Bob Masse - (US version)

Bob Masse (version française)

- Bob Masse is from Canada's west coast and has been producing concert posters since the 1960s. While attending art school in Vancouver, British Columbia, he began his career doing posters for the folk acts that came through town, in exchange for free drinks, tickets, and the opportunity to meet the musicians.
- As folk became folk-rock, and Vancouver was visited by such bands as the Grateful Dead, The Doors, the Jefferson Airplane and Steve Miller, Bob continued to produce memorable concert posters for these bands, and helped pioneer the emerging psychedelic art genre. He was greatly influenced by the art and music scenes in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where he spent considerable time in the late 1960s. Masse befriended the Vancouver band, the Collectors, and when they travelled to Los Angeles to make a record, he followed, spending the final years of the 1960s living in the Laurel Canyon area, producing posters and album covers for various bands of the day. His work from this time is highly sought by collectors.
- Bob's designs reflect his interest in the art nouveau movement and the work of Alphonse Mucha in particular. While he employs many of the techniques of that period, his brilliant colour palette, unique lettering style, and bold composition give his art a signature look.
- As rock concert art began to enjoy a surge in popularity duing the 90s, Masse returned to the medium with renewed force, producing a steady stream of posters for the first time since the 1970s.
Bob continues to produce pieces for contemporary performers, such as, Tori Amos, the Smashing Pumpkins, Neil Young, and many more.

Hello, of course as every Crewk interview, first question: what are we listening to when we come to visit you?

Do you mean, what kind of music do I like to listen to? Mainly instrumental jazz, because I have to concentrate on my work, and that is easier to do
without someone singing. Also, classical music. And if I don't need to concentrate too much on a project, I like all kinds of stuff, including Steeley Dan, Pink Floyd, Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, the Beatles.

Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?

I am the Dude.

When did you start drawing?

I started drawing when I was very young, for as long as I can remember. I used to draw Bugs Bunny, and Donald Duck cartoons. Then, when I got a little older, I drew cartoons from MAD magazine. I have always been drawing. I am still more of a drawer than a painter.

Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins of your schoolbooks?

Both. I went to art school but I didn't really learn anything. I have just always drawn and I would practice all the time, including in the margins of my school books.

Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?

I have always managed to support myself through my art. I sell my posters internationally, through the internet and shops; I also do commercial work for CD covers or posters for events.

Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?

No, I don't collaborate with any magazine or fanzine, but every month I get someone who wants to interview me, for all sorts of different publications.

Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?

Mainly the art nouveau movement; especially Alphonse Mucha; as you can tell from my work, I went through quite a Mucha stage. I really love his work. But now I'm being more influenced by the book illustrators of the early 20th century. Also, I'm very interested in American pin-up style art. And, of course, psychedelia. What I try to do is mix old and new styles: art nouveau with psychedelic lettering; pin-up girls with art nouveau, etc.

What are the principal steps in your work (from start to finish) ?

I do a pencil rough layout and then will either pencil or ink in the figure; I'll do the background art, including the lettering and the border, separately. I used to do the whole piece as one piece of art, but that was very time-consuming and slow, so now I assemble the pieces in Photoshop.

Do you do everything by hand or on computer?

As I said above, I used to do everything by hand, but now I do both: start with work done by hand, scan it into the computer and assemble it from there.

How long does it take you to do a poster?

Up to 3 weeks. My work is very detailed.

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 prefer to do my own thing; and most people come to me because they want my distinctive style. So, I don't get many calls for horses running out of water with a sunset backdrop.

For which band have you already worked for?

I usually don't work for bands; I work for the promoters of concerts. I have worked with a few bands, but it's usually the promoters who contact me. So, I'm mainly a CONCERT poster artist.

For which band would you love to work?

No one in particular. I don't find that musicians are very easy to work with. Just because I like a band's music doesn't mean I want to work with them! I may not like them so much by the end of the project!

Do you choose the artists yourself?

Usually, promoters contact me.

Can you tell us which is the greatest band to work with for posters and.... the worst ? :)


What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ?

Coming up with the initial idea or concept; once I have the idea worked out, it's quite easy from there. The other area that is difficult is working to a deadline! Getting it all done on time can be difficult.

Do you think you are part of a "Graphic Scene", if so who else ?

I don't consider myself part of any "scene"; I'm simply an artist who has been doing concert posters since the 1960s; I'm just doing my own thing.

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?

My website is: And if you want to see some posters in real life, I'll send you a few! Give me your address.

The best praise you received lately?

My latest piece, Fleetwood Mac, has been getting very good response. And my wife said she loved the toast I made her this morning.

