• Artist Editions: Dustyn Peterman X UO

    Designed exclusively for Urban Outfitters, Artist Editions is an ongoing series of limited edition graphic t-shirts created by a rotating roster of artists from around the globe. 

    Known for his vintage-inspired concert posters and illustrations, San Diego artist Dustyn Peterman creates colorful graphics tinged with psychedelia. We talked to Dustyn about his latest work for our Artist Editions series. 
    Photos by Victor Valencia

    Can you tell us a bit about your background? 
    I’m from the Midwest. I’ve spent the past ten years making posters and promotional material for record labels and bands. The past eight of those years have been in California. After high school I took a three-year hiatus before starting art college in Indianapolis. During that time I did a lot of graffiti - painted trains that ran through the Midwest and bridges that connected the small suburbs. Graffiti introduced me to the importance of a community - creative peers and mentors excited about spending all their time making art; that was invaluable to me. It got me into the working habit I’m in now – the daily ritual of creating. When I wasn’t painting I was earning money - as a dishwasher or at a coffee shop or stocking – whatever I could do so I could spend my free time doing art and drugs. In college I explored new mediums. There was a strong music scene in Indy at the time and all my friends were musicians. I found most of the work I was doing in art school wasn’t academic – it was for friends’ bands.
    You’re known for making some of the best concert posters around, what was the first poster you ever made? 
    I collaborated on posters in college and there have been so many, but I think the first one I ever made was for a band in Indianapolis called the Dead Beats; I fucking hated that band. Those guys are my friends, though. I worked on that poster with my longtime friend William Keihn. These first posters, some of them we did because we just liked the bands or some musicians would just flat-out ask us. We did a show poster for Bright Black Morning Light and they posted it on their website - that was the first time I really felt like a poster artist. 

    Are there any artists or designers who have been particularly influential to you over the years? 
    I think the biggest influences on me as a designer have been the collectives Paper Rad and Seripop. When I first encountered their work it was mind blowing – I had never seen anything like it yet it felt familiar because they were using symbols and shapes and colors and sounds that conveyed a shared history. I wasn’t alone – seeing Pick a Winner excited all of my friends. These outfits were instrumental to me moving forward as a designer and artist. Actually, that was the first time that I thought of designers as artists. Peter Max – huge. I still look at his work and see the importance of being an illustrator and a designer at the same time. He makes wonderful stuff. Frank Frazetta – the sci-fi guy in me just love his elegant paintings; these parallel worlds. Love it. Todd McFarlan – when I first saw his work I went bananas. Seeing Venom take on this form with the unhinged jaw - and then McFarlan carried it over to the Violator. These grisly anti-heros – really important to me visually. I still love seeing Spawn and Violator on anything. Richard Hefter – that was probably the earliest induction to fun drawings and color that I can remember. I still look at the Sweet Pickles books – I’ll look at those books and think “my characters should be simpler; my work is too busy”. But there’s a ton of names that I can shout out and lately I’ve mostly just been fixed on packaging and signage. Nameless, unaccredited designers that arrange type for short-run advertisements from yesteryear. I’m finding myself not really interested in artists so much as basic design. Nowadays I have a favorite group of artists/designers I look to and I haven’t really deviated from that diet. 


    Is there a philosophy that you can pinpoint that runs throughout your work? 
    A lot of people see, in my work, this macabre element or feeling. I can see where that comes from, but I think, for me, the philosophy would be…it’s hard…I already mentioned the anti-hero – I like that idea. I like the idea that the advertisement isn’t that sure of itself, but is going to move forward and promote its product or event anyway. It looks and feels like a promotion, but maybe it’s a warning. It’s difficult to describe how the anti-hero concept applies to this place where I make art and design. Ultimately, design nowadays is sleek and it’s vectored and it’s flat and I don’t know who the hell made it. I like to think there’s a personality in the work that I make. 

    Can you walk us through the process of creating a new piece? 
    For a poster, for example, I’ll get the line up – who’s going to play the show. If I have an interest in one of the performing bands I’m off and running. Sometimes I haven’t heard of these bands, so I’ll check ‘em out, look around, find their online identity and see what they’ve got going on. Often I have to do something off the cuff. That’s what I like. I like a new client, a new experience. I like a lot of freedom to draw what I want, say what I want, and invite people to the spectacle. So I’ll draw up a few different things at my workstation, using pencil, I’ll refine it, ink it over at my light table. I’ll scan it into my computer and that’s when I start to compose my images and design the poster. I always print off a hard copy, the master copy, and let it live in the real world before it gets mass distribution - fold it up, put it in my pocket, hang it up on the street, drive over it with my car. These posters live a rough life. 
    What makes a t-shirt design special? 
    I like a design that is simple and direct. Designs that are representative of my interests and have a regional spin to them - where I'm at, where I'm from or places I'd like to see.

    Do you have any favorite t-shirts of all time? 
    There was a shirt that I think Fuct made back in the 90s that read “I ♥ Cops”. I was in a Florida skate shop with my parents, 12 or 13 years old, trying so hard to get, if no other item in that store, that damn shirt. ChaChing - I got the shirt and wore it every day of my middle school life into high school – always got compliments on it too, from teachers to cops to parents, it was always received well. Loaned it out a few times in exchange for a Maryiln Manson Smells Like Children T-shirt, another favorite. The nirvana IN UTERO shirt was pretty important to my identity for a few weeks in high school, until my sister stole the shirt back from me and loaned it out/lost it (who knows the real story) – I was crushed.

    Can you tell us about your designs for Artist Editions? How did you get to the finished pieces? 
    For Artist Editions they actually have us come up with a few different designs. These two, I think, stood out from the others I made mostly because they are bold. For the doorway one, it’s as simple as “I like the twilight zone”. I’ve seen the title so many times - that door is opening and closing in my mind all the time. That image is rad. It could also be an echo from Beetlejuice – “draw a door and knock three times”. The other design, “friends of Benny” features a mission church inspired by the cover of my local tacoria’s menu. I like cats, I like a cactus, I like California. I stitched them together to make what might read as a postcard. I had never really seen a cactus or Spanish architecture in person until I moved out here. 
    What are your pet peeves when it comes to design? 
    It changes from day to day. I don’t like generic design and I don’t like band-wagoning. I’m always looking for designs and designers to be a little more daring.
    What’s next? 
    The biggest thing is my daughter. She’s due around the first of the year and I don’t know how she will influence my work. It might shift – I have a strong interest in old cartoons and the toys of my childhood – things I can share with her. My daughter might stoke my love of drawing and creating fictional characters and worlds. I like the idea of teaching her to illustrate and color, things that kept me busy as a kid. I also just recently started a production company here in southern California with two other artists - its called Mortis. We look like an animation studio right now because most of us come from a 2-D background, but I’m looking forward to working with actors and other creative individuals and be a part of projects I would have a hard time facilitating on my own. It’s a really exciting time for me right now. 

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