Nerdlocker.com

Nerdlocker Artist Interview: Todd Slater!

Here in Austin, Texas, we have numerous screen print artists and screen print shops. I have been fortunate enough to get to know a number of artists through screen print shows, friends, and just downright emailing them. The latter is the case of one of my favorite artists in town, Todd Slater. Todd has been doing gig, art prints and movie posters for some time now. Todd is the first of three Austin screen print artists that I would like everyone to get to know better. I first e-mailed Todd to see if I could have him sign one of my screen prints and he was very cool about it; we just clicked. Here are some questions and answers so we can get to know more about this Austin, Texas, artist a little better.

Nerdlocker (NL): I want to thank you for spending some time answering some questions for Nerdlocker.com

Todd Slater (TS): Sure, no prob man. We’ve talked some thru email and once in person and I find your passion contagious. Happy to answer your questions.

NL: I dig how you’ve taken simple objects and used them to create your work; a collage of gold bricks for Goldfinger, tree leaves and sticks in your Great Warrior (Yoda) print. What types of other methods or techniques do you use in your prints and posters?

TS: Well, I’m definitely interested in pattern right now. You’ll see a repetition of shapes throughout much of my work. I’ve also been doing more prints recently that are hand drawn like my Primus, Gene Ween (cartoon prints), Zissou and Rushmore, Interpol (buildings), Steve Martin and Black Keys (NY). Last year I made a number of photo-based prints for the Dead Weather and Karen Elson that I’m proud of. I think photography is often overlooked in the printmaking world.

NL: Todd, let me in on your exploration into the world of art. When and how did you get into it? Tell me about the progress of your style.

TS: Well, I’ve been telling people since kindergarten that I wanted to be an artist, so I’ve been into this for awhile. I think I have great patience for making things. I’ve been told that I have an obsessive personality and making prints with a lot of detail is actually therapeutic. One of my professors in college gave me a book called The Luminous Brush on egg tempera painting which is one of the most time consuming kinds of painting you can do. I didn’t understand why at the time but I think he saw that I had the patience to do something that others wouldn’t. On a side note, I’m preaching patience while my four-year-old Gracie is screaming for a refill of Yoohoo. Parenting is a different kind of patience.

I’ve had some success creating mosaic print which is why I make an effort to regularly change things up stylistically. I think relying on one style can be a bit of a crutch and some experimentation adds a freshness to my work. The Black Keys NYC cityscape print is a good example of that. Making a conscious effort to get out of my comfort zone keeps me interested, focused and makes work challenging.

NL: Where does your influence come from? Is there any artist(s) you particularly like more than others?

TS: My style and vision is really a culmination of everything I’ve experienced up until this point. Whether consciously or subconsciously bits of my experiences are being added to everything I make. There are a number of poster artists that I was first influenced by back in 2003: Ames Bros, Methane Studios, Aesthetic Apparatus, Rob Jones, Art Chantry and many others. I was also influenced by a number of artists in the gallery world like: Jenny Saville, John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, Steven Assael, Peter Saul, Chuck Close and James Rosenquist. I also think my time at Stephen F. Austin shaped who I am today. Seeing professional artists like Robert Kinsell and Mary McCleary work, and do what they do was inspiring.

NL: Do you collect posters and artwork from other artists? If so, who? And are they hanging on your walls or sitting in a flat file waiting to get framed?

TS: Let’s see, framed on my wall I have a Tyler Stout/Heads of State Pretty Girls Make Graves, a Methane Unicorns, a Little Friend’s of Printmaking Yo La Tengo, a Decoder Ring Modest Mouse (death lips), plus some wooden Raconteurs prints from Rob Jones. I just got DKNG’s Explosions in the Sky and need to get that framed. I buy prints from Daniel Danger, Mondo and Horkey when I can. I’ve got around 55 flat file drawers and many of those are filled with other artists’ work.

NL: Do you experiment with other media (photography, sculpting, etc.)?

TS: I was passionate about painting in college, and I thought that I would focus on that full time. Currently, I focus all my energy towards making prints and trying to be as good as I can with that.

NL: I want to get more into some of the types of prints you have mastered; I love your gig posters but I personally have been floored by your movie prints. Is there a particular type of print you like doing? If so, which is your favorite, and why?

TS: I’d have to say that I enjoy creating gig posters because that was what I got into this scene to make. Having done several hundred of those now over the past eight years I can say that I’m ready to branch out. Doing a movie poster for Mondo would be my favorite gig at this moment. There’s a real sense of excitement over every release they do and I like being a part of that.

NL: I know most artists are never really given 100% artistic freedom when completing a piece for a client, but if you could just do one for yourself with no constraints, would you do it for a particular band or movie?

TS: Most of the band prints I have done I have complete artistic control. If I don’t I usually won’t take the gig. The constraints mostly come from budget and having to limit the colors in the print. I enjoy the challenge of designing a two-color print. If I could do one print right now it would be for Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain. The problem is that he owns the merchandise rights to the film so the studio couldn’t license it to Mondo. I want to do a triptych for the film based on the past, present and future. I’ve got the idea all worked out in my head but the licensing has got it stalled for now. Maybe I’ll just do a set of art prints without the text in the future…who knows. I’d also like to do a Bob Dylan poster.

NL: Speaking of artistic freedom, without naming names, have you run into any situations where you just wanted to tell a client to get lost because they are too hard to work with? A band or movie studio maybe?

TS: Yes, that happens. I’ll burn all my bridges in my tell-all some day. The key for me is balancing contract work with my personal work.

