I was born in Chicago and lived about 20 min north of downtown. My backyard was a cornfield. We moved to Memphis in first grade. I struggled through school daydreaming and doodling and generally just wanting to get out of there and be an artist, whatever that meant. My family weren’t artists, so my father had no idea of what being a designer or printer even meant. The first time I was published in a book, he looked at it and said, “That’s nice, do you know your brother is the night manager at Subway?” My mom was in the fashion world at a young age and encouraged my creativity. I enjoyed reading Daredevil comics and Mad magazine.
During high school I discovered skateboarding. That was my saving grace. That world helped me get to where I am today. I loved the graphics, the colors, the typography and how they printed things on them. I would skate and then to go the local punk rock club like Greenday with like 20 people. Memphis had a great local scene with punk or straight edge etc. I would go to all of that not knowing how I would be a part of it. I was learning how bands would get their name on a shirt and I learned that there was a screen thing and you could push ink through it and that was a way to express yourself.
In college professors didn’t know what to do with me. Was I a painter? Was I a designer? So I learned about typography and how things looked on a page and how that mattered. I did xerox flyers for bands and applied that to my school projects, which never looked like anyone else’s much to the chagrin of the professors. But, that’s how I wanted to do it. And if I was going to be creative, this was how I needed to do it.
So I kind of leaned back on what I knew and what I was doing and the only way I could get into shows was printing posters and tee shirts for bands. I can’t play music, so it was my way to be a part of something I loved. I could still be a part of the music. Me not knowing a lick of music means that it’s all mysterious still. So I can make a living and still be a part of the magic. So I travel the world and and get to set up booths at festivals before anyone shows up. I get to interact with someone who says they have one of my posters over their bed back in Australia or a band member who says their dad has a poster of mine.
I definitely would say that if I know the music and I get the opportunity, I will already know what kind of poster I want to do. A line in a song is a good place to start. Every time I hear that song I will revisit that mental sketch. But, usually a good lyric will paint a picture either literal or abstract. Sometimes it may be just a color. I’ll just have an image in my head that I think is neat and don’t know where it’s going to fit. Especially if I don’t know the band well. If I don’t know the band, I’ll hear it on repeat and something will jump out at you. I’m trying to make a movie poster for the sound.
Whatever the process, I just know that when the music is good and the ink is laying down perfectly, the whole thing is just going to go so right.
Photo credit: @shawnrussellphoto