Part 2: The Little Friends of Printmaking
[All images via The Little Friends of Printmaking]
Milwaukee’s husband and wife printmaking duo, Melissa and JW Buchanan, have gained international acclaim since the establishment of The Little Friends of Printmaking. Amongst their most famed designs is Fantômas, utilized as the difficulty screen for the well-known video game Guitar Hero. When first approached by a fan who worked at Harmonix, the original developers of Guitar Hero, Melissa and JW agreed to loan their image, though apprehensive as to the game’s future success: “we were like yeah sure, good luck with that. It sounded insane at the time, a video controller shaped like a guitar? Whatever.” The duo’s style is distinguished by the use of bursting illustrative compositions—intricate assemblages of objects and figures combined to visually embody the represented musicians. The printmakers’ 2010 gig-poster for comedic band Flight of the Conchords, depicts a multitude of colorful details representative of lyrical phrases, as well as moments from the musical pair’s HBO television show. Characters Jemaine and Bret peek out of their fabled New York apartment, a bodega down below selling magazines and various wares featuring lyrical references. Although The Little Friends’ gig-posters overwhelming favor a focus upon imagery, rather than text, the artists’ 2010 design Guided by Voices, features the band’s name, in thick curving typography, occupying the upper three-fourths of the composition. The designers’ deviation from their image-based prints, acts as an acknowledgement of the Indie Rock band’s lyrical focus, as well as songwriter Robert Pollard, dubbed one of the most productive songwriters in American history, releasing “nine albums and 11 EPs in the Nineties alone” (“Guided by Voices: Biography,” Rolling Stone). Whether depicting intricate imagery or bold typography, The Little Friends of Printmaking unfailingly demonstrate a true appreciation of the screenprint medium, visible in gig-posters such as the 2009 print Sonic Youth, created for the July 20th performance of the Sonic Youth at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom. Although Sonic Youth is a three-color print, the transparent nature of the silkscreen ink creates the appearance of about nine distinct hues, masterfully produced through the calculated printing of layers. The Little Friends have become a pillar within the growing Milwaukee gig-poster community, their edification of screenprint technique extending to fellow artists such as Josh Rickun, Milwaukee designer and illustrator and owner of the local t-shirt company Wiskullsin, as well as the wider community, through lectures and classes such as Inkblot Academy, Discovery World’s Print & Publishing Lab established and taught by Melissa and JW.
[Excerpt from The Gig-Poster Explosion: Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee, by Kelly Brown]
- The Gig-Poster Explosion: Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee (goodoldmodern.com)