The Lady Loves to Cut: Maude White

Elephant, cut paper, © Maude White
Elephant, cut paper, © Maude White

I met artist Maude White at Grit N Glory on NYC’s Lower East Side at an opening reception for Carrier Pigeon Magazine. Her medium is cut paper. She illustrated “The Girl Who was Struck by Lightning,” a quite peculiar short story by Chris Stanton. If there is a literary genre called Backwoods Surreal Noir, this story fits the bill.

Art © Maude White Text: Chris Stanton
Art: Maude White    Text: Chris Stanton    Carrier Pigeon Issue #9 Designer: Amanda Bixler

I’m a professor, so I naturally asked Maude where she studied. She told me she had never studied illustration. In fact, she only recently began taking classes at Buffalo State in areas that interest her. Maude’s artwork is quite wonderful. I tell my students one doesn’t need a degree to be an illustrator. Maude White proves that point.

Hand, cut paper, © Maude White 2013
Hand, cut paper, © Maude White 2013

I emailed her a few questions and apologized for the rather dumb one I asked her at the gallery.

“No worries about the college question! I went to a Waldorf School for my early, formative years. I think that influenced my art in many ways. Waldorf Schools place a very high importance on handwork and visual storytelling. Also, I come from a family of visual storytellers. My mother and my sister are both gifted toymakers, and my mother is a puppetmaker as well.”

Maude White at Grits N Glory
Maude White at Grits N Glory

Who are your artistic influences?

“I am influenced by my mother’s art a great deal. When I was little she would make wool felt playscapes – little scenes of a tree stump in a forest-covered in plants and animals, a small garden scene with vegetables and apple trees, a playscape for the story The Three Billy Goats Gruff. It was these types of small, precious, complete worlds that drew me to working with paper. I like the idea of the stark contrast between the black and white paper, and the cut nature of the work makes my art more three-dimensional than paint on canvas. I have always been fascinated by small, hidden, secret things. I like the idea of looking in, or through. With paper cutting there are so many opportunities to create negative space that tells its own story, just by letting the observer become present in the piece, by allowing him or her to look through it. I like that.”


How did you become an illustrator for Carrier Pigeon?

“I met Russ (Spitkovsky, Editor-in-chief ) at the Book Fest at the Western NY Book Arts Center in Buffalo last summer. We were both vendors and our tables were next to each other. At the time I was making tiny carousel books with pop-out paper cut panels (a carousel book is a type of book that ‘pops’ out into a star shape). Russ and I got to talking and he expressed interest in having me illustrate a story for Carrier Pigeon. He sent me Chris Stanton’s ‘The Girl Who Was Struck By Lightning’ to illustrate for CP9. I never talked to Chris, but after CP9 came out he reached out to me via Facebook and expressed his delight over our collaboration. It was great, and I’m glad to have made that connection.”

Chained, cut paper, © Maude White.
Wild, cut paper, © Maude White.

What are you working on now?

“Currently I’m working on some large pieces, roughly 24 in. x 18 in. and very intricately cut. One is a giant hand, the other is an elephant. The hand will be exhibited at the Western New York Book Arts Center’s member show. Also, I am completing panels for a small 4 in. x 4 in. paper cut alphabet book. Each panel has the papercut letter and usually two things that relate to that letter. For example, ‘D’ shows a dragon blowing fire at a dandelion. ‘S’ has a snail sitting on the ‘S’ looking down at a ship. This has been a really fun project and the only ones I have left to draw and cut are WXY and Z.”


