Blue Aster Studio

Illustrating a Promotional Poster for Bradford Woods

David Orr

Both Jennie and I believe in increasing accessibility to natural spaces, so last year when Tim Street of Bradford Woods contacted me to commission a poster, I was eager to get started.. Bradford Woods is a property managed by the Indiana University School of Public Health which serves as a camp where youths and adults come for leadership training, education, and therapeutic programs. It’s beloved of residents all over south central Indiana who have fond memories of attending camps during elementary school years, some of whom come back as camp counselors during high school.

Bradford Woods in late October. I swear it's not Lothlorien. Photo by David Orr.

Tim and I walked around the site on a beautiful October day. I took photos as we chatted about the site’s history, which included a long stint as a sand mining operation. In regards to the poster design, Tim said he loved the WPA posters of the ‘30s and ‘40s, but wasn’t looking for something that would emulate them too closely.

The overlook at Ol' Swimmin' Hole Lake

The overall composition came together quickly. There is an iconic overlook above the adorably named Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole Lake that offered the chance to feature a varied natural setting as well as human activity. I sketched up an idea, in which two campers look out over the lake in partial silhouette. It was important to Tim and to me to make clear that Bradford Woods is a place for people of all abilities, so I depicted one of the campers in a wheelchair.

My rough sketch of the poster's layout.

When it came time to go from rough sketch to Adobe Illustrator, I used the pen tool to draw in the major shapes. I experimented with new brushes as well, to create the highlights on the silhouettes and the leaves on the trees. The latter was what’s called a “pattern brush,” which is made of a repeating element along a path. In this case, a tapered line. The former brush was a “scatter brush,” in which basic leaf shapes I made are scattered as I draw.

Detail of one of the Bradford Woods campers, showing the use of Illustrator brushes for the highlights. Also, a red admiral butterfly!

I liked the idea of drawing a wooden frame around the scene, which would also incorporate a cut-out of the words “Bradford Woods." I enjoyed the challenge of getting the proportions of the letters right, and I am eager to do a lot more typography in a similar vein.

I also had a lot of fun hiding of small animals throughout the composition. The eagle the campers are watching and the red admiral butterfly on the wheelchair are obvious, but there are a few other critters in there as well. I love putting playful touches like that in a design. No design is complete until it is seen by its audience, and “hidden” details are a way to provide a sense of surprise and delight, keeping viewers engaged. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to create this piece for Bradford Woods.

The final product.