True/False Film Festival poster has vague meaning

Monday, February 23, 2009 | 5:48 p.m. CST; updated 10:13 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 25, 2009
David Friesen applies ink to pencil sketches of boats at his Columbia home. Friesen works from home during the day before going to one of his jobs during the afternoon and evening.

COLUMBIA — After months of work with dozens of sketches and a constant reworking, the poster for the 2009 True/False Film Festival has flooded downtown Columbia.

“They’re pretty funny to see put up all over the place. ... It seems that every window has one of those in it," said David Friesen, the poster's designer. "It is kind of fun, though, to see them everywhere.”


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Friesen, 26, is an MU alumnus and freelance artist. He works at Ninth Street Video, as a manager at Sparky’s ice cream shop and as the submissions director for True/False, the festival of documentaries that starts Thursday. Friesen, who used to work at the Missourian as a political cartoonist, began drawing as a child by copying comics.

The festival’s co-founders, Paul Sturtz and David Wilson, asked Friesen to design the poster after he produced some sketches to help them visualize their concept. Every year, Sturtz and Wilson toss their concept for the poster around to various artists before settling on someone to do the artwork, Friesen said.

This year's poster, Wilson said, was designed without any literal meaning in mind; they wanted to allow people to form their own ideas. Depending on the viewer's point of view, the poster shows a tattered rowboat attached to balloons either launching from, or crashing into, the ground.

The concept, Friesen explained, is not meant to be too political and is “not specific enough to reduce down to just a few words.”

Last year’s poster by Columbia artist David Spear, which showed two children jumping blindfolded off a cliff, played off the fact that it had been a leap year, he said.

Friesen was able to work on his design for the poster while watching videos submitted to the festival for consideration. The sketches, he said, would range from quick scribbles to some more detailed drawings of toy boats.

“Over the course of two or three months," Friesen said, "I did a lot of different versions and a lot of different sketches of  it.”

He’d start out by drawing different styles of boats and then worked with Sturtz and Wilson to decide on the perfect tilt and color combination. He used black ink and brush on large Reeves paper.

"It was a very long process," Friesen said, "but it was very rewarding.”

The volunteer T-shirt will also display some of Friesen's work. It will show six sketches of rowboats, which Wilson said worked well for the volunteers since the boats are "all similar and all different."

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