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Earl Newman September 2019

Earl Newman of Summit is the artist behind this year's Corvallis Fall Festival poster. 

The work of Summit artist Earl Newman is instantly recognizable, but not necessarily to Newman himself.

"Some people say, 'I can tell your work anywhere,'" he said. "Well, I can't. I just do it. I just go for it."

And so, when Newman, well-known for his distinctive posters for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival and, yes, the Summit Summer Festival, was invited to be one of the artists to submit possible designs for this year's Corvallis Fall Festival poster, he went for it.

"They told me they were looking for a poster design," Newman said. "I submitted a design and they liked it."

The process of choosing each year's poster is a little more complicated than that, but not much: Deb Curtis, now settling into her second year running the festival, said a committee is responsible for selecting each year's poster artist and sends out invitations to a half-dozen or so selected artists.

"We encouraged him to submit because he had never done it before," Curtis said.

As for Newman, part of the reason why he hadn't done it before is because the Corvallis Fall Festival, held near the end of September, falls at about the same time as the Monterey Jazz Festival. He's been in the habit of driving the 700 or so miles to Monterey. But he's 89 now, and the long drive doesn't seem like such a good idea anymore.

So, that's how Newman ended up joining the roster of area artists who have created poster designs for the Fall Festival, which runs this weekend at Central Park, 650 NW Monroe Ave. in Corvallis. (See the information box for details.)

As for his design, Newman said he focused on the essence of the festival: "To me, it's a family event. I put the little drawing of family in the middle."

Then he filled in the details: The booths of the festival. The Benton County Courthouse. Marys Peak in the distance. Falling leaves. And then, in his distinctive lettering style, the key information: "Corvallis Fall Festival. Saturday and Sunday. September 28th and 29th."

"I like lettering and symbols," Newman said. "That's what poster making is, symbols."

Newman started work on the poster using a Sharpie and then filled in details and colors using pastels. The result is a work that captures something essential about Corvallis but yet remains quintessential Newman — even if he himself doesn't see it.

Newman will be one of 179 artists at this year's festival, and about a third of them (56) will be new to the event, said Curtis, who's worked to ensure that each year  features a good assortment of newcomers.

New this year to the festival will be an area devoted to artistry in food items, such as teas and spice, and essential oils. In that past, Curtis said, those booths have been scattered around the year, but this year, they've been concentrated in one area.

Another new twist this year: The youthful participants in the Art Discovery Zone will be creating banners that will be displayed in future festivals.

As always, the festival features a variety of local and Northwest bands performing throughout the weekend, with the Bob Marley tribute band Belly Full of Bob scheduled to play at Saturday's street dance. (For a full listing of the bands scheduled to perform, see the information box.)

As for Curtis, it turns out the second year in charge is easier: "I'm much more relaxed this year," she said.

In part, that's because the festival is able to count on a cadre of seasoned volunteers, who do everything from jury submissions from artists to cleaning the tables at the festival itself and helping with recycling.

It also helps that the festival has been a mid-valley staple now for nearly a half-century.

"Because it has something for everyone, the community really comes and rallies around it," Curtis said.

Newman will be at this year's festival, appropriately ensconced in booth No. 1, showing his work and enjoying the one-time notoriety that comes with being this year's poster artist. 

"You can only do it once," he said of being tabbed this year. "This is it. I hope it doesn't rain."

And then he paused to reconsider.

"If it rains, it rains," he said. (The forecast calls for a slight chance of rain.) "There are some things you can't worry about." 

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