Gig Poster Artists: Travis Bone, Rob Jones, Justin Hampton
In a follow-up to her article, The Art of the Rock Poster: Sex, Death, and Animals, Escape writer Lara Cory interviews three prominent artists in the rock poster art genre.
Lara Cory: How did you get into this line of work?
Travis Bone: I’ve always liked to draw, and I’ve always liked music. I thought that screen printing looked easy (due to high levels of ambition and stupidity). So I started bothering bands and sending them my drawings. I eventually found someone willing to give me a shot.
Rob Jones: My friend Dirty Steve of the Pink Swords asked me to do posters for his band. Pink Swords were incredible to me and I had a lot of fun churning out posters, handbills, and whatnot every week as they played.
Justin Hampton: I used to do illustration work for a now legendary local Seattle magazine called The Rocket. A lot of people who worked there were very connected in the local music scene and I found myself hounded to do flyers for shows. Once I started I was hooked. I noticed the resurgence of silkscreen rock posters happening with Kozik and Coop and really wanted to be a part of it.
LC: What technique do you use to create these posters? Any specific materials or tools?
Travis Bone: I draw just like they did in the olden days, using a Wacom tablet and a Mac. I screen print everything by hand with papers and inks and tears.
Rob Jones: Pretty much photoshop. I’ll draw something if I have to, but the amount of posters I’m usually expected to make plus deadlines for other tour projects prohibit me from devoting a lot of time to original illustration unless I’m positive about the final getting approved or if I have no other construction options. The Penguin emblem in a Pacific NW Indian art style that adorns the overbox of the White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights box set was the last thing I had to draw as I didn’t have another option.
Justin Hampton: Everything is hand drawn on illustration board and then inked with a brush. I scan the artwork into the computer in Adobe Photoshop. I create each color into a layer in PS and those layers are eventually output to film one by one for printing.
LC: Where do you get inspiration for the subject matter in your designs?
Travis Bone: Inspiration for subject matter comes from everywhere. All of the big and little things that fill up a day. The things you see, hear, feel and think make up the sum of what could be called inspiration. It could be a simple shape or a complex emotional reaction to a situation that you’re in. It is hard for me to sharpen the focus any more than that.
Rob Jones: Smoking in my garage, books, movies, and music (generally in that order). For instance, last night I took a break and watched 40 minutes of Dune, took a walk up and down my street smoking, and then came back to the computer to try to solve a problem I had. I don’t know if Dune directly influenced the design, but I kept hearing Jurgen Prochnow whispering, “The Sleeper must awaken” while I was working things out.
Justin Hampton: It depends on the job . . . for bands I pull ideas from song lyrics and for illustration work the ideas come from the subject matter.
LC: What do you think about the nature of commissioned art?
Travis Bone: I have had this discussion with real artists before. In my experience, commissioned art is often looked at as coming from a false place. Somehow money corrupts the “art.” I disagree, but it may be because I have “sold out.”
Rob Jones: It’s a great motivating factor for me as commissioned work generally sets out a problem to be solved (a situation that interests me). Left to my own devices, my art would devolve into some phallic-centric parade crowded with crucified Oscar Wildes, Ziggy Stardusts, and Lenny Bruces (in short, I’d starve).
Justin Hampton: The idea of getting paid to create a unique piece of art is the same concept whether it is a commissioned painting or an illustration for a client. In the end you are getting paid to use a skill you enjoy, the rest is splitting hairs.
LC: Do you strive for popularity or credibility?
Travis Bone: I try to make things that I would like to look at. I hope other people like it too, and I think that’s enough for me.
Rob Jones: I strive to make myself happy with the design while also making the client happy. If a lot of people wind up on board, then that’s awesome. Otherwise I don’t place stock on most other folks’ opinions apart from my wife’s or other artists’ whose work I respect (mainly Todd Slater on that account although I’ve been asking Miles Johnson at Third Man for more feedback lately).
