Poster children for success
Art and design have long lived harmoniously in popular culture, and some of music’s greatest innovators studied art in college. David Bowie, Brian Eno, Florence Welch, Kanye West, just to name a few.
“Art and design schools teach conceptual thinking, which pays off in music, too,” says Robert Loss, assistant professor and author of Nothing Has Been Done Before: Seeking the New in 21st Century American Popular Music. “One of my favorite examples is Chuck D from the rap group Public Enemy. Chuck D graduated with a graphic design degree from Adelphi University, which is also where he met Flavor Flav. The group’s revolutionary politics and sound were empowered by the visual aesthetic in its early logos and album artwork."
“What all of these people have gone looking for at art and design colleges is freedom,” Loss says. “Freedom from the restrictions they've left behind, but also the freedom to see who they might become, what they might create, and where they might belong.”
Consider the indie rock band Times New Viking, which formed at CCAD. Following that, other CCAD graduates have found ways to infuse their own creative voice into this long standing tradition of interdisciplinary creativity. Look below.
Clinton Reno (Illustration, 1995)
“I try to be cognizant of the record on which the band is touring. The prints generally are pretty whimsical, and I try to make them fantastical in some way—some out of the ordinary image, be it an anthropomorphized bear or an astronaut returning to earth in a pink Cadillac.”
Clinton Reno designs and hand prints limited-edition posters for national bands that tour around the globe, including Weezer, Flaming Lips, Iggy Pop, and Arctic Monkeys, to name just a few. His now iconic work first caught the attention of acts touring at Columbus’ PromoWest. My Morning Jacket even used his art on the sides and top of its One Big Holiday stage.
See his posters below.
M83. At Osheaga Music and Arts Festival, Montreal Canada, July 31, 2016. Poster art by Graham Erwin of Delicious Design League. Image courtesy of Delicious Design League.
When the blog OMGPosters featured Graham Erwin’s screen-printed posters for friends’ bands, “the commissions started to snowball,” he says, including for M83, MGMT, OAR, TAUK, Dave Matthews Band, Frank Turner, and Allen Stone. He teamed up with Delicious Design League for a recent SXSW interactive mural, where different segments of the design were rigged to produce different sounds. Passersby could tap on the mural to make their own song.
See his posters below.
MGMT. At Osheaga Music and Arts Festival, Montreal Canada, August 4, 2017. Poster art by Graham Erwin of Delicious Design League. Image courtesy of Delicious Design League.
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. At the Royale, Boston MA. June 26,27,29,30. July 1,2. 2018. Poster art by Graham Erwin of Delicious Design League. Image courtesy of Delicious Design League.
OAR. At Sleep Train Amphitheatre. San Diego, CA. May 14, 2017. Poster art by Graham Erwin of Delicious Design League. Image courtesy of Delicious Design League.
OAR. At Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, VA. June 10, 2017. Poster art by Graham Erwin of Delicious Design League. Image courtesy of Delicious Design League.
Poster for Ray LaMontagne, Illustrated by Logan Schmitt, Printed at Upright Press. Image courtesy of Logan Schmitt.
“When I went to CCAD, I saw a pattern in a lot of the illustrators that I really liked, in that they all made screen-printed gig posters. I got into the first screen-printing class I could and just kept taking other classes and independent studies that allowed me to keep printing.”
Logan Schmitt’s nature and wildlife aesthetic attracts commissions from singer-songwriter, folk and Americana musicians such as Old Crow Medicine Show, Greensky Bluegrass, Caamp, Ray LaMontagne, Van Morrison, Parker Millsap, and Charlie Parr. Schmitt began by reaching out to bands coming through Columbus and offering to make posters for their shows. His first screen-printed band poster was for If These Trees Could Talk.
See Schmitt's posters below.
Poster for Norma Jean, Illustrated by Logan Schmitt, Printed at Upright Press. Image courtesy of Logan Schmitt.
Poster for Redd Kross, Illustrated by Logan Schmitt, Printed at Upright Press. Image courtesy of Logan Schmitt.
Poster for Son Volt, Illustrated by Logan Schmitt, Printed at Upright Press. Image courtesy of Logan Schmitt.