CP9, Carrier Pigeon, Issue 9, costs $25. Besides Maude White’s artwork there is much of interest, including linocut monsters by Bill Fick and a letterpress cover by Richard Kegler. I love Carol Fabricatore‘s illustrations for Ryan Scamehorn’s ‘Honor Among Thieves’ and the stunning portfolio of Alex Zwarenstein‘s figurative oil paintings. See more at As I’ve said before, $25 may be expensive for a magazine, but it is cheap for a work of art. My copy is signed and numbered #95 of 1000, and it smells like fresh ink. I once bought an 1894 copy of The Yellow Book, the London-based magazine art directed by Aubrey Beardsley for $20. Today that issue is on Amazon for $100. I believe Carrier Pigeon will prove as influential as The Yellow Book was in its day. I also expect the limited edition issues of Carrier Pigeon will similarly increase in value. As they say on Wall Street, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Chained, detail, cut paper, © Maude White
Chained, detail, cut paper, © Maude White

More Maude
Visit to see more of Maude White’s work. You can purchase paper cuts or commission art. She also does felt jewelry. I asked Maude if she ever considered using a laser cutter. She told me she prefers a sharp X-acto knife, “It may sound weird, but I love to cut, ” she said, “I just enjoy the process.” She also shared one trade secret of her technique. She uses a silver colored pencil to sketch on the black paper before she begins cutting.

The secret tool for cut paper art. Thanks Maude.
The secret tool for cut paper art. Thanks Maude.

Traces of Lucidity

Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies
from © Lou Brooks


When I was a grad student I asked my teacher Marshall Arisman how to use the ancient lucigraph tracing machine in SVA’s illustration studio. He cocked his head back and laughed in my face. “You never used one of these? Good for you, I am not going to teach you!” I can’t find a picture of the exact model, but it had a big black bellows and a fan that sounded like a helicopter landing. Similar specimens can be found in Lou Brooks’ Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies.

Prof. Pablo Garcia's collection of camera lucidas.
Prof. Pablo Garcia’s collection of camera lucidas.

Tracing devices, or optical drawing aids are not new. Camera comes from the Latin word for room or chamber, and obscura and lucida from dark and light. The camera obscura is the older and larger device. Aristotle knew of the device. It works with a pinhole or lens and projects a 2-D image on a surface. The camera lucida is a portable optical device that works in bright light.

Dürer's woodcut of a draftsman using a drawing aid.
Dürer’s woodcut of a draftsman using a drawing aid.

Fine artists often deny using such tools. Some illustrators are more honest. Norman Rockwell used Bosh and Lomb’s Balopticon, a projecting device with a 400-watt bulb. He said, “The balopticon is an evil, inartistic, habit-forming, lazy and vicious machine! It also is a useful, time-saving, practical and helpful one. I use one often—and am thoroughly ashamed of it. I hide it whenever I hear people coming.”

Copan Stela detail by Catherwood and sketch from the "Maya Decipherment" blog.
Copan Stela F (detail) by Catherwood and sketch from the “Maya Decipherment” blog.

I wrote about Frederic Catherwood when I was in the Yucatan in 2011. Catherwood braved disease, insects, snakes, and war to complete his illustrations for John Stephen’s “Incidents of Travels in Central America, Chiapas, and the Yucatan.” Catherwood hacked away jungle and rigged a camera obscura in a black tent in the tropical sun. His drawings, circa 1840, are so meticulously detailed that they enable epigraphers to decipher the glyphs today. Many such glyphs were lost to erosion or looters by the time photographers arrived decades later. The illustration above is from Dr. David Stuart of the University of Texas Austin’s Maya Decipherment blog. 


Yesterday, I (and 2499 others) contributed $30 to a Kickstarter campaign to produce a 21st century camera lucida. Dubbed the NeoLucida it will be assembled in Pittsburgh. I will be getting one to try.

demo photo from NeoLucida Kickstarter
demo photo from NeoLucida Kickstarter

The NeoLucida is the brainchild of two art professors: Pablo Garcia, who teaches Contemporary Practices at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Golan Levin, Associate Professor of Computation Arts at Carnegie Mellon University. The NeoLucida Kickstarter was so popular it sold out within 16 hours.

