World renowned artist, Dirk Fowler, is quietly crafting the 2010 ChromeLive! commemorative poster today. Dirk has requested the bottom soles of 4 TOMS SHOES. Closed lipped about where he is going with the idea, we can’t wait to see what he delivers. Fowler is famous with rock bands the world-over for being a founding father of the off-set rock poster revival. He was a featured artist in the best selling book SWAG 2: Rock Poster of the 90′s. Fowler is currently dialed into LEVIS Jeans; and will be showcasing his talents at the company’s newly built design gallery in San Diego over the summer. ChromeLive! presented by RVCA is honored to have Dirk’s talent on display at the show. Here’s a little bio on him:
Written by Cory Chandler- This look is familiar, even if you can’t define it. Guitars and Cadillacs with a touch of mohawk; Louis L’Amour as told to Sid Vicious (of Sex Pistols fame). Clean yet gritty, hip and somehow refreshingly antique, skating a razor wire between fashionable and old-fashioned, equal parts Manhattan sidewalk and Lubbock honky tonk.
Such a balancing act, illustrating the best of Americana (apple pie, Superman, Route 66) while retaining a scruffiness that sits comfortably next to alleyway graffiti, is one that few people could manage successfully.
Yet to sit down across a desk from Dirk Fowler is to understand the man who dusted off an antique letterpress to churn out startlingly fresh posters for bands who are better known for their underground luster than for their top-40 appeal.
Fowler, with his shaggy hair and square-rimmed glasses, his vintage western shirts and mellow vibe, embodies the best of both worlds. And despite having cranked out pieces for the likes ofLoretta Lynn and Modest Mouse, he is decidedly understated about his status as an emerging international star.
“This is something you do because you love to do it,” the assistant professor of art said while sitting in his office. “Not because it’s going to make you rich or because you will get famous for it.”
Fowler says this earnestly, as if heedless of the stacks of watch cases he designed for Fossil and international books and magazines touting his works.
Yet he is also aware that his posters are so prized that they often wind up decorating living room walls before the headliners they promote have tuned up, let alone stepped on stage for their encore.
From Mandolins to Band Ink
First he wanted to be a musician, but that didn’t pan out. Fowler even went so far as to play mandolin for a few bands while in college; he struggles to pin their sound down, but settles on the label alt-country (a.k.a. alternative country, for the uninitiated). This loosely defined and eclectic genre fuses bluegrass and folk styling with flavors of rock, punk and, well, just about anything else – a sound that, strikingly, encapsulates his visual vocabulary.
Yet it wasn’t until years later while working as an advertising art director that he hit upon a niche allowing him to wed rock star glamour with his artistic sensibilities – gig promotion.
“I thought ‘Why not make art for music,’” he said. “I always had this strong passion for creating art and for music. Combining the two was a natural thing.”
Alt-Ink is Born
What’s interesting is the way he got started: by purchasing a Vandercook proof press from an online auction. The machinery, out of favor in commercial printing, provides a deliciously postmodern dash to his work, a touch of twang to tone the verve, a hint of rust to culture the heirloom, so to speak, not unlike the alt-country he embraced in college – alt-ink, if you will.
For instance, Fowler cuts his images from rubber and sets type by hand, eschewing the computer-clean style common of most modern designers. And while he has moved on to new presses, he sticks with the same process – setting the type, rolling ink, running paper through the press – which Fowler says is as important to him as the design.
“I use a computer just about every day, obviously, but there is something very personal about making the posters.”