Local artist captures Austin in official ACL 2015 poster

Cameron Osmond

Instead of taking notes during her classes at the University of Washington, Austin-based artist Sophie Roach began her artistic career doodling in her notebook.

Over the years, the self-taught artist has worked on murals around the city, designed posters for South By Southwest and created custom pairs of hand-painted shoes for Vans. Last year, Austin City Limits selected Roach to create the festival’s 2015 commemorative poster, which is featured on t-shirts as well as billboards and jumbotrons that are around the city.

“It was an honor because they pick one artist to represent the festival every year,” Roach said. “Past [artists] have been heroes of mine. It feels really good to be invited to do that.”

Without prior training, she said developing her artistic abilities in college was marked by trial and error. Though she didn’t originally study art, she began experimenting with graphic design and eventually majored in photo media.

“I realized with graphic design you have to do what other people want you to do,” Roach said. “When you’re an artist or illustrator you kind of get to have your own style, and that was what I was more interested in.”

Inspired by her experience growing up in Austin, she began designing the poster in April. The poster utilizes a wide-ranging color palette of blues, yellows and purples to capture the city’s offbeat nature. The image’s cascading water surrounds the hodgepodge of clustered skyscrapers.  

“Growing up here turned me into the artist I am,” Roach said. “I just like the overall vibe of Austin. I try not to be too specific with my work, but there are some [Austin] buildings that are recognizable.”

Her complex and thought-provoking style caught the attention of Stacey Rodrigues, event merchandise manager at ACL’s production company C3 Presents.

“I like the intricacy of [her work],” Rodrigues said. “It looks like really sophisticated doodles. It invites you to take a closer look.”

When tasked with making this year’s artist selection for the official commemorative poster, Rodrigues said she sought to change the festival’s tendency to highlight male artists. Until Roach, all 13 previous poster artists had been men.

“This year we really wanted to work with a female artist,” Rodrigues said. “We felt they’ve been underrepresented in our selection of poster artists the past years.”

After the close of the first weekend of the festival, Rodrigues said she was impressed by the popularity of Roach’s design.

“People love it and it’s been one of our best sellers,” Rodrigues said. “[It’s] a great voice for the 2015 festival.

Plan II freshman Cade Stone attended this year’s festival. The native Austinite said the design accurately captured the atmosphere of the city.

“I think it really showed what the event means to Austin,” Stone said. “I like how it shows the Austin skyline in a very abstract form.”

Now that the festival is coming to a close, Roach said she is excited for the future projects she’ll be able to focus on.

“I’m working on murals right now,” Roach said. “Maybe the next project will be live-drawing at a festival. I [just] really like the flexibility and diversity of projects that come with being an artist because I can get really bored if I’m doing just one thing.”