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How They See - Issue #6: Vratislav Pecka about 90's era, old VHS covers, Bauhaus and minimalism influences

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In this issue, I talk with Vratislav Pecka - a “serial poster designer” (as he calls himself). He com
 

How They See

August 8 · Issue #6 · View online
How They See newsletter features interviews with artists about their creative work. It shares insights and advice helpful for every beginning artist, art enthusiasts or anyone working in the creative industry. Published weekly on Saturday.

In this issue, I talk with Vratislav Pecka - a “serial poster designer” (as he calls himself). He comes from the Czech Republic, however, is currently based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. His posters are created using digital techniques and strongly influenced by minimalism and Bauhaus. During our interview, I have learned Vratislav is trying to work on his creations every day, and in my opinion, the overall effect is still fresh. I especially like how he plays with composition and his color palette. When exchanging remarks, it came out that we also share an interest: the 90’s era, a time which has a special place in my heart. 
You can find Vratislav Pecka on Instagram.

Let’s start our discussion from the fundamentals. Digital or traditional techniques?
As long as I would love to use more of the traditional techniques, I am not very great at drawing and it would be difficult for me to find time to learn it properly. Therefore I mainly use digital techniques with a hint of traditional ones when using the iPad and the pen to draw some small details on my posters.
How much old VHS covers influenced you? I have read that is one of the sources of your inspiration.
Quite a lot to be honest. As a kid, I always liked the simple but futuristic designs at the same time. When I discovered it again in my mom’s apartment a couple of years ago it triggered an inspiration to try something similar. I never copied any designs, just want to say that. I used certain shapes and ideas, the overall approach.
Posters by Vratislav Pecka
Posters by Vratislav Pecka
What are your memories from 90’? I must say that I keep a separate place in my hear for this era.
If I had a time machine I would go back right away. Everything seemed to be easier, people did not rush that much. I remember the 90s as a time with vivid colors, old Pentium PC with vintage video games, teenage mutant ninja turtles and a carefree lifestyle of a 10-year-old boy. That is why I keep going back in memories to that era quite often.
Posters are having a come back in the form of art you can hang on your wall. I don’t know how it was in the Czech Republic but in Poland back in the ’90s, we were buying a pop culture magazines to grab cool movie posters or asking the lady at the ticket office in a cinema for ones that were left.
I think it was quite the same in the Czech Republic too when it comes to posters. In times without the internet people adored their heroes on posters – music stars, athletes, also movies, of course. I think since the poster does not serve to this cause anymore, its purpose has shifted quite a bit.
 I was also surprised at one of the art fairs in Poland back in 2018 or 2019 to fund a stand with collectors editions of old movies posters or Polish Poster School. Do you have your favourite poster that has stuck in your head?
There are so many! And I have to admit, I seek vintage poster designs quite often when looking for inspiration or even just out of curiosity. Posters for Pulp Fiction, Casablanca, The Shining or Vertigo are not my style when you compare it to what I do but it is a joy to look at those. I also very much enjoy the WWII propaganda posters. Of course, what they promote is a different topic.
Posters by Vratislav Pecka
Posters by Vratislav Pecka
Why Bauhaus and minimalism?
Works from the Bauhaus era are something that resonates with me the most when it comes to graphic design or architecture. Even before I started with my PosterLad posters my most favourite architect was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. I loved everything about his work. Discovering the graphic design stuff from that era was not that difficult as it was somehow all connected thanks to the Bauhaus school. The combination of colors, simple layout and the most basic shapes is something that I love using too. I can not explain why. It is simply because I enjoy it more than anything else. To look at it or to create it.
Minimalism in my work is a bit different story. In my opinion, the fact that I am doing more minimal designs nowadays is that I simply evolved as a designer. When you look back at what I was doing in 2017 or 2018, that has nothing in common with minimalism. I was trying to make the design better with more details, more ideas in one go. Now I know it was not the greatest approach but I learned the lesson, I prefer simple ideas and simple layout. It also resonates with the viewer more.
What does your process look like? You just sit in front of a computer and start to play around shapes and colours or do play thoroughly the whole composition before? 
I am still trying to keep the PosterLad project as something that I do for fun, as a hobby similar to playing video games or reading a book. Making a poster is something that I only do to enjoy myself, therefore I do not plan anything before I start a poster. Blank canvas is where I start. I also need a cup of coffee and some good music. :) 
You say that you try to complete 4-5 posters a week, Aren’t you afraid that keeping such face pace would lead you to a burnout?
Yeah, absolutely, that could easily be the case. From my own experience, I found my way to somewhat prevent it from what happening. The key for me is not to force it. And always try new things, not to get stuck in one place. Nobody is paying me to make posters, I do not have a boss or anything. Therefore I only make posters when I want to. At the moment, I love making them so I make as many as I can.
I have read that you only present online work that you are satisfied with. How do you judge, that this is this moment that you won’t be able to improve your poster and it is finished?
That is a very good question. I struggle with this almost every single time when I make a poster. “Is this done now? Or maybe one or two graphic elements more would make it better?” Usually, I decide that less is more and go for the simpler option. Sometimes I also close the project, do other things for a while and get back to the poster again to evaluate it with a fresh perspective.
PosterLad is your own personal project. Did you have any doubts in moments that you just wanted to quit it?
I have never considered quitting. But there were times when I was doubting myself because I was not improving, I did not see any progress in my work anymore. That was at the end of last year. When I look back to what I was making then, it was basically just mosaic style. But there were so many more things that I can do! So I decided to completely change the approach. Every time I am making a poster I am trying to come up with a new idea. Something I have not done before. And that is where the joy and fun happens. Also, at that time people started to buy more posters than ever before which also fueled my dedication.
How does it happened that you have been featured in an exhibition?
It is definitely nothing like you are sitting in your fancy sofa, sipping wine and people from the design award call you that you won something. Usually, it works like this – I receive an email from the design award that they hold an event and are looking for people to submit their works. At the end of the day, it is business for them, so they need participants in the competition. I read through the guidelines, if there is any entrance fee, if that competition is for me at all and then I do or do not submit my work.
How does living and creating in Amsterdam differ from Czech? What are the pros and cons? 
There is a difference. When it comes to life in Amsterdam, I can tell that people are somehow happier and more relaxed when you look at them. And if you are surrounded by people like that it also makes you feel good about yourself. The cons of living in the Netherlands is that I miss my family and friends from Prague. And I also miss Prague itself. I was born and raised there, I love the city and I am really looking forward to move back with my wife one day. I am not sure I can say my approach to work has changed since we moved to the Netherlands. I am a freelance designer, so I just do what I have to do every day the same way I was doing it in Prague.
Can you give some advice to any self-taught artist or designer?
Let’s just say there are no shortcuts. It may sound cheasy but it is so true. Keep working on yourself every day, improve, seek inspiration everywhere you go. Start your own personal project. Starting the PosterLad project was the best thing that ever happened to me career-wise. I have improved so much as a designer. Long story short – learn, learn, learn.
What is your favourite colour?
Royal blue. In combination with orange :)

If you have enjoyed reading my interview with Vratislav Pecka I would like to kindly ask you to share it or leave a thumb up at the bottom of this page. In case you have any feedback, questions or you are an artist willing to show up in How They See, you can connect with me on Instagram or just hit a reply back button in case you are a subscriber reading this text as an e-mail.
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