much awe, and have such a splash in the internet world, as the three posters created for the original Star Wars Trilogy. To be completely honest I don’t think I have ever known any poster, or set of posters, that was so widely talked about on the internet than these (a caveat with that though, is the internet that I am subject to is, one that is more aligned, with geek-culture so that could be why). The three posters were created in three respective color tones that easily compliment one another, and also play into specific colors present in the corresponding movies. In the original Star Wars poster the redish pink is very reminiscent of the scene in which Luke Skywalker is standing by his abode looking out into the horizon as two Tatooine suns paint the sky with a pink and red glow as they set in front of him. In The Empire Strikes Back that orange color can be found towards the end of the film as Luke hangs on to the weather vane awaiting his rescue. Finally in Return of The Jedi with the battle for Endor, that green-turquoise pierces every scene in the forest. Interestingly enough, each scene is somewhat represented within the silhouettes of the characters present within the posters. Olly also uses elements of each scene to make up some of the features of the silhouetted characters. In the poster for the original Star Wars C3P0′s eyes are made up of the two suns of Tatooine. In the poster for The Empire Strikes Back the Cloud City in Bespin makes up the visor of Boba Fett. In the poster for Return of The Jedi the tree’s of the forest of Endor make up the defining features of Darth Vader. All of those element further what Moss was trying to do with the silhouettes, and it also makes each image that much more incredible. Within each poster as well there are little keys of the movie, for example R2D2, C3P0, Luke, and Obi Wan together in the original Star Wars poster, a tie fighter in The Empire Strikes Back, and Ewoks, an AT-ST, and a storm trooper on a speed bike can be seen in the Return of The Jedi poster. I could continue on about everything that I think is amazing with these posters but I think at this point, the amazing nature of these posters is more readily seen.
The work of Olly Moss is nothing short of incredible, he is a talent to say the least, and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with in the future. But what has taken ahold of my interest so much, is his ability incorporate images through negative space, or by adding features to pre-existing silhouettes. Another thing that I love about the work of Olly Moss though is the weathered look he gives to some of his posters, it is a very simple technique yet it is so compelling and really elevates what Olly Moss is trying to get across with his posters. The ability to express so much in a minimalistic design, is inspiring, and I most certainly look up to Olly Moss for that aspect.
Finally, I would like to say that I tried multiple times to get in contact with Olly Moss to ask for his permission to use his images in this blog post. So like with the other blog posts of this specific title, all of the images are of the property of the specific artist.
For more information about Olly Moss: