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I went to the Flatstock 6 Poster Convention last Saturday. Finally, a print design event during SXSW!

My music nerd boyfriend was squinting to read the names of the bands on all the posters, but my art junkie eyes must have been big as dinner plates absorbing the bombardment of images and typography. Not being familiar with the processes or market, I couldn’t even verbalize my thoughts to the exhibitors except to say, “Duh… cool…”

What stood out most were the two separate styles of artwork: comic book and po-mo. There are, of course, a wide range of variation within each and hints of tattoo and graffiti themes smattered within each genre. Comic book relied more on heavy lines, bright colors, a sense of motion, like a movie still (which is essentially what a comic book frame is). Po-mo drew a lot on retro graphics, bizarre typography, Saul Bass-influenced illustrations and a general collage-y effect.

Drawing the lines, so to speak, between art and design was the work of individual illustrators with distinctive styles like Mig Kokinda and Tara McPherson. There weren’t many artists like them at this convention so their pieces really stood apart from many of the other displays, which tended to blend together unless it was truly excellent fusion of original type and image, and not just a random assembly with the name of The Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard Of slapped on it.

One of my favorites was Burlesque of North America, whose work demonstrated equal fluency in both the comic book and po-mo categories.

What did I get from all this, besides a bad case of eye strain? Designing and printing limited-edition gig posters is evidently something you must have connections to get into. Most people didn’t seem the least bit elitist about it. A little pretentious perhaps, but hey, artists will be artists. And one can’t be too concerned with pretension if your job requires you to have ink-stained hands and clothes. Anyone who’s ever taking a printmaking class knows that ink is way harder to get off than paint.

Sigh. I miss art school. But not too much.

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