Masthay’s Summer Madness

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on June 24th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Merriweather

Merriweather

“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.

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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.

*****

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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.

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PNC - Sketch

(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.

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Undermind” 8.31.12 I, Commerce City, CO

Who could forget this?

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Reinvented, Redefined

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on December 6th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Don’t want to be a painter ’cause everyone comes to look

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If you’ve been following Phish circles on social media lately, perhaps you’ve taken notice of some cool images that have been making the rounds. Photographer and Phish fan, Andrea Nusinov, recently started AZN Media, a company specializing in social media advertising that is driven by the philosophy that a unique, artistic image will generate more attention and response than conventional photography. Her Phish-based images have been making a wave in the community with innovative takes on her own concert photos. Using the lastet photoapps, Andrea has enhanced her photographs to create the thought provoking and visually engaging imagery that I share with you today.

If you like what you see, be sure to follow AZN Media on Instagram and Facebook! In addition, Andrea hosts a Facebook page for her Phish images and you can follow her, personally, on Twitter. Enjoy! (All photography and enhancement by Andrea Nusinov. Click images to enlarge. Above: 12/29/09, Miami)

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The Webcast Effect (6/25/10, Camden)

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See my face in the town that’s flashing by (6/19/12, Portsmouth)

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The Helping Friendly Book, first edition (6/19/12, Portsmouth)

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It takes a few moments of whirling around (6/12/11, MPP)

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Slip into the dark of night as I attempt to stay upright (12/31/11, MSG)

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Trapped In Time (6/15/10, made entirely from pics of earlier shows)

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We wandered ’til we reached a bubbly spring (12/30/11, MSG)

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Time is a treasure here cuz it flows in every direction (10/24/12, TAB)

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http://instagram.com/aznpics

http://www.facebook.com/aznphishpics

http://www.facebook.com/aznmedia

http://twitter.com/andreanusinov

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Jam of the Day:

Moma Dance” 2.26.03 II, Worcester, MA

Today’s selection is hand-picked by Andrea, herself.

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AJ Masthay’s “The Terminal”

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , , on November 12th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

“The Terminal” Sketches – AJ Masthay

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Amidst 2012, a year when official Phish posters seemed to dwell in the uninspired, fan-turned-professional artist, AJ Masthay, has continued to crank out some of the more visually stunning and thought provoking prints in the scene. Using time-honored techniques in a field that is becoming increasingly digital, AJ’s hand-carved, linoleum block prints have gained widespread recognition over the past few years with hallmarks of brilliant colors, thick coats of ink, and bold-eye-catching imagery. I recently caught up with AJ to discuss his transformative year and his upcoming MSG quadtych, “The Terminal.” (Click on images to enlarge.)

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MM: It’s been a year since we sat down to talk. Your 2012 work has been hailed as some of your best work to date. You knocked your Phish series out of the park and picked up some official work for Further tour. How has your printmaking progressed over 2012?

AJM: 2012 was big for me, no doubt. The biggest change on my end was finally taking the plunge and pursuing my career as an artist full time, Feb 29th – Leap day – was my last day putting on the collar shirt and tie. Knock on wood, it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. I now have the luxury of devoting every waking moment to creating art and growing Masthay Studios.

2012 was also a year of refining techniques for me. I consider myself a craftsman, you know old school apprentice and master shit where you live and breathe your craft and strive for perfection. The more disciplined you become, your work will naturally become more refined. I created a new registration system for my Vandercook press this year allowing for much tighter alignment between plates. This is critical for achieving the kinds of detail you see in my recent works, specifically all the Furthur pieces from both the summer and fall.  I’ve been printing for almost 20 years now and it always amazes me how much there is to still learn.

Let’s talk little bit about your second consecutive New Year’s Run quadtych! Moray eels, pigeons, a robot and Grand Central Station—what was your inspiration and vision behind this year’s prints?

