Nerdlocker Artist Interview: Graham Erwin!



We’re back with another artist interview! For the second time now we get to travel back to my home state of Ohio to meet another amazing artist. I have to admit, I am a recent member of the Graham Erwin fan club. His incredibly unique style caught my eye with A Nightmare Before Christmas. I was lucky enough to snag an Arist Proof of the print and spent quite a while just staring at it. It is beautiful. Needless to say, I had to go back and see more of his work. Obviously he has an incredibly varied portfolio with an wide variety of nerd art. Of course, being from Ohio put me over the edge and I had to get an interview. So, without further ado, Mr. Graham Erwin!

Nerdlocker (NL): Tell us about yourself.

Graham Erwin (GE): My name is Graham Erwin, I am an illustrator, designer, and screen printer based out of Columbus, Ohio. I have a serious obsession with screen printed posters.

NL: We haven’t asked this one in a while, but since you’re a fellow Buckeye I feel compelled to inquiry, when was the last time you went cow tipping?

GE: Oh I don’t go cow tipping. I also sleep standing up and have an odd center of balance so I am very sensitive to the sleeping habits of my bovine friends!

NL: When did you get your professional start in the art world?

GE: My first paid gigs were in high school helping an older friend paint murals around town. The highlights were a Day of the Dead mural in a local body piercing shop, and a series of Clockwork Orange murals in a local boutique called Milk Bar. I used to think I’d be doing murals for a living but once I tried out screen printing I was hooked! After taking a summer screen printing course in college I started making posters for local bands and dance parties. That went well but I began to find that after these events I would be left with a ton of unwanted posters. These were harder to sell outside of Columbus because no one knew what the hell any of this stuff was, so I began to focus on art prints and more self initiated projects and that’s when people started really catching on. Gallery 1988 and OMGposters have helped me show my work to a larger audience and I owe tons of thanks to them for helping jump start my career in art.


NL: How did you get involved in creating such fantastic nerd related art?

GE: I have always been into pretty nerdy stuff like video games, horror movies, and metal music so the “low brow” aesthetic just wore off on me. So much of my visual vocabulary is drawn from all of the cartoons I watched as a kid and the video games I played, so those flat and graphic styles translated very well into screen printing. One of my earliest memories of creating “nerdy art” was at the age of 7. My mom was out of town and my dad made me watch Alien and Predator back to back. The next day when my mom returned home I had drawn my own Predator poster in crayons, with the word “AWESOME” written in bubble letters above the head, and stuck it on the ceiling right above my bunk bed. Apparently this was the first thing I wanted to see when I woke up in the morning.

NL: What’s your favorite nerd related snack?

GE: Oh man…I’ve been trying to eat healthier recently but fast food is a vice of mine…burgers and fries…energy drinks when I’m feeling especially self destructive. I don’t do potato chips really, but I get down with candy. Like almost every artist I’m a caffeine fiend.

NL: Where do you find inspiration and what are some of your influences?

GE: Besides those inspirations mentioned previously, I am also majorly influenced by a lot of my friends that don’t pursue art professionally but still draw often. Drinking beers and drawing on the torn apart packaging of a 12 pack with my friends is one of the best ways for me to remember why I love drawing. I also really dig old religious art, both from western and eastern traditions. Especially the stuff that is flatter and more tableau like. My girlfriend recently introduced me to Indonesian shadow puppets… amazing! Some of the most bizarre and wonderful character designs I have ever seen.

NL: Who are some of your favorite artists?

GE: I’m obviously influenced by a lot of the other poster artists working today. Aaron Horkey is a favorite of mine. I’m a big fan of Doe Eyed, We Buy Your Kids, Bandito Design (also based out of Columbus, Ohio), all of the Mondo artists, and many others…too many to name. Outside of the poster world Zdzisław Beksiński is one of my all time favorites. Francis Bacon too. I think alot of the stuff going on in the graffiti world is insane right now. Guys like Roid, Vizie, Horfe, Pose…all the color schemes and shaping these guys use are beautiful.

