Ryan Duggan

I was just checking out the print work of Chicago artist Ryan Duggan (Dooo-gan). He is currently making a poster every week of this year, and I can tell you people, it's not easy to do, even in editions of 15. Ryan's work is smart, irreverent and honest, and I recommend that you take a peek for and buy a darn print yourself.

But first, check out this sweet video about the dude.

Here are a few posters from the year-long POTW series. Snatch em up!


Melinda Beck: Quicksand poster


Quicksand is one of my favorite bands from the 90′s, as anyone who was familiar with them at the time would probably say. They came out of the NY hardcore scene and were one of those word-of-mouth bands that got passed around on mix tapes and got played on the local record store stereo where no accompanying CD was actually available to purchase. I saw them live a few times, always opening for a bigger act that was neither as cool nor present in my current record collection. (Unrelated: I coveted my radio-dubbed version of Slint’s Spiderland on cassette for three years without even knowing who the band was. I miss the mystery of finding new music.)

Fast forward to now, where we find Walter Schreifels and company hitting stages again for a romp down memory lane. Their music has aged incredibly well, and I can’t wait to see it live again. And to top it off, they have called upon illustrator Melinda Beck to create a tour poster (pictured above) to mark the occasion.

Melinda is a seasoned illustrator, also from New York, who did the cover for Quicksand’s last record Manic Compression in 1995. I’ve always thought it one of the coolest album covers from that time, and now that I work in this field I have an even deeper appreciation for the piece, and for Melinda’s work as a whole. She’s done a bit of everything, including traditional illustration, animation, lettering and more, which you can and must see at her portfolio site.


I rang Melinda to see how she was making out with the tour poster, and she was happy to chat about her working process.

Kevin: So how did you first start working with Quicksand?

Melinda: My husband (illustrator Jordin Isip) and I met at RISD, and he is from Queens. He knew them from the hardcore scene in New York. I actually first did something for this hardcore compilation that this guy Sam put out around 1990, and Walter saw it. I did stuff for (Walter’s pre-Quicksand band) Moondog, and I’ve been doing stuff for Walter ever since.

I always loved your album art for Manic Compression. It’s nice to see them resurface with you along for the ride again. Did they give you any direction for this new tour poster?

No, Walter is always like “Do something cool,” which is fine with me!

Did you have an idea up front or did you work through the idea in sketches?

I always work my ideas through, I spend hours sketching. I’ve got my sketchbook out, I’m searching the web for anything to influence me, looking through art books. I kind of had a set idea with this one, but I tried the head on a bug, on different things, tried variations of things.


Even if i think it’s a good idea, it could be so much better with just a slight change or two. So it’s worth sitting down spending hours sketching. I teach, and I always have students going “Here’s my (one) sketch…,” and I say “don’t do that!”

I like how the poster relates to the previous record cover, with the scratchboard style and odd figure.

I haven’t done scratchboard in a long time, I gave it up about 10-15 years ago to move into other media. The company in England that made the scratchboards stopped making them for a long time so that’s part of the reason I quit too.

Wow, that must have been interesting to go back to after such a long time.

Yeah, all of my tools were completely dull, so I’m really glad that I went and ordered new ones! I gave it up because I was so particular about this one brand of scratchboard – I was so nitpicky about it, like I would never use any other brand. And the company was bought out and started making this really cheap version. I was like “That’s it I’m done with that.” Fortunately they make the thick clayboard again but I won’t do it unless I can get the kind of line quality that I want.

Does it take longer to execute in this style than some of the others that you do?

Yeah. Actually my silhouette style is even more time-consuming but this is a close second.

Well, I guess if you want to make good work you have to spend the time, right?

Heh, yeah it does seem to work that way.


The lettering has a great handmade feel and really works well with the image.

I actually went to school for graphic design, so I’m really into type. But I also love to draw, which is how I ended up in illustration after doing graphic design for a while. I like when the image and the type feed off each other, working together as a unit.

I think the handmade aesthetic adds something to the whole.

Yeah, with something like Quicksand I can be a little more abstract with the type. It doesn’t have to be super legible like something for, say, a corporation. So I’m free to do whatever I want with it, even make it more image than type.


The other thing I was noticing was in your sketches you roughed out the fork and the spoon, and though stuff like that can be easily made digitally now you cut it out of paper anyway.

You don’t get the same look. There’s a certain way the curve has little points in it and it’s got this roughness. If I did it in Illustrator it would never look like that. I like the convenience of using a computer but don’t want it to look like a mish-mosh of computer and handmade. I cut it out in paper so I can get a certain immediacy to the look, it’s worth the extra effort.

Right. The extra ten minutes may really make the piece.

Yeah, It’s very much about the details. I may do something five different ways and pick the one that looks the best. I obsess over every detail. Especially on an image this simple and bold, every detail counts. Even the little strings that attach the type.

You have a few different styles that you work in. How did that develop over time?

