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. voopa Says:

    The 13 is on the poster because well, it’s 2013. But it fits in w/the whole conspiracy thing nicely.

    “You have to feel the conspiracy.” – Peggy Olson, Mad Men

    I had an intensely psychedelic experience on Sunday night. It was a combination of factors involving recent interactions with family, friends and coworkers, combined with perceived threats from TV, the neighbors and the NSA. And other things. Like that crazy Moon, I’m sure.

    All of these combined in my head to convince myself that by Monday morning I would be jobless, divorced and homeless. Things like this actually happened in the past partly because of my crazy theories, but knowing that was the key to me breaking from it. Once I got out of the loops and thought things out, it was all OK. But it was a lot of loops. This was going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy had I not started thinking my theories to their logical, non-conspiratorial conclusion, I was certain. So I thought and thought about it and how to fix it. For hours.

    And it was the prior experiences of involuntarily getting to this headspace while on psyches (and breaking free) that allowed me to get out of it all.

    So was it a flashback, or just a by-product of my past trips? Or has my prior experience helped reveal something in my psyche that I can now manage because of being there while tripping, and also now general life experience? Or am I just old?

    And does this mean that I should never trip again, or now that I understand this part of my brain and how to fix it (a proper diet helps, btw), should I not be as afraid of tripping as I have been for the last 10 years?

    Since I broke through I’ve been pretty euphoric, like the days after an actual trip. I hope this lasts longer since acid wasn’t involved.

    Or maybe my neighbors dosed me?

  2. voopa Says:

    L.A. IS a shitty sports town. Check all the empty seats behind the plate during tonight’s Dodgers game.

  3. marcoesq Says:

    LA loves the Lakers and not much else. Awful football town

  4. ren Says:

    Very interested in all of that Voops….speaks to a lot of what has gone on in my head both in the past and recently. To me those loops are usually caused by lack of or stagnant stimulus (both in tripping and normal setting)….key is just to break the pattern as you mentioned. So…in all aspects of life have something at the ready to help “stimulate” you.

    Hobbies help me break away from my 9-5 walking stiff loops. Sleeping Monkey helps me break away from the lingering Ghost loops

  5. BNCB Says:

    lilumb, epic morning realizations. can’t wait to hang out.

  6. BNCB Says:

    lilumb, epic morning realizations. can’t wait to hang out.

  7. BNCB Says:

    ^beat me now

  8. ren Says:

    Maybe Gdad can paddle you while he wears his zipper mask???

  9. voopa Says:

    My wife was out of town all week, leaving me to my delusions, poor diet, excessive drinking. Having a companion to bounce crazy ideas off of and keep me in check is what helps me the most I think, but it’s different for everyone.

    Her “It’s all in your head,” was something I really needed to hear.

  10. gavinsdad Says:

    that’s pretty heavy Voopa. tho somehow manageable which i guess begs the question: are there psychic fringe benefits of psychedelics. i know i know this one has been answered too many times before with a resounding “OF COURSE”. but i dont mean knowing oneself or ones surroundings better. more to the point do they help trigger solutions via intense introspection.

    i can’t say that i’ve had similiar circumstances to your Sunday nite. the only place where i have to sort out puzzles or get into that persistent problem solving loop is pre-wake up dreams. an internal dialogue that seems to go on for hours while it only might be minutes that i, on my end, unfortunately sometimes do NOT resolve. and i’m left wiht that weird feeling upon waking.

    other times i do deliver that folder to my co-worker or find the penny in the shoebox in the closet near the house by the river in that city connected to that bridge i got to on that bike. and i do get “resolution”.

    as much as i’ve always wanted to, i always seem to hold back on weighing in on others psychedelic decisions. most of the time i dont have any of that persons daily context or even yearly for that matter, and it makes it hard for me to perceive their springboard point. and/or what has been going on in their head recently (or over the past 10 years even).

    i have generally never had really revolutionary a-ha moments on the vehicle but i have sorted a few things out. i have felt an undercurrent of something i was grappling with that, when i’m out the other side, i feel “i know what to do” OR “i need to finalize or put a cap or finish this particular aspect of something in my life”.

    my recent time with the vehicle i was getting alot of athletic inferences and vibes. i was in a park and saw people taking care of their bodies. i realized that i need some attention and i am the only one to do it. and while i sit here with seltzer water, a banana and an actual LIVE granola bar and i rode 9 miles on my bike yesterday i know i have so much more to do.

    it’s an interesting quandary @Voopa and i guess i’ll boil it down to this. we went thru this a couple years ago on here but after much seeking: internally, externally, via books, via psychonaut’ing, i found that i know everything i need to know about how i need to treat myself and treat people and it’s actually way more about putting it into action. we talked about the Hua Hu Ching which, to me, is the ultimate life guide when paired with the Tao Te Ching. for me it’s more about practicing what i know then going in via psychs to find more out. when i go in i am only receiving the same messages. these days with psychs (like on day 2 of dicks in sept) i will use them to channel the music and open me up to dance than to try to glean anything “new” about myself. but you cant force the psychs as you know and i know even tho i write that now i will get a little nugget to take away.

    i’m interested to hear more along these lines Voopa, esp what path you might take.

    TL;DR special! sorry boys!

  11. sumodie Says:

    Hearing high praise for Warren’s symphonic Jerry tour

    Dont let it slide by if u can go, Kaya

  12. garretcorncob Says:

    Come on guys, LA isn’t an awful sports town.

    It’s just a straight up awful town.

    Get it right.

  13. little umbrellas Says:

    indeed, BB meet up will be killer. tempted to go to the Russian River Brewing company in the morning of the 4th, fill up on Pliny and bring it to Shuggie. we’ll see if i can pull it off.

  14. little umbrellas Says:

    was the biggest Q fan back on the day. before i even got into Phish. but now i don’t like to hear Warren sing Jerry parts. think i don’t like country’d singing style put on Jerry’s sound. really love Warren’s slide playing when in conjunction with Herring’s massiveness. really didn’t like Warren in “The Dead.”

  15. little umbrellas Says:

    also, really not in to diagnosing terms for conditions or putting people’s minds in a box and categorizing them… but Voops, sounds a little ‘manic’.. everyone is to some degree, sometimes stress’s swell up and the brain ponders too much.
    Sounds like you’re all good now.

  16. gavinsdad Says:

    going tonite Sumo 🙂

  17. garretcorncob Says:

    Or you could just grab Pliny pints at the Toronado after BBQ at Memphis Minnie’s

    Hat tip to Gavinsdad for the Toronado, and CornCob’sDad for Memphis Minnie’s way back when.

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    the tanglewood performance

  19. little umbrellas Says:

    like what Gdad said about ‘the vehicle’
    >Don’t force the vehicle<

    Did a vehicle? fly along the mountains and find a place to park itself?

  20. gavinsdad Says:

    Toronado with a sausage sandwich from next door?


  21. little umbrellas Says:

    alright T3, gonna check it. (he says after his previous rant). I wonder who did the string arrangements. curios to hear.

  22. voopa Says:

    I agree lu, and I think some of it is related to medication I’m taking for my intestinal condition. Hopefully I can see the warning signs more clearly going forward.

    Thanks gdad, looks like I have some reading to do!

    I intend to report on my future experiences.

  23. little umbrellas Says:

    word Garret, just looked em up, never been

  24. MiA Says:

    Park it!

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    TT anyone?

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