Cycling is one of the most colourful sports around – boys in bright lycra speed through beautiful countryside in all weather – and it’s also a sport that has inspired artists and graphic designers. You may have noticed on our Facebook page we have featured posters of each of the stages and Kitty has tracked down the talent behind these – Bruce Doscher – and found out a little more about him and his work!
Kitty: Bruce, thank you so much for talking to us! Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Bruce: I’m American by birth, but am now a New Zealand resident. I was born and raised in New York. Grew up on Long Island, went to school upstate, then lived and worked in New York City for about 10 years, with a brief but memorable year-and-a-half stint in San Francisco. My education gave me a little bit of background in many different mediums, from Fine Arts, to design, to video editing and production, to animation, which I focused on. When I graduated the first dotcom boom was in full swing, and I landed a job designing websites. In the early 2000s, I went back into animation, and freelanced at a few places including a couple of advertising agencies. I was making next to nothing, but loved it. I learned a tremendous amount from several talented people in these years and eventually I worked my way up to Associate Creative Director. Then in 2010 I moved to New Zealand.
Kitty: How did you get interested in cycling, and the Tour de France in particular? What first got you hooked on the race?
Bruce: My interest in cycling began in 2005, during that year-and-a-half I spent in San Francisco. Triathlon was my gateway into cycling. I had been a runner, and had a few marathons under my belt by that point. I had always wanted to do a triathlon, but was a terrible swimmer, and I didn’t have a proper bike. I bought myself a second-hand road bike, some lycra, and started training with some like-minded friends. At the time I had no idea that that bike would have a huge impact on my life. What was going to be a way to do some training became something bigger. I started doing longer and longer races, and eventually that bike got me through an Ironman. I met my wife while doing training rides on that bike! Our bikes were some of the few possessions we brought with us when we moved to New Zealand. I still ride the same bike to work every day.
I started following the Tour de France weirdly enough at work. My boss at that time was French, and most of my co-workers were into bikes of some sort. We’d have the Tour on the TV in the office, and even if you just watch here and there, or listen in from your desk, it starts to seep into you through osmosis.
Kitty: It’s always interesting to hear how people get hooked on the Tour. I’ve noticed that circumstances vary but the result is the same – as soon as someone starts watching it, they’ll succumb to its charms sooner or later! So who is your favourite rider and why?
Bruce: I can’t say I have a favourite rider. I would have to say Lance Armstrong has impacted my generation more than any other American cyclist. He really put cycling on the mainstream radar for us in the States. It’d be a stretch to say he’s my favourite rider, but he’s definitely been the most influential.
I’ve recently started to do some research on my Great Uncle, George Shipman, on my Mom’s side. Growing up, I’d heard stories about him being a ‘crazy cyclist’. I never really heard much more than that, so I started to ask around my family and did some googling (he passed away several years ago). I’ve found out that he was a track cyclist back in the 1930s! He rode in a few of the infamous six-day races in Madison Square Garden (and elsewhere). Those guys were certifiably crazy. So you can list George Shipman as my favourite rider. He was more crazy about bikes then I am, and we share some of the same genes.
Kitty: I notice from your website you’ve only been producing TdF posters since the 2010 race – what was the tipping point for you to do these?
Bruce: In 2010 I moved to New Zealand. After travelling the country for a few unforgettable months, we had to come back to reality and settled in Auckland. It was late June, and I was starting to show my advertising portfolio around town at the different agencies. I was trying to come up with clever ways to get my name out on the street in order to pick up some freelance work. Literally the night before the Tour started I thought, “Well I have some time on my hands right now, and I’m going to watch the Tour anyway, why not make a project of it?” I’ve always been a fan of cycling art, and old posters, so I thought I’d combine my passions and try to make one per stage. It was originally an experiment in self-promotion. It gave me something to start conversations with so I could get my foot in the door at different agencies. Initially, I didn’t have any intention of selling them.
Kitty: Have you ever thought of doing these posters for other races – the Giro or the spring Classics? I could really see you doing something special for Paris-Roubaix, for example. Any thoughts?
Bruce: I’d love to. If I had the time I definitely would. Right now my July is a month of very little sleep, I’m not sure I could do it all year. Not ruling it out for the future though.