They write: “Our first batch of NeoLucidas will also be our only batch—because, as we’ve explained, we’re doing this as a fun intervention, not to start a business. Once we’ve finished distributing the NeoLucidas, we will publish our designs, CAD files, and all of our supplier data pablo-golan.largewith a liberal Creative Commons and Open-Source Hardware (OSHW) license, so that anyone who wishes can continue the project (including, potentially, commercially). Our design and other manufacturing information will appear on, Instructables, Scribd, and other appropriate sites.                              Sincerely, Pablo & Golan

Sorry I am such a slow typist. Had I posted this yesterday, you might have gotten in on the deal. But take hope in the fact that this is an open source provocation. Someone else will surely build on this idea. The video on the NeoLucida Kickstarter site is still worth a visit. It is a case study of a pitch perfect Kickstarter campaign. My favorite part is when Prof. Garcia earnestly explains “our suppliers require a minimum order of 500 prisms and thumb nuts.” Thumb nuts! The NeoLucida will come with a postage paid card to permit users to send their line art to an online collection. There may even be a book. I plan take my NeoLucida to Mexico and trace a glyph.

UPDATE: May 10. New limited edition of $40 NeoLucidas is slated to be announced on Kickstarter this evening at 6pm EST, link here.

Paul Hoppe – Keeping it Real

Destinations illustration © Paul Hoppe which he sells as a print.
Destinations illustration © Paul Hoppe

Paul Hoppe was at MoCCA fest selling prints and handcrafted zines. Born in Poland, he grew up in Germany and came to NYC on a DAAD scholarship. (DAAD is the German version of a Fulbright Exchange.) He got his MFA at SVA’s Illustration as Visual Essay program in New York City. Our Kutztown students were impressed by him. Jen Zweiger traded a copy of her very first zine with him. She says,”getting to meet and interact with international artist was a really profound experience.”

Paul Hoppe at MoCCA Fest  2013. photo by K. McCloskey
Paul Hoppe at MoCCA Fest 2013. photo by K. McCloskey

Nathan Hurst liked Paul’s advice to “network with a close knit group of trusted friends.” Paul told us how, in his final weeks of grad school at SVA, he and classmate C.M.Butzer realized they might never again have free access to a photo copier. They created and printed the comic anthology Rabid Rabbit which debuted at MoCCA 2005. It was a hit and SVA gave them a mini-grant to keep the zine afloat.

Birth of Rabid Rabbit by C.M. Butzer from
Birth of Rabid Rabbit by C.M. Butzer from

Paul said Rabid Rabbit grew faster than expected. They got submissions from all over the world. “A guy sent stuff from Australia, and we said Wow! Australia, That’s cool! We wrote to him, ‘You know we don’t pay, we aren’t making any money.’ He said that’s cool and so we printed his story, but mostly we were printing our own work.”

I told Paul how I once got a frank rejection note from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Press in San Fransisco. It said roughly, “Dear Author, Your work has merit; you should publish it yourself. We keep busy publishing books by our friends; try it with your friends! “ Paul said Rabid Rabbit worked on the same basic principle. They knew which classmates were both good artists and dependable, and those are the ones that got in.

Beholder_BOOKS_Misery1234_2_16_820Paul is no longer involved with Rabbit Rabid, but he is still friends with his co-founder and co-conspirators. He is working hard on his nifty Beholder zines. He explained the series is “homage to super hero comics of the Copper Age.Copper? I thought he was kidding. I’d heard of the Golden Age. I remember the Silver Age of the 1950’s and 60’s fondly. It seems there was also Bronze Age (70’s and early 80’s) and Copper Age (late 80’s) for comic books. Who knew?

Paul said his roots are in zines and “that’s what MoCCA is all about.” As he said on his own blog, “Income-wise, illustration prints and my graphic novel Peanut were the heavy hitters, (since they are more expensive). But I also sold more BEHOLDER books than any MoCCA before.”


I remember where I first saw Paul’s work. Nonfiction graphic essays are one of my favorite things. I really enjoyed Syncopated: Anthology of Non-fiction Picto-Essays edited by Brendan Buford. It has lots of NY stories including an 8-page essay by Paul Hoppe on Coney Island.

