Goodbye Mount Orchid

For the past 10 years I’ve had the absolute pleasure to play bass with Mount Orchid (formally Dreamboat). Last Friday, April 12, we played our final show, a bittersweet moment for sure. Playing music with Billy Pogany and the band has been so rewarding. Together we recorded, three albums, played countless shows across Colorado, opened for Collective Soul, and were the first band from Western Colorado invited to play the Open Air show on Colorado Public Radio.

Playing in the band as a designer has also been a lot of fun. I’ve made countless band posters, buttons, and album designs for all iterations of the band, from Dreamboat through Mount Orchid. It’s some of my favorite work, primarily because it was for my own passion project. Here’s a collection of my favorite band designs.

MO pins

MO BC

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Notes:
• Mount Orchid Smokey the Bear button design by 464r7h4
• Bronco Country / Mount Orchid poster design by Andrew Watson

Read! \m/

Colorado Public Radio Open Air host Bruce Trujillo rocking the Read shirt.

Every year libraries across the country participate in Summer Reading, a program designed to encourage reading during the summer and keep kids from having setbacks. The 2018 Summer Reading theme was ‘”Reading Rocks!” An offshoot of working on that project for Mesa County Libraries was this limited run of “Read” metal shirts.

Inspired by the ubiquitous Read posters, my version is a take on totally brutal metal band logos. Obviously not a great fit to promote reading to little kids, the natural use of this art is to throw it on a black shirt and sell it to music nerds like Colorado Public Radio Open Air host Bruce Trujillo.

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Historical Sign Update

Recently, I got to work on a historical sign update in Collbran, Colorado. On February 1, Mesa County Libraries installed new window signage at the Collbran Branch Library. Paying homage to the history of Collbran, the new signage is a unique addition to the library.

Thanks to a Historical Society Grant in 1995, the Collbran Branch was relocated to the Stockmen Bank Building on Main Street, Collbran. The original Stockmen Bank opened for business in 1916 and the building was remodeled to its current form in 1929.

The Collbran Branch maintains much of the original charm of the 1929 remodel including the original bank safe dated to 1908, interior wood molding accents, iron work surround the exterior windows and door, and decorative brickwork on the front facade, including “Stockmen’s Bank” in blue and white terracotta frieze.

While the building itself is a beautiful example of early twentieth century western architecture, it has proved challenging to rebrand it as a Mesa County Libraries location. The building was added to the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties in March 8, 1995, so major modifications were out of the question.

Working with the Town of Collbran (Stockmen Bank building owners), we were able to get approval to add a window signage to building to help identify the building as a library, and prominently display library hours.  

In an effort to match the charm and historical nature of the building, we threw out our style book and focused on designing signage that would have been historically accurate to 1929. Specifically, we sought to replicate the hand-painted, gold leaf signs often found on bank, salon, and barbershop windows from that era.

Using historical photos of Plateau Valley and other western towns for reference, the design focuses on the word “Library.” Large, gold block serif letters scroll across the top of the design, and are framed by hand-drawn ornaments. Mesa County Libraries colorful sunrise logo was redesigned as a two color, gold and black logo to help unify the sign to the existing building elements.   

Working with a sign vendor we were able to find on a vinyl material that replicates a gold leaf texture, while still being affordable and durable enough to hold up to the weather elements. The overall look is pretty stunning, and adds new sparkle to the Stockmen Bank.    

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Concert Posters

Designers are always looking for total creative freedom. When approaching a project, nothing is more appealing than the phrase “do whatever you want.” While that attitude doesn’t work out so well for commissioned projects, it always plays when making concert posters.

Concert posters are a blast to make, and since I play in a band (Mount Orchid) and hang out with a lot of musicians, I get the chance to make a lot of them. My general approach is to be as wild as possible, no limitations.

Wild color schemes, fun font treatments, and weird art make for an eye catching combo. I’m a fan of taking art out of context and reusing it in creative ways. This three-armed gorilla for example, was a piece of art I found on a vintage Czech circus poster. With some color adjustments, hand-drawn fonts, and an expressive brush palette, it’s now a fun advertisement for a concert.

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moon-poster

The stakes are pretty low when designing concert posters. They are temporary ads that are not meant to last forever, like a commissioned logo. I think that’s why I like making them so much. It’s total freedom and the chance to be creative just for the sake of being creative.

Longo, Bacon

“I believe in deeply ordered chaos.” – Francis Bacon, painter

“Longo, Bacon” is an art piece I made for recent art show celebrating artists Francis Bacon and Robert Longo. Both artists made work about identity, isolation, and anxiety, themes I often feel and think about.

