12"x18" 6 color screen print. Edition of 200.
A Predator reference featuring The Governor Jesse Ventura
You Vil Lose"
12"x18" 4 color screen print. Edition of 200.
Inspired by Rocky 4 and Mike Tyson's Punch-Out but cmon who cant see that?!
Now the Jon Smith interview
So how did you get your start as an artist ?
I guess the first time my mom gave me some crayons. That’s where it started.
Professionally I’ve been doing random freelance jobs that aren’t worth mentioning since I got out of art school(Art Institute of Seattle) in 2003. I stumbled upon the poster world in 2004 or 2005 and this is pretty much all I’ve done since then.
Do you think art school is good for people that want to pursue being an artist and do you feel it can be taught or is it something people are born with?
Being an artist is a destination and there are all kinds of ways to get there. Walk, run, fly, whatever but obviously you have to want to go there. Although the talent you’re born with probably dictates the degree of difficulty in your trek to this metaphorical place I’ve concocted, “being an artist”.
Here comes another metaphor: schools are like gyms, you get out what you put in. Art schools, like gyms aren’t necessary but they’re there and they make it pretty straightforward to get results if you put in the time and energy. You pay money, people who know how to do the shit that you want to do, show you how to do it. From there it’s just up to how much work you put in and how many questions you ask.
So yeah, schools are fine. They work, but these days especially if we’re talking about commercial art here, I don’t think anyone NEEDS to go to school. You can get all the programs and tutorials you’ll ever need to do anything on the intranets.
My major gripe when I’m asked this question is with the art programs in public school. The whole point of public school, high school anyway is to prepare kids for the working world. An art department that consists of pencils, paint and clay is not realistically preparing anyone for a real job.
I can’t even imagine where I would be today if I got my hands on Photoshop or Illustrator in high school, I walked into the Art Institute completely unaware of all the software I was about to get crammed down my throat. All I’m saying is one or two programs on the computers at my high school in the art department would give kids a fighting chance at landing an entry level design job or at least hit the ground running in college.
I know this was ten years ago and maybe you’re thinking “computers and software cost money”. Maybe so but my high school was brand new, top of the line everything plus how much does a fucking kiln cost? A pottery wheel? Clay? Paint and brushes? Heaven forbid you have to downsize ceramics!
My art school experience was a headache. I’m proud of myself for surviving but also pissed that I came into it woefully unprepared and wasted my dad’s money. I mean I’ll be thirty next month and I’m only just now a full-time, self-sufficient, professional, adult, designer/illustrator. MONEY WELL SPENT, POP!
So were you always artistic, did you know early on that you wanted to do something creative growing up or did you have other interests/options?
I always figured I’d be an Illustrator of some kind growing up. I got really serious about penciling comic books at 14. I was the fat little weirdo with his dad at the comic book convention waiting in line to get his pages critiqued by his favorite artists.
I’ve always been a comedy nerd, I remember staying up way past SNL at a really young age watching blocks of the random stand up they’d play. There’s no way I could have understood half of the jokes, it’s weird like I was obsessed with Seinfeld in 5th grade!
So yeah I entertained that possibility until my mid-teens when I realized that I’m shy as fuck and I had no idea how anyone becomes a stand up comedian. ….I still think if I made a complete career switch I would make a pretty good stand up.
Up until last year you worked at D&L Screen Printing. Did you do any printing and what made you decide to make the jump and become an artist full time ?
I was freelancing full-time before I started working at D&L. I had been doing posters for about two years I think, that’s where I got my posters printed(big ups to Brad Klausen and Justin Hampton for the tip) I lived a couple minutes away and there just came a time when I needed a part time job to make ends meet and Steve needed someone to handle shipping.
So it was a crazy juggling act, shipping at D&L during the day and going home to design at night and then part-time became full-time and I was still trying to crank out as many design jobs as I could. D&L kept getting bigger, I went from all local posters for bands I was living with to national acts, Roger Waters, Black Keys, Spoon etc, Nate Duval and I did the whole 1982 thing, I did some Mondo stuff, then I started getting invited into shows at Gallery 1988 and Spoke Art and I was busy as shit and I was making money so it was time to get back to freelancing.
Shipping is a beast so there was never much chance to try my hand at printing and I had no prior printing experience so the few times I tried to print for myself were total disasters. Printing is for savages anyway. I’ve got to preserve my pristine little artist hands. I have servants what cut my meat for me and open jars as well….this is how I would talk around the shop. That and making pop culture references that no one gets.
It would have been less weird if I could print myself cuz it was always strangely embarrassing when they’d be printing one of my posters and I’m working over in shipping(boxing up 500 mondo posters that have to go out today!!) and also pop over and take a look at the color on my print and tell em what I think. They’re always busy so I know if I say something stupid like “can you make that Flat Black but add 37.9% Gloss Black??” I look ridiculous and it’s just one more thing for them to do.