NL: What’s your all time favorite cereal?

GE: Okay seriously…it’s Golden Grahams…but not just because of my name! It just stays crispy longer than any cereal, and I hate soggy cereal!

NL: What posters/art do you have on display in your house?

GE: After a year of sitting in a poster tube I finally had the Devil’s Backbone poster by Vania/Horkey framed last week, so that’s hanging in my studio. I also have a few prints from Delicious Design League and Shawn K Knight next to my desk. Justin Bartlett did an awesome poster for a metal band I like called Absu, so that’s been on my wall for a couple of years. We have original movie posters from Predator and Terminator proudly displayed in the living room. My personal favorite in my collection is an original painting by a good friend of mine, Harris Johnson. His work is insane and I highly recommend you check out his blog. Good stuff!

NL: Star Wars of Star Trek?

GE: Cue the Darth Vader theme. Enough said!

NL: What do you do in your free time?

GE: Well between working a day job and freelancing at night I am always pretty swamped. My day job is at a local custom t-shirt shop doing design so it’s fun but still a lot to juggle. A professor once told me I was a glutton for punishment and I am beginning to think he was right! Honestly though when I’m not working I enjoy drinking IPAs and zoning out to old death metal albums.

NL: Give us a Nerdy secret that most people don’t know about you.

GE: I have over 120 hours of playtime on Final Fantasy XII right now. I still haven’t beat that game, and I probably won’t until I get through about every side quest I can manage. Yea… I’m a total RPG nerd.

NL: What is your favorite movie?

GE: It’s hard to pick a single favorite but right now Evil Dead is in my VHS player so that should give you an idea of what I’m into! For some reason I have always been attracted to extremes, and that movie is definitely extreme!

NL: What is your favorite video game?

GE: As I mentioned earlier, I am a total RPG nerd, so Chrono Trigger is my pick. One of the best games of all time in my opinion. A close second would be Yoshi’s Island, I can’t tell you how many times I have played that game over the years. The art direction is absolutely beautiful, I just wish they would do a proper sequel for the Wii. Both of those games still feel fresher than about 90% of the stuff I have played on any recent game console.

NL: What is your favorite comic book or comic book character?

GE: To be honest I didn’t get into comics much as a kid but I did have a couple of Spawn comics at one point and ate those up. I love dark stuff so those were a no-duh.

NL: What are some of your upcoming projects?

GE: I’m working on another batch of projects for Gallery1988 and Mondo at the moment. I can’t talk about them in detail yet but I can say it will be more fun movie and video game inspired art prints. I am also working on a painting/collage piece for a gallery this fall so it will be cool to break out of my comfort zone with that. There will be quite a bit of hand drawn type in this piece so I am excited to see how that turns out. I am also in the process of building out a poster printing station at my day job, which should allow me to print even more of my own posters. Right now I print about 30% of my work on a t-shirt press. The rest is taken care of by either the client or The Half and Half in South Carolina. Hopefully this new set up will allow me to experiment a bit more with the printing process and try out some 8-10 color prints…something I have yet to try out!

NL: Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but have never found the opportunity?

GE: Alien or Predator? I have serious love for Predator, but Alien all the way. The more inhuman the better!

And there you have it, Graham Erwin. Visit his website to check out more of his amazing work. As always, please check out his online store to support a great artist. Graham eluded to some of his future work with Mondo, which includes an original painting for The Universal Monsters show. Needless to say, we are stoked to see it!

And of course more fun stuff! Graham has also graciously donated a print for a giveaway! It’s perfectly themed for the Halloween season! Check out the print below and stay tuned for details on how to win it!

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t add a little O-H!

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I'm a true child of the 80s from a small town near Cleveland, Ohio. My all time favorite topics are Star Wars, slasher films and Cleveland sports (despite the misery it causes). I narrowly avoided law school, instead choosing film school. I have been accused of being a walking IMDB, but I take it as a compliment!