My personal anxiety personified in print.

 

Earlier this month, I found myself in familiar territory; severely behind schedule on several projects and needing to get my proverbial ass in gear on what would be my fourth concert poster for the infamous noise rock/sludge/doom/stoner/hardcore/alternative/metal trio, simply named, Melvins. I should note that this is actually my fifth poster, if we are to count my contribution to the 2014 King Buzzo solo tour, but I digress.

Simultaneously, I was experiencing a great and sudden sadness in my personal life, a feeling of loss too personal to share in detail, but something that was causing me deep emotional pain. I've experienced more than my fair share of tragedy, but for some reason, this felt entirely different.  I wasn't eating, I had trouble catching my breath (especially at night) and more than a few times, I was unable to prevent myself from crying in public. I've become somewhat of a master at intellectualizing my emotions, constantly trying to outsmart my feelings and negotiate with my anxiety.  I recognize these skills are somewhat foolish, but it's how I learned to cope.  However, in this particular case, all of those coping mechanisms failed me, and I felt completely and utterly powerless.

I'm lucky to have a few wonderful friends in my life who talked me through what I was feeling.  They shared their personal experiences with anxiety and I realized that it was okay to be sad.  The more I accepted this, the better I felt and I’m eternally grateful to them for helping me come to this realization. 

As I've done my whole life, I set out to turn something terrible into something beautiful. Casting aside my earlier thumbnail sketches for this poster, I began conceptualizing a piece of artwork that personified my feelings about this recent bout with anxiety.

The large bird represents my fear and anxiety, and perhaps even the looming deadline of this and other projects. The birds circling above hint that, even if I chose to do battle with this particular foe, there would be an endless number of them ahead of me. The girl, more or less, represents me and how small and insignificant I felt in the face of all of that stress. The flower, held behind my back, is my acceptance. With great humility and humbleness, I (as the character in my fictional narrative) present this flower as a gift to my opponent.  Perhaps the flower represents my physical gifts as well, my choice to be an artist and make my daily contribution to the world a positive one. Those who know me well, know that this is something I take seriously. 

As always, there are a few things I’d prefer leave open to interpretation, little easter eggs that I keep for myself, but I sincerely hope that this poster resonates with Melvins fans as well as my fans who have dealt with anxiety, or continue to on a regular basis.
  
This poster will be available for purchase at the show in Austin, TX this evening, and my copies will be available here tomorrow as well.

 

Anonymous vs. Melvins: The results of stippling after midnight

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Sitting in my living room in the spring of 2013, I was sketching ideas for what would be my first gig poster for Melvins.  Nearby, a 24x36" framed print of Ken Taylor's Gremlins poster was looming over me, staring down and reminding me how much I wished I had an Australian accent... or was at least half as talented of an illustrator as Ken.  

At the start of a project, as I scrawl out crude thumbnails, there are always a few clever concepts that don't meet the criteria for an Anonymous Ink & Idea poster.  Swapping the word "Gremlins" for "Melvins" was among these initial ideas.  Beyond the similar assonance and consonance of these two words, I liked the idea of Melvins' fans being portrayed as an audience of tiny, destructive monsters.  Or perhaps the band members themselves as strange creatures, that if fed after midnight, might turn into unruly troublemakers. 

The idea seemed fun, clever and appropriate given other artists well established trend of using pop culture references in an unexpected or twisted manner.  Yet, at the time, I wasn't at all comfortable with Anonymous Ink & Idea having a sense of humor.  I wanted Anonymous to be the gloomy introspective side of my artistic personality and nothing else.  

I won't go into detail about what transpired in my personal life between 2013 and 2015, but I will say that I've become much more comfortable with allowing other parts of my personality to be associated with my pseudonym.  So... as I approached my third Melvin's poster, I decided to resurrect my Gremlins idea, and do my best to make it feel like it belonged in the Anonymous repertoire.  My hope is that the concept resonates with both Melvins fans and with Anonymous Ink & Idea followers.

Sharing my process (flaws and all) has been a liberating experience for me as an artist and I look forward to doing more of it. If you enjoyed this peak behind the proverbial curtain, leave me a comment and/or follow me on Instagram @richknepprath.

Process summary:  This poster had a very tight deadline and I had already made up my mind that I would stipple the entire peice, so I decided to keep the size of the original around 8x10" to save time .  This meant that the final dot sizes would be significantly larger on the final poster, but after a quick sanity test, I felt they looked okay.  I was able to complete the entire illustration in five days from start to finish... leaving me one day to scan, color and prepare files for the printer.  From the start, I knew I wanted to utilize a minimal color palette, something that would distinguish this print from all other Gremlins related artwork and keep it wholly, a Melvins gig poster.  So I opted for a predominantly greyscale look,  with spot colors for the 3D glasses.  The false margin technique (of the ears and hand extending past the margin) is something that I've been doing for over a decade now, and feels nice in this piece.  A big thanks to Lady Lazarus printing in Houston, TX for a masterful job on this print. 

Final Poster - 4 color silk-screen (with metallic silver) on white (100lb Cougar)

Final Poster - 4 color silk-screen (with metallic silver) on white (100lb Cougar)