12.28.12 (Masthay)

Let me start out by saying I love creating the triptychs and now the quadtychs. The size of my work is limited by the size of the bed on my printing press, about 15″ x 22″. The print sets give me the freedom to stretch my legs and flesh out larger compositions while still working within those constraints. Being born and raised in Connecticut, I’ve had the luxury of going into the city pretty much whenever I felt like it, and 99% of the time that meant hopping a train and heading to Grand Central. It’s just one of icons of Manhattan and with the shear volume of people coming through that beautifully ornate terminal, most anyone living or visiting the City will have some type of emotional connection to the space.

So I had my environment chosen, now to develop the cast of characters and story that will take place in that environment. An MSG new years run has a certain amount of nostalgia for me, like that old hat that just feels right when you put it on. We’ve all been trucking into the city for so many years now, there’s a comfort and familiarity to the whole experience and I love that. This is where the robot comes from—it is a direct reference to the Harpua story from 1997 (Lost in Space robot, pentagrams, and udder ball) but it also represents nostalgia and all the amazing experiences we’ve been blessed with [in that building].

There is a definite darkness to the eels in these prints. Was there a specific message you were trying to convey through the eels?

12.29.12 (Masthay)

Ahh, the eels; the eels represent so much it’s hard to know where to start. On one level the eels bring a fishiness to the prints, representing sea creatures so often associated with the band. But these eels aren’t in the ocean, they’re in Grand Central Station, and they’re emanating from a smashed disco ball—a NYE 2009 reference. If you look at the emotion being portrayed by the eels in each pane or vignette of the quad, you’ll see the emotion that I personally feel I go through during these four-night runs. In the first pane the eels are curious and inquisitive, checking out the robot and wondering how things will progress in this run. The eels are obviously comfortable in their environment. In the second pane they are fully engulfed in the RAGE. The rage continues in the third pane but the hunger becomes more and more evident—both literal hunger and the hunger for things to come. Finally, the full on face melting of New Year’s Eve and just being slayed by the greatest band on earth. Darkness—maybe emotion—absolutely.

This is the third consecutive MSG holiday run—has it become increasingly hard to think of geographically relevant imagery, or do you have ideas just waiting to come out?

That’s’ the beauty of New York City, there is so much to work with, the difficult part is tying it into MSG and the shows. Being able to do that and make it all feel natural, not forced, is where the creativity comes into play.

This quad looks a bit more detailed and refined than a lot of your previous prints. Is this a natural progression of your work?

This is partially the natural progression I spoke about earlier, implementing new techniques to allow for greater detail and better registration, but is also a direct result of choosing an environment like Grand Central Station. The place is stunningly beautiful, as ornate as any Newport mansion, but meant for all to utilize and enjoy. I also purposely did not hold myself to a certain number of colors on these, I think there’s something like eleven total colors, some of which will be, literally, mixed on the prints by layering. I Facebooked a message a few days ago saying “I’m not sure how I’m going to do this,” and the shear number of colors on these quads is what I was referring to. It’s going to be challenging, but that’s part of the fun.

I really love the 29th print with the train and the eels bursting out of the image, as well as the gas masked train conductor alluding to last year’s “MSG Rapture” quad. Do you conceive the central imagery of each print individually and then figure out how to combine them, or figure out one scene in totality and figure out how to split them up?

12.30.12 (Masthay)

These print sets typically start out with the larger composition, feeling out the flow throughout all four prints and how they will work as a set. Once that is laid out, the true challenge is developing the composition within each pane so that they can each stand on their own as an individual work of art but also as a part of the whole. There’s give and take throughout the entire process and I go through A LOT of erasers. If you ever get the opportunity to check out any of my original sketches in person, you will see evidence of this process. I see the sketches as a living, breathing entity, constantly changing and growing throughout the creation process. I try one thing, feel it out, and if it works, great, if it doesn’t feel quite right, erase and try again. Many artists use thumbnail sketches or preliminary sketches to work these things out before touching the final piece. Personally, I love the rawness of doing things on the spot, my own personal version of free form jamming I guess, but in a visual context as opposed to audio.