Poster for Van Morrison, Illustrated by Logan Schmitt, Printed at Upright Press. Image courtesy of Logan Schmitt.
Dave Matthews Band poster (2018), illustrated by Methane Studios. Provided by Methane Studios.
Former CCAD classmates Robert Lee and Mark McDevitt formed Methane Studios in 1998. Their company designs screen-printed gig posters for touring bands, and, following their entry in the book The Art of Modern Rock, Methane’s award-winning style has been employed by Wilco, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Jack White, The Black Keys, Rilo Kiley, and more. “The coolest experience would easily be just hanging with other poster artists at various shows. It’s a great community and very supportive,” Lee says. “And we did close down a hotel bar with Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the M.G.s.”
Methane Studios is also on exhibition at The Narrows Center for the Arts.
See posters from Methane Studios.
Music Midtown poster (2017), illustrated by Methane Studios. Provided by Methane Studios.
Jack White poster (2018), illustrated by Methane Studios. Provided by Methane Studios.
Ray LaMontagne poster (2018), illustrated by Methane Studios. Provided by Methane Studios.
St. Paul & the Broken Bones poster (2018), illustrated by Methane Studios. Provided by Methane Studios.
Brittany Matyas (Fashion Design, 2011)
Brittany Matyas' handmade custom guitar straps were spawned from her success with Brittany Matyas Leather Goods, for which Matyas was making handcrafted bags and camera straps. Today she runs the business out of her home in Los Angeles’ Atwater Village.
Her first big break was via Instagram, which Matyas used to reach out to Jennie Vee, bassist for Eagles of Death Metal (EODM), and Courtney Love, which led to her making custom straps for Vee and her band. EODM front man, Jesse Hughes, wears his custom “Boots Electric” strap during every performance.
Jennie Vee of Eagles of Death Metal wearing strap made by Brittany Matyas Leather Goods. Photo by Ryan Hunter photography.
Other musicians quickly came calling. Guitarist Andrew Watt ordered straps for his 2017 American Music Awards performances with Selena Gomez and Florida Georgia Line. Other high-profile clients include Kiefer Sutherland, Rita Ora, and James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins / A Perfect Circle, among others.
“I'm actually working on custom guitar straps for Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins and Peter Hook of Joy Division / New Order—both dreams come true,” Matyas says. “It never gets old making things for people you admire and seeing your work in real life at concerts or on TV.”
Watt (with Marshmello and Selena Gomez) wearing strap made by Brittany Matyas Leather Goods. Photo from @thisiswatt.
Lauren Ruth Ward wearing strap made by Brittany Matyas Leather Goods. Photo from Michelle Shiers Photography.
Cobra guitar strap made by Brittany Matyas Leather Goods. Photo by Brittany Matyas.
Matyas credits her CCAD education as essential to her success because it taught her how to make every aspect of her brand’s output—from building her website to taking photographs to selling her pieces.
A musical canvas
Tony Cochran (Fine Arts)
Tony Cochran’s cartoon Agnes is internationally syndicated, but, in his home studio, there’s evidence of his other successful creative work: custom electric art guitars.
“A guitar's only purpose is to respond to human touch,” Cochran says. “I like the elements of how an electric guitar looks. I like the wear humans inflict by playing them. Their shape is an interesting canvas.”
As he reimagines the guitar’s surface with leather, metal, rivets, paints, nails, and more, he ensures they remain completely functional as musical instruments.
“I use it as a diversion when I’m working on the comic strips,” says Cochran, who studied Fine Arts at CCAD. “Comics are restrictive. I’ve done the same characters for almost 20 years now. Drawing them is like signing your name. It’s not an adventure anymore, which is great because it speeds it up, but making the guitars is like doing paintings.”
Though, he says, working in both mediums asks him to tap into a similar source—adding his creative energy to something that could exist on its own.
“Agnes is a little girl who I add words to, conversations to. I give her history that exists when she has gone on. She's just another anonymous character until then,” he says. “If I see a guitar, fall in love with its intrinsic shape, feel, and aura, I actually see it finished in all its Cochranized glory. The story that comes with an object can only enhance the perception of how it looks. Only humans appreciate art. Only humans relate to things in terms of their history. History seasons the art.”