Justin Hampton: Popularity is a nice bi-product but it’s not what drives me so I would say credibility.
LC: Can you recall a critical moment in your creative history?
Travis Bone: I have had a lot of critical moments in creativity (other than the selling of my soul). I just don’t know how to really describe them. It seems like there is a place in the process of everything I’ve done, where I feel like it needs something more but at the same time is finished. Sometimes a baby breakthrough happens that takes the piece to where it needs to go. Sometimes I start all over from nothing. Sometimes I leave it alone.
Rob Jones: Studying Moby Dick with my 11th grade English prof. Dr. Charles Hawkins. I was blessed to have an incomparably erudite 11th grade English teacher. His instruction on Moby Dick was thorough and really opened my eyes to the possibilities of intricate symbolism in literature and art. For some reason it was just something I had never focused on beyond the painfully obvious. I wanted to become an English teacher at one point. I enjoyed unraveling mysteries in the text, but I became afraid that my life would be spent chasing down the puzzles created by others. Gig posters are a happy median in that I can do my own thing but still have to figure out how to properly apply it to the band or situation at hand.
Justin Hampton: Every moment in my starving artist days but I stuck to my guns and believed in myself and eventually accomplished the goals I set out to achieve.
LC: Which bands have you been most excited to work with?
Travis Bone: Almost all of them; nearly every single one. Nearly.
Rob Jones: The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather for different reasons. The White Stripes is the most challenging, The Raconteurs is the most fun, and The Dead Weather is a dark change of pace from what I do for the other two bands. I hope I get to work with all three again.
Justin Hampton: A lot of bands because they were just as excited to work with me as I was with them . . . Them Crooked Vultures, QOTSA, Ween, Motorhead and countless others.
LC: Do you have a musical muse? (favorite band to listen to for inspiration when you work)
Travis Bone: I’m not emo, but I do like tunes by sad bastards and bastardettes. If I am doing work relating to a band or musician I try to immerse myself in the music that they make. This is why I rarely do work for bands that I can’t get into. If I am just listening for the sake of listening I put on these or others like them: Don Williams, Pearl Jam, Iron and Wine, New Pornographers, Langhorne Slim, The White Stripes, The Mountain Goats, Chris LeDoux, Okkervil River, Willie, The Shins, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Sigur Ros, Pink Mountaintops, Sarah Vowell, Steve Earle, The Pixies, Waylon, Gordon Lightfoot, Joe Purdy, David Bazan (in all iterations), Justin Townes Earle, Ryan Adams (in most iterations), Neko Case, Sam Crain and the Midnight Shivers, My Morning Jacket, John Hodgman, Jessica Lea Mayfield, The Decemberists, Grand Archives, Arcade Fire, The Who, David Sedaris, Mitch Hedburg, The Swell Season, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Will Oldham (in all iterations), Cat Stevens, The Black Keys, Pink Floyd, The Flaming Lips, Josh Ritter, MGMT, Sufjan Stevens, Old Crow Medicine Show . . . That’s a little sample in no order at all.
Rob Jones: Not really. I’ll put in 5 CDs and listen to them over and over again for a week before changing them. Usually it’s whatever I most recently bought (this week for instance it’s all Paul Revere and the Raiders reissues from Sundazed). If I have to get pumped up for something personally, I’ll listen to Danzig. Other than that my favorite band is The Damned and my favorite performer is Captain Sensible. Honorable mentions to The Dwarves, Amanda Palmer, The Dresden Dolls, The Dead Weather, David Allan Coe, David Bowie, The Who, The Doors, The White Stripes, Buck Owens, Joy Division, The Cramps, The Raconteurs, Merle Travis and anyone who has hired me.
Justin Hampton: I listen to whatever music reflects my mood at the time or I listen to the band I am working with for inspiration.
Lara Cory recently completed her first novel and she’s starting a food blog. She’s always been interested in music, writing, art, film and books. She studied Communications and Music and lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two small boys.