Jay Ryan and Paul Hornschemeier at Wholly Craft. 11/13/09

Jay Ryan's "Animals and objects in and out of water."      Paul Hornschemeier's "All and Sundry."

Jay Ryan and (former Columbusite) Paul Hornschemeier recently stopped by Wholly Craft to sign, sell and talk about their work. Ryan silkscreens posters for bands like The Decemberists, The Melvins and Fugazi. Hornschemeier makes comics, writes short stories and also does freelance illustration for major media outlets. Some of his more recent comics he shared take on an illustrated prose form instead of comics.

                    I get this because I am taking Philo 101. From Hornschemeier's "three paradoxes."

Here is a MP3 of Hornschemeier reading from his book.
Here are two (1, 2) MP3s of Ryan presenting his work.

After "The Jump" is a transcript of an interview (MP3) with Ryan that touches of digital aesthetics, hand painted signs, business models of posters, design vs. art, etc. Also below is a copy of their tour itinerary.

Interview with Jay Ryan at Wholly Craft in Columbus, Ohio. 11/13/09 (Edited for clarity.)

James Payne: Do you think that computer fonts are inherently aesthetically unpleasing or that we consider them to be that way because it is what advertisers and mainstream media use?

Jay Ryan: I think there are two sides to this question. Number one; there is the issue of most of the type you see these days being generated digitally. While there is great access to design programs by basically anyone who owns a computer, being able to do quote unquote graphic design doesn’t make it good design. So somebody who is trained as a graphic designer can use a computer as a tool and get some lovely, proper type. Somebody who has access to Microsoft Word and can print out some 144 point type – we see on all sorts of homemade websites what that looks like. It can be truly insulting visually. So that is one side of the question. The other is good digitally generated type versus something that is hand drawn. Basically I fall into the hand drawn category because I just enjoy drawing. I can integrate the text into the drawing, so perhaps it is a character standing on the word, the name of the band or something not so cliché as that. The text can wrap around the figure like a banner or something like that. And to whatever degree I can draw type it is that little bit more that sets my work apart from the work of somebody else. There are other people that do type way better than I do by hand with brush and ink and it turns out lovely. But my own little silly style is sort of distinctive in its own dirty way.

Do you think that if most large companies (Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign for instance) started hiring people to do hand type on advertisements that you would be able to keep your technique or would you have to change in response?

God forbid that pop culture decided to follow in that direction – that would be very, very strange. I guess I would definitely reconsider but if I still felt like I was doing something honest and that it was coming from me I think I would keep doing it.

But going back to the tradition of hand painted signs from 75 years ago – we drove across Indiana and Ohio today and I saw some of the most shockingly bad billboards, where somebody had spent a lot more than I ever make on one of my jobs on some terribly designed billboards. I think while obviously not everything was perfect there was a time where there was hand painted signage for the food mart or the service station. There were professionals who did this type of work and you still see it on old bowling alleys and bakeries that have been around for a hundred years and it’s really nicely done. Like I said before, there is a downside to everybody having access to these tools digitally – it doesn’t mean everybody is a successful graphic designer. 

JP: I noticed a lot of the questions during your presentation’s Q&A session were about process. My roommate runs a screen-printing shop and is also constantly being questioned about his methods, his equipment, his pricing, and types of ink. It’s interesting to me because you are both essentially printing artwork. When people go to museums or galleries to see artwork the questions center on meaning and content. When it is posters and flyers the content seems to become secondary to process - if it is thought about at all – it’s bizarre to me.

JR: Well, I don’t look at what I do as art at all. I think it is a very personal, craft-based advertising. If I’m not letting people know that this piece of paper is telling them that there is a Melvins show, it’s not successful. There are a million ways for that to work, as far as conveying that it is a Melvins show, but it’s not fine art – it’s advertising. However, because of the business side of it and the fact that I like to have fun with my work, it is my own personal interpretation of what it’s like to go to a Melvins show or listen to the Melvins or experience them in some way. There is a balance between doing something that is designed by committee that has a wide appeal to a mass audience and doing something that is funny and that my friends think is funny and interesting because hopefully those are the people that we are trying to attract to the show.

JP: Would you say that it is a design object and conceptual concerns are not there or that they are secondary?