I’m bad at adding up years but it was like three and a half or four years all-together. No printing, tons of shipping, racking, reclaiming screens, file separation,….pin holing, well I was pretty shitty at that.
I learned a lot just by seeing everyone else’s jobs come through every day. Watching the evolution of dudes like Drew Millward, Ken Taylor, Tong, Slater etc. was awesome.
Before I get to the next question, shout out to Steve, Odulia , Cary, Josh, Pete, Waylin and Jack!!
How would you describe your style ?
It really just depends on the job. I think of a concept first, whatever the concept is will dictate the style. Along with the client and or subject matter of course.
I can’t really describe my style because I don’t ever just stick to one design or illustration style. My approach though, is to make something that punches you between the eyes. I mean that’s what a poster is supposed to do.
You mentioned recently you are moving to the Austin area, Seattle and Austin both have a large music and art community what made you decide on Austin ?
It’s not you it’s me, Seattle. I represent the 206 wherever I go but I gotta get the fuck out of here. I just have no life here, gotta reshuffle the deck yknow? I’ve been to Austin about five or six times and it’s always fun. People friendly. Girls pretty. Drafthouse. SUN. Salt Lick. Friday Night Lights.
Do you find listening to a bands music helps in creative process and/or is there something you listen to when working on a project?
It does. I do. At least until I have an idea or two and I find the aspect of a song or two that I’m trying to represent visually. Then I just go back to melting my brain with endless sports talk radio and comedy podcasts.
Who or what continues to influence your work today ?
I’d really like to dip back into comics, man. This summer was insane, haven’t had much time to be influenced by anything other than the subject matter of the projects I’ve been working on. I feel like I might have a small break in the action where I can maybe reflect a little on where I’m at creatively, where I wanna go and dive into some art that I don’t know that much about, poke my head out of the poster world yknow?…or just go on a Daniel Clowes graphic novel bender I dunno.
Generally I find visually I’m more influenced by shit that doesn’t make sense or I don’t have a full frame of reference on because it’s foreign or something and it leaves me open to interpret as I see fit or just dig that it’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before. I know it’s probably hack lame bullshit to people but I still like scrolling through http://ffffound.com/ and the livejournal image feed of course it all deteriorates into porn eventually but you can shuffle through there and see a lot of stuff you haven’t seen before that yanks your mind in twelve different directions in thirty seconds. Especially the livejournal feed. It’s like Russian Roullete, you have no idea what’s coming at you every time you refresh. Could be granny porn, could be an archive of MacGregor baseball mits…wait a minute, granny porn? old baseballs mits? FUUUCK! IT’S ALL BEEN GRANNY PORN THESE ARE JUST EXTREME CLOSE UPS!!
Unlike many of today's artist's you don't release variants of your work, what are your thoughts on them and why don't you release them as well ?
I’ve got no truck with variants. Variants are a cool idea. I’m not into variants for the sake of variants, I think sometimes it’s clearly just milking the collector market…but I dunno, people buy them I guess.
I would do more variants myself but sometimes it just comes down to time, I want to make sure the variant version looks cool and is worthwhile. Ideally a variant should have something extra, I made a glow in the dark variant on my last Black Keys poster which added more detail to the whole thing and of course, it glows!
That’s the way I’d like to do all variants in the future. Like the “pine tar edition” of my Don’t Mess With The Bull print was basically a variant, ON WOOD. I got the wood, sanded it, I painted it and applied a little pine tar on the pieces before and after printing. That’s a worthwhile second edition or variant, however you wanna classify it.
Have you worked with any other mediums such as painting and do have any desire to explore new ideas in other mediums ?
Painting seems like something I’d fuck around with if I had enough scratch to kick back and really play around with new stuff. Take the time to get past being super rusty and get to actually painting something that doesn’t look like dog shit.
So if you see me painting, you know I’m hood rich son! Watercolors are more my speed. I like cut paper and just straight up collaging with my hands instead of photoshop.
You have done gigposters, prints for themed shows and movie posters. What do you enjoy working on the most ?
When you get an illustration right, there’s kind of a rush. I guess it can be a little more satisfying than a design that’s all done in Photoshop, but everything has to pass through Photoshop for me.
That’s really the only difference for me. If it’s a concert poster it tends to be more of a design because for me it usually makes more sense to design something that captures the spirit of a band. When it’s something pop culture based I tend to veer more towards illustration.
But really the enjoyment for me just comes from getting whatever little twinkle of a bright idea I have in my head, OUT and into the design. It’s like when Rocky finally catches the chicken. Now I know I’m gonna beat Creed!
Pop Culture has had a huge influence on art for many years, when you have Jon's night in what are you watching ?
Pfft! You mean every night?? Breaking Bad is done for now so I’m hoping Boardwalk Empire keeps my interest this season. I tried watching Game Of Thrones but I don’t think I was in a real Dungeons and Dragons kinda mood.
Does that answer the question? Slap Shot is my favorite movie and remains endlessly rewatchable.
Who's your favorite modern era gig poster artist and any new artists that have caught your eye ?