Kitty: I love the way you take a detail or a feeling about a stage and put it into a design. One of my favourites is 2010, stage 17, The Tourmalet – whenever I think of that stage, it’s the mist as Contador and Schleck were climbing up and you’ve captured that feeling fantastically. When you’re thinking about what to make, do you have several ideas or is there usually just one overriding feeling that you know is the right thing to try to capture?
Bruce: It’s a different process every day. As I watch the stage I look for different things that jump out. The excitement of the finish is always the temptation, and sometimes like on the Tourmalet, that really does capture the essence of the day. Sometimes I’ll go through four, five, ten sketches throughout a stage, and keep scrapping them. Sometimes I’m stuck with no ideas, and sometimes I have it right away. I’ve found that it helps to think of the caption I post along with it first. I have to make sure the image works as an image alone, but the caption is a good starting point. I also think about if the poster will make sense to someone who has never seen the series, and not seen the stage. It can’t be too ‘insider’. If I can get someone with no interest in cycling to say, “Hey that’s pretty cool”, then I consider that a success.
Kitty: Some of my other favourites are the ones where nothing really happens in the stages but you’ve been able to make something beautiful by evoking some of the history/tradition of the Tour. I’m thinking particularly of the ones you do around Bastille Day and the 2011 stage 17, French and Italian Alps. Tell us a little bit about how those ideas come to life.
Bruce: You’ve pretty much nailed it! Sometimes there’s not a lot notable that happens in a stage. It’s also tough to have 21 fresh images without starting to get repetitive, so sometimes I get inspiration from what is happening around the Tour. If they are crossing a border (French to Italian Alps in 2011’s stage 17) or it’s Bastille Day, et cetera. I also just love flags, so whenever I can work some in, in an interesting way, I will.
Kitty: I’m only going to mention a couple other of my favourites before I let you talk me through yours, but I love love love the shadow posters – 2010 stage 13 and 2011 stage four – although that last one isn’t necessarily shadows, it’s so simple and graphic, makes me think of those two together. I almost think those, because they’re so simple and striking, are the hardest to do – what are your thoughts?
Bruce: 2011 stage four is one of my favourites too. It’s really very minimalist, and that’s what I like about it. I tried to capture the day with just a few lines. There’s just enough detail to see it’s about a bike race, but not one detail too many. I wish it was easy to do posters like that, but it’s not. I probably spent as much time taking things out of that composition to get it to its simplest form as I do creating some of the more detailed ones.
Kitty: Okay, I’ll shut up now – please tell me about some of your favourite posters and how they came about.
Bruce: Yeah, stage four 2011 is up there – possibly my all-time favourite.
Stage 10 2011: (pictured at the top of this post) I tried to capture the colours of the riders through the fields in a simple way.
Stage 17 2010: That really was a memorable finish – that feeling of being on top of the world, not just on a mountain, but floating in air.
Stage 18 2010: Riding through a bottleneck in Bordeaux – I think I just had wine on the brain, but I’ve always liked that one.
Stage 14 2010 was quite a different style from the rest, but I’ve always liked the way it came out.
Stage 15 2010 has always been a favourite. Andy lost his chain in the mountains and it cost him the yellow jersey. I was trying to come up with a way to show that without being too literal, and I liked that result.
I’m having trouble choosing a favourite from 2012 so far. I have been concentrating on giving them all a consistent style. I am still really evolving/refining my style as I go. 2012 has definitely taken a more illustrative turn, and I’m liking that a lot.
Kitty: Last but not least, how can we get these posters ourselves?
Bruce: All of the posters from this year and previous years are for sale! Each are hand-signed front and back, and suitable for framing. I’ve chosen to have them printed here in New Zealand so I could personally oversee the quality of the prints and paper. I’ve partnered with a great local printer, we use environmentally friendly, pH neutral, high-quality archival stock. You can check out the ‘about the prints’ section of my website for details and photos of the prints. It should give you a good idea of size, thickness and texture. I ship anywhere in the world for only US$8 (about £5). That’s to the UK, US, Europe, Asia, anywhere! If you order more than one print, it’s still only $8. Each print is wrapped in tissue paper, put in a sturdy tube, and sent Air Mail. You can browse and order prints at my website: brucedoscher.com/cyclingposters
Bruce has kindly offered one lucky VeloVoices reader a poster of their choice in our competition – find out how to enter by clicking here.