I love how you’ve integrated the show info as tiny details to the print that fit right into the Grand Central motif. How concerned are you in allowing that info (date/locale) to be seen clearly or do you just make sure it’s on there somewhere?

How I handle the text is determined on a print by print basis. Obviously on commissioned work for bands the text needs to be front and center, so sometimes its nice to treat these unofficial pieces more like art prints, almost downplaying the date and venue information. Yes, it’s in there, but it’s not the defining factor of the image nor does it need to be understood to be appreciated.

What’s going on in the NYE print? Is the clock electrocuting the eels or vice versa? Or is that up to the eye of the beholder?

12.31.12 (Masthay)

I love telling stories in my images, but what I don’t do is completely lay out the narrative. I leave that up to the viewer, allowing them to connect to the piece and develop that narrative for themselves. What one person sees could be a completely different story from the person standing next to him, I love that. Is the clock electrocuting the eel or vice versa? I’ll let you decide, but what I really wanted to capture is the energy that is December 31, 2012.

How can people get a hold of this year’s prints? Will they be for sale soon?

Prints will be available for purchase this Friday November 16 at 12 noon EST on MasthayStudios.com. In keeping with Masthay Studios New Year’s Run tradition, I will be documenting the entire process of creating the editions, but this year it’ll all be through Facebook and Twitter with separate content on each. You can look forward to lots and lots of photos of the creation process along with some commentary from yours truly. This is a unique opportunity to actually see your prints being made, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to “Like” Masthay Studios on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Jams of the Day: 

Memories from MSG 2011.

Carini -> Tweezer” 12.28.11 II, MSG

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Piper” 12.30.11 II, MSG

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Reminder: First Tube Art Show

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , , on June 13th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

The First Tube Poster show has blown into a full blown scene with printmakers, pinmakers, and all sorts of collectable Phish-inspired art! Here is the final press release about The Mothership Collective‘s First Tube Art Show, taking place this Saturday, June 15th in Atlantic City between 10am and 3pm at Trump Plaza’s Westminster Room. Come join for what will surely be a fun afternoon! Admission is FREE!

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First Tube Poster Show

First Tube’, is an art show featuring Phish artists from around the country will be held on Saturday June 16th from 10am-3pm at the Trump Plaza Hotel, Westminster Room, on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Developed and produced by a group of artists and fans known as the Mothership Art Collective, this poster show will be held in the middle of a weekend of Phish, who play nearby Bader Field June 15-17th.

The initial artists announced for First Tube represent some of the best artists in the Phish community and poster art. Longtime Phish artists AJ Masthay, TRiPP, Ryan Kerrigan, John Warner, Erin Cadigan, Noah Phence and Bruce Horan have been a part of many poster shows in the past and each have a large portfolio of concert poster art across a wide range of musical acts. Newcomers Jiggs, Ed Wilson, Lauren Domsky and Branden Otto are featured in their first Phish poster show, as well as writer and author Dave Calarco who will be selling and discussing his book ‘Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts’ at the show.

First Tube will also be incorporating the growing area of pin makers and collectors into the show with Party Time Pins, 10 Minute Tube Designs, Pin Me Down and stuPINdous Creations. Brian Kushner of PhanBadge and Adam Davidoff of Phishcoins will also be in attendance, showcasing their unique memorabilia.

"Dunkalope" (Dr.Wookles)

Non-profits include The Mockingbird Foundation which has given grants for music education totaling more than $600,000 over the past 14 years; PhanArt, a book and website created as a way to showcase the art made by Phish fans and raises money for Mockingbird Foundation, and Screens ‘n’ Suds based in Richmond, VA curates beer inspired screenprints to raise money to benefit the National MS Society and other charities with monies totaling nearly $50,000 in the past 4 years.