Yeah, what happens is I take a style and I change a little and change a little, and before I know it, it’s become a completely different style. So what you may see on my site are the highlights and not the stuff in the middle that changed in between. They tend to look like totally different styles but each of them grew out of each other. I’ve been doing this since 1990 so I’ve had 23 years to abuse myself, and if I did the same thing for that long I’d probably be really bored!


Heh, I’d imagine so. So then do art directors hire you based on a specific look?

Well, when you’re communicating an idea you have composition, you have subject matter, color, and each style is another one of those tools I can use. So when I can pick the style I use one that’s related to what the idea is. Like Quicksand, it’s kind of rough, very aggressive; that’s why I did this style for this piece.

Some art directors have things in mind before they call me and usually they do the same thing, picking a style that matches the article. It allows me to do more of a range of illustrations and I don’t feel like I’m ever torturing a style into something it doesn’t fit in, like I’m not trying to make the aggressive thing look happy and relaxed. I’d just use a different style for that.

It looks like you really have fun doing this, it shows in the work.

Yeah, when I’m not having fun doing a project I feel like it totally shows. Of course there are some times when I work really hard on a project and get frustrated, but if it’s a project and I’m not having fun, I guarantee it will not be as good an outcome.

It seems like such an obvious thing, that we should enjoy the work, but it’s always there.

I know, and sometimes when there is a tight deadline or a really big client I have to kind of put that out of my mind and just focus on making it look good and not freak out. Because when you freak out and panic it’ll turn out stiff.

Well, your work is great, always interesting and quite inspiring. I’m looking forward to getting a Quicksand print at the show. Thanks for taking the time to chat, I really appreciate it!


Links: Melinda Beck  |  Quicksand – This poster available at the merch table if you were lucky enough to score tickets for this tour. Another Quicksand/Melinda Beck poster from 2012 is available here.

Process: Justin Santora

Justin Santora recently posted a fantastic process thread at showing the evolution of his new art art print Bad News for Naked Emperors. It’s an 8-color screen print created without the use of a computer.


I asked Justin to talk a bit more about the story and technique behind the print. Here is what he had to say.

Does the image have a particular story?

“I’ve been interested in architectural structures for a while now. I’m also drawn to how man made structures eventually get broken down by the elements. I’ve had an intermittent fascination with billboards for the past couple of years for this reason. For anyone who’s ever driven across pretty much any rural part of the US or Canada, the landscape contains these decrepit billboards with mismatched or missing panels, rotting wood, and peeling paint.

I like the idea that the billboard’s message is unavoidably being obscured by natural forces. It’s like the ephemeral nature of these advertisements is on display.

“In that respect, I kind of see decomposing billboards as little visual metaphors for many of the pervasive and often disheartening messages we are bombarded with on a daily basis. As consumers, we’re told everything is okay; as voters, we’re told elected officials are working for us; and as citizens, we’re told war is just and that inequality is often simply “the way it is.” Fewer and fewer people believe the story anymore.

“But all of that aside, rural decay just interests me on an aesthetic level. When you’re working in ink, it’s kind of a common tactic to use variations in density of texture to convey value and depth. Drawing old, withered wood and hipping paint is one way to give some character and dimension when working pretty much entirely with little ink lines.”


Detail of the final print. Loving the nice transition where the grass and sign meet up.

I love that you are printing a color and then deciding what happens next in certain areas, like in the cloud shading. Does the printing process help you to develop your images, or do you already have an idea what it should look like going in?

“I always have at least a basic idea of how an image is going to look. I start the color separation process with a completed drawing, so all of the colors are going to be worked with the key line film(s) in mind. With things like clouds, I just go color by color, usually thinking about what I’ll do next as I’m printing and looking at the prints.

The printing process is very much a part of the illustration process.

“It’s fun to work this way because there’s a lot of room to improvise or correct something by adding a new color on the fly, but it can also be overwhelming. It also keeps the printing part of the process very cognitive because each color is a reaction to the previous color, so I’m constantly thinking about what the next move is going to be.”

A printer’s print.

There is a terrific blend of creative and technical mastery on display in this print. Justin used two separate hand-drawn keyline films, one for the grass and another for the exploding billboard. Here is the finished drawing, which was then printed onto film and separated into the two keylines.


If you are not using a computer to create your screen films, the image below is probably a familiar one. Here Justin lays out a sketch on his light table and cuts the cloud shape out of rubylith, and is drawing in some details with a marker.


After printing that layer, he drops a piece of acetate onto the printed art and draws the next layer of detail. The process continues until ready to meet the first keyline.


The background film of the grass area is created when Rubylith is laid down over the grass keyline, followed by some fussy x-acto bladework. The keyline is then used during proofing to make sure everything lines up correctly.


After the grass is printed, Justin brings in the next keyline and cuts the background colors.


Looking closely at the final print below, look at how the low contrast coloring in the cloud layers backed against the sharp wood of the sign really creates depth in the piece. The dark color is not a pure black, which keeps it from looking flat. The subtlety in the color palette really makes this piece a winner.


Check out the full process thread at gig, which has twice as many photos and plenty of witty banter. Thanks to Justin for taking the time to chat about his work. You can and should buy this print at Justin’s website!