Masthay’s Summer Madness

As we all finalize our preparation for Summer Tour this week, printmaker and fan, AJ Masthay, is hard at work putting the finishing touches on his Summer 2013 run. Last week I caught up with AJ to discuss his this summer’s prints and some new twists and turns at Masthay Studios. Below each of his Summer 2013 images is the paragraph from his website describing each work and a few questions and answers about each. Head over to AJ’s website to pick up any of the prints you see below!


Bangor, ME

“Rise of the Cephalopods” – Bangor

Cephalopods are widely regarded as the most intelligent of all the invertebrates. Naturally they will rise up and take their revenge on the human race, it’s only a matter of time. I imagine they will start their land domination in Maine since so many of their brethren have been harvested out of the waters there. Donning their “above water” rocket propelled mechanical exoskeletons, they first entrance – then ensnare. Watch yourselves and stay safe!

MM: Pretty far-out sci-fi concept here! Did you study biology in school or simply know this about cephalopods and Maine.

AJM: Yeah, it’s out there, but I absolutely love this image. No biology classes, just a passion for animal documentaries and a warped mind.

MM: This print has a distinctly, retro vibe—almost Scooby Doo esque with the mariner—mashed up w/ a futuristic concept. Was this intentional? How did you go about designing this one?

AJM: You’re not the first to liken it to Scooby Doo, and god knows I spent hours of my childhood staring at the Mystery Machine and Scooby snacks. It honestly wasn’t something I was consciously shooting for, but I wouldn’t argue about that one bubbling up from the subconscious. I knew I wanted a spaced out fisherman, your classic “Gorton Fisherman” kind of thing, and it just spiraled from there.


SPAC Triptych

SPAC Triptych

“Duke of Lizards” – SPAC

This summers triptych is a scene straight out of the heyday of Saratoga Springs when men wore top hats and monkey bellhops took your bags to your room. This piece celebrates the Victorian opulence of the town along with the idea of “curiosities” that evolved from that era, I mean what’s more curious than literal lounge lizards getting down?

MM: This one takes on an obviously Phishy feeling with the Lizards jamming. Have you used Lizards on Phish work before?

AJM: I did a series of chameleon prints years ago, one of them for the hiatus, but I’m not sure if those count.

MM: This triptych feels like in takes place inside that Gideon-Putnam hotel right next to SPAC. Any accuracy to that interpretation?

AJM: I’ve never hidden the fact that I love SPAC and Saratoga in general. I’m lucky to have family there and spend quite a bit of time in town. I knew I wanted to avoid horses, nothing against the track, but I did the whole hippo on the track thing last year so time for something new, hence the Victorian theme. It wasn’t the Gideon I was thinking of, rather The Adelphi Hotel which is down on Broadway, but same deal—old Victorian opulence and curiosities.


Jones Beach

Jones Beach

“Finally Free” – Jones Beach

Do you feel bad for him? Really? Don’t forget what he did to get himself in this situation. I mean a sliced nipple, while painful, is no problem—but all it takes is one drop of blood to draw in our jagged toothed friends. RIP brother, can’t blame a monkey for chasing the girl.

MM: This scene also takes on a clearly Phishy feel with an illustration of the song “Fee.” What inspired you to get so Phishy this run?

AJM: What I love the most about doing these summer prints is that I can do them for myself, no submission process, no feedback, no revisions, just what I want to do. It’s incredibly liberating to have that kind of freedom on piece. I’ve had this image in my head for a long long time, last year’s Jones Beach print was all about beauty with the mermaid, this year’s is certainly about something else. (laughing)

MM: This image really pulls you in with reference points from Floyd’s hand al the way back to the ship. I’ve always noticed that your pieces deal a lot with depth and perspective. Can you talk a bit more how you use techniques to achieve this effect?

AJM: I love creating a huge space out of what is essentially a 12″x20″ rectangle. An artist has some basic tools at their disposable to carve out that space, perspective being particularly effective. Overlapping borders is also a great way to bring the space towards you versus back. You’ll have a hard time finding a piece of mine that has straight lines around the perimeter. What I think is more important is allowing the viewer to enter that space and interact with the image, thats where the real magic happens.




“Barn Burner” – Merriweather Post

The time has come to release the blue crabs from their barn door prison and fire up the cocktails! Nothing like a little propaganda piece to get the crowd worked up into a rabid frenzy—either that or a sick “Walfredo” opener.

MM: This print immediately struck me as my favorite of this run. The colors combined with the detail is just over the top. With this one as an example, did you focus a bit more on creating borders for your images this time around?

AJM: Thanks man, I loved this concept from the get go. This is actually going to be my first year going down to Merriweather, but I’ve been told that its a bit of a police state in the lot there. Thats what initially got me going on the whole “revolution propaganda” theme with the molotov cocktail. The fish in the bottle is just another in a long line of fish I’ve put on the chopping block, whether it be a guillotine, firecrackers or a molotov.

I’ve been playing around with borders and frames a lot this year, not just on the summer prints, but on many of my official pieces also. There’s something about a border that brings resolution to the image, it makes it “feel right” if you know what I mean. I’ve also made some advances in the registration of my prints which enables me to get the fine fines required in many borders. I’m looking forward to where this will lead in the future, it could get interesting.