Phish poster shows have been held over the years with great success, as unique posters made for the Phish shows that weekend and stop on the tour feature some of the best concert art being produced today. First Tube is the first event for 2012 produced by the Mothership Art Collective, a group within the Phish community, comprised of artists and organizations who promote the art inspired by the band Phish. The eclectic artists featured at this event show the broad scope of Phish related art and capture the inspiration of the band in their art. The creative fan base that Phish has makes for amazing art inspired by the band, the locales and the music. The collective will work hard to bring a show to the Phish touring public each year.

In keeping with the great tradition and success of past poster shows, First Tube will offer free entry to all patrons, tubes available for purchase, charitable donations from the event made to the Mockingbird Foundation and the Virginia Mason Foundation (in memory of Shawn Williams). First Tube will feature a wide array of artists with posters, art, pins and other memorabilia to fit any budget. Special edition works, only available at the show, will be available for viewing shortly at www.mothershipartcollective.org.

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NEED A MIRACLE FOR SF? LOVE “DAVID BOWIE?”

Bill Graham Civic Center

What: The Bowie Miracle—A contest for one free ticket to see Phish at the Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco on Sunday August, 19th 2012, and a free, signed copy of Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts.

Why: We have a ticket to miracle, however the miraclee must be a “David Bowie” fan.

The Skinny:  If you don’t have a ticket for the Sunday night BGCC San Francisco run and are a “Bowie” fan this contest is for you! Essentially, we love “Bowie” and we want you to make us understand your love of “Bowie” and, more importantly, how you got “Bowie,” when you got it and why. Maybe you got it from the first time you heard it or maybe it took a few times till the song just clicked for you? Whatever the case may be, tell us about your favorite “Bowie” and/or “Bowie” moment. All you need to do is tell us about it according to the contest rules. Judging is totally subjective and we will pay absolutely no costs for your travel to and from BGCC. One lucky winner submits an essay and gets a ticket to the show. No more, no less.

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“First Tube” Poster Show in AC

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on May 14th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

First Tube Poster Show

If you are heading to Atlantic City for Phish’s three-night boardwalk extravaganza, be sure to stop by “First Tube,” a poster and art show that will be held on Saturday June 16, from 10am-3pm in the Westminster Room at the Trump Plaza Hotel. This show will feature Phish inspired art by artists from around the country, including limited edition art made specifically for the show. I will also have a table there, selling and signing copies of my book. Admission is free, so be sure to come by and say hello. This show was developed and produced by a group of artists and fans known as the Mothership Art Collective. More comprehensive details are excerpted from the press release below.

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The initial artists announced for First Tube represent some of the best artists in the Phish community and poster art. Longtime Phish artists AJ Masthay, TRiPP, Ryan Kerrigan, John Warner, Erin Cadigan, Noah Phence and Bruce Horan have been a part of many poster shows in the past and each have a large portfolio of concert poster art across a wide range of musical acts. Mike DuBois designed and illustrated the cover art to Levon Helm’s Electric Dirt and has created posters for the Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd and many more. Newcomers Jiggs, Lauren Domsky and Branden Otto are featured in their first Phish poster show, as well as writer and author, Dave Calarco, who will be selling his book ‘Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts’ at the show.

Worcester 2012 (Masthay)

Non-profits include The Mockingbird Foundation, which has given grants for music education totaling more than $600,000 over the past 14 years; HeadCount, a non-profit, non-partisan voter registration organization that promotes civic participation and knowledge of the issues; PhanArt, a book and website created as a way to showcase the art made by Phish fans and raises money for Mockingbird Foundation, and Screen ‘n’ Suds, who combine craft beers and posters to benefit the National MS Society and chairities in Richmond, Virginia.

Phish poster shows have been held over the years with great success, as unique posters made for the Phish shows that weekend and stop on the tour feature some of the best concert art being produced today. ‘First Tube’ is the first event for 2012 produced by the Mothership Art Collective, a group within the Phish community, comprised of artists and organizations who promote the art inspired by the band Phish. The eclectic artists featured at this event show the broad scope of Phish related art and capture the inspiration of the band in their art. The creative fan base that Phish has makes for amazing art inspired by the band, the locales and the music. The collective will work hard to bring a show to the Phish touring public each year.

