Setting in to my new digs in Hamilton has been a trip! Work contracts, back-n-forth travel to TO, (unsuccessful) job hunting and moving has more or less put a halt to art-making endeavors except for some punk rock-related bits and pieces. This kinda makes sense considering the very last things I did before leaving TO were putting on the Fear of Punk show and popping of a quick LP cover for a friend's band.
A few weeks ago, I was asked for an interview for an incredible NYC-based comics anthology called Happiness, published and edited by the talented Leah Wishnia. The interview will also include contributions from two of the four School Jerks-- I've done the art for all of their recorded output, and the interview is mostly about the work I've done for them. Doing this interview gave me a rare opportunity to talk about my other "art-half" (the one that does art for punk bands) and reflect on how I started doing this this type of work. I've included some of the interview text here (it's only a small portion of the entire interview):
Doing show flyers and album artwork grew out of my work making zines. I remember being 17 or 18 thinking that it would be a really great job to be a freelance illustrator, doing art for bands both in and outside of punk that was not unlike the work I did for the zines I had been making for years. This was before I realized how hard it was to get paid by bands that see you as a friend or acquaintance doing the band a favour! When I was 18, I dropped out of art school and had a string of crappy jobs. Doing flyers for neighbourhood bands and the odd flyer for performers and punk bands was less a way of making money than a way I kept an art practice going and got to know people while I just floated around aimlessly working retail, socializing, and trying to make an adult life for myself.
My first real job doing an album cover that was widely distributed was for the LP of a Toronto band called Action in 2003 or so. They were pretty young and got signed to the label Punkcore from New York and were really excited about the prospect of touring and being on the same label as some of their favourite bands growing up. The drummer Greg was my best friend at the time. I was really happy to be a part of it because they were all friends of mine, we were all from the same suburb of Toronto, and it was such a big deal for all of us to feel like we were “making it” on some level-- they were under 20, and I was a couple years older. I ended up doing their pin designs, t-shirt designs and the front cover, back cover and insert art for their LP. This was my first taste of having a hand in shaping the entire visual identity of a band and at the time it was really rewarding and exciting for all of us to be doing something we knew a ton of people would see and hear.
To be honest, ten years later, punk rock isn’t as much a part of my daily life as it used to be when I was 20, or even 25. I have a pretty broad art practice that involves making art for punk bands but also sculpture/installation, publications and curating among other things. I listen to way more 60s psych and hard rock than punk these days. I am lucky to have developed my drawing skills at a really young age (I went to an arts high school where most students wanted to be animators for Disney!), so now I have this skill that I can basically pull out of my back pocket when I need to. Most of the time it’s to draw a dripping skull or something grim for some punk dude, which is fine when I have the time.
I think Ben said it best in another interview when he said that while art has always taken a backseat in punk, it plays a huge part in how punk is understood by itself and the world. Also, within punk, art (lyrics too) can be an introduction or passage to social and political issues that would be more difficult to understand through a textbook or a news source, especially for young people. For example, when I was a teenager, the art of Gee Vaucher and Winston Smith (for Crass and the Dead Kennedys respectively) was a way for me to begin to explore radical politics. Punk art can be frightening, stimulating, exciting, thought provoking and (gasp) even beautiful. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from it, too.
Collage by Gee Vaucher
The Fear of Punk//Fear of Art show has been a great way to expand on the work for bands and connect with people who are serious about doing art work in and around punk rock. Along these lines, I was also asked recently to do contribute a page to a screenprinted zine of fake comic book covers by punk artists, organized by another awesome artist, Yecatl Pena in Mexico. My recent fixation on post-apocalyptic films produced this silly but fun comic cover based on the cover old comic book of mine, inspired by the record cover I did for Absolut at the end of the summer-- in progress!