HANDWERK at Lancaster PA First Friday

hwerkI’ve only been to First Friday in Lancaster once, but I am going again on Oct 2. It should be great. Ryan Smoker and Ryan Martin of Infantree are putting together a pop-up show at Passenger Coffee Roasters. The posters are by grads of Kutztown’s Communication Design Dept. I got a preview of some of the work in Prof. Karen Kresge’s flat file. I wrote to handful of the artists, Brian Barto got back to me.

Second-Hand Smoke © Brian Barto
Second-Hand Smoke © Brian Barto

Brian has been a designer for over 10 years at Goodwin Design Group. When he steps away from the computer he likes to work with real stuff. He says he enjoys being in his home in his workshop making “pieces/fabrications/reinterpretations mixing found objects with vintage signage”  The work above is constructed of  reclaimed wood, acrylic silkscreen print, latex paint, and chain. Brian’s personal website, whiskeyandchocolate.com is overflowing with his work.

Swans gig poster © Mike Katits
Swans gig poster © Mike Katits

There will be some impressive gig posters. The remarkable images above and below are by Mike Katits, who once traveled to Mexico with me. He is a wild man. Mike is now a senior art director at TracyLocke in Wilton, Connecticut. A good number of our best grads work there.

Neutral Milk Hotel gig poster © Mike Katits
Neutral Milk Hotel gig poster © Mike Katits

Ryan Lynn was in a punk band called the Auroras while he was a student. He invited me to a gig once in a hall on Rt. 222 near Allentown. There was a sign on the wall: No smoking crack indoors.  A giant leather-clad bouncer blocked my entrance to the show. Ageism, I guess. The bouncer said, “What are you, somebody’s father?” 

Light and Shadow by Ryan Lynn
Light and Shadow by Ryan Lynn

“Yes, I am somebody’s father,” I answered truthfully, “I want to see The Aurora.” The bouncer said,” Go away, come back in two hours, I’ll let you in. They don’t go on until midnight.” I came back. The bouncer seemed surprised. The band screamed well. I ‘d say Ryan is a better designer than guitarist. Below is his poster for Phish. Ryan sells his limited edition posters at ryanlynndesign.com for as little as $25.

Phish gig poster© Ryan Lynn
Phish gig poster© Ryan Lynn

Tom Whalen is a superstar in the world of collectable prints. His limited editions have been known to sell out in minutes of their surprise debut. I’ve wrote more about him here. See much more at strongstuff.net

Toy Story poster for Mondo © Tom Whalen
Toy Story poster for Mondo © Tom Whalen

Last time I visited Ross Moody’s website at 55hi’s, most of the work was purely typographic. Now he has a lot more illustration including a series of illustrated alphabet posters. Not sure what will be on the wall in Lancaster but I grabbed a sea themed print from his website.

Ocean Alphabet © Ross Moody.
Ocean Alphabet (detail) © Ross Moody.

Corey Reifinger has been doing some weird stuff for Johnny Cupcakes. Corey went to Mexico with me, too. I do think Mexico can expand one’s creative vision. Corey has developed a witty and graphic illustration style. Not sure I even understand the poster below, but it has rats and hot sauce and cupcakes, three of my favorite things.

Johnny's Sweet Heat © Corey Reifinger
Johnny’s Sweet Heat © Corey Reifinger

Corey has a lot of wild work at this site. Google the man, he has work all over the place. The image below was lifted from the web. I’m not sure exactly which works will grace the walls at the Handwerk show at Passenger Coffee in Lancaster Oct, 2 -4. But I am sure it will be delightful.

Day One Skate Shop © Corey Riefinger.
Day One Skate Shop © Corey Reifinger.
Postcard designed by Infantree.
Postcard designed by Infantree.

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 Society6.com and Skreened.com. Soon I’ll start work on new project with Igloo Letterpress.

Igloo’s logo and press from iglooletterpress.com

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 www.willruocco.com or: www.facebook.com/WillRuoccoArtDesign.


WILCO buys Brian Shaw’s Art for Gig Poster

Brian Shaw graduated a few weeks ago, winner of the 2012 Don Breter Memorial Award for most improved illustration student. He drew a series of gig posters for his senior illustration class. He asked me how he might get them in front of the eyes of Wilco, one of his favorite bands. I didn’t know, but Scotty Reifsnyder, a successful illustrator and KU alum did a poster for Wilco once, so I asked Scotty to take a look at Brian’s work.

Brian writes, “This opportunity was a dream come true for me. Not only did I get to illustrate for a band, but for one of my all time favorites, WILCO! I never in a million years thought I’d get this lucky. I owe all my thanks to Kevin McCloskey and Scotty Reifsnyder for helping to set up this opportunity! Scotty was extremely encouraging and offered very helpful information to point me in the right direction. Perhaps the most helpful tip was to be patient and determined! Though you may not find the work right away, keep trying and eventually something will present itself.”

Wilco printed 145 limited edition, 18 by 24 inch, prints, all signed by Brian. Brian was paid a flat fee of a few hundred dollars and he got to keep the first 15 prints for sale. When those run out, they are available for purchase from WILCO’s store for $25.

Rock gig posters are a natural fit for Brian, “When I’m not drawing, I’m playing drums in my band, The Flintstone Club.” To see more of Brian’s illustration and design work, or to contact him about buying a signed print, visit his web site. 

Artwork for his own band, The Flintstone Club, © 2012 Brian Shaw