Illustrator and graphic artist Jim Blanchard‘s instantly recognizable album cover, poster, and comix art from Seattle’s golden “grunge” era is celebrated in his new, and first book, Visual Abuse, released by his hometown publisher Fantagraphic Books. Jim will be in Los Angeles on October 7-8 to promote his book and exhibition of the same name, at La Luz de Jesus Gallery.
Jim Blanchard‘s work from 1982–2002 intersected with punk rock, grunge, psychedelia, alternative comics, “zine” culture, portraiture, and “girlie” art. The newly released Visual Abuse gathers Blanchard’s art into a cohesive whole with sections assembling the best of Blanchard’s LP covers, posters and flyers from the hardcore punk era through grunge, including infamous Black Flag, Nirvana, and Soundgarden posters. This exhibition is a survey of the many aspects of Jim’s work that prove his place among the poster art greats. Augmenting the posters are the original drawings and paintings that became his most iconic images along with orignal punk rock flyers and zines. – Matt Kennedy – La Luz de Jesus Gallery Director
In this interview with Jim, he talks about his process, inspirations, and over a decade in the making new book:
What and who inspired your hi-contrast, tight imagery?
I’ve been attracted to high contrast and posterized images since I was very young— Probably from LP covers, magazine illustration and advertisements, certain comics, film posters, etc.— The tightness is also something that was with me from an early age: I used to fill pages with stippled dots or cross-hatched lines as early as 2nd/3rd grade— As far as who inspired me, I’d say primarily Mad magazine artists, 60s/70s Underground cartoonists/poster artists, and 60s/70s Marvel comics artists— Also Surrealists, and folks like Albrecht Dürer, Gustave Doré, Will Bradley, Alphonse Mucha, etc.
I feel as if I’m staring your portrait subjects in the face looking at your art, how much of a conscious effort do you put into perfecting your faces?
I’m usually not happy with my portraits until they have a “life” of their own— Cartoonist Jim Woodring says they are “masks” from which I’m “staring you down”— I have a lazy eye and a problem with eye contact, so perhaps he is right!
And as well many of your pieces have a bit of a druggy quality to them. Have you indulged?
I’m a big fan of vintage, trippy, “psychedelic” artwork—Again since I was very young I was attracted to it— Eventually I became addicted to creating dense, optic patterns, mostly with india ink— For some reason I found it pleasant to make and look at— I’ve indulged in my share of drugs: took LSD a 30-40 times in my teens and twenties, played around with about everything— Today I have it down to essentially coffee, alcohol and weed— For me, the best drugs to do art with are coffee and nicotine, but I quit cigarettes in 1992— I miss the nicotine buzz— Did cigars for a few years but have quit them, too.
Did you attend many of the Seattle shows you did posters for? Any particular favorites?
I went to most of the shows I did flyers/posters for— The Nirvana/Melvins/Dwarves show at Motorsports Garage in 1992 was pretty memorable for the high energy and obvious vibe that Nirvana were getting huge, and the Dwarves bass player getting knocked bloody unconscious by a flying beer bottle.
Give us a look into your process – first up is there a difference between your approach to a piece of art you do for yourself and a commissioned piece? How much outside material (photos, etc) do you use for reference when doing a portrait?
Not much difference between doing a piece for myself and a commission— Photo references are very important for the portraits as they are largely “photo realism”— Before the internet, it used to be much more difficult to find the perfect photo reference— My old method was to go to book stores, find the right reference, buy the book, xerox the reference, and then return the book for a refund— I still have half a file cabinet full of all sorts of clippings/references— My “morgue”— Now a Google image search or look through Getty Images will usually yield a good reference.
What do you listen to while you are creating a piece?
All sorts of stuff, but mostly easy listening/groovy soundtracks these days— I love luxuriamusic.com— I have a massive collection of CDs, LPs and cassettes + also still listen to vintage country, punk rock, light rock, hard rock, jazz, rap, soul, etc.
You lead a sort of dual life as an artist, being an expert with graphics as well as art, Do you have a preference for either? Do you prefer to ink, or paint?
Working with pencil, paint, ink is harder the older I get— My eyesight, stamina, and desire isn’t what it used to be— Sometimes it can be drudgery— Doing graphics on the computer is more relaxing and less taxing— I’m pretty adept on Photoshop and InDesign and end up doing my share of freelance LP/CD layouts, etc.
Congratulations on your book! How long has it been in the works? How does it feel to have all these works in one place?
Visual Abuse has been in the works for at least a decade— I’m so glad to finally have it done and it feels great to have all that stuff in one place— It was a helluva lot of work— I was able to take my time and get it situated how I wanted, and thankfully Fantagraphics was willing to publish it— The format is loosely based on two books: Lowbrow Art of Robt. Williams, and Art Chantry’s Some People Don’t Surf, which are favorites of mine and serve as good retrospectives.
Jim Blanchard – Visual Abuse
Showing with Sonny King – Silver’s Circus
October 7 – 30, 2016
Opening reception, Friday, October 7, 8-11 PM
La Luz de Jesus Gallery
4633 Hollywood Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Jim will be signing his new book and personalizing prints, zines and posters on Saturday October 8th, from 4-7PM.