 "Coney Island Rumination" visual essay © Paul Hoppe 2009
“Coney Island Rumination” visual essay © Paul Hoppe 2009

Paul has done all sorts of illustrations, ranging from editorial to advertising. His work for children’s books is energetic. The Midwest Book Review wrote of Metal Man, “The vibrant drawings of award-winning artist Paul Hoppe practically burst off the page.”

From the children's book Metal Man written by Aaron Reynolds art © 2010 Paul Hoppe
From the children’s book, Metal Man, written by Aaron Reynolds, art © 2010 Paul Hoppe

Paul’s latest project is a graphic novel for young adults, Peanut, written by Ayun Halliday. It is about a high school girl who fakes a peanut allergy to make herself more interesting. Publisher’s Weekly praised Halliday and Hoppe’s work, “It’s not easy being both hip and life- affirming, but this team has the secret formula.” The NY Times found elements of his cartooning style “especially brilliant.”


I’m not sure about the cover of Peanut, a photo of a single peanut on a blue field, not even a title! Paul is philosophical, “as an illustrator, sure, I would like my drawing on the cover. But as graphic designer I admit it is quite brilliant. It’s different, eye-catching and stands out in the bookstore. If that gets more people to pick it up, then I love the cover! ”

Paul Hoppe updates his Beholder site with a new page every Monday. Check out  Paul warns it is sometimes NSFW. I had to look that up. It means Not Safe For Work. I’m lucky I teach illustration; looking at comics is part of my job.


Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Speaking of graphic novels, Prof. Lynn Kutch of Kutztown U has created a new site devoted to The German Graphic Novel. Primarily a resource for language teachers who want to introduce cutting-edge German Graphic novels into their courses, it offers illustrated reviews. Graphic novels of all sorts are classified under broad headings: Biography; Literary Adaptations; Horror; Crime; Modern Life. There are links to individual artists, writers, publishers, and in some cases, to German web-comics. Worth a look, even if you don’t read German, to see what is being published in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany.

Detail from Drüben by Simon Schwartz
Detail from Drüben by Simon Schwartz

Cartooning: Philosophy & Practice

Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning Philosophy and Practice is published by Yale University Press. Brunetti combines a lovely spare drawing style with an occasionally overwrought writing style. I do dearly love this little book, but at times find his writing style infuriating.


Brunetti’s prose slips into and out of quotation marks, parenthesis, often for no clear reason. I felt I was hearing a “sermon” and the minister (randomly) switched to a parrot’s “voice” every now and “then.” I am exaggerating slightly. Here is an actual sentence from Brunetti’s introduction:

With writing, I do not give the “form” any thought at all, since writing comes more naturally then drawing for me (I am a windbag by nature) and I could not a adopt a “style” even if I tried; however, with drawing, I still feel that I am confusedly “building” something by trial and error.

Brunetti’s illustrations, on the other hand, are a clean and spare. He has drawn for the New York Times, The New Yorker, and even for Scooby-Doo. He edited a “scholarly” (now, he’s got me doing it!) two-volume anthology of the modern masters of comics for Yale Press.

2010 cover © Ivan Brunetti,  New Yorker.
2010 cover © Ivan Brunetti, New Yorker.

Cartooning Philosophy and Practice is a worthwhile text for a comics class at the high school or college level. It is the winner of the 2012 Will Eisner Award in the best book in the Academic category.

The text reviewed here last week Drawing Words/Writing Pictures is a much bigger, more comprehensive book and includes work from lots of artists. Brunetti’s Cartooning is a pocket-sized book that is illustrated exclusively with his own drawings. Comparing the two volumes is like comparing a Hummer limo to a Fiat.

From the YouTube video, link below © Ivan Brunetti
From the YouTube video, (link below) © Ivan Brunetti 2012

If I had to pick one cartooning book to smuggle into a prison or carry on a road trip it would be Brunetti’s. His idiosyncratic voice either grows on you, or it doesn’t. (Ok, it grew on me.) His lessons are clear and good. To get a better idea of his style visit the Yale Press page where Brunetti shares one of his cartooning exercises in a brief video.

