Make It: Rik Oostenbroek… From Book to Billboard
When illustrator Rik Oostenbroek first heard of Coney Island, it wasn’t during one of his many trips to New York. Instead, he learned of it while reading a crime novel that happened to take place on the well-known boardwalk.
Not long after, the randomness of life struck and Rik was commissioned to work on a billboard for Adobe’s Make It campaign that would go up in, of all places, Coney Island. So there he was, some six months later, listening to Lou Reed (Rik’s dad, a Lou Reed fan had told him about the album Coney Island Baby and its title song), and alternating between tours of Google Street View and Vault49’s library of captured memories of the iconic waterfront. Looking back on the sequence of events, he acknowledges that “everything just kind of fell in place.”
Theme parks make for interesting subjects. While adults find it difficult to overlook their rough edges, shabby finishes, and worn facades, children never look beyond the glistening, whirling, and colorful. Rik’s billboard captures that shiny, happy, child-like view of the Coney Island boardwalk. And, listening to him talk about the project, it wasn’t much of a departure from his preferred approach to art: “When people look at my work, I don’t want them to be sad. And, whenever I look at my computer screen, I don’t want to see dark colors. And that was the cool thing about this project… it fit me so well.”
“A legendary, colorful place with a retro vibe”
One thing however wasn’t so easy. For this project, the brief required that he incorporate the shapes and textures that Vault49 had captured for him. Working with the vibrant, saturated color palette was a breeze (“I was really happy that it was so bright”) but not so much the black-and-white textures and shapes. In all honesty, they just weren’t his thing: “I usually keep my work really clean and really liquid with just highlights on it. So when I saw them I thought, ‘What am I going to do with these?'”
“Ultimately those assets, the shapes and textures and patterns that had concerned him so much, that he wasn’t sure he’d figure out how to incorporate, gave his work gravitas, structure, and grit. In his words, “shininess with soul.” He even used one shape in it’s entirety. It’s from Paul’s. An ice cream stand on the boardwalk. And when we asked him why, he responded simply with, “It felt SO Coney Island.” Right there nestled behind the Y (which by the way is Rik’s take on Helvetica Rounded) is a nod to “all the neon signs, the kick-ass, retro food-truck logos, and the old school lettering on the attractions.”
So there it is: Billboard art inspired and composed and comprised of assets captured at Coney Island. Without any guidance about what role they would play, or how they should be used, they’ve nevertheless been woven into Rik’s art and his vision as an artist—ultimately influencing it just enough.
“This was definitely one of those projects that came out a certain way because of ‘client demands.’ Had I been free to do whatever I wanted, I wouldn’t have used the textures. And my work wouldn’t have been at this level. That’s not to say it was easy: “I really had to try because I’d never used anything like them before.”