Monday, December 27, 2010

James Flames Interview @ Tuckshop Community Radio Blog, UK

I was recently interviewed by Jack Bacon of the Tuckshop Community Radio Blog in London - way cool dude, and great questions. Check it out here:

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Jalissa' Print

'Jalissa' 2010
TOM - Sure has been a while since I've made a post here! For good reason though, been busy with new and exciting projects, moved across the country, plus I illustrated this awesome new print! This was printed by silk screener extraordinaire, James Flames! I was down in his North Carolina studio earlier this month and he really hooked this one up. Just in time for the holidays, this print(including a brown variant) is now for sale on my Etsy shop.

'Jalissa' (Brown Variant)
This bad boy(or girl, rather) measures 19" x 25" and is printed on on 100lb Poptone Sweet Tooth French paper. It is an edition of 26, so get 'em while they're hot!

Detail shot

The brown variant also measures 19" x 25" It is printed on on 100lb Kraft Speckletone French paper. This one's even a shorter run, only an edition of 8, so they're even hotter!

Detail shot
If you're interested in purchasing one of these prints, please visit my Etsy shop for all the details. Hope this finds a home on your wall soon!
Thanks for reading and more updated soon!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Knuckle Sandwich

JAMES - It's always hard to choose, but I think this might be my favorite poster I made this year. After the success of last year's poster I made for them, Lucero contacted me about making a poster for their Fall Tour, most of which was in support of Social Distortion. I was fortunate enough to see the show when they came to Asheville, and holy crap - seriously killer show! Lucero just tore it up, and Social D... well, c'mon, what did you expect. Great night - I could just imagine that went on every night for like two months. Insane.

I have some of these available now in my store - - there are two versions with slightly different colors and cities on them. Check it out, and get em while you can.

developmental drawings

This was all done a few months ago, so I can't remember exactly, but I think the basic idea came to me pretty quickly. But how to actually present it took some work. As usual, lots of sketching - working on the boxer's positioning, action, and anatomy. Those muscles had to be just right, but not overly detailed, since the eventual tattoos had to show through.

boxer sketchbook drawing

I finally did a treatment of the boxer in my sketchbook - here I was just finalizing the boxer himself. I liked this version so much, that instead of re-drawing it again, I just used the outline from this one as the final artwork.

final tattoo flash

But that was the easy part, cuz I still had to design, draw, and letter 30-something tattoos. Each of the tattoos has a different city on the tour, and I grouped multiple cities in a state or region when I could. The above photo is of the final drawings, which I did on vellum with a marker to mimic a single-needle tattoo style. In the photo it looks like I re-drew some of them on a separate sheet of vellum - can't remember why, but probably the perfectionist in me being all nitpicky.

detail shot (brown version)

detail shot (black version)

I screen printed these by hand - all 555 of them. Four colors each. That's like....2 million pulls or something. Give or take. They were done as two separate editions - the first 325 are with the Black outline and the cities from the first part of the tour, and the last 220 has the Brown outline and some of the city names are changed for the second leg of the tour. Like I said before, I couldn't be more proud of how they all came out.

Black Version, 4-color screenprint, 25"x19", on 100lb Kraft Speckletone French paper, edition of 325, signed and numbered

Brown Version, 4-color screenprint, 25"x19", on 100lb Kraft Speckletone French paper, edition of 220, signed and numbered

I have some available for sale of both versions - get them now in my store:, $20 each. Thanks for reading. Stay tuned next week for my final two releases of the year!

Sight Beyond Sight!

JAMES - Fair warning: if you ask me to make a poster for a metal show, you're gonna get Metal, with a capital METAL! These posters are now available in my store - - get some. Ten points to the first person to name the reference of the title "Sight Beyond Sight."