By the Books: How to Make Comics

dwwpcoverThere are a handful of good books that will help the motivated student succeed at becoming a cartoonist. Drawing Words and Writing Pictures may be the best of the lot. This is an ideal text for a 15-week class in comics. It also has guidance for starting an informal collective class. It includes DIY suggestions for the stereotypical solitary artist, who the authors are gracious enough to refer to as ronin. There is a wealth of info on the narrative process, page design, lettering, pens, and even Photoshop scanning advice.

La Perdida © Jessica Abel, a thriller set in Mexico City.
La Perdida © Jessica Abel, a thriller set in Mexico City.

The book contains the perspectives from two remarkable artists, a gifted husband and wife team.  Matt Madden is into “formalist” styles, working within Houdini-like constraints. Jessica Abel‘s La Perdida is one of the great masterpieces of the long-form graphic novel. From George Herriman to Robert Crumb, Charles Burns, to Kaz and John Porcillino, the book is crammed with a diversity of styles. Wide-ranging and inclusive, no matter what one’s preferred comics style, from manga to superhero to alternative, you will find something to like here.


In 2012 Abel and Madden created a second book: Mastering Comics. It has more info on color and web comics and up-to-date information about publishing and professional practices. The authors, who have both taught at SVA, have created a super web site:, that serves as a resource for teachers and students. The site is especially valuable if you live in a part of world where can’t get your hands on their books. For an example of its riches, check out their instructions on how to make the mini-mini-comic they call a “foldy.”

mc-bookScott McCloud’s Making Comics  came before the above books. McCloud’s 1994 Understanding Comics was  groundbreaking, a thoughtful overview of the field. McCloud’s books are also useful texts for serious students who have some background in thinking critically about the art form. Right now (Jan. 2013) Amazon has special deal, you can get both of the Drawing Words/ Writing Picture books plus a copy of McCloud’s Making Comics for $61.49. The set would make a good core for any comics creator’s library. That’s 3 books for less than I paid for my used Spanish textbook. There are a few more good books on comics that I will get to next week.

Comics MFA? There is an alternative… No Joke.

Back in the ’80’s, when I told my pal Putka I was getting an MFA in illustration, he laughed, “What’s next?  -a Phd in Wallpaper Hanging?” What’s Next? Looks like the answer is Advanced Comics…

The SAW campus © SAW 2012
The SAW campus © SAW 2012

Stanford is a great university with one respected graphic novel class. But suddenly, universities across the country are offering complete advanced degrees in comics. CCS, the Center for Cartoon Studies, in Vermont has offered a Comics MFA for several years. CCS is not to be confused with CCA, California College of the Arts in San Francisco which is launching a new low-residency MFA in Comics in 2013.

detail from Roots © 2012 Adrian Pijoan
detail from Roots © 2012 Adrian Pijoan

A curious new educational option has sprung up in Florida. It is called SAW for Sequential Art Workshop. Cartoonist Tom Hart who taught for a decade at SVA in NYC has relocated to a storefront on So. Main St. in Gainesville. There, with a group of dedicated faculty and students, he has begun an intensive comics course. SAW’s one-year intensive program is not an accredited MFA, but it cost far less, $3600. I contacted a SAW student, Adrian Pijoan, to learn more about this grassroots educational experiment.

Adrian Pijoan at SAW from
Adrian Pijoan at SAW from

KMc: What do you think of MFA’s in comics?
Adrian: “I’m all for MFA’s in comics — the more that the art world accepts comics as a legitimate medium the happier cartoonists will be.”

