Stranger Things Artist Sketches His Way Into Nightlife

Kyle Lambert

Kyle Lambert

Some artists strive to create iconic work while others work more inconspicuously. Kyle Lambert would be one of the latter. The 29-year-old U.S.-based artist is responsible for creating the posters and unmistakable ’80s-inspired aesthetic of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, a sci-fi drama that seemingly blew up overnight this summer. Lambert was commissioned by the streaming video service to create the show’s main poster and additional art after viewing a few sample episodes (Like most of us, Lambert then binge-watched the entire series in a few sittings). And he did most of the sketching and drawing on an iPad.

 How’d he do it? Lambert used ProCreate—an iPad application that allows for sketching, painting and drawing on the device—to lay the foundation for the posters. He paired the app with the Apple Pencil for a uniquely new creative experience for Stranger Things. It’s something he’s been toying with throughout his career as a visual artist.

 “With paper, you have direct input. You can hold it in your hand; it’s tactile,” he says. “When it comes to digital, there’s a sort of detachment: You look on the screen, then you look down at your hands. Devices like the iPad bring the best of both worlds, and it adds that element of portability.”

Future as Marty McFly? Fetty Wap as Mad Max? Stranger Things have happened.

Future as Marty McFly? Fetty Wap as Mad Max? Stranger Things have happened.

The majority of Lambert’s work in the entertainment world revolves around the idea of youth and nostalgia from a particular time period, namely, the glorious hand-painted movie posters of the ’80s. Peruse his work and you’ll recall the same fine lines and cartoony aesthetics of such cornerstone films from the era as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Back to the Future. Although the resemblance is unmistakable, Lambert says it was just something that happened over time. “It’s an aesthetic that I wasn’t actively seeking,” he says. Lambert’s first foray into the nostalgic style happened when he was commissioned to create a “throwback” poster that reflected the time frame of J.J. Abrams’ 2011 sci-fi blockbuster Super 8.

“They wanted something that harkened to the era when traditionally painted works were used as advertisements. They wanted me to evoke that style, and it’s something I’ve been re-creating ever since.”

Fast-forward five years and Lambert has found himself creating for another niche: nightlife. For its epic, star-studded Halloween lineup, Drai’s Nightclub commissioned Lambert to re-create four iconic movie posters, one for each night of the festivities October 28-31. Of course, given the occasion, Drai’s booked a stellar roster of talent, and Lambert portrayed the artists as classic movie characters to fit the part. “Trap Queen” rapper Fetty Wap appears as the fearless dystopian vigilante Mad Max; Future dons a stylish vest a la Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future; 50 Cent wears Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature leather jacket and pistol as he does in Terminator and Atlanta rapper T.I. appears in full flight gear in the style of Tom Cruise in Top Gun. The four mini-posters converge to form one large piece that’s reminiscent of colorful pamphlets, fliers or trading cards from the ’80s—and one of the artists depicted have taken notice of the work. “My music is my legacy, just like Back to the Future is part of the film industry’s legacy and Kyle’s iconic art is his,” Future says. “My shows at Drai’s are a continuation of [my] musical journey.” So, how did the collaboration happen?

“The team [at Drai’s] are fans of my work, so they reached out to me via Instagram direct message as soon as they figured out the lineup—simple as that,” Lambert says. He wanted to craft something both creative and cohesive, regardless of the subject matter, and says that interpreting the modern figures within the context of yesteryear—time-travel style—felt wholly organic. “I wanted to take the essence from those classics and interpret it into something current. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought,” he says. He is also quick to pick favorites, saying Future’s Back to the Future piece was the most enjoyable to sketch. And that’s not just because the Atlanta trap rapper’s name is in the title of the film. “They’re all so interesting, but that one is such a well-known piece,” he says. “I even did [Michael J. Fox’s] red vest!”

While Lambert’s creations bear striking resemblances to the rappers, he’s only actually familiar with one’s music. “I’m a big fan of hip-hop and R&B, but most of these artists aren’t on my wavelength,” Lambert says. “ I do enjoy 50 Cent’s work, though. It’s great.”

As for the future, Lambert plans to keep busy with new projects that have spawned from his impressive body of work. He wants to keep it under wraps, but says that it will include album covers, movie posters, art for other series and “other goodies.” And that’s just within the entertainment sphere; beyond that, he’s worked with companies such as Apple, GQ, Adobe and Vanity Fair.

Who knows? Maybe he’ll sketch the faces of our favorite celebrities or DJs. Or perhaps he’ll draft concepts for the the Strip’s next megaclub.