With bands such as Calexico or Toro y Moi on his 42 pages gigposters.com account, you'll guess that Christopher, the guy behind Plastic Flame press, is a talented and pretty buzy guy. This, already, should be enough to be welcomed on the site, but, thanx to his answers, he helped me discovering many other poster artists I never heard about since now. This is another reason why I really thank him for the time he took answering my questions !
Hello, of course as every Crewk interview, first question: what are we listening to when we come to visit you?
It depends, but it is most likely a podcast. Either: WTF, Tell 'Em Steve Dave, Smodcast, WDW Today or the WDW Radio Show. While printing I usually don't end up listening to music because I start paying way too much attention to it, rather than what I'm working on. If I'm drawing, I'll usually shuffle through stuff in iTunes until something feels right, but I'll hit my mix of Calexico and Pernice Brothers more often than not.
Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
I'm a 32, almost 33, year old artist, musician, father of one (Seamus Grant). I'm originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but grew up mostly in North Carolina. In addition to gigposters and such, I work as a graphic designer for a weekly paper. and play in a few bands, Maple Stave, Natural Gallerie and Heather Loves Silkworm!.
When did you start drawing?
Way, way back. The first thing I can remember drawing was a Transformer. I was sitting at my little table in our house in Florida and wanted one of my parents to get me a Transformer from my room. Rather than just get up and do it, or just describe it, I decided to draw it. Given where this was, I was around 4 or 5. I still have the drawing in a box, and it looks better than the Transformers I occasionally try to draw now. When I decided not to major in Art in college I ended up not really drawing anything, or doing much/any art for a few years. I came back to it my senior year thanks to a friend's senior level class I had stretched my final year to take; it was about graphic novels. Had I not taken that class I could have graduated early, and I probably wouldn't have spent the following decade working on art.
Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins of your schoolbooks?
I did the standard art classes in grade school, and was taking two at a time my senior year. I started out in art when I went to college, but a combination of things (immaturity, being told that wanting to make 'gigposters' meant that I was 'undecided', etc.) meant that I dropped Art, and got a degree in English. I always wanted to believe I didn't need the fundamentals (I can't count how many times I drew a grayscale between middle school and college), but the fundamentals did help in some ways, for sure. Drawing in notebooks on my own definitely helped me practice, helped me explore creatively more, but the art classes helped me understand how to give things mass and perspective, things I'd have probably not learned if left to my own devices.
Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?
I do pretty OK off art, but I work my graphic design job to make ends meet. Not ideal, but it keeps me focused.
Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?
I've done a decent amount of work for publications. Over the last seven years I've contributed a lot to Indy Week, the paper I now work for. I love doing gigposters, but it's fun to step out of that and do something more planned and intricate, and it also gives me more time to learning how to do digital work, something I completely ignored during my school years.
Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?
For a long time, I kept my influences very narrow, but now I look all over and try to absorb things (putting a clear hint in my work from time to time if the influence, I feel, is really obvious). My son's picture books have helped, as have some of my old comic books I've started revisiting now that my son is eager to learn how to read. The poster stuff, I owe a lot to Ron Liberti and Casey Burns for helping me get started. From there, it's the Jay Ryans, Dan Grzecas, Little Friends, Mile 44s, the good, supportive people, that encourage people to make more art, rather than seeing it as a competition. Around here, in the last couple years, the poster thing has been growing, which has been great. Every couple months, some of us end up together, 'you did this? I wish I had done that, how'd you do this?' It's nice to have people at arms' length you can talk shop with. Skillet Gilmore, JT Lucchesi, Dantanamo, Brian Reed, I'm leaving people out, I realize, and I apologize. Outside of gigposters, for art, I cannot get enough Kirby and Darwyn Cooke, and the original camp of Disney Imagineers.
What are the principal steps in your work ?
The steps, to me, from the outside, are pretty boring. After getting an assignment,I just sort of stumble into an idea. Depending on the time of day, I might sketch it in marker on the bathroom mirror. From there I start drawing it out, full size, usually discard that and start over from scratch. Other than that, it's pretty run of the mill. Separations, burning screens, etc., the boring stuff to make the thing happen.
Do you do everything by hand or on computer?
For the posters and printwork, I do almost everything by hand. Occasionally, I'll use the computer for separations or a standard font, but probably 98% of my work has been by hand.
How long does it take you to do a poster?
It depends, most of the time it will take a couple days to come up with something and print it, but, under the gun, I've made a print (conception, to finished run) in about half a day. Other times I've taken weeks to flesh something out. Usually, as the deadline looms closer, the ideas come quicker. This is probably why I don't do more art prints; no deadline.
You have a very distinctive style, are you doing only what you feel like or if tomorrow somebody asks you an oil painting with horses running out of water with a sunset backdrop, is it a problem or are you up for it ?
I'd be up for it, but considering how bad I am with a) paint, and b) drawing horses, they might have a problem.
For which band have you already worked for?
I've done several things for friends' band over the last couple years, bands/people that I've met through a forum online, done a couple posters for the BBQs we end up having, that's probably been some of the most fun.
For which band would you love to work?
It might be a cop out, but I'm down for just about anyone. There are bands that I used to wish to make posters for, but that's a lot of pressure, and, because of who I am, I'll never be happy with the end result. I did posters for Tortoise and Slint shows several years back, was thrilled to do them, and I can sit down and point out a dozen things I'm still not happy with or that I did entirely wrong.
Do you choose the artists yourself?
With the venue I do the most work for, Cat's Cradle, I'll sometimes put my name in the hat for certain shows, but it's ultimately up to them. As for other work, 9 times out of 10 I'll make something work out, schedule-wise, regardless of the band.
What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ?
Making something that the band will be happy with. It certainly doesn't always happen, but it's my main concern; something that is eye-catching, that the band will really like.
Do you think you are part of a "Graphic Scene", if so who else ?
I'd say yes, nationally, internationally, there are people doing the same thing I'm doing, and it's clear that it's a 'thing.' Like I said before, on the local level there is a community of artists. More people: George Hage, Posterhound Family, Kitchen Island, all these people, and that's just within driving distance. Then you take that to Flatstock, you've got 50 artists, then to Renegade and you've a couple more. Gigposters.com isn't just a ragtag group of art misfits, it's evidence of this poster thing being a big deal, or a scene, or whatnot.
A bit of self-promotion, take advantage of it, it's free, where can we see your work , on the web or in real life?
Online, through my site, you can see all the stuff, though it is in a storefront thing: plasticflame.com. In person, I've got a lot of stuff at a gallery here in Raleigh, Amplified Art (amplifiedartgallery.com). They've got a pretty extensive collection of gigposters from all over.
The best praise you received lately?
For the most part, I distance myself from any sort of praise, even in person. I'd rather have someone talk about the show, rather than the poster, because odds are I'll just tell them the poster isn't all that good. Is this healthy behavior, probably not, but it's how I get by.
What can we wish you for the future?
I'd like to continue making posters. It's the goal I set for myself when I was a kid, seeing old Kozik and Chantry stuff in zines, and it's pretty cool that I grew up to do it. Eventually I know I'll stop for one reason or another, but I'd like to think I have a good number of years left before I'm used up.