You are in a non-degree program, Why is that?
Adrian: “I met with some cartoonists who are also faculty at a major art school over the summer to talk about the MFA program at that school. Those faculty members convinced me that if my interests really lay in cartooning then the MFA program would be a waste of time and money.

comic panels from Roots ©2012 Adrian Pijoan
comic panels from Roots ©2012 Adrian Pijoan

For some reason drawing, painting, and literature are all legitimate art forms, but there’s still this idea that when you combine them some sort of dark magic happens and the end product is no longer art. So, I think the idea of a comics MFA program is great, but that there’s still this silly prejudice against comics in the mainstream art world. There’s also the issue that a lot of cartoonists — myself included — are more interested in producing art that is available to everyone than in producing art to hang in a gallery or in the houses of the extremely wealthy.”

detail from Roots © 2012 Adrian Pijoan
detail from Roots © 2012 Adrian Pijoan

Why SAW?  Adrian: “SAW is a really fantastic community and a much more holistic learning experience than I experienced in college or anywhere else. The curriculum is very rigorous, but it is also adaptable to encourage our growth as individual artists. During our end of semester show last Friday (12 /14) we were all impressed by the improvement we’ve undergone in three months. The whole school — students and faculty — work together as a community and we’re constantly pushing and challenging one another. There are always other artists around to critique or help you solve a problem.

Student show at Saw, August, 2012, used with permission.
Student show at Saw, August, 2012, used with permission.

Another reason I chose SAW over a degree program is that SAW is very inexpensive, but provides the opportunity to work with really amazing faculty. And though there’s no degree, I believe that in the art world your portfolio is more important than having a degree. So the quality of the education is more important than the diploma.”

from Fig about co-evolutionary symbiosis between wasps and figs. © Adrian Pijoan
from Fig explaining co-evolutionary symbiosis  © 2012 Adrian Pijoan

Can you tell us something about your background?
Adrian: “I have a bachelor’s degree in botany from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I realized while there that my interests are more in outreach and education that research. I think a lot of research gets locked up in academic journals in the same way that a lot of art gets locked up in galleries. So my interest is in taking that scientific information — primarily about ecology and conservation — and translating it into a medium that is accessible, interesting, and fun. Even more than that I’ve found that my comics about science are creating conversation and generating curiosity about the natural world.”

From Sitting Ghost © Adrian Pijoan
From Sitting Ghost © 2012 Adrian Pijoan

Any advice for young artists interested in making zines and comics?
Adrian: “Do just that – make zines and comics! Make them and get them out into the world. Trade them with other creators, go to conventions, put them online – get your work out there. And, even more importantly, keep making work. It can get discouraging when it feels like no one is listening, but you just have to keep on going. Don’t get too hung up on your early work, either – your first comics probably won’t be great, so finish them and move on. Set goals by the project. If you make a mistake or don’t like the way it’s turning out, finish the project and then try not to make that mistake in your next one – but don’t get discouraged. Also, even if you think you are going to draw in the most flat, cartoony style, still take the time to learn traditional art skills because your drawing can always benefit from them. If you don’t want to go to a traditional art school, look for local figure drawing sessions or evening classes taught by local artists. Or, better yet, apply to SAW! “


Adrian, one more question: What’s with the argyle sock on your arm?
“Haha, the sock — I get lots of questions about that. It’s a trick I learned from Tom Hart (director of SAW). It keeps the oils in your skin from getting on your bristol board (which can interfere with inking) and it allows you to slide your hand across the drafting table smoothly to make straight and consistent lines — especially helpful when you ink with a brush like I do! And on chilly nights it keeps your hand warm.”

Check out Adrian’s work at and watch Kathryn Varn’s video of him at the drawing board. I really appreciate Adrian’s perspective and expect more great things from him.

Indie alternatives to institutional higher education in the arts deserve support. Non-credit, off-the-grid, DIY art education centers are popping up all over. Tom Huck’s Woodcut Bootcamp in St. Louis, Maine’s Beehive Design Collective and Pittsburgh’s Cyberpunk Apocalypse are a few examples I’ve seen. I hope to see more. SAW has a fundraising Etsy page with original art by Vanessa DavisDash Shaw, John Porcellino and other important comics artists. Check it out.