Anyway, I was approached a couple months ago by the Orange Peel to make a poster for The Sword, and I couldn't wait to get started.

original concept sketch

Here's the original sketch - it's got the basic layout, and the concept of some skeleton having it's soul banished for eternity inside the sword. I knew it would be pretty intricate, so I just kinda suggested the little bits and lettering stuff.

developmental drawings

I drew like a million versions of the sword, trying to invent a unique weapon that honored traditional medieval style, but had some kind of futuristic vibe to it. The above photo shows most of the drawings - initially, I only drew half of the sword, to save time. Once I was settled on the different parts and all the shading, I then drew the other side according what was established.

final ink drawing

The final ink drawing was done with my trusty #2 Windsor & Newton brush and Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star ink. I used some white ink for extra detail. The blade of the sword, as well as the skeleton captured within it, was all drawn separately - all the pieces were assembled in Photoshop, and I outputted my films for printing straight from there.

detail shot

As you can see from the detail shot, there really was no room for registration errors, so I had to be on point the whole time. Four colors on Electric Red paper, printed by hand, and it came out perfectly.

4-color screenprint, 19"x25", on 100lb Electric Red French paper, edition of 85, signed and numbered

The original show date was cancelled (the band had cancelled their whole tour in October due to the drummer splitting), but the rescheduled date was this past Thursday, and they got to use the poster anyway, which is awesome. I have the remaining posters available now in my store - - for $20 each.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Painting a Mural for the "Long Live" show

JAMES - I drove up to Raleigh a few days ago to paint a mural for the show. Here's a little video that captured most of the action. Saturday night is the opening - psyched!

James Flames: Long Live
@ Amplified Art Gallery, Raleigh, NC
November 20-December 10, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

James Flames "Long Live" - Solo Gallery Exhibition

JAMES - I'm very proud to announce my first solo gallery exhibition, "Long Live", at Amplified Art Gallery in Raleigh, NC! The opening reception is Saturday, November 20th at 6pm, and the exhibit will stay up until December 10. We've had this in the works for awhile now, and it's very exciting to finally announce it.

I will debut two new prints made special for the show, and on display will be a large selection of my poster work, including some original artwork, rare variants, and many sold out editions - all for sale. And there will be some other special stuff that I'll announce before the show.

Amplified Art is a gallery specializing in the finest in gig posters - I visited last week, and it's a pretty amazing place. I mean, a gallery dedicated to posters? It's like heaven. I'm honored to be showing there. They're at 224 East Martin Street in the City Market section of Raleigh, so if you're in the area, stop by!

Stay tuned to this blog and my facebook page (click here) for updates and photos and stuff.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Big Tuesday: New Posters for Circa Survive, Blitzen Trapper, and Fruit Bats!

JAMES - Four new posters today -- pretty exciting! They're all available on my website starting today.

There are two posters from Circa Survive shows in Atlanta and San Diego, plus a special "Blue Skull" variant for the San Diego show (super small edition of only 13, on Kraft Speckletone paper); and then a tour poster for Blitzen Trapper and Fruit Bats as they traveled around the country with Pearly Gate Music. That's a whole lotta ink and paper!

Probably a little too much stuff to get into details about all of these. But I will say that there are some hidden images in both Circa Survive posters - the Atlanta poster has an orange 'ghost' skeleton underneath the main skelly; and the San Diego poster has a hidden character underneath the skulls and phoenix, someone who seems to be the one in control of the action. Can you see them?

Here are some close-up shots and photos:

5-color screenprint, 19"x25", on 110lb Smart White French paper, edition of 120, signed and numbered

5-color screenprint, 19"x25", on 100lb Sweet Tooth PopTone French paper, edition of 125, signed and numbered

"Blue Skull Variant" 5-color screenprint, 19"x25", on 100lb Kraft Speckletone French paper, edition of only 13, signed and numbered

5-color screenprint, 25"x19", on 100lb True White Speckletone French paper, edition of 120, signed and numbered

Once again, they're all available in my store as of Click here for that:

And big shout out to Mitch at OMG Posters for hooking up the Circa gigs. Check out his blog, filled daily with all sorts of poster goodness:

