In the morning, with my girlfriend, I go through all the gig posters I’ve collected or traded for over the years in my flat file, since she’s looking for stuff to decorate a new apartment. I have something like 200 silkscreens that I can barely store properly. At some point, I stopped actively seeking them out. (The five posters I posted above aren’t actually ones I own, though. Just ones I like a lot.)
I got pretty heavily into posters in high school. It was probably my first sort of awareness that different cities had different “art scenes” (which seems sort of stupid to say, but growing up on the internet affected my sense of geography in a weird way.) Seripop was my first real introduction to poster design. They represented an aesthetic that I saw as very specific to Montreal’s music scene, and the artists were heavily informed by their city’s own design history.
I wrote them some really embarrassing fan mail asking them questions about how to get started in posters. At one point, I basically wrote them asking, “Please tell me what other artists to like.” They pointed me in the direction of Fort Thunder and Art Chantry, and told me to buy Lincoln Cushing’s book on Cuban poster art. That book subsequently introduced me to Eduardo Munoz Bachs, who has since become one of my all-time favorites in both poster design and children’s illustration. I even have a tattoo of one of his designs, kind of.
I drew a ton of posters in high school, but don’t have the time to do many now. They don’t pay very well. Anyway, here are two lessons that I think gig posters taught me.
How to color. I actually rarely do any of my own printing, but designing for silkscreen is a pretty fast way to learn color theory. Since you’re often only limited to two or three colors, you’re forced to learn how to work with a limited palette. Frank Santoro said in an interview that he used to be an assistant to Frank Kozik. That background in printmaking really shows in Cold Heat and Storeyville, I think.
Illegibility. Gig posters fostered my appreciation for illegible lettering. All these poster images are from GigPosters.com, which, depending on which thread you click, is either a friendly community of designers and music lovers, or a gross sausage fest full of bitter dudes who still listen to Honky. The site used to host stupid, sprawling arguments about whether or not illegible or hard-to-read text scared away potential audience members. Anyway, I’m paraphrasing someone paraphrasing Art Chantry, but some person at some time said said, “The function of a rock poster isn’t just to bring in the cool people, but also to keep out the squares.” I realized I that liked design that I had to take time to figure out (also: this.) This is actually something I’m still really wimpy about in my own work. All my comic covers and most of my posters have fairly conservative lettering. Easy to read, nice and big. That’s something I should work on, maybe.
At night I go to see Ty Segall and the White Wires play. Everyone I’ve ever met in my life is there. Allie, the drummer for the White Wires, was an old high school friend of mine. I am disappointed I could not have been the first from my graduating class to become a cool rock star.
The set times are weird and there’s an added hour because of some New Zealander, so I don’t get home til 5 am, and still have to stay up another three hours to color something. These hours are the ideal time to get work done. Everyone is asleep, and there isn’t any new crap on the internet I can distract myself with.
Michael DeForge is an artist and illustrator, and the creator of Lose.