Q&A with Dan Grzeca

December 8, 2014
David Wexler

Q: What were some of your initial inspirations in creating the artwork for the Chicago ESMZ poster from the June 28, 2013 Old St. Pat’s Church Block Party?

A: The poster is inspired partly by my love for the Frank Capra movie, “You Can’t Take It With You.” Sailing across the sea in a vessel filled with SOME of the items that have passed through your hands as you traverse through life.

Q: What were you trying convey in your ESMZ poster?

A: It’s what I call a “Reverse Viking Funeral.” We are all renters here, not owners. At some point, everything is transitory. In a traditional Viking Funeral, the body is burned on a ship loaded with fuel. In this instance, the voyager is shepherding his possessions he no longer needs into the middle of the ocean/river to abandon as he prepares to leave for the other side.

Q: Describe your creative process for interpreting and transforming music into a poster art?

A: I work in a purely intuitive process. At this point in my career as an illustrator and artist, I’m fully committed to continuing to invent my own visual language; the posters become storytelling in extreme shorthand. I listen to music, make VERY loose 20-30 second thumbnail sketches, which I then select through until I feel the right one is in front of me. Once that happens, I start drawing a fairly dense and complex detailed image in scratchboard, which is drawing in reverse.

Q: Were you a fan of ESMZ before you were asked to create the poster art?

A: I was. I liked the first records and was lucky enough to see them when I had a break at Bonnaroo, as they were playing near our tent (I’m part of the American Poster Institute, which had a tent of six artists’ studios at the festival). I was struck by the amazing energy and community that ESMZ have in a live setting. I was actually contacted to make the poster about an hour later as I was sitting in my poster tent, so that was indeed serendipitous!

Q: How did you get into creating poster art for musicians?

A: I walked in the door backward about 17 years ago. My background was in painting and drawing. I was friends with a lot of musicians in the then nascent Free Jazz and Improvised Music Community in Chicago, especially with people like Ken Vandermark, John Corbett, Fred Lonberg-Holm, etc. I started making posters for shows that happened in the 90s at the Empty Bottle with those musicians and older collaborators from Europe like Peter Brotzmann, Misha Mengelberg and Steve Lacy to name a few. Making visual art for musical innovators who improvise had a profound effect on my creative process for sure. From there it just spread to rock music in a natural way. Then, about 11 years ago a large group of artists started the American Poster Institute and the Flatstock Poster Conventions, which I’ve been attending since the first big one, Flatstock 2, at SXSW in 2002.

For more information about Dan Grzeca, visit: www.dangrzeca.com.


Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.