How I make an Illustration

TOM - I haven't done a process post in a while, so I thought I would share with you how I created this week's 'First Time' illustration for It's a sex column where people write about their 'first time' and although it's fun to draw people humping and kissing, I would get bored if I had to draw that every week. The young woman writing of her experience describes herself as a quiet outsider who likes books and cats and wore glasses that she thought made her look like an owl. I loved that line and decided to use the owl comparison as a jumping off point... I start off by brainstorming on a sheet of paper. These are just scribbles at this point, I work really fast so that I could get all my ideas down before I start to over think anything, that comes later. I don't care about drawing on top of another idea, it's a total mess. I could understand it, but I wouldn't expect anyone else to.

Then I tighten a couple ideas up and this is the one that we finally decided to go with. Like many birds, owls build their nests in holes of trees and keep it very guarded. I decided to put the woman in a nest that has a suggestive shape. She's guarding her own 'nest' so to speak. It's kind of subtle, but the goal is to make it work as an interesting illustration whether people pick up on that or not.

Then I light box over the sketch so I could tighten up the composition, add detail, all that good stuff.

My favorite part, the inks! I used a mix of a nib and brush to ink this one. The nib pen allowed me to add textures in the tree and to the owl, where the brush helped differentiate the woman from the rest of the piece.

Then, it's into Photoshop for some coloring. I wanted to make this a nigh time scene, so I used blues, greens and grays. I used limited white which I hope draws the viewer in as well as push the whole 'owl' metaphor.
Is this a sex illustration? I don't know, but I had fun regardless and I hope you enjoyed reading about my process. Enough about what I think though, let me know what you think in the comment section below!
Take care.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Catching up...

TOM- I'm happy to say I've been producing more work lately than I can keep track of. One of the downfalls is that I forget to post some of it. So here are some of the latest illustrations. Above is an illustration I did for New York Press about a male prostitute.
Here's one for about things heating up during an argument. My kind of argument...

Here's another one for about a young american man's expierience with a wild woman in Vienna.

These last two are a couple of sketches I did, just messing around with textures, patterns and materials.

Thanks for reading! A lot more stuff on the way!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

TOM - Here is a little autumnal greeting for you all! Have a great Halloween weekend!

Monday, October 25, 2010

MoogFest 2010 Print

JAMES - I am honored to have been asked to be a part of the MoogFest 2010 art show, Synth: A Group Art Show Inspired by Bob Moog, in honor of the inventor of the synthesizer. MoogFest takes place this coming weekend here in Asheville, and the art show features limited edition screen prints by some of my favorite and most respected poster artists. It's gonna be awesome.

Above is my contribution, an illustration depicting the connection and love between man and machine, inventor and creation, musician and instrument. They are hand-printed as an edition of 50, featuring 4 colors on 100lb True White Speckletone French Paper. 20 of the prints will be available at the festival this weekend, and I will have the rest of them available on my site on November 1st.

The main black inkwork was drawn with a variety of brushes, both wet and dry. And the green circuitry, which is printed semi-transparently over everything, was composed as vector lines using Adobe Illustrator. The paper itself is naturally sprinkled with speckles of dust and stuff - I thought that would kinda play off the looseness of the lines.

Thanks to Justin Helton for curating the show. I'm in some really great company - the Young Monster crew, Us & Them, Get a Clue Design, DKNG, Zeloot, Doe Eyed Design, Dan Grzeca, Drew Findley, Steve Walters, and of course Justin, plus a bunch more. I've seen some of their pieces online recently, and man oh man, this show's gonna be a killer!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Studio Visit: Marcellus Hall

I recently had the great opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with illustrator Marcellus Hall at his home in NYC. Marcellus was a teacher of mine back in my early days at School Of Visual Arts. His class offered me an insight into what an illustrator actually does and the process behind creating an editorial illustration. In class I got to see a lot of it first hand, as Marcellus would bring in assignments that he had just finished or sketches that he had sent to an art director. All of this really appealed to me and essentially that’s what made me want to pursue illustration as a career (rather than cartooning, which was my major throughout school). Just like our days in class, during my visit Marcellus was more than generous in sharing his work, both old and current. Throughout the course of our conversation we talk about his process of working on a children’s book, the role of Photoshop in illustration and his love for sketch-booking. The visit started off with Marcellus showing me some of the artwork he’s been creating for his fifth children’s book entitled, Full Moon and Star, written by Lee Bennett Hopkins:

Marcellus: I could show you the process.