Sheeeeeeeit. I can never pinpoint what my favorite anything is so I can’t say anyone is my absolute favorite artist.
I still think Silent Giants are way underrated. Doublenaut. Obviously Landland has really hit their stride lately….but that’s not like new new….my answer to both questions is of course: ZACH HOBBS.
What was the last poster you bought and just had to have?
HAhahahha! I’ve never purchased a poster. That I know of. I’m not laughing to be an asshole I laugh because I know how weird it sounds. I don’t have much of a life, I barely have time to keep from eating shit on all my deadlines and I don’t splurge on much outside of food and booze.
This always comes up in conversation when I’m talking to artists at Flatstock. I’ve traded prints with artists here and there. I have copies of a few things from my time at D&L but honestly the only things up on my wall right now are a John Howard 3-D print, Olly Moss’ On The Waterfront, the Ames Bros Pearl Jam Key Arena(the Shawn Kemp one)and Tyler gave me one of his Kill Bill posters.
What's your favorite place to eat in Seattle?
Again, I have no life so this is a pretty lame answer for a Seattleite: Red Mill(burgers) or Sam’s Sushi. I’m also a really picky eater so I know there are great Thai places and Mexican places etc. but I don’t eat that shit.
Who is going to win the Super Bowl this year ?
The entire Chicago Bears offensive line conspires to not block for Jay Cutler on passing downs. The result is a concussion, four broken ribs and a shattered kneecap for Cutler. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Jason Campbell takes the reigns and leads the Bears to a Super Bowl victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
What is the story with your hair and what hair products do you recommend ?
It’s pretty fucked up. I’ve never grown my hair out before so I don’t even know where it’s going, I guess I’ll trim it when it gets past shoulder length but it’s a mess. I have to be constantly fidgeting with something and long hair is now one extra thing for my hands to fuck around with uncontrollably while I’m staring at the imac or at a red light. Basically brushing it with my hands, pulling snarls out, well really I’m pulling my hair out in clumps.
So because of this I have split ends and it gets frizzy real easy so I use Aussie Anti-Frizz cream. It works when I use it but I barely remember to brush my teeth much less my hair.
You just got done with your first curated show Mucho Machismo with Spoke Art, how did that all come about ?
Wellllll it was an idea I’ve had for a while. I was talking to Ken Harman from Spoke Art and there was this show he was planning that ended up getting shelved so there was an open spot in the schedule.
So of course, having no curatorial experience I casually float that I have a show idea. Ken liked it, we booked it. It was initially supposed to be a weekend pop up show, maybe ten to fifteen artists but with Spoke Art opening an Oakland location it got bumped up to a bigger month long show so then I frantically got after more artists!
How did you come up with the idea for Mucho Machismo ?
Writer’s write from experience right? Go with what you know. Mucho Machismo is about the era that I grew up in. More precisely the hyper violent media that saturated everything that I couldn’t get enough of.
In the 80’s and 90’s, before political correctness, while the U.S wasn’t in any real wars, before Columbine, there was a beautiful window of time where steroid use and cocaine use spiked simultaneously. It was the peak of the action movie, professional wrestling and the birth of the violent video game, the first person shooter.
It was a about being a big strong tough guy but also about being a good guy and in most cases an American good guy. Kick ass and do so with a cool hair cut, it was the era that gave us Brian Bosworth and Mr. T.
The name itself is something I vaguely remember from my childhood. There was some kind of boxing event, don’t know if it was local or a national pay-per-view but it was all light or middleweight Latin fighters called Mucho Machismo. I mostly just remember the name, hearing it on the radio somewhere.
It’s a cheesy name and it has “cheese” in the name if you pronounce it right: “Moo-cho Ma-Cheese-mo”.
How did you decide which artists you wanted in the show ?
I just went for artists I thought fit the show or just people who’s work I like. Pretty much what anyone would do but the concept of Mucho Machismo isn’t for everybody, it’s niche dude nostalgia. Not all artists are into this stuff, some artists like read books and stuff and listen to NPR yknow?
So I ended up with a roster full of burn out degenerates meatballs, but they’re MY meatballs!
Kidding aside, I tried to have a wide range of styles and I tried to make the roster diverse if possible. Gabz is in Poland and Smithe and Kraken are in Mexico. Doublenaut, Toronto. We got a couple limeys, Godmachine, wethreeclub, Drew Millward? Well Drew was a last minute scratch.
So it’s somewhat international and from Doublenaut and Doe Eyed(Michael from Doe Eyed is now Freedrugs) to Anville and James Flames and Tim Doyle there’s a good mix of designers and illustrators what use they’re hands an all. Mucho Machismo is wide ranging!
Ok now leave a comment about the 80's and 90's to have a chance at winning one of the prints. We are giving away 5 of each, entries will be accepted until Wednesday night 12pm PDT. One entry per person. I'll use the random number generator to pick the winners. Thanks to Jon Smith of the interview and the prints for the giveaway