In keeping with the great tradition and success of past poster shows, First Tube will offer free entry to all patrons, tubes available for purchase, charitable donations from the event made to the Mockingbird Foundation and a wide array of artists with posters to fit any budget.

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Jam of the Day:

Ghost -> Mango Song” 10.26.10 II

A standout, modern era “Ghost” from Manchester, New Hampshire.

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“The MSG Rapture” and More with AJ Masthay

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 16th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

"The MSG Rapture" - Final Sketch (AJ Masthay)

With New Year’s Run just around the corner, artist and printmaker, AJ Masthay, has been hard at work designing his hotly-anticipated MSG edition. Last year, AJ wowed Phish poster collectors with an awesome triptych that portrayed the inside of Madison Square Garden as an aquarium, playing off the band’s 1993 Holiday Run band’s stage set back in 1993. This year, AJ has created an unprecedented quadtych (four individual posters that combine to from one image) that vividly illustrates a scene of the imagination outside The Garden—”The MSG Rapture. I recently caught up with AJ to discuss his work in progress. (Click images to enlarge)

MM: You’ve had a great summer of Phish printmaking! Fans are really beginning to value your work more than ever—congratulations! Did you see an increase in demand for your prints this summer?

AJM: Thanks! I’ve absolutely seen an increase in demand this summer, especially for the UIC triptychs. I made 125 sets of those and all of them sold at Da Mock Show poster expo in Chicago. It’s always humbling for me to have my artwork in such high demand. I really do appreciate the fact that people enjoy my work. It still blows my mind sometimes when I’m packing orders that are being shipped all over the country and internationally.

Lake Tahoe (Masthay)

MM: Funny you should mention the UIC prints; I really dug that triptych with so much Chicago history woven into the artwork and the unique color scheme that you used. Did you have a favorite of Summer Leg II print, and if so, why?

AJM: Though I love them all, I’d say I had the most fun creating the Tahoe edition. Folks that have followed my work know that I have a love for skulls and bones that goes way back to my college days and my early influences of Georgia O’Keeffe. It’s totally not a death-thing, it’s a beauty-thing. I find the organic shapes and intricacies of the form just fascinating. The Tahoe print was also a return to working from “real life” for me, I actually had that deer skull set up and lit in my studio and managed to get my hands on an old single action revolver to draw from. Reference photos are great, but there’s nothing like having the real thing in front of you to work from.

Have you ever done a quadtych before this MSG run? Did the process pose unique issues or challenges that other triptychs and diptychs haven’t?

This will be my first quadtych ever. The biggest challenge is really the scale of the whole project. Even though the quad as a whole is broken down into individual panels, each color needs to be printed at basically the same time to ensure consistency in the inks. In essence and edition of 150 prints is really an edition of 600 with carving of 4 plates in between each printing. The scale, however, also provides me with a huge canvas to create an expansive composition. I’m always trying to draw the viewer into my images, and having more space actually makes that easier since there are more opportunities for depth and detail.

Talk a little bit about your inspiration for “The MSG Rapture?”

12.31 Sketch (Masthay)

I started out without much of a concept in mind other than I knew I wanted to use an exterior image of MSG to compliment the interior view from last year’s triptych. I also knew I wanted to bring back the image of the gas mask from the Hampton ’09 “Bass Bomb.” I love working on images for venues that I’ve been to numerous times and I try to draw from personal experience whenever possible. My first time at MSG, not for Phish, but for the Grateful Dead—I think it was ’93—I was young and in college and, honestly, don’t remember much detail from the experience, but I do remember lots of mounted police outside the venue. They were cool, not hassling anyone, just “keeping the peace.” I have a vivid memory of going up and saying hello to one of them and asking if I could pet his horse, which he had no problem with. I know it’s an odd association, but ever since I’ve always had a connection between horses and MSG.

The second half of the concept came from wanting to visually represent how for those four days, MSG is truly the center of the universe for fans, hence the burning sun and rings of planets orbiting the New Year’s Eve panel of the quad. There’s a lot more to it, but I think I’ll leave the rest up to the viewer.

I love the color palette for these prints, especially the sky or outer space. How do you choose the colors you are going to work with in prints? What about this one?

12.28 Sketch (Masthay)

Colors are always tough decisions since it’s just as much about making sure the colors will print correctly as it is about how the colors work in the image. Over the years, I think I’ve developed a “signature” color palette that you will see repeating through many of my works. Using undiluted primary colors against rich blacks and pastel pinks or mauves makes each previous color pop. Another factor that doesn’t translate unless you’re viewing the actual print is the sheen of the ink. I exclusively use oil-based inks, as layers of this ink build up on the paper it develops a gloss that very few artists in the poster world take advantage of. Think of the difference between a photograph printed on regular copy paper versus one printed on high gloss photo paper, the color on the glossy one is going to appear much richer and deeper.

I love how each print in the quadtych can stand alone as a poster for that night. How hard is it to make each print both a standalone piece and part of a whole? For this series? For triptychs in general?

Therein lies the real challenge when composing these multi-night images. I always intend for the pieces to be viewed together as a whole, but I also know that may not always be possible and each panel does need to work on its own. I usually start with the overall composition of all the panels and once that flow is generally in place I’ll work on the composition of each panel individually.

For this quadtych, in particular, some of the small details really pull the individual panels together. Take the streamers for example, without those elements I don’t think the individual panels would be successful, but with them, the flow all of a sudden works.

12.30 Sketch (Masthay)

When do these prints go on sale? Because I have a feeling they are gonna’ fly off your site!

The MSG sets will go up for sale this Friday, November 18th [in two days] at 12 noon EST on my website. I will also be blogging the entire creation process for this edition at . This way anyone who decides to purchase a set can follow along and literally watch their prints being made.

Site: www.masthaystudios.com

Blog: www.masthaystudios.com/wordpress

Thanks for your time AJ, I’ll see you in New York!

 


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Jam of the Day

Timber -> Simple” 11.16.97 II

This vastly underrated Denver ’97 highlight has always lived in the shadow of the band’s monstrous show the following night. But this “Timber” jam—from 14 years ago today—is the bees knees; a filthy combination of groove and psychedelia. The band emerges from the extreme darkness with gorgeous segment of melodic resolution that carries them through dramatic segue into “Simple.”

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The Art of AJ Masthay

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on May 18th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

Hampton '09 - Bass Bomb

Concert art has been a large facet of the Phish scene for quite some time, as legions of fans have transformed into collectors who buy, sell and trade show posters. While this hobby, often bordering on obsession, once centered on official posters sold at the merch stands, in the past few years, more and more independent artists have been issuing their own print runs for shows. And, as a result, unofficial prints have found a legitimate niche in the collecting community. AJ Masthay, one of the leading independent Phish artists, has come into his own since the band has returned in this era, transforming his art into sought after collectibles with a style distinctly his own. The two prints AJ made for the band’s Hampton reunion, in his own words, “represented a turning point” for his work and took his art to “a new level.” Since then, his prints have become favorites of collectors for their bold, engaging imagery and vibrant colors schemes. I recently caught up AJ to talk about his history as an artist, the inspiration behind his work, and the current state of affairs at Masthay Studios.

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MM: So, what came first, Phish or art?

Telluride 2010

AJM: Art came way before Phish—hell, my parents still have my kindergarten show & tell drawings of Spiderman! I was always the quintessential “art geek” throughout school, no interest in sports, proms, [or the more popular activities.] That’s probably one of the reasons I eventually clicked with heads and the counterculture surrounding the Grateful Dead and then Phish.

MM: Growing up, who were artists that you admired and who influenced your early vision?

AJM: When in art school getting my degree, I was heavily influenced by the old Italian Renaissance masters. I’ll never forget my first trip to Italy and just being blown away by Michelangelo’s slaves, unreal. My mentor at that time was a printmaker named Fred Wessel, and he really is the one who spurred on my love of prints and printmaking. As I became more interested in concert posters, I’d say my main influences were the works of Jeff Wood, Stanley Mouse and, of course, Jim Pollock.

MM: Talk a little bit about how you got into printing concert posters.

AJM: Well, I had to pay for going on tour somehow, right? I’m no good at making veggie burritos or French bread pizza, so it made sense to try to sell some artwork on the lots to help get me to the next shows. My absolute first experience selling on the lot was at the Lemonwheel. I had done a couple charcoal drawings of Jerry and made cheap photocopies of them to sell. Sure enough, they did pretty well at $5 a pop, and made me think maybe I had something here.

Fresh out of college I still had access to my university’s printshop, so I’d sneak in there and crank out 50 or so prints for upcoming shows to sell on the lots. Next thing I knew I found my own press and was able to set up my own humble printshop. I think the first works I created specific to the scene were back on TAB tour in 2001. These were small editions done on an etching press. They were well received and things just kind of snowballed from there.

Atlantic City 2010 Triptych

MM: Your prints have gained popularity for their bold imagery, thick use of paint, and vibrant colors. Explain a little how you’re vision and style has developed.

AJM: I’ve always loved dynamic compositions when it comes to artwork, I guess that’s where a lot of the bold imagery comes from. I believe it’s important to create a lot of depth in a print, places where the viewer can crawl into the image and get lost. I also love breaking the borders of an image, again, making parts of the print appear to jump off the page.

The vibrant colors come from my traditional printmaking background and preference for oil based inks over water. I often get comments about the “smell” of opening a fresh tube from my studio, which is due to the oil based inks. Also the fact that I layer my inks on the paper gives the colors more depth and after enough layers, a really nice glossy sheen that you don’t typically find on other prints.

MM: Have you been hired to do official work for any bands?

AJM: Absolutely. Most notably, over the past year, would be the multiple editions I’ve done for Umphrey’s McGee and Widespread Panic. In all likelihood, the lot art will become a thing of the past as my schedule becomes busier with the official work.

Worcester 2010

MM: How did those jobs come about?

AJM: I know the art director from Umphrey’s was a good friend of one of my biggest supporters. He introduced her to my work and the band approached me to do their 12/30/09 print at the Aragon Ballroom. I guess they liked my style; since then I’ve done prints for them at Red Rocks, Minneapolis, Madison, NYC, Boston, Philly, and a full triptych for their last New Year’s Run at the Riviera in Chicago.

Widespread learned about my work through Jeff Wood. They had asked him to recommend some new artists and he turned them on to me. Thanks Jeff!

MM: Explain the process of making a print for people who might not understand.

AJM: The majority of my works are reduction relief prints, also known as “suicide prints.” Each color in a print is created by carving a sheet of linoleum—envision a giant rubber stamp. But because I layer my colors on top of each other and do multiple carvings on the same plate, the plates, themselves, are destroyed in the creation process, hence [the term] “suicide prints.” What this also means is that there will never be any second editions of my work because the plates do not exists by the end of the printing process.

While creating last year’s Summer Camp Festival print, I made a nice little process page on my website that explains the process with tons of photos. Check it out for a better understanding.

MSG 2010 Triptych

MM: These days, how do you decide what Phish shows to make prints for?

AJM: I can’t say there is much rhyme or reason to it. I guess it’s based mostly upon what venues or locations I’m interested in or at least get my juices going. Nine times out of ten these are the shows I’ll be hitting on a tour, but not always.

MM: How do you get your inspiration for your prints? Do you consider location and Phish history? What type of things factor in?

