About the artist
Martijn Somhorst is a multidisciplinary artist with a background in mechanical engineering. His artistic career blossomed when he began creating floats for his local carnival (or “Vastelaovend” as it is known in the Netherlands) at the age of 16. This taught him many skills, including sculpting, welding, painting (wet on wet), airbrushing, working with paper mache and organising people and materials. Eventually it led to other assignments and commissions ranging from poster and t-shirt designs to murals and rat rod door decals. In 2015, he added stage design to his ‘can do’ list when he was asked to design a stage for a local dance festival called Stereo Sunday. Since then, he has had the pleasure of creating the artwork for the main stage each year.
After seeing Martijn’s impressive design for the 2022 event on Facebook, we were keen to learn more about the project and how he used Affinity Designer to create both the main and secondary stage artwork. Here he tells us more.
How I became involved in Stereo Sunday
I have been involved in the creation of carnival floats since the start of my artistic career. We had some stuff from these events to give away (we thought it was stuff to make people happy instead of throwing it away), and the organisers of Stereo Sunday dropped by. Besides collecting the items, they asked if I would like to join the Deco Squad of the festival. The small stage (Area 3) I designed that year was such a success in terms of “look and feel” that I (along with some friends) were invited to design the main stage for the 2016 edition. Since 2016, I have had the honour of designing the main stage, and for several editions (including the 2022 event), I also did a second stage.
The event itself is an all-round festival with a focus on house music (EDM/Techno/pop/hardstyle), and on the side we have everything that is crazy, fun and entertaining for people. The initial stage designs were hand painted (with brushes, spray paint or airbrushes), but in the last two years, everything has been printed on lightweight PVC, and that’s how I came to use Affinity Designer.
“I chose to use Affinity Designer because of its speed and performance. If I show it to other people (in the Adobe community), they can’t believe what they see—if I switch on Outline Mode, sometimes it looks near black due to the number of lines I have. But it doesn’t matter, as the program lives up to it.”
I chose to use Affinity Designer because of its speed and performance. If I show it to other people (in the Adobe community), they can’t believe what they see—if I switch on Outline Mode, sometimes it looks near black due to the number of lines I have. But it doesn’t matter, as the program lives up to it.
My workflow for creating the artwork
The subject matter of the stages is either chosen by the festival organisers, or we (the Deco Squad) propose something. When the theme has been decided I start by making sketches. I find a huge amount of examples and references online by searching Pinterest, Google pictures, you name it. I end up with a lot of separate drawings created to 1:1 scale with my own style applied. Then the blending starts: I combine all the stuff into one design. Mostly this is still done on paper, although for this years stage I did it digitally in Affinity Designer.
With a first (black and white) sketch I test the response. If the design is not quite right, I have to go back to the drawing board and make revisions. Colouring the drawing is my next step.
For stage designs like this, I then switch to 3D software, either 3D CAD or Blender. I start by adding some 2D sketches of the figures I think should pop out, like the lion on this years stage.
I make a block model of the construction behind to see what is realistic and what isn’t. It then becomes an iterative process. Things from the concept sketch that don’t fit need rescaling, artwork has to be added, and sometimes figures need to be removed and replaced with something else.
I collaborate closely with the people responsible for the construction and those who do the lightning to avoid any issues like posts sticking through the design, and to understand where particular lighting and FX need to go.
When I’ve completed a first draft of the block model, I send it to them. Again this is an iterative process. It goes on until those guys and I are both happy.
At this stage the artwork is not always of the highest quality. The final step is going over each part and figure in Affinity Designer adding extra touches until I am satisfied.
The designs for these stages are purely flat (2D), and to make them look spatial, you either have to add a lot of details (so you keep looking and discover new stuff every time) or add depth by making a layered design.
The big advantage of Affinity Designer is the fact that I can draw these things in vector: there’s no quality loss until you rasterize it for printing!
“I use a lot of gradients, blurs and other effects. I also work 1:1 for almost all of the work, and I am still amazed that a complete main stage in one file can still be between 50 to 100Mb.”
I use a lot of gradients, blurs and other effects. I also work 1:1 for almost all of the work, and I am still amazed that a complete main stage in one file can still be between 50 to 100Mb.
Sending the design to print
I have a very close line to the guys and girls who print all the parts. The design is printed on banners or Forex (lightweight PVC plates). The plates have a maximum size of 3 by 2, and can be contour cut all around. The tiling of the artwork is done by the printer company. For example, the lion is 10 by 10 metres and the printer software tiles it by itself.
Before I start uploading the artwork we meet to discuss what the best thing is to do. In this case, I delivered everything on a 1:4 scale in pdf. A separate layer for contour cutting was added (as a spot colour as the printer was able to recognise that).
A 10mm bleed was accounted for. It was calculated back to a 1:1 scale and the artwork was rasterized to 100dpi. The parts were delivered with a layout of the plates which allowed for other people besides me to piece it together.
However, most of the time I am on the ground laying parts out, and the guys in the cherry pickers just have to point to which part they want to place next. We have a “building book” which says which figures should be placed where as well.
All parts are either tie wrapped to the construction (banner) or screwed onto wood which is mounted to the structure as well.
Here are the final stage designs assembled ready for the event: