Rockin’ art

Show poster designer a hit with local bands

Andrew Watson scoops up a glob of bright purple, one of the several colors of ink that he uses to screen print music posters for bands in his Orchard Avenue studio.

Beer stains dot the red cover of Andrew Watson’s favorite book: “Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion.”

Weighing in at a hefty 10 pounds, the book chronicles examples of thousands of the most eye-catching music posters ever designed in rock music. And Watson’s version is well-worn and the binding is ripping apart.

“I want to make it into this book,” said 36-year-old Watson, who has a degree in graphic design from Phoenix’s Collins College. “It’s my goal.”

Some local musicians will argue that Watson is on his way.

Since his move to Grand Junction in 2001, Watson has immersed himself in the local music scene, primarily in its promotion, designing many of the show posters hanging around town to let people know about upcoming shows.

His posters have promoted shows for numerous bands at Mesa Theater and Club, Sabrosa Restaurante, Tenacious Brothers Pub and Montrose’s Suds Tavern, among other area venues for the past 12 years.

“I’ve always loved everything he does,” said Trevor Adams, who has played in several local bands such as the Jones/Adams Duo and Dreamboat and known Watson for nearly 10 years.

A music poster illustrates the type of music and personalities in a group, said Watson, who also is a musician with the local band Heavy Drags.

He is working on a poster to promote Heavy Drags’ upcoming show with Sauna, a Denver band, on March 22 at Mesa Theater. The poster features two kids hugging in an almost psychedelic, colorful haze. The two bands enjoy playing together, much like two friends hugging.

“(The poster) draws your eyeball in, but it also says, ‘fun,’ ” Watson said.

A music poster must include basic logistical information — where, when the show will be — but what separates Watson from just any other poster designer is his edgy, yet well-trained eye, Adams said.

“You can tell when some guitar player made their own poster,” Adams said. “Then you can tell when Andrew made the poster.”

Watson made his first music poster as a 13-year-old for his band Hippie Love Grove. It was a Metallica cover band.

But he seriously began designing music posters 16 years ago when he settled into four different bands and started to study graphic design in college.

His primary inspirations remain “Thrasher Magazine,” “Mad Magazine” and artists Mark Gonzales, Lindsey Kuhn and Frank Kozik.

Once he got to Collins College, Watson learned about computers and Adobe Illustrator.

“It changed my life,” Watson said.

Before college, he would cut images from magazines and copy them onto white paper at a print shop.

The Internet allowed him to find funky images, and a design program helped him select fonts and create a look with ease. When necessary, Watson can produce an intriguing music poster in hours.

However, he prefers time to create music posters in the “old school” method of screen printing, which he started doing nearly two years ago.

The labor-intensive process means Watson can only make one poster at a time, but he prefers the artistic merit of the method.

The screen printing process begins with the image design on Adobe Illustrator. Watson prints the design onto transparent vellum sheets then burns design onto a screen and washes the screen off, leaving the image behind.

The ink pulls through that specific image onto poster paper or T-shirt material, giving Watson a finished product.

It takes him about a day to make one screen.

Consequently, he charges about $5 per poster and even sells the posters as works of art.

“I think they have more feeling and are more personal than just printing out a poster,” Watson said.

Although Watson joked that “at some point I think I’ve worked with every local band,” his clientele has branched out across the country thanks to word-of-mouth, social media and the Internet through, which he runs with his wife.

Currently, Watson is working on 60 screen-printed posters to promote a 30-band festival held in conjunction with the popular South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Texas.

He will spend Saturday, March 10, printing out the individual posters to ship them off by Monday, March 12. The image is already made, and it takes a deft eye to put 30 band names on a poster in an interesting way, Watson said.

But unfortunately, the music poster business nets him no more than $800 a year, which isn’t enough to support his family that includes two small children.

Two months ago, he started working at Bin 707 Foodbar and quickly went from dishwasher to line cook.

“I’m not a sous chef, yet,” Watson said.

The increased time at the restaurant has limited the amount of poster work he can do, but Watson has no intention on ever quitting it entirely because of the artistic freedom and expression he enjoys in the process. That’s good news to Adams, who said Dreamboat plans to hire Watson for an upcoming show.

“Sometimes I wonder how much a poster really helps getting people to a show, and it (probably) isn’t as important now with Facebook and the Internet, but posters are great,” Adams said. “They are an art form. It’s fun to put them up. ... You convey a lot about taste and aesthetic with a poster. A band that has a poster that’s poorly designed or uses some silly font might not have the best musical taste. If you have a good flier, it says something about the band’s music.”


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