Having to interview someone whom art makes women lactate is not as simple as you may think. You have to wait, wait, then send a first reminder, a srcond one, a xxx one, then come the threats, blackmails, physical pressions... finally come the mourning time... and one day, it is here, just in your mailbox, the whole filled interview. It took time, that's certain, but it was worthing it ! Thanx Steve, sorry to have been so pushy !
-Well, right now my assistant Erin is here, so it's some metal crap. But usually when I'm printing, I like Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, Minutemen...
oh hell, I don't want to make lists. Printing music is anything with a good driving beat to keep time to the endless repetitive motion of the process.
Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
-I am Steve W., owner/operator of Screwball Press which started back in 1991 when I got laid off from my job as a grocery/liquor store manager and lived too close to an art store. So, that's when I became an "artist". I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and studied Sociology (the pseudo-science of stating the obvious) in Iowa City.
When did you start drawing?
-At age 3 like everyone else. I'm not very good at it though.
-I never studied Art or Design. I just kind of made it up as I went. It's "in my blood" as it were. On one side of my family, there are a lot of artists and other ne'er-do-wells, and on the other side, a lot of Science people. Designing and printing sort of addresses both of those things.
Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?
-I've been living from my art/printing since I started. Not always comfortably, but I get by. It's feast-or-famine. I don't get nearly as upset when the utilities get shut off as I used to.
Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?
-All my favorite art makes me laugh. That's not to say that it's a "joke", but that I find a sense of humor or playfulness that appeals to me. I guess the Dadaists "speak to me" more than any other Art Movement or group. Especially the collages and typography on their posters, but even the films, photography, poetry and sculptures (especially DuChamps) really get under my skin. Other influences would be Terry Gilliam, cut-and-paste punk rock flyer art, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Tex Avery.
What are the principal steps in your work ?
-I don't really have a set method. I usually start by listening to the band I'm doing a poster for to get a feel for the general mood, which I usually equate to the kinds of colors I'll use. Then I'll listen to the lyrics to see if I can get an idea for imagery, while flipping through clip-art books, old Sears catalogs, Life magazines, and How-To manuals.
Once I have the design, I do color separations, burn screens, and print, by hand on small runs or on a semi-automatic press for large runs.
Do you do everything by hand or on computer?
-Mostly by hand. All my collage stuff is done with x-acto knives and glue-sticks. Sometimes I draw text by hand, sometimes I use Letra-set rub-on letters, sometimes I use Illustrator on the computer-machine. When I do it on the computer, I'll usually print it out and "distress" it by crumpling it up or something though.
I don't have a problem with computers. I'm just not very skilled at using them. It's a tool like any other medium and someone who has those skills can produce amazing things.Some people like to blame computers for a lot of the prevalent bad design in the world, but it's people who don't know anything about design that are the real problem. There are a lot more people who call themselves Painters because they own some brushes and an easel than there are people who call themselves Designers just because they own a computer with Photoshop.
-I like to spend a day designing and a day printing. A) I don't like to over-work things, and B) Rock bands are rarely organized enough to give yo more than a few days' notice, and usually come to you pouting and holding their pockets inside out because they have no money.
There's a useful "equation" for pricing that goes: "Cheap. Fast. Good. Pick Two". Telling them that usually either loosens up their wallets or buys me some time. Neither of us wants the product to look like crap.
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'm terrible at taking a specific idea from someone and making that happen. More often than not, their ideas are godawful. But even when they are good, I'm not an illustrator. I work best with vague suggestions or themes. After 20 years, most people just let me do whatever I want, though.
Every few years, I get bored with my "style" and start doing something new. I think it shows when I'm bored with what I produce.
-Again, I'm not going to list them. Look at my website. (www.screwballpress.com)
For which band would you love to work?
-Tom Waits is probably at the top of my "Posters I'd like to do before I die" list.
Do you choose the artists yourself?
-No. I'm terrible at chasing after work like that. Some people are great at it, but when I do it I think it comes across as "desperate", which is something nobody wants to work with.
What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ?
-When I run out of beer.
-AAAAH!! Again with the lists!
I consider myself part of the Chicago poster scene, I guess. I'm kind of a hermit these days. Some people call me "The Godfather of Chicago Poster Art",but really, I'm just old. Other people in the "scene" would be Jay Ryan, Sonnenzimmer, Delicious Design League, Crosshair, Judge, Johnny Sampson, Keith Herzik, Ryan Duggan, Erin Page, Jason Frederick, Justin Santora, Phineas X. Jones, Ork Posters, Mat Daly, Dan Grzeca and those other guys who will be mad at me for not saying their names. I taught most of these folks how to print, but NOT ONE of them bothered to teach me how to draw. The overall national/international gigposter scene is pretty amazing though.
A bit of self-promotion, take advantage of it, its free, where can we see your work , on the web or in real life?
-www.screwballpress.com. I usually sell my stuff at Flatstock in Chicago at Pitchfork, occasional shows at restaurants, coffee shops, and barber shops. I have stuff in a group show right now at 72. E. Randolph, and I'm curating a poster show for the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival in April.
The best praise you received lately?
-Lately? Someone on facebook said I don't suck.
Best ever? A woman once bought a collage/painting from me because looking at it made her lactate.
What can we wish you for the future?
-Nothing. I'm good. Thanks.
Thanks for answering my questions and see you soon on the website !!