What are you working on at the moment and what s next ?

I'm working on an album cover design for a band in the US. Next project will be an old Red Hot Chili Peppers poster that I did artwork for several years ago but never used. I will be re-issuing it.

What can we wish you for the future?

That I get more recognition worldwide.

Last question (or joke :) ) Do you know anything about french rock posters scene ?

Non, je ne sais rien! I've just discovered a bit on your blog; I thought they were very good.

How would you explain that rock posters have spread so heavily over america s culture, it is quite difficult to understand for us in France where this art is nearly unknown.

America had a unique phenomenon in the 1960s in San Francisco, with the posters for the Fillmore and Avalon clubs. These posters started it all, 50 years ago. No other country had that experience. Rock posters have, therefore, been part of American culture for a very long time.

Through the internet, posters are finally spreading into Europe, and Asia. I have recently had art galleries in England and Germany contact me; I've also just done an interview with a German univeristy. I recently sold some pieces to a shop in India. So, the word is spreading! Thank God for the internet!

Thanks for answering my questions and see you soon on the website !!

Bonus track : article recently wrote by Bob for The Rock Poster Society in San Francisco about his work :
A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, there lived a little lad from Burnaby, which is a suburb of Vancouver, in the fair land of British Columbia, Canada. He enjoyed drawing hot rod monster pictures, and MAD magazine characters.

This progressed to a four-year stint at the Vancouver School of Art, which was great fun, playing and singing folk songs and having hootenanys and chasing fellow artsy girls. But learn anything? What a joke. But I won't go there. Fourth year was a practical year; you were expected to put all you'd learned into projects out there in the big bad world. So I painted some pictures of race cars and decorated a shoe store.

My main buddy at the time took me down to a beatnik coffee house to groove on the scene. We approached the owner to do some free artwork for some upcoming performances. He jumped on the "free" part of the deal. We then started producing folkie posters for the likes of Guy Caravan and the famous Jean Redpath, with her Scottish banter and songs. Real heavy duty stuff. This progressed to doing posters for most of the major coffee houses in Vancouver and Seattle, and hanging out backstage with Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, Sonny Terry and Brownie Magee, etc. Our fourth year design teacher was thrilled with all of this. So were we! We even got to do art for Joan Baez, and some guy called Bob "Dylon". Yes, I actually did a poster where I spelt his name wrong, cause not many people had heard of the guy.

The folkie scene was quickly becoming electric; the British scene was influencing the music in a big way. I started doing posters for bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company. San Francisco bands that would do gigs up and down the West Coast: Portland, Seattle, Vancouver. The promoter used to get me to pick them up from the airport in Vancouver, since I had a VW van, or I'd go down with the promoter and get them cleared through immigration. A lot of the bands looked pretty weird in those days!

All of this lead to many trips to San Francisco. We would usually crash at the Grateful Dead's house on Ashbury Street, and help them schlepp their equipment into the concert halls. It was a pretty wild scene for a boy from Burnaby. I remember everything seemed so bright and colourful, like all the posters on the street. I was quite influenced by all of this and back in Vancouver I immediately started producing Fillmore-style posters for the Afterthought, which was the current dance hall at the time.

I did this for a few years until one of Vancouver's biggest bands, the Collectors, wanted me to do their album cover. So, I went down to Los Angeles with them, and stayed there through 1968 and 1969, working for the Whisky-a-Go-Go, and various other music venues

It was all fun and games, until the mid-70s, when the work started to dry up. So, I went to Europe. When I returned, I had to figure out what to do with my life. The only thing to do was design, illustration, and cartoon work. This kept me busy right into the 90s, when there seemed to be a rebirth of the poster scene, with ArtRock and Frank Kozik and the silkscreen world. I did a few posters for ArtRock, lived off the sale of a box of 60's posters that was hidden behind the furnace in the basement of my parent's house. All originals.

I decided to drop the commercial work and take up concert posters again. What fun! I did whatever I wanted, no art directors! And sales were good. I was one of the first poster artists on the internet, so I got lots of worldwide exposure.

And it continues on. I've moved to an island off Vancouver, so thank god for the internet. I'm also getting quite good at Photoshop, which is a blessing because of the speed. In the old days, a poster would take me three weeks to a month; now I can cut that time in half. Of course, the concert gigs have been harder to get since Clear Channel gobbled up most of the venues. But there's always a steady flow of CD covers and band posters to keep me from ever thinking of retirement.

I hate to say it, but ... what a long, strange trip it's been...

Bob Masse
Salt Spring Island, British Columbia
August 2010

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