AJM: I’ve learned that inspiration can come from any direction, usually when you least expect it. I have a running note on my iPhone entitled “Print Concepts” and every time something pops in my head, I force myself to stop and jot it down. I know if I don’t, it’ll be gone forever. (Damned short-term memory!) I enjoy doing prints for venues I’ve actually attended and will usually use some type of personal experience I’ve had there to work into the image. Sometimes it resonates with others, sometimes it doesn’t. Phish history can also play into an image. One specific example is my MSG prints from the last New Years Run. My first shows were the ’93 New Year’s Run with the fish tank stage. I’ve always wanted to create something around those memories and it became the basis for the underwater theme of those prints.

MM: What are your favorite Phish prints that you’ve done? Overall?

Hampton '09 - Bass Bomb II

AJM: That’s a tough question, like who’s your favorite child. My two Hampton prints from 2009—the Bass Bomb and Bass Bomb II—have to be near the top, if not at the top. I think those two prints really represent a turning point in my work, where something “clicked” and my prints went to a new level. Other highlights would have to be my Telluride and Atlantic City prints from last year and the Bethel and Portsmouth prints from this current run. Telluride and Portsmouth because of their classic, dignified images, and AC and Bethel because they are just downright fun.

MM: Let’s go through your Leg One prints for this summer. What was the inspiration for each? (To purchase any prints, simply click on the image!)

AJM: I had a tough time coming up with concepts for Leg One. I pushed myself a bit outside of my comfort zone and chose all venues I’ve never been to so there was no way for me to draw from personal experience.

Bethel Woods Triptych – 5.27,28,29 : Originally I wanted to do something for Bethel based around the Furthur bus and the whole Woodstock thing, but as I worked out sketches it all felt trite and I knew it wasn’t going to work. So I thought about the fact that the whole place used to be a dairy farm, and imagined what it must have been like back in the early ‘60’s before all the hippies descended; just cows roaming around. What kind of craziness might have happened in those fields back then? Why, alien cow abductions of course…

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PNC – 5.31 & 6.1: PNC was a fun one. Sometimes when I’m stuck on a venue I turn to the good ol’ Internet and see what Wikipedia has to say about the history of a city or venue. It turns out Bell Labs had a headquarters in Holmdel for many, many years. God only knows what kind of freaky experiments went on there, which got me thinking “How would a scientist explain what makes a Phish show special?”. I don’t think it’s a question that can be answered by analyzing the scene, but it sure would be fun to watch them try!

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Alpharetta – 6.14 & 15: Alpharetta is what I affectionately call the “Jabba Frog.” Having never been there, I’m pretty sure there are no swamps in that part of Georgia, but to be honest, that didn’t matter to me. I wanted to make a print that had that feeling of a humid overgrown swamp lake with huge flies buzzing around and a big fat frog getting fatter off them. I enjoyed playing with the borders on this piece, almost making the flies break out of the image to escape being eaten.

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Portsmouth – 6.19: Portsmouth has obvious ties to the nautical history of the town. In Connecticut, we have Mystic Seaport, where they have some of the really old, majestic tall ships, and I thought it would make the perfect image for that town. Again, I think this print has almost a vintage feel to it, something anyone could appreciate whether knowing it’s a concert poster or not. Really, one of my all time favorites.

MM: So, in regard to a possible collaboration with Phish in the future, do you know how they select artists for their official prints?

AJM: I’m not aware of what the process is, but hell yeah, I would love to do official work for my favorite band.

MM: Before signing off, any last words or anything you’d like to add about your craft?

AJM: I just really enjoy creating art. Honestly, I do it for myself. I think I’d still be drawing and printing if no one else were interested in my work. The fact that so many people appreciate it still blows my mind to this day and I appreciate the support of every person that digs my art.

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If you would like to order any of AJ’s prints for only $35, head over to Masthay Studios! AJ is also offering Leg One “subscriptions” for $225, where you will get the same number for each print in the series and get them delivered all at once. Check it out…

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Jam of the Day:

Tweezer > 2001” 7.1.98 II

A throwback to Summer ’98’s second show of summer in Den Gra Hal and one of the most mind-melting sequences that dropped all season

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Greek Theatre 2010 Triptych

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