Todd Slater Interview PART 1

SlaterInterview

Welcome internet, get ready to read! What we have here is the first half of a two part interview with Todd Slater. It is the first of what I hope will become a monthly feature on this blog: Jon Smith shooting the shit on the record with fellow poster makers.

Todd Slater is one of the bigger names in the screen printed poster game, a pro’s pro, refreshingly nice guy, roundball nerd and for me a much appreciated ally in this niche of ours. In this first part of the interview we talk background/origin, the second part deals more with the present and future….and a long tangent on personal interest, mainly basketball.
But anyway, part 1 here we go:
Jon: Let’s start with Todd the person, Todd the Texan. I know that’s where you were born and raised but you’ve moved around, lived in many a town down there. Is there a story there, were you an army brat or something, box car child?
Todd: My earliest memory is a warm place, a bright light and mother biting the cord.  My father is a writer and author (Bush’s BrainThe Architect) and has worked with the Dallas Morning News for the past 25 years. My moving really came after college as my wife’s career was taking off and her company moved us all over the place. As result I’m a virtual GPS of East Texas but live in Austin now.  It’s actually a suburb of Austin called Round Rock but we’ll pretend it’s Austin. The thing of note about east Texas is that there’s virtually no growth there…it’s an area of the world that’s frozen in time and will never change.
&
Jon: Sounds like eastern Washington, Spokane is most definitely “frozen in time”. OKay so where’d you matriculate cuzzy? Art School or University?
Todd: I went to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, which is the oldest town in Texas. I majored in Art with an emphasis in design and minors in film and painting. The Prof’s there are all working artists and are passionate about their work which made the experience really worthwhile.  One Professor in particular, Robert Kinsell took an interest in me early on and I’m grateful for all that he taught me.
Jon: Where you always artistic, did you know early on that you wanted to do something creative growing up or did you have other interests/options?
Todd: My Mother encouraged me early on and in kindergarten, I started telling people that I would be an artist when I grew up.  There was a brief period in my life where I believed that I would become the starting two guard for the Dallas Mavericks but a good look in the mirror changed that thinking.  I was really into the process of film making in college and considered that as a career but ultimately did not like the team aspect of it. In film school you were forced to work with people on projects with varying interest in film and it resulted in a very uneven product. I found that things like painting and design were more of a solo thing, which suited my personality.
Jon: Yeah I hear you, in a creative endeavor it can be tough to get any satisfaction from the process if there are more than a couple people in the group. The most alluring thing about posters to me and I think most people is you’re flying free to do whatever you feel as long as the design fits the band. There’s usually not a lot of art direction.
What were you influenced by art-wise as a young lad, say in high school?
For me it was Jack Kirby hands down, comics n shit.
Todd: It was a group of figurative painters: Steven Assael, Lisa Yuskavage, Jenny Saville, John Currin and Peter Saul whose work most interested me.  For a long time I wanted to be a painter and I plan to return to it at some point in my life.  Painting is something that you can really obsess over and spend tons of time on, again suiting my personality. I am intrigued with the romantic side of painting that allows a bunch of weirdo’s to spend half of their life working on a single painting. Of course that was way before television came along, but you get the idea.
Jon: That’s interesting, kind of surprising but now that I think of it I can see a painterly sense of mood in your color choices. Some of that shit is pretty creepy, which is something I pick up in a lot of your work.
When and where did you get bit by the poster bug and what was your first ever legit screen print?
Todd: Basically, I had been searching for Ween rarities on the web after getting a few paychecks after college and discovered several silkscreens that I really liked.  It didn’t take me long after that to find gigposters.com and start reading the forums.  My first legit screen printed poster was for Pretty Girls Make Graves and I think it still holds up pretty well now. I don’t regret making any of the posters that I’ve made I just wish I’d revised some a bit more. My first Jack Johnson poster is pretty bad, the one with the feet on it. Rob Jones told me it looked like some “footsteps” thing that you’d buy in a Christian bookstore and that’s all I can see now when I look at it. The feet on the poster are actually Kristie’s, who has some of the sexiest feet you’ll ever see, so at least it has that going for it.