JR: They are there in that is has to appeal to the sensibilities of the band in some way. I did a rather potentially irreverent poster recently for a band that I think is rather irreverent called Future of the Left from Wales. It would not be appropriate imagery for The Frames or Andrew Bird or some jazz trio but for them it touched on a couple points mentioned in some songs on their new record. It has a skull and it has crucifixes coming out of the skull and a little dude in the nose who is driving the skull and the skull is hobbling along on plastic fork legs. It has some quasi cliché elements, and I try and avoid the cliché elements like skulls, boobs, monsters, hot rods…

JP: Yeah, can you touch on that?  It seems like one person will put out a poster with beams shooting out of someone’s eyes and it will spread like a meme into everyone’s posters…

JR: I think it’s one of those things where there are already hundreds of posters with beams shooting out of someone’s eyes and that is something that comes out of a tradition of science fiction and horror movies and once you see that you realize you’ve seen it fifty times before in the last three years. Of course there are new clichés all the time. You end up seeing suddenly a million posters with deer, or buffalo, or birds or whatever it is. But you try to maybe not fall into easy traps.

JP: How does that happen (The meme thing)?

JR: Well it’s why people all wear sports jerseys… Actually, I don’t really understand it at all. I think that’s part of why I try to make something that is different from the obvious, the traditions. When was the last time you saw a skull and thought, “Wow, I’m really insulted by that, that’s really shocking.” Or a drawing of a hot lady with big boobs reclining on a hot rod and really felt like it caught your imagination? I’m probably overstating my case but there are certain established ways - you know, a rock poster is supposed to have a skull and it is supposed to have flames and a skull on fire also. What if a rock poster is supposed to have some fish?

JP: That kind of mirrors independent rock being a response to what rock and roll is in the first place, is it dangerous and sexy or is it…

JR: or is it Robert Pollard.

JP: Has the move of “Indie” rock from zines, etc to the blogosphere changed your business?

JR: My whole business is based on having a website to show people my work. I’m able to charge bands relatively little for the amount of time I work for them and the amount of resources that I have to put into making a poster. If a band is making 200 dollars at a show it doesn’t make sense for them to spend a 1,000 dollars on posters. So I’m able to charge bands relatively little based on the idea that I am making enough posters that they get theirs and I keep some for after the show to sell on the website. And the website is where we generate most of our money. It’s from fans of the band coming in and saying, “Oh you know I’m really excited, I wasn’t in D.C at the 9:30 club to see Andrew Bird and St. Vincent but that is an interesting image and I like the band so I want one of those for twenty dollars or thirty dollars.”

JP: So are the posters even about advertising the show anymore or is it just about the poster?

JR: A lot of the time the bands commission them just for merchandise, which is happening more these days, but most of them still get used in the very traditional sense. They need to be done three weeks ahead of time and they hang up in the record store and coffee shop and bookstore.


Wed., November 11, 7pm
Quimby's Bookstore
1854 West North Ave

Thurs, Nov 12th, 7pm
The Sugar Maple
441 E. Lincoln Ave

Fri., Nov. 13, 7pm
Wholly Craft
3169 N. High St.

Sat, Nov 14th, 4 to 6pm
Million Year Picnic
99 Mt. Auburn Street

Sun., Nov. 15, 7pm
208 Smith St.

Mon., Nov. 16, 6-8pm
Giant Robot
437 East 9th St.

Wed., Nov. 18, 7-9pm
Atomic Books
3620 Falls Rd.

Fri., Nov. 20, 7pm
Carmichael's Bookstore
2720 Frankfort Ave.

Mon., Dec. 7, 6pm
Giant Robot
2062 Sawtelle Blvd.

Tues., Dec. 8, 7pm
Foundation Editions@NOMAD
1993 Blake Ave.

Wed., Dec. 9, 6-8pm
Giant Robot
618 Shrader St.

Thurs., Dec. 10, 7pm
D. King Gallery
2284 Fulton St.

Fri., Dec. 11, 6pm
Goodfoot Gallery
2845 SE Stark

Sat., Dec. 12, 6-9pm
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery
1201 South Vale St. @ Airport Way S.
*Fantagraphics Bookstore's 3rd Anniversary party*

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