MM: This is one of your prints offered in variants. This is something new for you within the past year or so. Can you talk a little about the motivation behind offering variants and how you feel they effect your imagery?

AJM: I view each and every variant as an experiment, some work out with spectacular results—others, not so much. As much as I like to push myself as an artist or illustrator, I also like to push myself as a printmaker and the variants are a great way to do so. I’m quite lucky to have a great local art store that stocks hundreds of different decorative papers from around the world, everything from Egyptian papyrus to Japanese rice papers. When I am preparing to bring a print to press I’ll usually go in there to pick out 10-15 sheets of whatever I think they will look good on. Now whether the paper agrees with the press & inks is a different story. Many of the papers were never really meant to be run through a press with thousands of pounds of pressure. So Im slowly working my way through, testing different sheets, keeping notes, etc.  It’s actually a really fun and interesting process, I never really know what the results will be until that last color is pulled.



Chicago Run

“Skyballz aka The Overflow Tank” – Chicago

So a good buddy of mine stopped by the studio the other day. Upon seeing this print he says, “AJ, you’ve reached the 4th dimension!”
Welcome to the 4th dimension folks. Watch your head, there’s low flying Skyballz…

MM: Really intriguing image here; very different. Did you start out to depict “sky balls” or did you think of the connection later?

AJM: This whole scene was inspired by the Adler Planetarium which is at the tip of Northerly Island, although whats actually depicted is an orrery. Again, I wanted to create some serious depth and a sense of space in this one, with the planets pushing and pulling into the picture plane. The skyballs certainly came after, but was too suiting for the piece not to use it.

MM: Did you intentionally use a similar color palette to the UIC ’11 triptych? Coincidence?

AJM: The color palette certainly does make it a nice companion piece for the UIC triptych doesn’t it? Theres something about that mix of mauve, yellow, burnt and raw sienna that I just love.



The Gorge

“The Gorge” – George, Washington

Peaceful and tranquil, antelope frolic and graze in the scenic beauty of an epic venue. Look closer and realize that something is amiss in this otherwise Garden of Eden, we are not the only ones watching this scene unfold.

MM: An idyllic scene turned dark. Was the periscope a last minute addition or planned all along?

The periscope was planned from the beginning, in fact it was the catalyst for the entire piece. Anyone familiar with my work knows I lean towards the dark side, what I love about this one is the dark side is completely implied, the dark side only exists in the viewers mind. The periscope, itself, is fairly bright and unassuming, but whats is the periscope attached to? What’s lurking under that water? It’s my job to set the scene and the cast of characters, but its the viewers job to create the plot.

AJM: Ok, so it was part of the plan. How often do your prints change mid-process, let’s say, as you get a new idea? Or do you always go with the originally finalized image?

Determining the theme/image is honestly what I consider the most difficult part of the entire process. I’ll typically go through five to ten different concepts, sometimes all over the board, before something sticks for good. I have more half finished sketches than I care to admit, but that’s part of what the sketch process is for, working out the “kinks” before the carving tools ever touch the linoleum. If you look at my original sketches you can see the evidence of this creative process, linework that’s been reworked over and over until perfect, guidelines laid out only to be erased and moved a fraction of an inch. It’s not uncommon to have an entire image worked out in pencil one day and the next morning it just doesn’t feel right so Ill erase the whole thing. By the time the image actually makes it onto the plate and carving commences, it’s been put through the ringer and is fairly settled. I’ll occasionally make very minor changes to the plate mid-printing, but overall nothing that would probably be noticed by the casual viewer.


PNC - Sketch


Untitled/Unfinished – PNC

MM: Wow, this one blends Indian culture with Northern Jersey! How’d you come up with this relationship / imagery?

AJM: I wasn’t thinking so much about the blending of Indian culture but rather the state of mind I find myself falling into during a particularly good jam at a show, you know that almost trance-like state where all that matters is the music. Hence the snake charmer image with PNC’s shed as the basket holding all the goodies!

MM: That’s cool. I certainly know that state. How often do you actually try to evoke the feeling of Phish through your art? Or is that a silly question? All the time?

AJM: Not a silly question at all. I dont know that I’m necessarily trying to evoke a feeling of the band, rather I think the emotions and experiences I take away from seeing the band are acting as inspiration for images. Does that even make any sense? I’ve been huffing ink fumes all day so I dont even know what I’m saying anymore!

MM: Most definitely! Thanks so much for your time AJ! Safe travels and I’ll see you next week.


Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Undermind” 8.31.12 I, Commerce City, CO

Who could forget this?

[audio:] Tags: , ,

327 Responses to “Masthay’s Summer Madness”

  1. jdub Says:

    I have Such a sweet memory of cruising down the PCH from San Fran to San Diego on a beautiful day 10 yrs ago. Truck’s Soul Serenade/Rasta Man chant is the backdrop in my memory, I love that album/track.

  2. little umbrellas Says:

    12/1/95, won’t forget, gonna get that dabby spliffy goin , a denoginzer and this Mike’s playin real loud.

