From Ahab’s white whale to Harry Potter’s magic wand, this year’s poster for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival presented by Emory University (DBF) is all about the meaningful symbols and scenes found in books. Each year, DBF commissions an artist or illustrator to create an original poster based on the festival’s themes of reading, writing, and community. This year, artist Sanithna Phansavanh rendered a vibrant take on well-known classics such as Moby Dick and the Harry Potter series.
Phansavanh, who has lived in Decatur for the last nine years, describes himself as an avid reader who has attended DBF many times with his family. To visualize the power of reading and storytelling to help readers explore and discover new voices, he consulted his own book shelves. He then expanded his search for titles that readers of all ages would recognize from the literary canon.
Using heightened colors from the DBF logo, Phansavanh drew symbols like a spider to represent Charlotte’s Web, the children’s novel by E. B. White. As with all great works of art, the DBF poster and its symbols are open to interpretation. Some may see Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in the rose that’s a focal point of the poster; others may think of Faulkner’s short story, “A Rose for Emily,” or Umberto Ecco’s contemporary classic, The Name of the Rose.
“With my illustration work, there’s a problem that I’m trying to solve and information that I’m trying to get across,” said Phansavanh. “When information gets embedded in a vessel—whether it’s in an illustration or a book—it’s usually because there’s a really good story there. Emotional impact and connection boil down to really good storytelling.”
Prints of the official 2019 poster created by Phansavanh will be on sale at this year’s festival. DBF will take place Labor Day weekend, Aug. 30 – Sep. 1, in Decatur.
About the Artist
Sanithna Phansavanh is an artist working and living in Atlanta, Georgia. His work, ranging from small, intimate drawings to large-scale, public murals, has been exhibited nationally and internationally, with notable showings at the High Museum of Art, on the Atlanta Beltline, and through the City of Atlanta’s Public Art programs.