Will Ruocco & the Secrets of Gig Posters

There are illustrators and presses everywhere. I was in Worthington, Ohio, just north of Columbus, one recent weekend. There was a big street fair going on.  A sandwich board announced “Open House at Igloo Letterpress.” I have been to Worthington many times and never knew there was a press there.

Tragically Hip posters © 2002 Will Ruocco

Will Ruocco was minding his booth in the courtyard of Igloo Letterpress. He does gig posters, among other things. My illustration students are always interested in this sort of work. I had a too brief conversation with Will, but grabbed his card and sent him some follow-up questions. Here are some of his thoughts, including advice for students.

Will Ruocco and his wares. Photo courtesy of Igloo Letterpress © 2012

Q: Where did you study?

Will Ruocco: I was an Art major at Fredonia State (N.Y.) with a concentration in graphic design. It was a four-year art program.

Whiskey Daredevils in Erie, PA © Will Ruocco

Q: How big was the program there?

The graphic design program wasn’t very big, but was one of the best in New York State. The design professor was tough. Many students were cut from the program after the first year. The professor really pushed us to create strong work and never get sloppy or lazy. I still apply many of his design standards in my work today.

Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Marrakesh Express © Will Ruocco

Q: How did you get into gig posters?

I spent a lot of time in New York City as a teenager. The concert posters along the streets left a big impression on me. There seemed to be an ‘anything goes’ design approach that was really appealing. So in the back of my mind it was always something I wished I could do. Finally, one day at work, a friend asked me to create a poster for her band. It was so much more fun than anything I was doing at my day job that I wanted to do more. I quickly made up a series of mock posters for my favorite band, The Tragically Hip – just as a personal creative outlet. I was so happy with the results that I contacted the band directly and shared my designs, never really thinking they would ever hire me…to my surprise they loved the artwork and asked me to do six posters and a t-shirt for their world tour. After that I was hooked and it led to work with many other rock bands.

Concrete Blonde gig poster ©2004 Will Ruocco

Q: What advice can you give to students interested in pursuing this area?

Start by doing actual local events. They don’t have to be concert posters, but creating something for a real event is a good learning experience. If they really want to design for a particular band they need to have finished work that shows off their skills. You can’t just approach them because you like them. Show what you can bring to them if they hire you. It’s the same for any job really.

Silkscreened animal girl band posters © Will Ruocco

Q: You go to shows in Chicago and the West Coast. Did these trips pay off from the start?  How do you decide what shows to do?

There is a concert poster show called Flatstock (that has been going on for about a decade now) that has linked itself with a few major music festivals. There is sort of a built-in audience because concertgoers are gig poster artists’ biggest customers – so those shows are always good to participate in. Choosing other shows and whether they are successful or not is really just a matter of trial and error. You just have to keep your travel expenses low in order to make any of them worthwhile.

Th’ Legendary Shackshakers © 2007 Will Ruocco

Q: What ever happened to Th’ Legendary Shackshakers?

Th’ Legendary Shackshakers are still around. They’re an intense band that plays a lot of country and rockabilly with a punk rock edge. They don’t have a huge following but the fans are really loyal and the band always gains new fans wherever they play.

Q: What is your relationship with Igloo Letterpress?

Working with Allison Chapman and Igloo Letterpress has been great. I’ve always loved Hatch Show Prints‘ letterpress posters and when Igloo came to town to set up shop I immediately knew we had to work together. I took the initiative and approached them with a few projects that I thought we could collaborate on and Allison was really open to the idea. We’ve had nice success with the Farmer’s Market posters. It’s been a great experience.

Last Question: Any upcoming project that you want to share?

I’ve been creating fewer concert posters and focusing on my signature work. Working on my series of whale designs, as well as my series of prehistoric creatures. I’m continually releasing new graphic tees on and Soon I’ll start work on new project with Igloo Letterpress.

Igloo’s logo and press from

Bottomline: I am glad I ran into Will Ruocco, a talented illustrator/ designer willing to share his secrets. Will maintains Etsy and Big Cartel virtual storefronts for those not lucky enough to run into him in person. The best place to keep up to date with all of his many projects is or: