An interview with Justin Kamerer | Angryblue
1. Describe your typical week--in the studio, at home, doing other activities, etc.
It depends on the workload. I fluctuate between client work and the art prints/rock posters which are for my Angryblue brand.
It's usually as dull as I walk into my studio in the basement of my home and figure out what my week looks like. If I have printing on the schedule, I usually need to make a trip to the shop to prepare/coat screens and mix inks before I print out films for burning screens/stencils. The rest is just doing the work.
2. Describe your influences--what sources, artists, etc do you look to for inspiration?
Everything, I suppose. We all absorb and bite a little nibble off of anything that sparks us. I just spent the weekend at an event called MondoCon that has some of the best living illustrators/designers/print-makers and had that wonderful mix of feeling horribly insecure and incredibly inspired to return home and up my game because of the exceptional quality of the work my peers were showing.
I also love movies and long-form storytelling. Shows like Hannibal resonate specifically in art direction and production value.
3. Where is your studio, and what does it look like? How do you find materials & resources to make work?
It's the basement of my home. I've got a few light boxes for drawing/inking, several sets of flat files that store my archived work and stock for my prints. I do my order fulfillment, so everything needs to be easy to grab and roll into tubes or whatever depending on whether it's posters, pins, patches, apparel, books, toys, etc.
Aesthetically, it's full of skulls, bones, weird glass things full of teeth, art prints, paintings, mounted skateboards, a collection of joker toys along with some limited edition vinyl toys from the toy vinyl craze 10-15 years back.
There's also a little sound lab with my guitars, synthesizers and other noise-makers where I record my music. It is my solace and lets me have a hobby/projects that don't need to necessarily pay for my way of life. The business can get in the way of the fulfillment of the art at times, so it's nice to have somewhere I can explore and get lost that doesn't have any monetary need behind it.
I also have a print shop that houses my semi auto press and is where I ruin poor, innocent, clean sheets of paper by placing my art on them. It's not a particularly interesting place. Just utility, but has everything I need from screens, exposure unit, inks, paper cutter, etc.
4. How do you balance your art practice with other jobs, art- or non-art-related? (Or how have you done this in the past?)
It's all one job for me. Like I said, I split my client work with my more personally driven things. The needs of my utility clients fluctuate, so I've either got a list of 20 projects to dive into or a list of 20 self-initiated projects to do the same with. It's just a matter of deadlines, trying to plan print releases in a productive way and try to keep myself in the periphery of my peers and collectors so I don't just disappear only to reappear when I want to take people's money and yell out "TA-DAAA!" with my hands out.
5. What opportunities for professional development have been most helpful to you? Which were more helpful earlier on in your career?
(Print exchanges, workshops, conferences, etc.)
My peers. Friendly competition. Talking shop, process, etc. Anything to expedite the work when necessary to increase the profitability of a project. Having prints in hand and doing trades at events like Flatstock where there would be a bunch of us together with examples of our work is a great way to see how different people are pushing the medium and then naturally, you take those ideas back and try to implement them into your own work.
Learning how to actually run a real functioning business is underrated and rarely taught in tandem with art. Harnessing the skill-set is very important, obviously, but understanding how to use that skill-set to meet deadlines, train clients to work with you and sending off invoices, managing your time, reading contracts and learning about manufacturing products are INCREDIBLY important.
6. What does your research process look like before or during a project?
It depends. When I was doing a lot of merchandising design for the music industry, I would dig into the band's history, previous artwork, breeze through some lyrics/themes on the current promoted album, etc and just dive in and start making things.
When it's a poster or art print or anything non-client related, there's not a ton of research per-say. There might be a little digging for photography references, taking my own photography, etc. I have a large collection of things in my home and studio ranging from skulls, insects, random ephemera, toys, dried flowers, vines, etc and will often turn to them for reference or even to create s still life to photograph and draw from there.
I usually start most of my work with pen and pencil before I scan it into Photoshop to figure out a design and then printing out films to be turned into screens for screen printing.
7. Can you share your process of getting your work out in the world? (Types of venues, exhibition planning process, outside work, etc.)
I don't exhibit at a lot of galleries. I have in the past, but it's not been a focus for a few years unless there's a really fun group show I can't turn down. It's usually more of a hassle than anything else and then the old model of galleries taking a 50/50 cut when they seem to do way less in promotion than I do just doesn't resonate well with me. It depends on the situation.
So alternatively, I rely on my newsletter and social media to create a connection with an existing or hopefully growing audience. Social media is a pain because it's a constantly evolving situation on each platform and each platform has its own social alchemy for what is 'appropriate' in communication style. However, it is a necessary evil.
My website is my main place of exhibition - which makes sense. I do the art, I do the printing and I pack the orders.
Newsletters are usually people that have financially said "I like what you do and want to know more" with their wallet. So, keeping that list adrift of new releases and just general happenings is incredibly important.
Usually in my social media and newsletters, I try to be the friendly smart-ass that I am in life. So, instead of just saying "Buy my new thing. BUY IT!" I feel it's important to engage, share a little of myself and try to give a little more than I ask for. It's sort of tough at times to write up a fun little thing that's got a chuckle in it, share some process video, background on a project or something, but I feel like that is key. It's important to share the other things I'm interested in so there's a personality there instead of just a faceless thing that asks for money once a month or whatever.
I will also travel a few times a year for conventions, festivals, etc. where usually I'll be set up in a 10'x10' booth where I craft a little pop-up shop of nonsense I have in my store.
I only do a few shows a year, though. They're a lot of work.