Butcher Billy on Impostor Syndrome, ’80s Fandom, and His Successful Posters for Stranger Things

Now in its fourth season, Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things isn’t just a huge global hit. It’s also becoming something of a cultural nexus, most notably introducing ’80s stars Kate Bush and Metallica to a new generation and propelling them back onto the charts around the world. And it has also been a great inspiration for artists and illustrators, inspiring countless fan projects, such as Xavier Portela’s upside-down photographs.

But creating your own fan design for everyone’s favorite nostalgia-tinged sci-fi horror is one thing. Getting commissioned to do the official art for the series is very different.

That’s exactly the exciting (if somewhat terrifying) position Brazilian pop art illustrator Butcher Billy recently found himself in. The show’s producers approached him through his illustration agency, IllustrationX, and commissioned nine artworks, one for each episode, as part of social media. Season four campaign. In response, Butcher Billy created something very special.

Rather than the standard promo art featuring the main cast, his designs take inspiration from the aesthetics of 1980s horror comics, movie posters, Stephen King book covers, and disgusting video covers, with a gloriously dark and sinister touch. They caused quite a stir online, garnering tens of millions of likes on Instagram alone. And Netflix quickly jumped on this fan love, releasing the image as physical posters, t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies through the Netflix online store, as well as using them in outdoor advertising in Los Angeles.

So how did everything go, so good? We caught up with Butcher Billy to find out how he approached the project, how nervous he was and where his influences were.

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When and how did the work come about?

I was contacted in February by a creative agency in New York called Ralph, who was managing the social media strategy for an upcoming popular sci-fi series and wanted to know my availability. They said it would fit perfectly. When I found out that it was Stranger Things and that the Duffer Brothers had loved my previous work and suggested my name, I was thrilled, to say the least.

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

What was the summary?

They were looking for ’80s-style movie posters for every episode of Stranger Things Season 4, not the usual art that you do for a series, where you see all the main characters grouped together, but something that plays with the iconography, the specific symbols and elements of the show, focusing more on the bloody and terrifying scenes, without revealing too much of what happens. In general, the pieces would work as teasers for each chapter.

What did this opportunity mean to you?

I’ve worked with Netflix on promotional material for series like Queen’s Gambit and Cobra Kai, and most notably Black Mirror, where you can see some of my work in a couple of episodes. But even that wasn’t as important or as personal as working on this project.

How did you develop the ideas for each poster?

I was given early screenings of each episode long before it was released. They were work-in-progress versions, with unfinished special effects, as post-production was still ongoing when I saw it. He was absolutely free to pick and choose ideas and whatever he thought would work best. I particularly enjoyed choosing the quotes that I thought were the most impactful and memorable in each chapter and making them part of the design.

What kind of look were you looking for?

Nasty VHS videos, horror movie posters from the ’70s and ’80s, and covers of old books, especially the Stephen King ones, of course.

What tools and means did you use?

First hand sketches and then digital applications like Illustrator and Photoshop.

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

What comments and amendments did you receive during the process?

Surprisingly, there were very few comments. They mentioned early on that they all liked my old job, so they basically wanted me to do what I usually do without a lot of interference.

It should be flattering to be approached specifically for your style, rather than having to tailor it to the client’s taste. Is this always the case now?

It wasn’t easy or quick, but yeah, I guess it’s a dream come true. I worked for years as an art director in agencies while developing my own personal artwork as a side project until I felt confident enough to call it quits.

It’s scary to let go of a steady salary, but I wanted to develop my style and ideas without interference. And through that decision, I actually found that freedom, where I’m now approached by brands and companies that are looking for exactly what I do, and I can choose whether or not I want to work for them, when I want, and only if it’s the right fit for me. my.

Which poster was the most challenging and why?

I decided to design each piece so that I didn’t have to use a lot of the actors’ portraits unless absolutely necessary. The two that feature the face of a main character were a bit more difficult to create, requiring more revisions to ensure everyone was happy.

Nostalgia is everywhere in a way that makes you feel like it was yesterday. I grew up as a child in the ’80s and as a teenager in the ’90s. I feel privileged to have been shaped by what happened in these decades, but not superior to others who haven’t.

Wich was your favorite and why?

Probably Dear Billy and The Piggyback because of all the excitement around the particular scenes they’re based on and the music involved.

Your style is heavily influenced by ’80s comics, music, and movies, and the show is heavily influenced by ’80s sci-fi and fantasy. How was the mix?

It seemed like an ideal combo. When Stranger Things first came out, I remember it ticked all the boxes for me. Finding out that the Duffers were fans and wanted me to try it out on their playground felt like things came full circle.

Why do you think there’s so much love for the ’80s right now?

I recently saw a meme that said that in eight years, the 80s will have been 50 years ago. That’s pretty scary. I’m 44 years old, so it should be obvious to me, but somehow it’s not.

Nostalgia is everywhere in a way that makes you feel like it was yesterday. I grew up as a child in the ’80s and as a teenager in the ’90s. I feel privileged to have been shaped by what happened in these decades, but not superior to others who haven’t.

However, I honestly don’t know why it has endured the way it has for people who didn’t experience it. Seeing products like Stranger Things, Cobra Kai, Ghostbusters, and all the legacy remakes/reboots loved by Gen Z is fascinating to me.

When you get a summary like this, do you ever suffer from impostor syndrome or worry that you’re not doing a good job?

Yes, every time. I get a little scared at first, and then I go out and have a coffee. Go to the movies. Calm down a bit and then realize that nothing is as complicated as it seems inside my head. I think it’s healthy to feel this way. It is a sign that I am still enthusiastic about what I do.

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

How has the fan feedback been on the artwork?

To be honest, I’m overwhelmed by the attention. People love the pieces and have been sharing them everywhere. I have been receiving hundreds of comments, direct messages and even emails with compliments.

Where have the posters appeared in the physical world?

As far as I know, they decided to put billboards all over Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. I was asked to adapt each piece in horizontal versions. It was a last minute thing, and I must say I wasn’t sure at first, as it was a very different canvas than what I originally worked on. In the end though, I think most of them turned out as good, if not better, than the originals. It was exciting to see them in physical form, scattered all over Los Angeles.

Who would you say are your main influences?

Saul Bass, Jack Kirby, Andy Warhol and Banksy.

What advice did you get when starting out that helped you?

It is funny. I really don’t remember any good ones. Strangely, the most effective advice I received was from loved ones, who discouraged me from pursuing my dreams or criticized my work, choices, etc. I think there is something empowering about being the only one who believes in oneself. It may make you go even further.

Finally, what advice would you give to others?

Don’t just work for others; Find time to create for yourself.

Based in Curitiba, Brazil, Butcher Billy is an illustrator represented by IllustrationX. His retro style is heavily influenced by music, movies, books, comics, and computer games from the 1970s and 1980s, which form iconic elements of his artwork. His clients include Netflix, NME, ESPN, Waxwork Records NBA TV, Loot Crate, Penguin Random House, Stylist, Foot Locker and more.

Founded in 1929, IllustrationX is the world’s leading illustration agency, specializing in connecting clients with talented illustrators from diverse backgrounds around the world. Today it represents more than 220 talented artists and animators, with offices on four continents. For more information, visit www.illustrationx.com.

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