The Black Keys Fan Lounge loves tour posters. They are a companion to The Black Keys’ live shows. For fans they might make a souvenir. For collectors it’s a bit of an obsession. The Black Keys have made a point of fostering artists to create posters at most of their shows. It really is now an impressive body of art work.
Previously the Fan lounge has interviewed Black Keys poster artist Dan Grzeca to get some further insights into his poster art designs.
After a visit to New York in 2010 and seeing the Terminal 5 show, I had to buy the tour poster that poster artist Todd Slater had created. It was the third tour poster Todd has designed for The Black Keys. And he has a new tour poster for a show in 2011 in the works.
One of the commonly asked questions from those purchasing posters online is why the shipping of the poster costs what it does. Todd Slater has an excellent explanantion why on his website:
Why does shipping cost what it does? Nothing gets irks me more then having to pay exorbitant shipping fees so I wanted to tell you exactly why my shipping costs what it does. I buy sturdy double walled telescopic tubes which cost me $2.67 apiece. Every print is also protected in a poly-bag which costs .57 cents apiece plus the label and kraft paper to prevent sliding which costs .15 cents apiece. Every tube also has a delivery confirmation which costs .65 cents. I have the best success shipping with Priority Mail which usually takes 2-3 days to arrive if you’re in the US. The Priority rates vary from $6-8.50 depending on where you live in the US. So that puts my raw costs between $10.12 – $12.62. So in reality I’m actually losing money on shipping but I will try and keep the prices as low as I can for you all. -Todd.
Now that the Terminal 5 poster is now all framed up and ready fo the wall, The Black Keys Fan Lounge took the opportunity to ask Todd about his art and the posters he has designed for The Black Keys.
Could you give a few details about your background and how you came to be making a living from your art?
I studied art at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and got a job designing t-shirts after graduation. It gave me an understanding of how screen printing worked and I’m grateful for that. In 2003 I came upon gigposters.com and realized that making prints for the bands that I loved was the perfect marriage for me. I began contacting promoters, showing them work and asking for gigs. That led to getting in contact with bands and tour managers directly and it all kinda snowballed from there.
What is the process of being selected to do a Black Keys show poster? Are you simply contacted by Fielding Logan from The Black Keys Management or do you ask to do a poster via personal contacts?
The first one was done thru a promoter in Philadelphia. I’m not sure if Fielding saw that one or not but I got an email from him asking if I wanted to make something for the band to sell at their merch booth last year. It was a pretty simple process really.
What is the production lead time for having the artwork completed? Are there any limitations or boundaries given to you in the brief to create the poster?
None! The band seems to trust the artists that they work with to make interesting prints and I was told to just do my thing. This is absolutely the best way for posters to be made. I believe that I had about a month from the time I was emailed to complete the print.
Do you have control over the size of the limited edition print run? Do you print extra copies after the show to sell via your site or is the limited run an important sales tool as well as being an economic way of ensuring you sell all you produce?
The artists were told that they could sell 100 as part of the payment for the gig. The limited run thing has always been critical in what I do. It’s something I believe in, when somebody advertises something as a limited edition I believe it should truly be limited.
Obviously you create posters for a lot of bands, what’s your advice to younger less established artists trying to carve a career creating posters for bands?
Be prolific early on and more selective when you’ve built up a large body of work. Make sure you’re taking the band’s aesthetic and themes into account and strive to be great, push yourself. Swing for the fences every time out. Be confident but not cocky. There will always be people that tell you what you’re doing isn’t good, do not dwell on this, it’s not about anyone but you. Being an artist is about expressing your ideas and thoughts for others to see. You can learn from criticism but the most important thing is to continue working at all costs.
Would you say you embody a particular style with your posters? The motifs seem to change quite a lot from each work.
It’s there if you know my work. I just have a broader style than most, but there are certain things that I always do in my prints. It’s important to me to not get stuck in one particular look. I’m always impressed by the variety of styles that Gerhard Richter was able to work in. He could paint like a photo realist or an abstract expressionist and somehow it all looks like him, seeing his versatility stuck with me. I make a conscious effort to change things up from print to print. I don’t know if I’ll always do that, but that’s where I’m at right now and I’m not going to fight it.
As far as I can determine you have done one other Black Keys poster in 2006. Correct? What was the thinking behind the design of that one?
I did one in 2009 as well with a domino theme. The image on the 2006 print had a lot to do with “Magic Potion” which was the record they were touring off of at the time. The potion being poured from the lion’s eye is about viewing the world in a different way which I think every great artist does. There’s a black varnish layer featuring images of famous blues musicians as an added layer of texture as well.
The print in 2009 came while the band was touring off “Attack and Release” and the image was really a response to the title of the album. I remember discussing the imagery with Rob Jones and he suggested that I follow up 2006′s black varnish layer with another secret layer featuring images of Lily St. Cyr.
The 2006 poster comes from a very different place to the 2010 version. it seems the only constant is the font for the band’s name. It’s a point of interest that an artists interpretation of a band’s poster representation is is perhaps reflective of a musician’s attitude when covering another band’s song. Would you agree/disagree?
I agree. I want to capture the musicians attitude in my prints. If a band is playing covers I would study the look, vibe and tone of the songs they’re covering in preparation for my print.
With your Terminal 5 poster, it summed up a NYC experience where the gig was, not necessarily a direct connection with the band. Other works you have produced are quite figurative look. How do you go about establishing the theme or direction the poster will take?
Usually by listening to the album they’re touring in support of. I try to go into each print with a clean slate and just try and absorb some of the themes that are important to the band. Sometimes I might just think about a color or a time in history that I want the print to relate to.
Did you receive any personal feedback from Dan and Pat regarding your Black Keys Terminal 5 poster? I understand they only get to see the poster designs when they arrive at the shows.
I didn’t. I’m usually dealing with a tour manager or a promoter and rarely hear from a band member regarding the design. As a general rule I try and ask for as little as possible from the bands. I *never* meet bands at shows or ask for signed prints unless they specifically request it. There’s a line between fanboy and professional that I don’t want to cross.
Todd Slater’s Black Keys posters:
2010 Terminal 5 poster: