AJ Masthay (US)

AJ Masthay (US)

« I will not be very original in this introduction, but, well, let's face it, once again I truly wonder why AJ's name does not appear more often in the top gigposters artists. Definitly a mystery... Just take a look at those lights and colors and you will surely understand what I mean. I hope this interview will help highlighting his job !



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

Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings and Food, been motivating me in the
studio since my days at art school.

Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
When did you start drawing?

I’m AJ, born and raised in Connecticut, USA. I’ve been drawing my whole life, funny my
parents still have my old Spiderman drawings from show & tell in kindergarden, their
prized possessions...
Up until about 5 months ago I was juggling both my poster art along with a day job at a
local university doing web and graphic design. Due to a lack of hours in the day I felt it
necessary to take the plunge and ditch the day job in order to focus solely on my
artwork and building Masthay Studios. Since then I’ve been keeping busy with
commissioned work for bands and various gallery shows.

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

Ive been studying art for as long as I can remember, eventually receiving a BFA from
the Hartford Art School with a major in printmaking. I’ve had the pleasure of studying
with some true masters in the world of lithography and block printing hence my
preference for the medium of linoleum block printing.

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

I currently live solely off my artwork and consider myself incredibly lucky to be doing so.
It’s taken over a decade of producing work to build the studio to this point but it’s truly a
labor of love. It’s extremely humbling to have such a devoted fanbase.

Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?

Not currently but hope to in the future

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

Influences can come from anywhere at anytime. I carry a sketchbook with me to jot
down ideas and concepts on the fly. There are so many artists both contemporary and
historic that I love and directly influence my work. It may not be completely obvious from
my work, but Im a huge Italian Renaissance buff and have studied the old masters

What are the principal steps in your work ?

All of my editions begin with a charcoal/pastel sketch. This chalk sketch is then run
through the press transferring (and reversing) the image onto the initial linoleum block.
This provides the image or map for me to carve by. The rest of my process isnt all that
different from silkscreening except instead of burning screens, Im carving plates.
There’s a full description of my printmaking process, including photos, on my website at

Do you do everything by hand or on computer?

Everything I do is by hand. From the
initial sketches through the carving and printing, all old school.

How long does it take you to do a poster? 

Tough question as every print is different. I
find that fleshing out the initial concept is the most time consuming. I tend to go through
at least 3-5 different concepts before landing on something I feel is worth pursuing.
Once the concept and initial sketch are solidified the process moves along fairly quickly.
I figure at least a couple hours to carve each plate and a couple to print each color.
Since I use only oil based inks I have quite a bit of down time between colors in order to
allow everything to properly dry. Sometimes I really envy the silkscreeners who can run
an entire edition in one day, but I love the look, feel and smell of the oils.

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 ? 

Im always up for client input on a theme
or direction for the art, although I do think they always turn out better if you give an artist
a wide berth in using their own creative input. The reality is though, money talks and we
all have bills to pay. If a concept is too far outside of my comfort zone and they wont bite
on my suggestions, I’ll certainly pass. As Ive said to many clients, it’s my signature that’s
going on the artwork, if I cant be proud of the product I’d rather not be associated with it.

For which band have you already worked for? 

Some of the more notable bands Ive
worked with include Furthur, Widespead Panic and Umprhey’s McGee. I’ve done work
for numerous other small bands along with some festivals throughout the United States.

For which band would you love to work? 

I guess for me Phish is the 600 pound gorilla in
the room as I got my foot in the gig poster door doing unofficial work around their tours.
Other bands on my wish list would include Moe, Yonder Mountain and the Black Keys.

Do you choose the artists yourself? 

Yes and no, I mean Im pretty well known in the jam
band scene so I tend to focus my work on those artists, but choosing them, not really.

What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ? 

I find the initial theme or concept to
be the most difficult part. Ill usually go through sketching at least 3-5 concepts before
something sticks.

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

Not so sure about a
graphic scene, but I am certainly feel I am part of a close knit group of artists based
around the jam band scene.

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? 

The majority of my available works can be seen (and purchased)
through my website MasthayStudios.com including all of my recent works for Furthurs
fall tour. Im currently part of a group show entitled Can't Beat Em, Join Em: The Zombie
Show at BottleNeck Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. Ill also be involved with a Judd Apatow
tribute show at Gallery1988 in Melrose later this year.

The best praise you received lately? 

I love getting emails or meeting fans at shows. The
simple fact that people appreciate and find joy in my work is more praise than I could
even want, its a very humbling experience for me.

What can we wish you for the future? 

That the press keeps running and the ink keeps
flying! As long as Im in the studio and producing work Im a happy camper, lol.

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

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