The Fine Art of Cool Posters

| 2/8/2008 11:33:02 AM

Chicago poster artist Jay Ryan explains how he translates bands’ music into art and why cute critters are crucial to the process.

interview by Michael Rowe 

Bear with ScissorsPeople esteem art for a variety of reasons: beauty, craft, projected cash value. But if what you seek from art is giggle-inspiring panache—just-one-step-back-from-adorable drawings of, say, a bear in socks running with scissors—then Jay Ryan’s posters demand your attention. 

Ryan’s work has been taped, stapled, and otherwise adhered to various surfaces throughout Chicago for the past decade. As the era’s most revered indie rock acts have come through town, they’ve tapped Ryan (himself a musician) for posters to promote their shows. Outside the Midwest’s borders, you may have seen his work adorning the jacket of Michael Chabon’s novel The Final Solution or the cover and incidental art for Andrew Bird’s album The Mysterious Production of Eggs. More recently, he’s been working with Patagonia, the eco-hip outdoor gear manufacturer and clothier, on a series of T-shirts having to do with animals and the environment (contractual promises bar further elaboration, he says). In other words, Jay Ryan’s work is out there, or coming soon, to some kind of canvas near you.   

The Shins posterAs for the art itself (check it out on The Bird Machine online gallery), animals and deadpan absurdity abound, along with the stray marks and smudges received during their creation. They’re funny but not goofball, cute but not precious, cool but not pretentious. talked to Ryan about how he comes up with the ideas for his posters, what the cartoon animals are all about, and how he’s handling the call of fame.  

Do you think of your concert posters as entertainment?

Dr Charles Linden
2/14/2008 7:35:37 AM


2/13/2008 5:35:09 PM

I had heard of Jay Ryan's work before. I'm outside the Chicago area and have been designing cd packaging for many years. It's interesting to hear his take on the future of art & design in the music biz.. it's changing fast, that's for sure.