TVD Previews:
Rock, Paper, Zombies!

Rock, Paper, Zombies! – a Halloween-themed, 62 poster retrospective of our friend Rich Bernett’s gig poster work over the past year will haunt the Strathmore Mansion this coming Friday night (10/28) as will performances from some of the bands for whom Rich has designed posters. I’d go on a bit about what to anticipate, but Rich himself has this covered:

As the video attests, Rich is also bringing with him a number of regional poster designers to display their work on Friday and it’s these artists who Rich will be chatting up here at TVD over the coming days in anticipation of Friday night’s RPZ! event.

Yesterday Rich chatted with John Foster of Bad People Good Things, and today he corners Anthony Dihle of Fire Studio:

Please state your name for the record, as well as any name you wish you had instead.

Anthony Dihle of Fire Studio. Formerly of Dirty Pictures. Aka A-Train, Ad-man, Anfernee, Antonio, Hony, Deal Pickle, Ant, vitamin A.

Where do you currently work? What is your role there?

My company is Fire Studio. I do everything from client relations, design, printmaking, poster pasting, janitorial duties. I also am senior graphic designer at an architecture firm and am VP of the DC chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design. I keep pretty busy but at heart I’m a lazy moo.

Man, you are keeping a lot of plates spinning! About your gig as VP at AIGA, what do you find especially rewarding about your role there?

Yeah. I have my full-time job as a designer at an architecture firm, and Fire Studio, and the position with AIGA DC. I continually fantasize about sleep.

Each of those three roles exercises a different group of muscles. Sounds corny, I know. But with AIGA, those on the board do not do any design work for any of our events. So the satisfaction and fun comes from “designing” and executing an event; working with teams of other designers. The de facto “client” is always the community of designers in DC. They’re a really fun client. I did this some previously with gallery shows, but with AIGA I get to help plan parties, big speaker events, roundtables, hands-on workshops… anything. We just recently did a walking tour of DC Street Art as part of DC Design Week.

Which part of your process, from designing, to printing, to sharing the final product do you enjoy most?

For me, talking with the band or promoter, doing the concept and design, and doing the printmaking and posting is all part and parcel of the process. I always print my own posters, and almost never take on print jobs that someone else designed. The posters for 826DC are a good exception, for a good cause—plus I got to collab with a brilliant designer.

What do you find particularly off-putting about printing pieces designed by other artists?

It’s not so much off-putting, but more that graphic designers tend LOVE to have tight control over color and final appearance—as per our training. When screenprinting starts to involve a high degree of precision, you gotta be anal, and it becomes less fun. I end up losing lots of time in re-mixing inks repeatedly, throwing out loads of prints that don’t make the cut, doing a lot of screen fixing mid-stream.

Printmaking by hand is one of those rare skills where the audience is totally with a little messiness. That’s one of the reasons why I love it. I want it to be more like grilling a pig on a spit, and less like brain surgery. Things are gonna get crusty around the edges and that’s ok.

Besides screen printing, what field of art do you wish you had more time to learn?

Photography. Specifically film photography, using medium and large format film. Maybe even obsolescent photography, like using a pan full of magnesium for the flash… I have a couple old (75 year old) cameras I’m able to retrofit with modern color film. It’s tedious but you can get some really fun results when it’s working right.

I know when you work with multiple mediums, their lines tend to cross. Do you find that any photography aesthetics or processes find their way into your poster work?

I do sometimes put together little photoshoots or sourcing material by photographing it.

I think photography as a skill for designers to have is often underrated. I do portfolio reviews of high school students every year at the Corcoran, and I always encourage them to get a camera (any camera) and take loads of photos. It hones skills like sense of scale, focus, narrative, and composition most of all. Composition is elemental, something you need to work on well before you crack open any design software. I don’t think you can be a good designer and a shitty photographer.

If a magic client said “To inspire your ideas on this next project, I will grant you one day to hang out in a room with any object of your choice…” what would you ask for?

Easy. A vintage wurlizter pipe organ with a full stack of pipes, including those big 40-foot tall ones. With a professional organist, of course.

Or—or, an old color xerox machine with a stack of copier paper 10 feet tall and a bathtub full of quarters for the copier. This would be the old type of color copier, the type that makes a different scanner pass for each color. Four different scans for the C-M-Y-K inks. I took advantage of a copier of this type when I interned at a museum years ago.

Are there any good stories behind any of the pieces you plan to bring to the “Rock Paper Zombies” show? Do tell!

I have a Halloween-themed poster in the show, for These United States at IOTA. It started off without the Halloween theme, just being a bright, super-festive poster featuring the band’s tour van with biplane wings, piloted by a dog. Think Ken Kesey with a Dr. Seuss perversion. With the show happening on October 30, the band wanted to change it up to be a costume-party show. All I did to change the poster was to put everything in front of a partially transparent black background, and put a transparent black jack-o-lantern face on the grille of the van. Done.

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