This collage takes the iconic character poses from Longo’s “Man in Cities” project, and places them in the expressive and chaotic world of Bacon. All the expressive brush work and boxes hint at themes of isolation and anxiousness. Creating this piece, I imagined myself as the central image trying to make sense of the world around me. I like the juxtaposition of a dirty maddening background against the clean but anguished characters of Longo. It suggests that even when you think you’ve got the world figured out, chaos is all around you.

Generally, this style of art work falls outside of my comfort zone. However, as a creative it is important to push your self to try new styles. As Longo said, “an artist should know art history.”

The final piece is a 24 x 32 inch, mixed media collage.

Zine Party

I was recently asked to contribute some artwork and writing to a pop-up magazine. These projects are fun to work on as it is a chance to create something completely from your own imagination without having to answer to a client.

For this pop-up I created four items: “Shed Your Skin – Wild Ghost logo,” “Electric Ballroom” short story, John Contino tribute skull, and “Dog-o and Chef,” an original comic short.

Shed Your Skin – Wild Ghost logo

This is a new take on my own Wild Ghost logo. I’ve had the idea to make a glyph using the Wild Ghost snake in the shape of a “G” for a while and this iteration feels really good. Eventually as I develop my brand I see this as being a stand alone mark.

The “Shed Your Skin” text is really a reminder to myself that when I fell boxed in to a certain artistic style that I have the freedom to change as needed. This really is the essence of Wild Ghost and why I founded the company. I wanted to create something that was unshackled and free to inhabit any artistic form I need the company to take, hence, Wild Ghost.

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“Electric Ballroom” – Short Story / John Contino Tribute Skull 

The “Electric Ballroom” short story in an excerpt from a longer unpublished fictional piece I wrote about a local band struggling for attention in a small town. I chose this section because I really like description of the main character playing guitar. I’m obsessed with Fender instruments and their offset guitars always seemed so cool to me.

John Contino is one of my favorite designers and I love how expressive he can be using a combination of digital and hand drawn art. I struggle sometimes with digital art, particularly getting a computer to be as expressive as I want it to be. I’ve been studying Contino’s technique in the hopes of learning how to bring a more personal feel to digital design. This skull was hand drawn, based off one of his drawings, scanned into Photoshop, and redrawn from there. The lines in the finished skull seem more lively to me. It’s a little extra work to get this effect, but I’m looking forward to using this technique in upcoming projects.

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Dog-o and Chef – Comic Short

This was by far my favorite piece to create for the magazine. I’m my spare time I really love cooking and every time I’m in the kitchen my Boston Terrier is at my feet, hoping to catch a couple scraps. This is a real pecan pie recipe, but as you can see, when you let a dog be your sous-chef, things can take a turn for the worse!

While fun, this project turned out to be much more time intensive than I anticipated. Character drawing in particular was difficult. Drawing my dog in multiple positions, while still maintaining his defining characteristics was a challenge.

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Nathaniel Rateliff

This article originally appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Spoke + Blossom magazine. 

Atop the Colorado music scene sit Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. Since the release of their 2015 eponymous debut album, the band is one must-see act currently active in the Colorado music scene. Led by their powerfully charismatic songwriter-and-lead-singer Rateliff, the Night Sweats are totally worthy of the accolades and love the state has shown them.

Even casual music fans will know the boisterous, bearded Rateliff from headlining gigs at Red Rocks, annual holiday shows at the Ogden Theater in Denver, or multiple appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Rateliff and Co., fueled by a little bit of vintage soul and classic rock charm, have struck a chord with music fans around the state — and the world.

The band’s success, however, is still a relatively new phenomenon. Before Colorado was a trendy destination for twentysomethings, before Open Air on Colorado Public Radio championed local music through the airwaves, back when the Underground Music Showcase was indeed an underground music showcase, Denver music fans will remember Rateliff as a mildly successful folk/gospel artist, and not as the headlining frontman from the Night Sweats.

Venture through old YouTube videos of Rateliff playing solo gigs, and you will find a denim-clad songwriter with the voice and chops primed for a breakout. Listen closely to his acoustic work, and you will also hear the early influences and song structures that the Night Sweats developed to great success.

Rateliff’s solo music is slower and a bit more tender than that of the Night Sweats. Often strumming a nylon-string classical guitar, Rateliff is an introspective storyteller. His work on the 2013 album Falling Faster Than You Can Run demonstrates his ability to pierce the soul with little more than his voice and a thoughtful lyric.

As a solo artist Rateliff found a reasonable amount of success touring the country. He was featured in multiple music blogs and magazines like Spin and Paste Magazine, as well as the documentary Austin to Boston, which shows the highs and lows of musicians on a low-budget cross-country tour in a caravan of old Volkswagen buses.