Jon: Ha! Yeah you mean “Footprints”. I remember seeing that on the walls of friends houses growing up, brilliant 70’s/80’s suburban American bullshit. So how hard was it getting poster gigs in Austin or wherever you were when you started?
Todd: It was tough, there were a lot of Emails sent with no reply and phone calls not returned. Once you’re “in” it’s much easier to get the gigs though. Austin is extremely competitive with gigs and 90% of the time the gig I asked for was already taken. Philaarts blew me off at first, but after I pestered him long enough he seemed to embrace the idea that I wasn’t leaving the party.  That’s what getting poster gigs was like for me at first; being the guy that stayed at the party long after the guests had gone. It was irritating to people at first but eventually they accept the fact that no ride is coming to pick me up and that this is all I’ve got.
Jon: How old is Todd Slater? How long u been doing posters and when would you estimate you were full time “I support myself on poster design”? Or not, do you still design other shits to bring home the bacon?
Todd: I turned 30 in July and I was 24 when I started doing this. Actually, I even remember when a wee lad named Jon SmithBumbershoot years ago and showed me a very nice Hank III and a sobbing Captain America print that he had just finished.  For five years now, I’ve been supporting myself on freelance design. I did a lot of work for Sony Signatures for several years and that basically turned into a part-time job, but they eventually laid off their entire staff and me with it. The best job is the one you create for yourself, they are no “safe” jobs, especially not now. When Sony went down I really turned my full attention to posters and realized that that’s what I wanted to do. approached me at Flatstock,
Jon: Ah yes, the newb Jon Smith meeting Todd Slater. What a mark, I remember I was like “You’re Todd Slater? Thee Todd Slater?” and whipped out a couple fresh prints for you to review…you see when I was in high school all I wanted to do was pencil comics, so since I was 14 or 15 I had been taking my full 11″x17″ penciled pages to comic book artists at comic-cons to get critiqued in person, most of the time they tear you a new asshole, I highly recommend it….but I’ve been doing posters for a few years now, done Flatstock many a time and I’ve never seen anyone bring in their posters and ask an artist for a critique, no one does that. This story just gets more embarrassing as time drags on.
Okay so like myself and so many other nxtlvl geniuses you run your prints through D&L Screen Printing here in Seattle though you live in Texas. I know you started back when D&L didn’t have a website or anything, how did you hear about D&L?
Todd: Dave Mayer from Philaarts recommended him(Steve at D&L) to me.  I knew he printed for Emek and Hampton at the time and that was all I really needed to know. It would be nice to print in Texas to avoid the shipping but D&L has come through on so many tight deadlines for me that I feel most comfortable with him and his staff. He understands that good screen printing is a craft and that it’s not something you can get anywhere.
Jon: Alright, I’m going to close out the nuts and bolts poster designery questions with this: What’s your day like? Paint us a picture of an average day of work posterwise or any other miscellaneous design.
Todd: Wake up, feed the cats, go to the post office, grab lunch, answer Emails, work on sketches, work on the computer,  go to a bookstore for inspiration, listen to Rob Jones yap about Frasier, talk to Dave Mayer about fantasy sports, check the omgposters and gigposters for new stuff, play with my daughter, work on the computer, eat dinner, shoot some hoops and clear my head, and of course kiss my wife.
Jon: Nice! I have to ask Rob about Frasier next time I talk to him then, pretty lame show. Of course being from the PNW, I hate it more as it paints Seattle as even more snooty and boring than it already is….I don’t know how these sitcoms last so long. Old people will watch anything I guess, same phenomena that makes Everybody Loves Raymond and King of Queens a hit.
Alright so that’s it for Part 1, I’m editing and linking up Part 2 right now, It should be a lot longer than this. Hope to get it up in a couple days…

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3 Responses to “Todd Slater Interview PART 1”


  1. 1 Jason Grimes August 25, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Love it dude! Keep blogging.

  2. 2 Bruce September 7, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Can’t wait for Part II!


  1. 1 WEEN, Flatstock etc. « Jon Smith Trackback on September 10, 2009 at 5:17 pm

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