At an early age, Brian Ewing knew he wanted to be an artist.
Ewing, whose solo horror poster show “Scream With Me” is currently showing at Galerie F, 2381 N. Milwaukee Ave., through Dec. 2, fell in love with art as a young boy growing up in La Mesa, California. He said he considers himself fortunate that he gets to work as an artist.
“I grew up always wanting to do [art],” Ewing said. “It’s great being able to get up every single day and draw and not punch a clock like I used to do.”
During his high school years, Ewing worked in a comic book store, which is where he said he first fell in love with graphic novels and comic books. He said being surrounded by various types of comic artwork, particularly the G.I. Joe comic, helped shape his own distinctive style, much in evidence seen in “Scream With Me.”
“I went to a Catholic grade school, so we didn’t really have art class,” Ewing said. “I would just do [art] in my spare time. As soon as I read my first comic, I was hooked.”
Ewing draws his artistic influence from artists such as Coop and Frank Kozik. He said it was not until he found these artists’ work that he realized the direction he wanted to take his own artwork.
It was through artists like Coop and Kozik that Ewing studied the type of art history he was interested in, such as designing concert posters, which he is best known for. Ewing said it is important to be informed about art history to avoid making the same art and stunting his creative growth.
“It’s kind of like there’s Nirvana, and then there’s all these other bands that sound like Nirvana,” Ewing said. “You could go to the source and find out who influenced them directly, or you have to go through all these watered-down versions. Learning art history is important because as an individual, it will expand your visual vocabulary.”
Music is not only a major influence in Ewing’s life, but it has also helped the artist make a name for himself as one of the premier concert poster designers in the country. Ewing has designed for a large range of musical acts, from Metallica to Death Cab For Cutie. He said although he might not always be a fan of the musician, he tries to give them the best design possible.
“You can’t be picky when it comes to work, especially freelancing,” Ewing said. “You go from paycheck to paycheck. My job is to make a band look cool and to get people to go to the show and to also take a project and make it interesting for other people. Except for Phish. Phish hit me up once, and I politely declined because I just couldn’t get behind their music.”
While concert gig posters have a long history, Ewing said he sees different waves in the art form’s popularity over the years.
“Rock posters really became this American art movement in the ‘60s and then in the ‘90s, people like Frank Kozik and Coop and Derrick Hess and all those people created these kind of renaissance in rock posters. Then in the early 2000’s, we created a new renaissance, and now galleries are getting involved. It seems like every 10 years, [rock posters] go from underground to above-ground and a lot more people get to see them.”
Ewing said he may not be a fan of all of the acts he designs posters for, but many bands surprise him.
“There were some bands that I was really excited to work with, and sometimes the experience working with them was less than pleasant,” Ewing said. “But then there are other bands I’ve never heard of that surprise me.”
Ewing’s new exhibit at Galerie F focuses on horror film and optical illusion poster art designs. Ewing said he got involved with Galerie F last year following another solo show in Columbus, Ohio, where he currently lives.
“[My last show] was pretty successful, so I wanted to see where I could go next,” Ewing said. “I hit up Zissou and Allie at Galerie F and proposed to them my idea of what I wanted to do. Because I had a business plan, I think they were more likely to work with me.”
Billy Craven, co-owner of Galerie F, said the gallery’s co-owners had been big fans of Ewing’s past work and was excited when it got the chance to work with the artist.
“We’ve been fans of Brian’s work for a while and fans of the awesome work that he does,” Craven said. “It was great to work with him because he created a bunch of new work for the show. We included a bunch of original new drawings, test prints and the actual screen prints, whether it was on paper or vellum.”
The artwork in “Scream With Me” includes never-before-seen pieces by Ewing. When Galerie F was developing the solo show with Ewing, the co-owners wanted to display all new material, which is different from many other screen print exhibits. Zissou Tasseff-Elenkoff, co-owner of Galerie F and founder of FugScreen Studios, said the art was made for a more special exhibit.
“We tried to initiate as much new work as possible,” Tasseff-Elenkoff said. “We spoke about putting some older work in the show, but we ended up not even needing any of it.”
Ewing spent the last few months focused on putting on the solo exhibit, Craven said.
“Over the last few months, Brian worked exclusively with Galerie F and didn’t take on any additional commissions during the time that he was creating the artwork for the show, so he could just focus on putting together a successful show,” Craven said.
Ewing said he had hesitations about creating all new pieces for the show at first, but he knew it would be worth the effort.
“When people do print shows, it’s like a greatest hits showing [of] what they’ve been doing,” Ewing said. “Gallery F said, ‘No, we want all new stuff.’ I didn’t want to do it because it’s work, and work is hard, and I’d rather be sleeping, but it was a great challenge for me to get all this work done in little time.”