I was commissioned by Mitski's team to design a 18x24" poster and temporary tattoo sheet for her Laurel Hell 2022 tour! As a huge Mitski fan myself I am floored and honored to have worked with her. These repeatable designs are available to reserve for future tattoo bookings.
PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THESE DESIGNS TO YOUR LOCAL ARTIST TO GET TATTOOED. It is against my wishes at this moment because I would like the opportunity to tattoo them first. After that, the designs will be made available for purchase as tattoo tickets. Each piece will vary in price depending on complexity of the artwork, and will range from $50-125.
These are repeatable designs that are reservable right now by people on my tattoo waitlist (now closed) and can be booked with me for the fall when my books open in September. If you would like to be put on a mailing list and receive a notification when these flash do go for sale, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the process of designing this poster, I did a lot of research. Not only did I listen to the songs over and over again and read and reread the lyrics, I read articles and interviews and watched videos of Mitski talking about what the album meant to her and what she was trying to convey through it.
I knew I wanted the poster to have an overall cohesive look and feel but for each design to stand separately as a concept. I took notes on every song, how it made me feel, how it made Mitski feel when writing them. At first I tried to come up with a design for every song, but that didn't feel right so instead I just focused on specific feelings or moments throughout the album that made me feel something.
Mitski's one instruction was to not annotate any of the designs, number or title them on the poster as to leave them open to interpretation by her fans. By offering this insight and explanation to my designs I am merely offering my 2 cents on what I think the meanings of each of her songs and her album is in general. Please feel free to interpret my artwork as you will, still.
MITSKI (top center)
I knew I wanted to bring in my organic hand-drawn typography and lettering in some way and I wanted this to have the right rhythm and encapsulate the vibe of the entire poster, so I actually tackled this piece last even though it arguably is part of the centerpiece.
This glistening quality of the black lettering is actually inspired by one of her lyrics from Valentine TX that goes, "Wet teeth, shining eyes / Glimmering by a fire"
THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER (center piece)
This piece felt like the center of the poster because for me it was the emotion that came out strongest. After watching the music video and watching a couple of her interviews, I was captivated by the way she danced (erratically, beautifully, not necessarily composed) with the flowing red dress. Her movement felt electrifying and so I weaved a red bolt of lightning around her because that was the energy I felt she was summoning. Not happy, not sad, but full of energy, life, very cathartic, much release. It also draws from the idea of "heat lightning".
BEEN AWAKE SINCE 1AM (top left)
...and now it's 4:00. This design is inspired by a few different lyrics, definitely Heat Lightning, and also "I tuck my hand under my weight" from Stay Soft. When I think of this album I felt a lot like looking out a window half awake at a surreal scene and my art director Mary Banas suggested the idea of waves outside. At first I was trying to do "trees are swaying in the wind like sea anemone" but I felt like the trees were too concrete and literal.
LAUREL HELL (top right)
Obviously, inspired by the album title. Laurels are these dangerous mountain florals that can grow into large dense thickets that pose extremely difficult to navigate. This one was a bit more of a literal interpretation but I love to draw fire in a lot of my art anyways so I weaved some flames through a small thicket of the oddly shaped flowers. My first sketch though, was Mitski with one of the laurels in her mouth. This didn't make it because I wanted to stay away from the idea of portraying her face directly. In the poster you can see motifs/suggestions that it MIGHT be her or you can assume that it is her, but it's either a big zoom-out of her body, and if it is her face it's just her eyes (ie. the knife design). I didn't want to try and draw her likeness too much.
WHERE DUST DEVILS ARE MADE (left center)
A lyric directly from Valentine TX. Some songs were much more visually vivid than others; for example, I was able to get a strong image from Valentine TX but from Everybody, it was a little more wispy. I fixated on this one idea of the dust devil, a small tornado, with flower petals swirling through it. Something about a little bit of beauty in the chaos. This album also generally felt like a whirlwind of billowing emotions so I wanted to capture that energy.
DON'T GO THAT WAY (hands, middle right)
This could also be "it should've been me". There are meant to be multiple ways to interpret some of these designs. I like to draw hand gestures because I think they can tell a bigger story than words sometimes. Are the hands drawing away from each other or reaching for each other? I'm not sure either. What I am sure of is a feeling of movement. There was another hand idea that was not used (pictured below) but I didn't want more than one that used the hand gestures. Below could have also been "You could touch fire".
WORKING FOR THE KNIFE (lower middle)
This one was very easy and literal to think of, but I think the execution is everything. I wanted the hand to be loosely fingering the knife, as if there is hesitation and thought. There is uncertainty. Mitski often wonders whether the grind was worth it; I think a lot of creatives (and people in general) can relate to this feeling. Was it worth it? Seeing her own reflection in the knife as sort of a mirror brings her to the realization of her own self-inflicted suffering and difficult feelings that come with her career, her music, the weight of her accomplishments and inner battles that derive from them. The tears roll off the knife like droplets of emotional bloodletting.
WHERE CLOUDS LOOK LIKE MOUNTAINS (lower left)
I had first drawn a full frame of a desert scene; this one is also from Valentine TX. This felt a little too concrete so I thought about drawing some rolling clouds in an open field. These clouds also felt metaphorically like feelings that overwhelm you, floating over the landscape of your mind.
YOU COULD TOUCH FIRE / ONLY HEARTBREAKER / LET'S STEP CAREFULLY (lower right)
Walking through fire, inspired by the Only Heartbreaker music video. I wanted to incorporate the feeling of movement/motion in this one, as each step stokes the fire.
STAY SOFT (bottom right)
Open up your heart / Like the gates of hell. This one is supposed to capture a soft heart turning sharply inwards to protect itself. I wanted to juxtapose the two concepts of softness, so soft it hurts, and sharpness, so sharp it cuts. This one was a struggle to come up with because I wanted it to be more abstract than literal.
THAT'S OUR LAMP / IT SHINES LIKE A BIG MOON (bottom center)
Mitski described this song in an interview as, the feeling of walking through a crowd, but no one knows what's on your mind or what you've just gone through. It reminded me of this specific feeling of walking out onto the street passing by strangers who have no idea of this huge weight on your mind right after a break-up or an intense cathartic argument. The feeling of anonymity is encouraged by the fact that the people in the crowd are passing straight through her, and only she can see the lamp shining strongly above her and the crowd. She is also walking in the complete opposite direction against the current of everyone else's thoughts.
FILL ME UP / DROWN ME OUT
This was one of my favorites and most challenging to draw. How can you draw the cliche idea of wanting someone to love you so much it hurts you? Drowning was an important metaphor for me, floating in this love that is trickling into you, out of you, around you, pulling you down into its depths. Am not sure how subtle this ended up looking, but if you look closely the waves are also the shape of big hearts.