No, definitly No, rock posters are not exclusively dedicated to stoner or alternative guitar bads. The proof is the work of Jay Vollmar who worked for bands such as Devo or Depeche Mode or Lily Allen for example. Between bratwurst, bowling alleys and skateboarding sessions, Jay found some time to answer our questions. Thanks Jay !
Right now I've been on a Bikini Kill kick. I kind of re-discovered some of their stuff that didn't grab me much when it first came out but now I'm digging it.
Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
I live in Denver, Colorado. I've been doing rock posters for about 15 years. I skateboard, my girlfriend plays roller derby, we have a dog and an evil cat.
When did you start drawing?
I can't remember a time when I didn't draw, it was probably my favorite thing to do as a kid. My mom would get me remnant rolls of paper from the the local newspaper printer and my friend Mike and I would draw huge scenes all day. I wouldn't pay attention to school because I'd be drawing. I was always into building stuff too. From wood, from legos, whatever.
Definitely margins of my school books. I kept a lot of them too just as a sort of doodle journal. I think doodles are one of the purest forms of art because they are usually very free of constraint and just kind of spontaneously happen. I eventually went to art school for graphic design but I never really took many drawing classes.
Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?
Yes and no. I do have a day job but it is related to art. I work as an art director for a weekly paper which is a job I got as a result of doing rock posters. Doing the cover of the paper is a lot like making a poster. I always use the 10 foot rule for both, the art should be able to grab you when you are passing by at 10 feet.
Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?
I love old Polish poster art. Probably my favorite is Karel Teissig. I just love the graphic nature of the work, it's simple but not really. I also like old signs, the kind that were painted on the sides of buildings. I love the way they degrade with old paint showing through from underneath. I really like un-slick stuff, the whole computer-techno-perfect thing doesn't do anything for me. But with the internet and all of the resources available there are probably a million people who's work influenced me and I don't even know their names.
Everything starts with a sketch. I look at a lot of books too. My office is right near the public library so if I ever feel like I can't kick start my brain I can just go there and grab random books off the shelves and get some inspiration.
Do you do everything by hand or on computer?
I start by hand and go through a few sketches and revisions. Really rough drafts. From there it gets scanned into the computer and I start working with it. Often times the work will evolve greatly as I work on it and not really resemble the sketch. That becomes problematic when someone wants me to replicate something I did before, because I may not be sure how I got there.
How long does it take you to do a poster?
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 ?
For rock posters I usually just do whatever I think fits the sounds of the band or if there is a specific hook to the show or theme I go off that. I do a lot of illustration for my day job and for freelance so there is a lot of specific requests too which can be challenging but fun. I like doing editorial illustration best since it's more about visually representing ideas rather than things. I've never drawn a horse running out of the water but I did once draw testicles on Sasquatch for a job!
I've worked with a ton of bands both big and small. Probably the one band I worked with that I really got hyped about was DEVO.
For which band would you love to work?
Most of the bands I'd love to work with no longer exist unfortunately or are sort of together but only for random tours that are few and far between. I'd like to do a Gang of Four poster. A Gojira poster would be cool too.
Do you choose the artists yourself?
Sometimes I'll see a band coming through town and I'll initiate the process but usually it's the promoter who comes to me. I get to research a lot of newer bands and check out a lot of new music that way.
I'd say trying to match a look to a sound is the most difficult part. I've heard traditional designers complain when rock posters get attention that it's all just a bunch of wanking and doing whatever you want. Actually, it's not. A truly successful rock poster reflects the band's "vibe" which can be a pretty ambiguous thing. The visual just goes well with what the band sounds like without being cliche or obvious. There is a lot more room for self expression than traditional design jobs but that doesn't necessarily make it easier since it's all you, and your illustrations chops have to be up to par as well. And the budgets are way smaller so that's not easy either!
Do you think you are part of a "Graphic Scene", if so who else ?
There is definitely a scene around rock posters but since it seems like everyone is doing rock posters these days it's hard to keep track of who is in that scene and who is just jumping in for a little bit.
You can see my work on jayvollmar.com or on Jay Vollmar Art and Design on Facebook. I also do a bunch of roller derby related designs that are available at skate-ink.com. Otherwise my work can be seen in a few different books, Gigposters vol1 by Clay over at Gigposters .com. He's putting out Volume 2 which I am not a part of but will be really cool so you should check it out.
The best praise you received lately?
I was recently asked to be in another book which is always nice.
What can we wish you for the future?
Thanks for answering my questions and see you soon on the website !!