Carolyn Ferris (US)

Carolyn Ferris (US)

I am very glad today to welcome Carolyn on the blog not only because it is a great opportunity to a little bit of feminity in the poster world, but also because she is not exactly what you may expect from a poster artist. Indeed, no question of 4 or 5 colors maximum in her work, as she is not silkscreening her posters, she can use as many colors as she wants, and, believe me, and you will see by yourself below, her artwork is a true explosion of colors ! In front of such stunning pictures, you may feel voiceless, this is the reason why I prefer not to say much and let you discover by yourself !

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

I'm listening to a mix of mostly everything except for progressive jazz, I turn on my ipod and hit spin. Yesterday, I started the day with The Lazy Song, was in the mood to listen to a mix I have with: Moonalice, Flogging Molly, Amy Winehouse, Govt. Mule, Willie Nelson, Ratdog, I like bands like The Orb for those special occasions.

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

When did you start drawing? When I was six, I did a painting of a record player, perspective was remarkably ok. I think I was psychically tuning in on the melody of my future. I drew a lot when I was younger, probably because my father was an artist, a painter. I grew up in Denver and came to San Francisco in December of 1983, I worked for Mountain Bell at the time, I knew someone on the round table during divestiture, so I got them to transfer me to San Francisco to work for AT&T, they put me up in a hotel for 6 months with paid expenses in Pacific Heights, an expensive neighborhood. I quit AT&T the day of my 5 year anniversary, after they'd sent me to Academy of Art in San Francisco, they told me I'd need outside experience to transfer into their graphics department.
The second I quit, I had illustration work for Pacific Bell. Good way for a corporation to spend money, right? I had to wait until 1997 to start creating poster art, one of my paintings was seen in hanging on a wall in a beauty salon in Fairfax, CA. Jerry Pompeli, a lawyer, spotted it, he worked with The Fillmore in San Francisco. That painting became a Warfield poster for Prodigy. I had just learned Photoshop at the time, and after that image was used, all of my posters were mostly digital. Arlene Owseichick, art director at the Fillmore, gave me over the phone lessons in how to do lettering. She picked the image of mine that she liked, I'd send her a rough of it with lettering, and she corrected me until she thought it worked. A String Cheese Incident Fillmore poster was my first digital lettering attempt.

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

One of the classes I took at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, my assignment was to draw a tree. The teacher said, "to draw the tree you must become the tree, sense what it feels like to be the tree." That teaching and color theory I'd consider helpful. Beyond that, I'm liking what I am creating, probably because I'm always working on a piece. I think practicing my art got me doing what I want to do more than any class I ever could have experienced.

Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?

Roger Dean for his futuristic scenes, he's one of the first artists I remember following, Escher, a surrealistic inventor, Georgia O'Keefe (more for her pioneering of marketing as a woman than her art itself,) Robert Venosa, wow. Bruce Ricker, futuristic artist, his was my first purchased original airbrush painting (he gave me two more originals because I'd purchased it.) David Singer for his poster lettering and collage work, Alex Grey, I love his incredible detail of the human body. Frank Lloyd Wright for the design of homes, wish I could live in one of his to create my art. I'm influenced by visionary art as well as art nouveau, art deco, surrealistic, and photo realism.

What are the principal steps in your work ?

The initial idea. I'll usually start with a person, I detail the face first, the eyes, expression, makeup and hair, hat if they have one, then I design the clothes, usually starting with a nude so that I can see through the material as needed. Next I start to fill in whatever the character is doing, for example, riding a seahorse. The background is usually created last to fit the mood of the foreground. Throughout the steps: Patience to stay with the image and allow it to be what it wants to be even if it doesn't fit my initial plan. Last step is printing, then schlepping it to shows, etc, and somehow trying to keep up with my blog-- .

Do you do everything by hand or on computer?

Mostly I'm creating digital paintings. Sometimes I will draw something by hand and then bring it into the computer to work further on it. I've just completed my first pencil on board drawing after a couple years of being away from the style. I created it because of an upcoming Moonalice Poster Show, Moonalice asked for one poster and one original. It's actually a backward original, a pencil drawing of one of my digital painting posters.

How long does it take you to do a poster?

Sometimes as much as 40 hours if there is a lot of detail, others are only a few days. For example, lots of detail in the Fillmore Imogen Heap poster, it took many hours.

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 the most part (97%,) I do only what I feel like creating, then I match it to the upcoming poster. It's most fun when I get a poster call and the image I'm currently working on will work perfectly. I love creating my art, so I usually work every day. If someone asked me to do an oil painting of running horses, I'd do it for one million dollars, otherwise, it's been since 1997 that I did my last painting. Paintings take too long to complete, it just doesn't interest me anymore.

For which band have you already worked for?

Santana is probably the biggest, I've created a couple tee shirts, designed a bandana, and have a logo on their Shaman cover that I created. I've also done some posters for Widespread Panic. The Fillmore and Warfield have brought me bands like String Cheese Incident, Prodigy, Imogen Heap, Vince Welnick and the Missing Man Formation, moe., METERS.

For which band would you love to work?

If I could have anything, I'd go with Pink Floyd. I've always loved their images for album art, etc. and would love to have a shot at creating a surreal image for them. I was a friend of Timothy Leary's, and was at his Beverly Hills house in the mid-90's when Pink Floyd's saxophonist, Dick Parry called him, Tim was not home at the time. I was starstruck. All that could come out of my mouth was "I love your recent album cover." It was the one with a nude woman from the back hovering above water with a swirl of water around her. They'd sent a signed promo to Tim that very week. I think the Rolling Stones would be my second choice. Hopefully a Jethro Tull poster will happen soon. I'd love to work with any band that cares enough about advertising themselves with great tour posters and fantastic cover art, but gotta admit it's more fun when you love the music too.

What is the most difficult part in designing a poster?

Creative Block. Sometimes I work on an image for days, and I end up retiring it before it even is seen by anyone, not sure I'd call that difficult however, it's more disappointing and frustrating. These images end up in a folder called "o (overworked) images," if I've left the image in there for more than a week, I'll probably never use it. When I get a creative block, sometimes I go into that folder, I should go into a blank folder and start from the beginning instead. Perhaps I'm needing to remind myself of all of the images that haven't worked so that I can get past the block and move on. I think I've used one image from that ugly folder in 10 years (I won't tell you which one so you won't dislike it!)

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 best praise you received lately?

From a book publisher in an email regard to doing covers: "These are all fantastic, I'm going to find a place for several of these." Most of the pieces were already rock posters. That was nice.

Do you think you are part of a graphic scene?

As poster artists we are all part of an unusual work, so that in itself is a scene. My main poster work comes from Moonalice, a local Bay Area band. Luckily, I love their music as well as the opportunity to do work for them. I'd say I'm part of the Moonalice poster artist scene.

What can we wish from you in the future?

Ok, I'll dream fairly large here for not only me but for others also: I'm flown on a private Lear jet to England to meet with Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Robert Plant, Paul McCartney, and The Who for ongoing tour posters, every six months. In the US, I work for countless bands and am able to attend their shows with backstage passes. There's plenty of money in my bank account to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it. Creativity is never blocked and I magically finish one tour poster every 4 hours. Moonalice tours big stages mostly, and has opened a poster museum, they still hire me for ongoing posters. The Rock Poster Society ( has become so well known that all rock venues throughout the world find it a must to hire poster artists for each show. All poster artists have endless work, all store windows advertise a rock event with full color posters. I'm sipping cocktails in the blue red and grey, and I like every minute of the day....

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