For music fans who missed his career as a solo artist, this archival footage shows that it was all there in the early days. Rateliff’s songwriting and massive voice were well-honed before people really started to pay attention. If you can entertain a bar with just your voice and a simple guitar riff, then you’ve really got something. Rateliff’s always had it.

Lucky locals enjoyed a rare chance to see a more retro Rateliff perform a stripped-down set opening for folk icon John Prine, who himself is having quite a moment following the release of his recent album, The Tree of Forgiveness. Their November 8 show at the Avalon Theatre in Grand Junction was just one of a handful of concerts together. (Western Slopers have another chance to see Rateliff, along with the Night Sweats, at the Belly Up in Aspen on December 15 and 16.)

Regarding the significance of playing alongside a living legend like Prine, Rateliff remarked, “We keep losing all this magic as people pass away, and now we just have to start making it for ourselves again.” Whether solo or with the Sweats, Rateliff has proven himself a magician indeed.

Downtown Art Scene

This article originally appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Spoke + Blossom magazine. 

Downtown Grand Junction streets are lined with sculptures, monuments, and interactive art pieces, all vying for our attention. These colorful wood, metal, and fused-glass installations inspire whimsy, curiosity, and Instagram photos from thousands of tourists and local visitors who flock downtown to enjoy Grand Junction’s most popular destination for art and culture.

With music venues, art galleries, and a rotating Art on the Corner exhibit, Downtown Grand Junction has made significant investments in the artistic community.

“We are striving to be art friendly,” says Downtown Grand Junction Marketing and Communications Specialist Caitlyn Love. “With new programs like Street Beat, Electric Art, and the downtown mural projects, we try to be supportive of art projects and the creative community.”

The beauty and vibrancy we enjoy today is largely thanks to Dave Davis, a visionary sculptor and magnet in the Colorado art scene. Davis, who passed away this past August in his Clifton art studio, was key in jumpstarting downtown’s investment in the arts by founding Art on the Corner in 1984. The public art project helped galvanize a community still dealing with the fallout of the infamous “Black Sunday” oil-shale bust of 1982.

What originally started as a downtown beautification and revitalization project has now grown to be a proven economic driver for downtown businesses and artists.

“Art on the Corner is a huge draw for the downtown area,” Love says. “It brings so many people together, and it gives visitors a chance to connect with artists and see their unique style.”

For sculpture artists like Pavia Justinian, Art on the Corner and similar programs are invaluable chances to connect with art collectors and sell their work.

“Big art displays well. Small art sells well,” Justinian says. “People may not buy a big sculpture, but they might contact me later to see if other work is available for purchase. It’s great publicity for artists.”

Artists who take advantage of programs like Art on the Corner can collect multiple stipends on work that would be valued in the tens of thousands but may be difficult to sell. For sculpture artists in particular, these stipends are one of the few realistic ways to monetize their art.

“Dave really laid the groundwork for other cities to emulate Art on the Corner,” Justinian says. “Now that other cities have similar programs, there is more opportunity for me to get art on public display, and a way to make money.”

Justinian is a graduate of Colorado Mesa University and a former apprentice under Davis. Through Davis’ guidance she learned new artistic techniques and trade skills, like how to weld and work with various metals. Now an accomplished sculptor, Justinian has shown her work in exhibits across the West. In 2016, she won Best in Show in Art on the Corner for “Sigma.” In this year’s collection, she debuted a new piece made in collaboration with Davis, called “Untitled.” Davis and Justinian finished this abstract sculpture about one month before his passing, and it is likely his last completed sculpture.

For working artists, opportunity is everything. Now, thanks to a new designation, there may be more opportunities for artists coming to the downtown area. Recently, Downtown Grand Junction was awarded Creative District status by Colorado Creative Industries. The goal of the designation is to draw artists to the downtown community and foster local economic activity through the arts. According to Love, it brings Downtown Grand Junction more opportunities for grant funding and helps it get on Colorado Department of Transportation signage, which means more statewide exposure.

“The potential of a creative art district is exciting,” Justinian says. “I’m excited to see where it goes, but if you’re going to be a creative district it needs to be something more than the name.”

Throughout history, Downtown Grand Junction has reinvented itself for the better. It’s taken bold leaders with big ideas to guide the future of the area. Community leaders came together in 1962 to complete Operation Foresight, an innovative city design project that added the iconic curve to Main Street and won Grand Junction the All-American City award. Davis created Art on the Corner 22 years later, further adding to the beauty and economic diversity of downtown. Now a new opportunity presents itself with the Creative District designation. The only question is, who will have the next great idea to build upon Downtown Grand Junction’s growing vitality?

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“Affirmation Station” by Timothy Flood photo by Caitlyn Love.