Thomas: That’d be great.

Marcellus: It starts with this, a book dummy. I just slap down these drawings and staple it together. Later, the publisher adds the type and figures out how the words are going to play out on the pages. Then, I’ll bring this in and they’ll approve it or tell me what I need to change. Then, I’ll take each sketch and bring it to Kinko’s and blow it up to the size I’m going to work on. I then take a piece of vellum and trace over the rough, tightening it up, making it a little more exact. Once that’s tightened up, I use a piece of graphite paper to transfer the pencils onto the watercolor paper.

Thomas: Do you like to keep it sort of loose at this stage?

Marcellus: It’s not loose, I want to make sure things are in place. The problem is though, that I don’t have a lot of the spontaneity as a result. The spontaneity comes when the watercolor get’s splashed on.

Thomas: Same thing with my work, I feel that sometimes when I light box, it could easily allow the drawing to stiffen up and lose something in the process. When I add ink to it though, that's where the drawing starts to come alive again. Is that what the watercolors do for you?

Marcellus: Yeah, hopefully. That’s the idea at least.

Thomas: So once you get it onto the board, how long will a spread in the book take you?

Marcellus: It’s really important for me to put some paint on, let it dry, and as it dries I kind of circle it, go in the other room, come back and look at it again. Sometimes it’ll sit on my desk for days or weeks. There usually isn’t that kind of time with editorial work, but with a children’s book you have months to work on it.

Thomas: Do you have to re-do pages a lot when working on a children’s book?

Marcellus: Yes, but only because I make myself do the changes.

Thomas: So no one’s putting pressure on you to do a bunch of changes?

Marcellus: No, they’re more lax than I am.

Thomas: Are they much more concerned with the cover?

Marcellus: Probably, yeah. They’ll be a little more critical about that. And here’s the cover. I’m going to lay acetate on top of that and do the lettering.

Thomas: Are you considered ‘old school’ for doing lettering overlays on acetate paper?

Marcellus: Yeah, as the years go by, I’m considered more and more ‘old school’ and I’m not that old (laughter).

Thomas: I respect that process though, I think it’s really awesome. Is that a decision you make because it feels right doing it that way?

Marcellus: Yeah, it feels right. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m young enough to know how to do Photoshop and I have learned how to use it and I’ve colored things with Photoshop and it takes me just as long to color something with Photoshop as it does with watercolor, but it seems less fresh, so I like the hands on approach. So, when I get labeled ‘old school’, I hate it, but it’s worth it, I’m not going to give it up. Or sometimes they’ll say ‘retro’, but maybe that’s because I’m in love with 1930’s and 40’s drawing style, I don’t know.

Thomas: For me, I’ve been trying to find a better way to integrate Photoshop with my drawing in more of a seamless way, so it doesn’t necessarily look like it was colored in Photoshop, using more hand created textures, not to make it look so computery. I look at some of the stuff I made while still in school and fresh out of school and it’s just disgusting, I was just going crazy with Photoshop, getting carried away with all the tools and relying too heavily on it for fancy affects. So, if I could keep it more about the drawing and less about the Photoshop…

Marcellus: Yeah, I think that’s good. I’ve seen people doing it, and I’ve seen stuff you’ve done and more and more people are using Photoshop to amazing effects and I love those textures that get put in there. Sometimes I look at those drawings and think ‘how the hell did they do that?’, which is cool I guess..