  3. MiA Says:

    Thanks Voopa. I used to track that, and forgot about it!

  4. bouncin fan Says:


    I hate music blogs and reviews and shit. I just have a bunch of sights that if I see a music drop on twitter of an artist I know I grab it. don’t read their right up or anything. really don’t know shit about any of the sites I follow except they drop the music I dig.

    the young hip-hop scene is so twitter based it’s def where I follow that shit. so much good fresh stuff going on in that genre again.

  5. little umbrellas Says:

    AW, Gateway! jesus yall, I can’t even keep up today. love all this shit. i’m still a page behind. Dave Holland is the man.

    If you can see his 5 piece or his big band, do not miss. One of the best modern jazz groups goin.

  6. little umbrellas Says:

    also not interested in their words, but I never seem to get enough muisc.

  7. little umbrellas Says:

    muisc, that’s right.

  8. bouncin fan Says:

    ya Holland comes through once or twice a year and I catch him at the touristy jazz club

    abercrombie still plays great too. such a tasty player.

  9. little umbrellas Says:

    that’s right, no time to slow down for Hydrogen.. Is this the highest energy level they ever reached? yikesers, palpable
    12/1/95 Mike’s.. in love.. but i remember you said that potential tease was in the Paug, finally getting there

  10. DavidSilver Says:

    Obsessed with this Mavis Staples cut lately.

  11. little umbrellas Says:

    “or rather Life had me.”

  12. sumodie Says:

    This fall Tame Impala is opening for the Flaming Lips on some dates (including Boston boo!) and headlining with White Denim (yes!) or the National on other dates

  13. sumodie Says:

    Dorn, Gary Clark hits Boston November 10-11 at Royale

  14. MiA Says:


    15 mins in on Page. Mostly the end of RDNZL piano part. Sounds like John Berkman, because I don’t think that’s George Duke’s piano at the end of the track. I could be wrong though.

  15. little umbrellas Says:

    Here are some shows comin up with my Psych Motown Band (Harry & the Hitmen):

    -Thur, July 04 Apple Pie Music Festival
    Big Sur,
    -Sat, July 06 The Del Monte Speakeasy
    -Tue, July 09 Frog & Peach
    San Luis Obispo,
    -Wed, July 10 Fernwood Resort
    Big Sur,
    -Thu, July 11 Carbone’s
    -Fri, July 12 Apple Jack’s
    La Honda,
    -Thu, July 18 The Starry Plough
    -Fri, July 19 Bar of America
    -Sun, July 21 Aubergine

  16. little umbrellas Says:

    just got there, I hear ya MiA, not sure if it is similar or a direct tease… what do you say Voopa, wanna way in? you’re the keyboardist…

  17. MiA Says:

    …or weigh in. Your choice Voopa.

  18. MiA Says:

    Yeah, it’s similar. But like the “He Used To Cut the Grass” in Hampton Halley’s it’s just familiar to me. Enough so that I got excited by it.

  19. phishm Says:

    Imagine me getting offended by something said on here. Life for a while was hell going through the divorce. Talk about feeling alone for a while. My entire life changed from what I was comfortable with. I’ve made strides, but still have a way’s to go. At least things are stable for now, and I’m so much happier now then I was even 6 months ago let alone a year. Baby steps. And yes, the worst is right out of sleep. The only time I can’t seem to control that which makes me want to run sometimes. Had a few of those occurrences where I thought it must be a flashback or something. The scary thing was nobody was around at the time. That’s what really got me. Found the right solution for that which ills my mind and haven’t had one since. Still don’t think I will ever trip again, but you never know. Life itself is such a trip as it is. And I’m sure that synthetic shit didn’t help either. Glad that’s gone too. Beer and green from here on out seems to work for me.

  20. little umbrellas Says:

    very exciting piece of music that is for sho

  21. little umbrellas Says:

    and shows with my Ethiopian Funk/Jazz band (Sun Hop Fat);

    -Tue, July 16th Moe’ Alley
    Santa Cruz >>> opening for the Debo Band, some sick ass music.
    and hoping to open for them the next night at Yoshi’s in SF, haven’t finalized this one.

  22. little umbrellas Says:

    Fairly pumped because I just got off the line with The Independent and we gotta a headlining Friday night coming up in September. Yums

  23. BingosBrother Says:

    You guys should def cover that song I linked LU.

    @voop : I used to turn all the coincidences, deja vu, and crazy shit that happened to me into negative thoughts and feelings. Like, oh now I’m dead for sure, or the worlds goin down, and all manner of paranoia. But then Mr. C introduced me to the concept of pronoia and slowly, but surely, now when those things happen I take it as a good thing. I’m on the right path, the universe has my back, etc. And that fork in the road of my conscious thought has made a world of difference. Either way, If you ever wanna rap, or just get weird, we’re here.

  24. little umbrellas Says:

    how far back Bingos? mind sending me that link again?

  25. angryjoggerz Says:

    Wow, reading back a bit is confusing with all the AJ talk.

    Greetings from Wednesday. Im up and and at em, wide awake at 4am. Im only in China 2 days so hopefully the jetlag doesnt catch up with me.

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