NL: Thinking back, the first time I met you was through e-mail, trying to set up a meet at Flatstock 29 here in Austin to have you sign a few of my prints (Plan 9 From Outer Space), and then we got to hang out briefly at Mondo’s first Mystery Movie with Tyler Stout. Over time getting to know the artist who designed stuff on my walls, it left me wondering when you would be getting your own Mondo Mystery movie. I guess my question is, do you feel the print and poster community has accepted the mystery part of Mondo’s new way of drawing people into the realm of movie poster art?

TS: I think the stuff they did over Halloween and at the New Beverly should prove that people have embraced the idea. However, I do think there is some pressure on the artist to pick a movie that’s well loved in popular culture.

NL: I did some research on other interviews you have given and I don’t want to repeat the same-old dull questions, but I have a few that I think readers of Nerdlocker.com would definitely like to know about your inner nerd. Don’t hold back; let your Nerd flag fly. What is your favorite movie and why?

TS: Probably Star Wars. It captures all the imagination of my youth and remains one of the most creative and interesting films ever made. I’m a sucker for monsters and aliens and the Star Wars movies win on sheer volume alone. I love all of Wes Anderson’s films too. In a way, Wes’s films are as intricate and detailed as Star Wars without all the aliens. Moon and Sunshine are probably my two favorite recently released scifi films. If I have a super frustrating day of work, John Carpenter’s The Thing is my go-to flick as I lay down for bed. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I like to watch it at night. I think the isolation and insanity seen in that film often reflects how I feel working alone at all times. I think it’s nice to know someone else is going thru it.

NL: If you ever find the time to play video games, what is your favorite and why?

TS: My interests are in the games that made a lasting impression on me as a kid. NES versions of Zelda, Mega Man and Metroid. Occasionally I’ll play Pikmin on Gamecube but I haven’t had the time to play many newer titles. Black Ops looks fun…

Some of my favorite times playing games were in actual arcades. The Gold Mine in Highland Mall and I think Tilt in Northcross Mall were two of my favorites. Showplace Lanes in Austin used to have an incredible arcade. The start button on Karnov was out for over a year allowing people to play for free. I’ll know I’ve finally arrived as an artist when I can buy the actual arcade cabinets for: Altered Beast, Rastan, Metal Slug and Magician Lord. Remember when Neo Geo was like the pinnacle of gaming? That’s my golden age of video games…games just looked perfect to me around that time. It was more than just the games though. It was being at an actual arcade ya know? The Gold Mine was noisy, dark and full of neon and the sounds of people changing a dollar (or a ten if you were lucky). When you ran out of coins you just stood back and watched the pros make it to Bison in Street Fighter 2 on one quarter. The games were always serviced and working (that rarely happens now). I remember Mom would drop me off there and I’d stand up so long playing games that my legs would be sore the next day…that was a good eight hours of gaming.

NL: And the last “nerd” question, but none the less important, do you have a favorite comic book series or comic book hero?

TS: I’m a Batman guy. There’s a reason Chris Nolan’s movies and Frank Miller’s art resonate with so many people. It’s funny because as a kid Superman was the guy. The movies, the comics, everybody wanted their superheroes to be these flawless role models. I don’t know if we’ve changed or all the kids who grew up reading those books have just grown up and are more interested in a flawed character like Batman.

I tried too hard to get into many of the extended universe Star Wars books but couldn’t do it. My head is just in a different place now I guess. When I got into comics around 1989 I loved The Tick. I remember reading The Adventures of Slapstick and thinking it was the most brilliant stuff since Mad Magazine. Both Mad Magazine and Cracked were staples of my childhood.

NL: I wanted to make sure I covered all areas of your art career but I also wanted to know a bit about Todd Slater the family guy who lives in the same city I live in, Round Rock – a suburb of Austin. So my question is, when did you finally realize that you could do this full time and make a decent living doing something you really enjoy here in Texas?

TS: Well, I don’t think I’ve realized it. I think I was just going to keep doing it until people stopped giving me gigs ya know? Doing this in Austin is nice but in reality I could be in a room anywhere making prints. I may go several weeks without leaving my house.

NL: Throughout your experience as an artist, what is the most important lesson that you have learned? What would or could you teach any up-and-coming artist who is just starting in this field of Poster/Prints?

TS: Just keep making things… if you stick around for long enough people will start to show interest. Longevity is a big key to this. Lorne Michaels said something similar to this in regards to SNL I think.

NL: Todd, we had an opportunity to learn more about the growth and development of your career and more importantly, your life as an artist. Thanks again. You can see much more of Todd’s work on his website, and if you sign up for his mailing list or follow Todd on facebook and /or twitter you will know right away when his stuff goes on sale. Todd’s prints are signed and numbered so they sell out very quickly. Okay Nerds, be on the look-out for more interviews with screen-print/poster artists in the near future.

And now for some juicy news! Nerdlocker has acquired several amazing collectibles over the last year and we’d like to show the Nerdlocker Nation our appreciation. First up, Todd Slater graciously donated a copy of his amazing Great Warrior print! I cannot tell you how awesome this is! WHY CAN’T WE ENTER OUR OWN CONTESTS!!!! (Note: Nerdlocker employees are ineligible) We will be releasing details about this giveaway next week, so check back!

I grew up on Kung Fu theater movie weekends, a lot of Top Ramen Noodles, G.I. Joe's, Evil Knivels Stunt Cycle and Stretch Armstrong. My Movie reviews and Artist Interviews have been a regular around Nerdlocker.com. Follow me on Twitter @arainbolt. or email me aaron@nerdlocker.com