Crosshair (US)

Crosshair (US)

For many artists I interviewed so far, Crosshair is really a big source of inspiration but, this said, I know absolutly no other designer dealing with posters the way he does. For sure many of them have a unique style, but he is really number one when it comes to identify a designer at first sight, just have a look below and you will see what I mean...

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

Right now I'm listening to Circle, a band from Finland. I think they are probably the strangest and best band in the world right now. I listen to Circle entirely too much and my friends are tired of hearing me talk about them all the time. In the last few days I've also listened to Codeine "Frigid Stars", Galaxie 500 "On Fire", Tyrannosaurus Rex "A Beard Of Stars", ZZ Top "Fandango", a band from Chicago called Mannequin Men, Kraftwerk "Trans Europe Express", and Adam Ant "Friend Or Foe". I've always loved that Adam Ant record, since I was young and it was new.

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

My name is Dan MacAdam and I operate as Crosshair. I was born in Scotland, grew up in Kentucky, and have lived in Chicago since 1995 when I started Crosshair. I'm a silkscreen printer and I design and produce gig posters, record covers, original art, and anything else I can come up with. I'm also busy as a printer of other people's work; fine art, posters, commercial things...anything flat. I'm a trained classical violinist but I play guitar in a metal band. I have two young sons, and I enjoy reading and mountaineering.

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

I started drawing for entertainment when I was very young. The best times I remember were when I and some friends would use a big sheet of paper and draw a huge battle, that would evolve as things happened. At the end the whole paper was a huge mess of destruction and you could see everything that had happened since the beginning, presented as though they had happened simultaneously. Years later I was in a Maritime museum somewhere and I saw some huge canvases from the 17th century depicting battles at sea, where every major event is shown together. They were basically the same thing. I enjoy images that look through time, rather than just one moment.

I've never had any instruction, but lots of experimentation.

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

This is my only job, but the contract printing is a very important part of it. If I only produced my own creative work, I would live in a box.

Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?

No. If they call, I'll be happy to listen.

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

I don't know anything about design, design theory, or designers. Nothing at all. When people near me talk about design, my eyes glaze over. I'm sure I would benefit from more knowledge about design, and I enjoy and appreciate it on an intuitive level, but I'm just not interested in studying it, or talking about it.

Bernd & Hilla Becher are a huge influence on my art and thinking, obviously. Also William Christenberry, Walker Evans, Hipgnosis album covers, J.M.W. Turner, American 19th century landscape painters, photocopied punk pliers, Raymond Pettibon, Communist propaganda art, Norman Rockwell, Weegee, the films of Andrei Tarkovsky... lots of things. For rock posters, it all begins with Art Chantry as far as I am concerned.

When I was first learning screenprinting, I was able to see, and actually touch, a photorealist screenprint by Richard Estes. (this one: ) It blew my mind that it was possible to make a print like that, and I decided then that I was going to learn how to do it. I'm still trying.

What are the principal steps in your work ?

I usually start with the camera, looking for subjects, and climbing over fences. When I am behind the camera I am already thinking of what will work in a poster or art print, how the colors will layer, where I can fit lettering. I try to spend any time I have exploring my environment, and this is an essential part of the creative process.

When I've found an image that will work as part of a print, I decide how many inks I can use, and what order they will print. Then I begin the slow process of separating the colors on the computer. I have my own way of doing this and it involves a lot of experimentation. During this stage I am able to change the image a great deal, and introduce other created elements. It usually comes out looking very different from the photographs I started with. When I am done separating and have finished obsessing over all the little details, I print. The printing is the easy part, where I get my reward for my hard work.

Do you do everything by hand or on computer?

I used to do most things by hand, with drawing, rubylith, and photocopies. As my work has become more based on photography, I am now using the computer for most of the design and separation process. I still draw most of my lettering by hand.

How long does it take you to do a poster?

Sometimes I can finish a design in 2 days but the more complex ones take longer than that.

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 am fortunate in that now most of the bands or artists I work for, are self selecting: They come to me with a foreknowledge of what I do, and what I am known for, and they want me to do what I do. Usually they leave me alone, and of course I prefer that and think it results in a better product. If someone is paying me well enough, they can have all the horses and sunsets they want. But I think they will probably go to the horses and sunsets person, rather than me.

For which band have you already worked for?

Hundreds of bands. The Black Keys, Willie Nelson, Sonic Youth, Tortoise, Dinosaur Jr.,Trans Am, Queens Of The Stone Age, Mastodon, The New Pornographers, X, Smashing Pumpkins, Tom Verlaine, Wilco, Phish, The Jesus Lizard, Magnolia Electric Co., The Gutter Twins, Swans, Black Mountain, Justin Townes Earle, many bands that nobody outside of Chicago has ever heard...

For which band would you love to work?

Circle! Also Mission Of Burma, Kraftwerk, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young... Codeine is reuniting and I will be doing a poster for them soon, which is a great honor as they are one of my favorite bands of all time.
I always wanted to do something with REM, not because I have listened to anything they have done in the last 20 years, but because they were a big influence on me as a kid in the 80's. I think my art now fits their music, then.

Do you choose the artists yourself?

On occasion, but usually they come to me.

What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ?

When I am in the technical part of the color separation on the computer, there is a long time where everything looks terrible. I know that with the process of refining, everything will eventually start to look OK, but it is really difficult to force myself through the early, ugly stage.

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

In Chicago we have a community of printmakers and poster artists that I believe to be the best in the world, both in terms of talent, and the personalities involved. There really is nowhere else like it.

More broadly, there is certainly an international scene of gig poster artists. Anyone who participates, goes to Flatstock, etc will tell you that there is a ready and easy personal connection between the artists, regardless of any stylistic similarity in their art. It would be very boring if I only wanted to drink beer with artists whose posters look similar to mine.

Right now, I believe the most exciting development is the growth of the poster scene in Europe. The USA and Canada have been a few years ahead of Europe in terms of building links between artists, but now it is really beginning to happen and there is a wonderful energy taking hold on the continent, and in the UK. I've been very impressed by the posters coming out of Vera in Groningen, from Damien Tran and Bongout in Berlin, Arrache-toi un Oeil in Paris, Luke Drozd in London, Douze in Dresden, Michael Hacker in Vienna, and many others. When artists get together and meet each other, and drink too much, wonderful things can happen.

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?

Much of my work is visible on my site, and of course on I always participate in the Flatstock poster exhibitions in the USA and Europe, and anyone who likes posters should make a great effort to see one of those.

The best praise you received lately?

"Your posters look completely different from everything else here."

What can we wish you for the future?

Another poster for The Black Keys, posters for Lucero, Codeine, some record covers, posters for Eric Church (American country star), more art prints...lots of things.

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

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