Thomas: Would you agree that there is that quality of brush and paper that nothing can really beat?

Marcellus: Oh yeah. It’s funny though, I remember when Photoshop first burst on the scene and all the illustrators were using it, I was frustrated because suddenly my drawings looked dirty (laughter) They didn’t look as clean.

Thomas: I do all my drawing by hand so I have all my original black and white drawings, but to some extent I feel like less of an artist because if someone asked to see the original colored drawing, I would have to give them a digital print out. And that’s one of the reasons I want to use less Photoshop, but it all comes down to confidence in the execution I guess.

Marcellus: I struggle every time I set out to do coloring. It’s hit or miss, y’know, I fail and then I start again and I rack my brain, there’s blood sweat and tears and sometimes I hate the fact that I’m even doing it and I’m jealous of all the ‘Command Z’ people. (laughter) There’s an illustrator named Eric Palma and he used to do watercolor and now he does Photoshop and he does it extremely well, it looks amazing.

Thomas: To me, when I see work like yours that’s completely hand done, it makes me think that particular artist has a great sense of confidence in what they do. For myself, I guess by trying not to rely so much on the computer, I’m just trying to build up a better sense of confidence in drawing and executing an illustration. Y’know, if I was living in a tree house in the middle of the rainforest and all I had was an internet connection and I got a editorial job that needed to be in that night, I would have to use whatever I had around me in order to create an illustration, and having that kind of confidence in order to pull something like that off would be essential.

Marcellus: I totally agree with you, I think I even adopted that sort of philosophy when I was really young. Part of it had to do with music. I was really in love with folk music and people like Woody Guthrie – he didn’t need an amplifier, he’d just pick up an acoustic guitar and start strumming or even sing acapella and I appreciated that kind of raw, D.I.Y approach, it was self sufficient, I loved that. And so it carried over into my art and I thought, I don’t need fancy watercolor paper and this and that, I could draw on a scrap of cardboard that I found on the street, I could use my blood, whatever (laughter).

Thomas: Your sketchbooks are awesome. One of the things I remember from your class is you bringing in your sketchbooks and openly sharing them with all of us. For me as a student, that was invaluable, being able to see those in person, it was like seeing where it all happens, no tricks, I saw the mistakes, the experiments…

Marcellus: Yeah, raw, free form kind of experimentation…

Thomas: Does that kind of tie into your D.I.Y approach?

Marcellus: Yeah, I think so. I just love the idea of sketching from life and I loved the idea of just coloring something with a tea bag. I just loved using materials at hand. Most of them are from real life, for some reason I don’t draw from my head all the time or that much, unless it’s an illustration job. The sketchbooks give me an opportunity to experiment with color and also to draw without inhibition and I also experiment a lot with composition, it helps me a lot compositionally. I remember thinking when I first started keeping a sketchbook that composition was my weakness, so for me the object was to fill a rectangle with lines that had a pleasing composition. And that sounds almost too obvious, but it really is a combination of lines that create a pleasing composition and some people forget that. You have to step back and look at it abstractly, I think

Thomas: Totally. How important is the outcome of a sketch to you? Are you thinking at all about the outcome?

Marcellus: Yeah, I am. It’s like a high wire act, I want to come out on top, I want to create a great piece and sometimes I fail. I guess the high wire metaphor is appropriate because you can fall, it’s a balancing act because I’m committing to paper with a non erasable pencil and without a net, y’know?

Thomas: I try to keep a sketchbook as much as possible, but I get frustrated with them sometimes because I feel like it becomes this art object or something, like every page in it has to be amazing. And I feel like the fancier the sketchbook is, the more pressure there is in terms of filling it up. Do you have that sort of…


Thomas: Yeah, I mean it’s the stupidest thing, anybody that’s not an artist would think we’re crazy about having anxiety about filling this book up…

Marcellus: Yeah, for years I avoided good materials because I was too anxious. But then when I could start affording better quality materials, I was like hitting my head saying ‘why didn’t I use these materials earlier?’ because it makes such a big difference to have good paper. I remember wondering why certain watercolor wouldn’t apply to certain papers and it was because it was bad paper.

