Greek artist, Virginia Axioti, is the last person hand-painting movie posters in Greece. She does much of her work in a tiny art studio which occupies a corner of her Athens apartment.
For the past five years she’s been the main artist at the Athinaion Cinema, which opened in Athens in 1960 and remains one of the oldest cinemas in the city, located in the central neighbourhood of Ambelokipi.
“Presently, the only movie theatre with hand painted billboards is the Athinaion in Athens,” Axioti says in a video for Great Big Story. “My first billboard was for the movie Mad Max and recently I did Sully with Tom Hanks, which I really enjoyed.”
Painting the posters is a time-consuming process. First, Axioti, who doesn’t have time to watch all the movies she’s hired to advertise, will watch trailers to get a sense of the film’s mood. She takes some creative liberties in her sketches, but usually relies heavily on the official poster. Then, using an opaque projector, she projects her drawing onto two huge pieces of paper and begins to mix her colors.
“It takes, on average, about three to four days of continued work to paint a billboard. Fortunately, I use a projector that helps with detailed work and means it takes less time,” Axiotis says.
Because of the size of the painting, Axioti constantly takes a few steps back, squinting at her work to make sure everything is properly scaled and making any necessary adjustments along the way.
The final result?
“It’s more intimate, it’s more personal. Each person will see it in a different way. It’s not the same as a [printed] poster. A painting is the hand gesture, the brushstroke, the movement,” Axioti said. “That’s the difference between the photo and the painting.”
“When people pass outside our cinema and see the posters, it’s more human. It’s more intimate. It’s sweeter.”
With such a clear passion, it’s clear that Axioti has no plan to give up the traditional art form any time soon.