Wylie Beckert


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New Work: The Nutcracker Posted on 18 Nov 2014

poster art by illustrator Wylie Beckert for Kansas Ballet's production of The Nutcracker

Ye gods, is it that time of year again??

Here's one of my latest commissioned pieces: a poster illustration for Kansas Ballet Company's 2014 production of The Nutcracker. This assignment has been percolating since May, when the company's art director (and reigning Mouse King) stumbled across my booth at Spectrum Live.

poster art by illustrator Wylie Beckert for Kansas Ballet's production of The Nutcracker

Thumbnail concepts.

The client originally envisioned a poster featuring Clara and a shadowy Mouse King; this was eventually discarded as too menacing for the target audience (composed primarily of little ballerinas) and so we settled on a composition centered around a portrait of the nutcracker doll.

poster art by illustrator Wylie Beckert for Kansas Ballet's production of The Nutcracker
Like most of my recent digital work, the piece started out as a 16x20-ish pencil drawing on bristol. While the larger pencil drawings can be a little unwieldy to work on (and store), I like how working larger allows for an additional level of intricate detail and, when reduced, a more polished final image.

poster art by illustrator Wylie Beckert for Kansas Ballet's production of The Nutcracker

The final illustration, prior to the type treatment.

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Sara Plante:

Hi Wylie!

As always I love the piece, its gorgeous (I particularly appreciate the Rat King).

I wanted to ask you if you were in charge of the type treatment for this piece, or for any of the pieces you've done in the past. I'm often confused where the illustrators role traditionally ends and where they should draw the line on further requests.

20 Nov 2014 09:05 pm

Wylie Beckert:

Thanks Sara!

I handled the type for this one - but I wouldn't say that's standard. For larger clients (like any of the major book publishers) it's never assumed to be the illustrator's job; it tends to be smaller/independent clients that expect the illustrator to provide the type design. If you're working with the latter, you'll definitely want to outline the terms in your contract - for example, offering one rate for illustration only and another for illustration + type design (IF you even do type design, I tend to avoid it) just to make sure everyone's on the same page at the outset.

20 Nov 2014 09:48 pm

Sara Plante:

Good to know! Thank you for your input, I appreciate it. Sounds like I'll need to brush up on typefaces and design just in case!

20 Nov 2014 10:48 pm


Oh my god, I'm absolutely in love with his face. It's such a cool style with the moustache and the eyebrows, I can't get over how awesome this is!
and yay for you, doing the posters for a ballet company must be an amazing!
xoxo Alex

22 Nov 2014 12:33 pm

Wylie Beckert:

Thanks Alex! I wanted to do a face that was a little different from the usual nutcracker dolls, but was still reminiscent of that style. Definitely a fun challenge, and hopefully there'll be more ballet posters in my future!

23 Nov 2014 12:28 pm


Those are some mighty detailed thumbnails!

25 Nov 2014 09:01 am

Joseph Pennington:

Wylie, these are just beautiful. We are humbled that you helped us in our nacient years with unending patience and professionalism. Your talent endures, as hundreds of children kept their playbills signed like a yearbook, dozens of posters still hang in bedrooms of aspiring dancers. A few high quality prints are cherished by the principle performers, some displayed in the hall of fame at the studio, and the first print framed and signed hangs in a place of honor in our house. You really set the tone for future productions, and we appreciate your talents.

20 Jan 2016 02:18 pm

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