Thomas: I try and draw outside from life as much as possible, but I find it hard to not get spotted by someone who I might be drawing, or someone who wants to look over my shoulder which just makes me self conscious. But then I see your sketchbook stuff and I’m like, “fuck, I would love to do stuff like that!” What’s your method?

Marcellus: I think I’ve perfected some way to avoid scrutiny, I’m not sure how I do it, but I don’t get people over my shoulder that often and when I do I’m actually pretty confident and I have to say I think it’s just from years of doing it. I totally understand the self consciousness, but I’ve overcome it, I don’t know how though. One thing that I think about when I encounter a situation where I’m going to draw people is that I don’t think of it terms of “I’m going to draw people,” I think more in terms of the people and their relationship to the environment, I’m not just going to do figure studies

Thomas: I remember you bringing into class some books on artists that influenced you like Marc Chagall and…

Marcellus: George Grosz…

Thomas: Yeah, when you first started out keeping a sketchbook, were you heavily influenced by those guys and trying to emulate them? How long did it take for you to find your own voice?

Marcellus: I remember thinking that style was something that can’t be forced. People worry about it a lot, but my solution to that was just draw constantly. I figured if you were constantly drawing, you don’t have time to think about style, it just comes. I found myself gravitating to things that I’d seen and things that I liked, but in an unconscious way.

Thomas: I started keeping a sketchbook after seeing your sketchbooks in class, I was like ‘oh man, I gotta do stuff like this’…

Marcellus: oh cool…

Thomas: I remember getting a sketchbook very similar to yours and trying to sketch like you, then I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t you and it totally wasn’t working, then throughout school I would try and emulate various other artists sketchbook styles and I feel that only over the last year or so have I finally started to find my own voice in terms sketch booking. I feel like my own voice is not really even consistent with itself yet, it’s sort of all over the place, but at least it’s me and not someone else…

Marcellus: Yeah, and I still get influenced by people all the time. Sometimes I can’t help but start an illustration thinking about another illustrator and how they would do it. But I used to copy Ralph Steadman, do something in his style, then I would do something in Al Hirschfeld’s style and to me they’re almost polar opposites, but I was equally influenced by both of them. My line is probably more like Hirschfeld’s now, but I also absorbed a lot from somebody like Ralf Steadman. In terms of sketchbooks though, when I came to New York I actually was dying to make drawings of the city and of the people in the way George Grosz did drawings of Berlin. So I adopted a more flat, angular, cubist style, I did a lot of experiments with that kind of stuff

Thomas: Almost a collage-like composition…

Marcellus: …yeah I loved that.

Thomas: Looking through your sketchbooks, you’ve sketched all over the place, some of these are in China, South America…

Marcellus: Yeah, traveling inspires me…for you too, when you’re traveling this year, it’ll be a great opportunity for you

Thomas: Yeah, I’m going to try and create as many drawings on the road as I can and at the end of it, look through it and see if there’s something I could do with them .Haven’t really figured out what just yet.

Marcellus: It’ll certainly be invaluable I think. Also, if you’re feeling hateful towards the place you’re at, you might be able to channel some of that into a drawing, draw the people the way you see them, or if you’re lonely or excited or whatever.

Thomas: Is that what sketching is to you, especially when you’re traveling? Does is become some sort of…

Marcellus: Therapy?

Thomas: Yeah.

Marcellus: Yeah, it can. It’s also like I can’t wait to capture this and show it to people, so there’s a little bit of vanity involved.

And that’s when duty called. The New Yorker emailed him to make some last minute changes on an illustration that he was working on, so he had to get back to work. It truly was a great conversation though and it was great to look through all his sketch books from over the years and get a walk through of his process. You can check out Marcellus’ amazing illustration work at his website: