While Dan Curran might not have been working in the poster art medium for long, he’s already managed to chalk up an unbelievable contact list of killer acts as well as create some of the most arresting and unique imagery in the industry. Most people are still stuck in the 90’s, with the bright, almost neon, colors and bubbly cartoonish characters that look like they fell out of a copy of Mad Magazine. Curran is taking things back to bare basics though. Working primarily in the block printing medium, his art is both loose and free, while obviously meticulously constructed and every single poster is hand printed by Curran himself before being adorned with one of a kind pencil sketch additions harkening back to the days of real Lowbrow art with guys like Ed Roth and R. Crumb. It doesn’t get much more hands on, or more fun than this! I came across one of Curran’s Fuzz posters and was so taken with his stuff I ended up picking it up along with another one of his Fuzz pieces he did down the line and have been keeping a close eye on his work ever since. With the new series of artist interviews I’ve started, I really only had a small list of people that I was really interested in talking to, and Curran was at the top. Thankfully he took time out while on a recent trip to talk a little bit about his methods, how he got to where he’s at and what he’s got in store for the future. Check out some jaw-dropping images below and make sure to keep an eye on Curran because I have a feeling you’re going to be seeing a lot more of this dude in the very near future…
Look at some pretty pictures: http://danjcurran.blogspot.com/
How old are you and where are you originally from?
I'm twenty three and from Long Island, New York.
What was the local music scene like where you grew up? Did you see a lot of shows, or do you feel like you were very involved in that scene? Did it play a large or integral role in shaping your art or getting you interested in working in the illustrative/graphic design field at all?
Where I'm from, the local music scene was exploding with Emo music and I wasn't attracted to that at all. I didn't really get involved with music until after high school. There were really no local bands that I was drawn too, I was more into older punk bands.
What about your home when you were growing up? Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives artists or musicians? Or was there just a lot of music and or art around when you grew up?
Oh yeah definitely. My mom was really into visual arts and my dad got me into the guitar. My grandparents were artists and musicians as well. Art and music were always there, I have faint memories of my parents playing records when I was very little.
What do you consider your first real exposure to art to be?
My first exposure to art would be going to the Metropolitian Museum of Art with my mom when I was a kid. She used to work there, so we would go there frequently.
How did you originally get into illustration? Was there a single moment, experience, or maybe an instance where you saw an image and thought to yourself, “Yeah I can do that. In fact, I’m going to do that!”?
Buying Black Flag albums and seeing Raymond Pettibon’s art was an important moment for me. His drawing style spoke to me, as did the music. It made me realize that making art was my thing.
When did you decide that you were actually going to start working inside the “rock art” or “lowbrow” industry and what brought that decision about for you?
I decided to get into rock art towards the end of college. I remember buying this sick poster by David D'Andrea for the band Sleep at one of their shows, and I thought how cool it must be to make works of art for great bands. That’s really what drew me towards gig posters and rock art.
What was your first professional job in the Lowbrow/rock art medium? Was that a fun thing for you, or was it more of a difficult nerve-racking proposition for you?
I guess the Fuzz poster was my first professional job in the rock art medium. It was nerve-racking and so much fun at the same time. Designing and printing them was fun, but I didn't have any permission to make the posters. I just printed them and took them to the show with the intention of showing them to Ty Segall to see what he thought, that was the nerve-racking part. I went up to him outside of the venue, showed him the posters and luckily he was really into them. He even suggested that I sell them and keep all the money; he was really cool with it. All of the posters sold out that night. It was the first time I ever made money on my art.
Are you self-taught or do you have a formal education in art?
I'm mostly educated. I used to take cartooning and painting classes when I was a kid. Art was my main focus in high school, and after that I want to The School of Visual Arts in the city. That’s where I got into printmaking.
Do you do a lot of preliminary sketching or layout designs, or is it more of a getting an idea in your head and then translating it to the page as quickly as possible type deal?
I get a basic image in my head that’s usually inspired by the bands lyrics, and then I make a lot of sketches. I usually work with my initial concept for whatever poster I'm doing.
What mediums do you prefer when it comes to making art? Are you a pen and pencil type of guy, or do you employ anything else when you’re doing your layouts and that kind of thing? I’ve seen several different types of pieces including but not limited to linocuts, screen prints and spray painted pieces from you!
Linocuts are my medium of choice. My drawings tend to look raw, so I feel like block printing really suits my style. I also really love the act of cutting a linoleum block. When I’m not making prints I like working with ink and watercolor; its fun to get loose using a brush with watercolors.
Can you kind of walk us through the typical creation process for a piece of art? Do you have any special tricks for conjuring images from your mind? How long does it typically take for you to do a poster or something like that?
Of course. I’m usually inspired by a bands lyrics or their aesthetic, so I usually make sketches based on that. For example, Thee Oh Sees poster of the skull with two strawberries in its mouth was inspired by their psychotic/comical imagery and their song, "Strawberries One and Two". Once my sketch is approved, I draw it onto vellum to the actual size of the linoleum block. Once that’s done, I flip the image so its backwards and I transfer it to the linoleum block. Since I work with block printing, I have to do everything backwards when I begin to cut the block. Once it’s all cut, I make registration marks on a table for where the block will sit and for where the paper will go, that way the image is centered perfectly on the paper. Once I have that set I begin printing. I don't have a press, I just a use a wooden dough roller to apply pressure to the paper for transferring the image. When all the prints are done, I usually add a hand drawn element to each poster to make each one a bit unique. It usually takes me two to three days to finish all the posters; it really depends on how many posters I make. Overall, it takes me about a week of lead time for making a run of prints. All that’s left after that is to take them to the show and sell them at the merch table.
I hear the term Lowbrow Art attached to the illustrative and graphic design fields that happen to operate inside the confines of the music industry or display certain types of imagery but I don’t necessarily agree with or appreciate the idea that term can conjure to mind. How do you feel about the term and how would you label or describe the type of art that you make?
I never really knew what Lowbrow Art meant when I first got into it, I just knew it was associated with the art of the west coast underground, punk, and car culture. For me, I was really inspired by that stuff. Ed Roth's art clearly influenced my drawing style. I know what you mean though, that term shouldn't always be associated with rock art because there are many fine artists with different styles in the music industry. The term doesn’t really bother me though, every art form has some sort of label. You can definitely say my work is inspired by that movement and the artists that emerged from it. I've always been into punk and garage rock, hot rods and skateboarding, so that type of art was really fitting for me. I went to a lowbrow art exhibit once and it was the best gallery show I've ever seen.
As well as your Lowbrow art I know you also make what I would consider to be fine art prints as well. When I picked up a copy of the Fuzz poster I was lucky enough to get a bonus print of that stuff from you, which is kind of what kicked off this obsession I have with your stuff, actually. Do you do a lot of art outside of the graphic design/illustration field? Or, is it more of a situation where you work on that stuff during down times and in between commissions?
I wondered where that print went, I only sent out a few! The print that you got is what I use for my avatar and the image on my business cards. That design was actually based on the Electric Wizard song, “Return Trip”. When I’m not making posters for bands, I’m either making illustrations for myself or making music. If I weren’t busy with something, whether it be visual art or music, I'd go crazy.
I know you do a good number of posters for a wide array of genres. Do you do commission work or do you just do posters for bands that you really dig and want to get involved with?
I will do commissioned work as well. I’ve been contacted a few times by people in bands who want logos or album art. The band posters are really my main focus, though. I've always wanted to be involved in music and art, so it seemed fitting for me to start making show posters.
If you do commissions, what’s the best way for interested parties to get in touch with you as far as that kind of thing goes?
The best way to get in touch with me is through my etsy or Blosgpot, my email’s right there. If you Google Dan Curran Print Shop, you'll be sure to find me.
You’ve worked with some of my absolutely favorite musicians out there today including, Ty Segall, John Dwyer and Reignwolf. What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve done so far? Your Thee Oh Sees and Ex Cults posters are both just killer and I’ve got the Fuzz and Ty Segall pieces I own up in the living room! Do you have any bands that you particularly enjoy working with for one reason or another, maybe you jive with their message or they allow you a lot of personal creation when it comes to the creation of the image?
Thanks man! I'm proud of all of the posters, but there are definitely specific ones that are special to me. The Fuzz poster is special because of the backstory I explained about making it, plus it was my first poster. I love the Ex Cult one because the melting eye of providence design I used for it was actually from an old print I did, and I love that image. I really enjoy working with Thee Oh Sees because they're fantastic and John Dwyer is a really nice guy, he seems to be very supportive of the art of gig posters. Meeting Ty and Charles from Fuzz that night was great because they were really down to earth, so I’m looking forward to working with them again.
You recently designed a poster for the upcoming Webster Hall Ty Segall show (18. September 2014). Do you have anything you’re working on right now that you can talk about or would like to share with us here?
I can't wait for that show, his new album is amazing! I actually made two different posters since he's playing two nights in a row. I'll be making a poster for Jeff the Brotherhood that I'm pretty excited about, and possibly White Fence.
Where’s the best place for interested readers to pick up copies of your stuff? I know you’ve got an Etsy page and I’ve looked through your Facebook page as well but with shipping rates the way they are I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking stuff up as I can!
Other than my online store, the only way to get my stuff is by either going to the shows that I'll make posters for, or by going to record stores that carry my work. Lately, I've been shipping some posters to record stores over the country and they have them on display and for sale.
Are there any major plans or goals that you’re looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or 2015?
Just to keep making as many posters as possible and record some of my music.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. It was cool as hell getting to find out a little bit about your creative process and what you’ve been up to. Before we cal it a day is there anything I could have possibly missed or that maybe you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk about with me or the readers?
No problem, this is the first time I've ever been interviewed. I think we covered everything, thanks!
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
Other stuff by Dan Curran: