Artist N.E. New Flesh Prints, Austin Texas
New Flesh is an artisan silkscreen shop specializing in hand-pulled posters. New Flesh is operated by N.E..
Mark: Hey N.E.,
N.E.: Call me whatever. It’s just a thing I go by.
Mark: Well you know it’s funny you’ve always signed your prints with just the initials N.E., so it’s kind of a cool thing for an artist to have that mystique.
N.E.: Well that was always a thing that I talked to about with my original partner Vince, to always have that mystery, although obviously we’re not Banksy. That way you don’t have to attach a personality necessarily with an artist. Also, it’s the way I’ve been signing my artwork since I was a little kid. I’ve got artwork from when I was 6 that has N.E. on it.
Mark: So you know Drew Struzan, I started collecting film posters when I was 12, and that little symbol that Drew signed his work with, I didn’t know what it was? I didn’t know who Drew Struzan was?
I just thought it was kind of cool and mysterious. It worked.
N.E.: Absolutely, mystery is important. There are a lot of artists who have a lot of baggage with them, because they’re either vocal and people know who they are, or they think they know who they are. They try to interject their personality into stuff and it works for them. But some people like me; I’m not a social person…I understand the importance of the Twitter thing and I kind of try to do it, but it’s just so hard for me.
Mark: So you do all the printing yourself at New Flesh?
N.E.: I do. The paper comes in raw, the ink I mix myself, for everything, the only thing I don’t do for the prints is trim them, I take them to a commercial printshop here in town. They’re really nice, I just take them like a six or 12 pack of bottles of beer, and they cut my prints for me.
Mark: That’s a good deal. I like that!
N.E.: Back in the original days when I was doing the real fast and dirty stuff for the Blue Starlite, I would trim all the prints myself and it totally took forever. I realized that the one thing you can’t do as well as a machine is cut paper. It’s fast and it’s perfect. I also have done all the artwork, except two. The very first release which was Silence of the Lambs, Vince did that, and then my best friend, did that James Bond one.
Mark: Yeah sure, the James Bond one, Casino Royale? Or was it On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?
N.E.: That was Craig, who I met in film school, and he is a huge Bond fan, and I said to him you think you want to do something like that? “ he’s like yeah, I’ll give it a shot”. Silence of the Lambs was not my art,
that was Vince.
Mark: Was Silence your very first screen print?
N.E.: Yes, for release, the very first screen print. We did one that was never released, it was a print for a short film I worked on. We just did something small for the crew, the second one for a party at Vince’s house. There are still some of those out there.
Mark: Humble beginnings!
N.E.: Absolutely. Then it was Silence and then Rosemary’s Baby, which was my first poster.
Mark: If you didn’t have to do everything your self, I’m sure you’d have more time to design?
N.E.: Yeah, that’s the thing. Obviously it’s gotten much more complicated from when we first started doing it. I’d do the art quick in 2 or 3 days max then we’d print it all in like a night.
N.E.: So the turnaround was like 3 or 4 days. All of that, Blue Star Lite stuff was like that. The early stuff was a week per print, that kind of thing, they were all simpler three or four colors, now I mean like, my prints are like 7 colors most of the time.
Mark: I’m sure, you’re always as challenged an artist to come up with something unique each time and make it more involved and complex?
N.E.: That’s always been a mandate for me, to try to do something different every time. I’ve heard from people that “Oh, I saw that poster, and I knew that was your poster,” “I’m like really, I don’t see that.” And then there are other times when they would see a different print with a different style or technique, like a doing a painting and I scan it and I separate it, and they can’t see similarities in the art. So, to me, I know that I have certain technique or certain style in the way I draw fire or the way I draw a rock, is going to be the way I draw rock in that medium.
Mark: Sure, I get that.
N.E.: When draw a face it’s not always the same, you know what I mean, if you look at the likenesses of Fight Club, it’s not always the same as Rosemary’s Baby or when I was doing all the heavy ink work stuff, you know that Chinatown print I did.
Mark: Yes, of course, the one with Jake’s face.
N.E.: With that one obviously you can see my style has changed. I have not necessarily evolved, but my style has changed. I’m doing less line work on the face. Not that it was too heavy handed, it was more sculptural. The problem is you can’t draw a female like that, cause the more lines you put on a girl’s face, the more she looks ugly.
N.E.: The less you use, the better it is, it softens the face a bit. I mean you got to try to make people look good. When I started doing the official stuff and they had to be approved, I started to pull back and slow down with that because you have the actor that doesn’t want their face to look unflattering. I kind of transitioned out of that style. Maybe I probably should have continued with that look, because I really enjoyed that style, it was a lot quicker…you would kind of, it was not unlike a topographical map or whatever, and you could just indicate the shape of someone’s face.
Mark: I love that print. And you know Chinatown is not a film that gets a lot of alt. art done for it. So happy to see that you had picked it, it’s one of my favorite movies.
N.E.: Absolutely, I love that movie. That’s one of the greats.
Mark: Well I’m a film school person too. That’s one of those films that you can pick apart like Bonnie andClyde.
N.E.: Oh yeah. It’s interesting that there’s always those film school movies, Bonnie and Clyde, like Chinatown.
Mark: Yeah, Bonnie and Clyde is something that, I’ve not seen people tackle. I wish artists would do more classic films, they tend to do classic horror films, but not classic drama films, I’d love to see more of that, I’m such a fan of those.
N.E.: Oh, yeah, I’m a huge classic movie guy.
Mark: Yeah, like no one could tell from the stuff that you’ve done! It’s so obvious that you’re such a fan. N.E.: Unfortunately I’ve gotten away from it recently, it’s because I’ve been doing so many commissions.
Mark: Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my favorites of your classic film prints.
N.E.: I love the approach to that; unfortunately, I’m not sure how well those would do now. Everything’s changed so much. Maybe that tastes have changed or the people buying the prints or maybe its just saturation, I don’t know, I haven’t been doing that many gig prints lately.
Mark: Hitchcock work, to me is still enormously popular, look at that recent piece for The Birds, with Tippi Hendren on the pier by Laurent Durieux.
N.E.: That’s a beautiful piece.
N.E.: Right, Laurent Durieux is super hot right now, he’s like the man. He’s definitely got his style which is really recognizable, I appreciate that. He seems like he’s pretty fast too and I really respect that.
Mark: It’s one of his most iconic prints. I own a bunch of his work, but that one I don’t own, but that really stands out. It’s an image that’s unexpected that someone would have captured from that film.
N.E.: I actually have that poster, it’s really good. You go to a gallery and there is always the one print that you know, I’m never going to have a chance to own it unless I buy it right then.
Mark: Whom do you draw your influences from? Where’s your inspiration?
N.E.: See that’s a funny thing. I did a lot of 2 D art in high school, but I originally went to college for sculpture. When I was a kid, my dad moved us to Kazakhstan where there were a lot of heavy imperialist sculptures. Those were big influence on me and I always wanted to do those sculptures and I was good at it, but I mean there’s not much of a career in that. Only so many sculptures you can put in a college square. So, I always also wanted to do movies, I loved cinematography, loved art, and so I stopped and went to film school. And cinematography was my focus, but because I had such an art background, I got roped in to a lot of design and a lot of art department and special effects and stuff like that.
When we moved to Austin, that’s when the whole Mondo thing hit, their Star Wars stuff, that’s when I saw my first screen-print. I try to avoid any Mondo talk because, we’re not associated, we’re competition technically, but at the same time, I’ve got to respect what they do because that was my first exposure. I’m a big Star Wars guy, and I saw that Star Wars series, I was like oh man, that’s something else
Mark: I found out about screen-prints through gig posters, people like Jay Ryan and Leia Bell out in Utah and that lead me to Mondo. Translating gig posters to film posters kind of revived the notion of true art created for movie posters, really on the right track.
N.E.: Absolutely, it was like a lightening bolt for me, I can’t believe that this is not something. Obviously, when I got into it, it was still on its uptick!
Mark: How come in all these years of business you’ve never made a Videodrome screen-print, with the name of the company being New Flesh?
N.E.: I have a file of a partially done Videodrome poster. I haven’t gotten to it yet; I’m going to do one. But the thing is, but because our name is New Flesh, because of our reverential respect for that movie, it’s got to be like the most awesome Videodrome poster ever. The Jay Shaw one is pretty spectacular. So it’s not that it’s not going to happen, it’s that it has to be done, and it has to be done right.
Mark: All the early Cronenberg stuff is so weird. I grew up on that stuff.
N.E.: Scanners, The Brood, all those movies are so good…my favorite movies are classics, but my favorite horror movie is Alien. I’m a huge Alien fan. It’s the cinematography, we have Blade Runner, Seven, Alien, Metropolis, all these movies to me, are to me are the highest art that you can create. Visually my artistic inspiration comes from, Darius Khondji, Jordan Cronenweth, those are the artists that speak to me most.
Mark: We spoke earlier in the conversation about commissions. I’m curious where you see your business going? Do you see more private commissions?
N.E.: That’s the thing man, it’s a vicious cycle. Ultimately, when you do a commission; people do want the definitive poster for the property. One of the original reasons I wanted to do commissions was freedom, with regular prints there are a lot of the legal restrictions with the likenesses, the logos, the building block, etc…With commissions, because of the private nature of the sale you avoid most of that risk. That freedom can also hurt the need for creativity. It to needs have likenesses…what reference can we fit in that’s iconic, that witty thing, you got to have all the main actors. I come from a place where I’m left to my own devices, it’s usually a scene. From an angle that wasn’t even in the movie, for instance look at The Birds or at The Exorcist.
Mark: They’re moments.
N.E.: They’re moments. You’re just trying to get an impression of the tone. That is all I’m trying to do. When I do the commissions, it becomes something else.
Not that I don’t like the final art, it just has been influenced.
I recently finished Star Wars print… it became an official Star Wars print from something that wasn’t necessarily intended to be official. I was asked if I was willing to have it submitted to be official, I’m like sure. The prints are actually on their way to Lucas Films right now. It’s been approved, but at the same time, it’s very different from the piece of art that I originally made.
Mark: Unfortunately, design by committee is too often a water-downed version of the artist’s vision.
N.E.: Don’t get me wrong. I’m still very proud if the art. I’m am proud of what I have been able to do.
I set certain goals for myself. I don’t know what age it was but, I always wanted to do something official that was Star Wars related. After all this time it’s happening, I have a Star Wars print coming. Another goal was that I wanted to sell a painting for more than $1,000. I’ve done that. There are certain benchmarks I set for myself. My first goal when I started doing prints was that I wanted to have a poster that’s official, and that I printed myself. I don’t know if there’s anybody who’s done that. Those Pacific Rim prints I did, I printed in my garage.
N.E.: It’s an official movie poster that’s hanging in ILM, right now, one of the guys at ILM wrote me he hung it. It was printed in my garage, that’s something.
Mark: That’s so great that you got those things checked off. If you could do anything print wise that you wanted, what would your piece be? Another Star Wars?
N.E.: The Star Wars thing, yeah I would do more for sure. I hope to do a series.
Mark: Are you allowed to reveal any of this Star Wars Lucas approved art, or is it secret now till they release them?
N.E.: The print is being released through Bottleneck so it is up to them what goes out. I actually got an email last night from that, that I can officially tease it.
Mark: Is this part of a new show for Bottleneck? Or is it a separate thing?
N.E.: No. It’s a general release. So it was originally just going to be a print for them, it was going to be a for NY Comic Con for last year…Fast forward months and months later, the prints are printed, they’re at the gallery waiting.
Mark: Oh, my God.
N.E.: Yeah, it’s a huge project for me. I’ve have been fortunate so far. My Pacific Rim poster was approved, no changes. I was told that it was the only Odd City Pacific Rim poster that didn’t have huge changes to it. Ironically, it was probably the least popular one… I don’t think people are necessarily killing for it, but I was proud of it for what it was…I had to print 200 or 300…and it took me, I want to say, four or five days to print that. Four 16 hour days, in the Texas summer.
Mark: Wow, and in the garage no less!
N.E.: I have a little air conditioner, but I live in Austin, and it was probably 98 degrees, it was hot. Now I have humidity indicators and temperature gauges. You have to watch those things or your paper shrinks or expands. I have learned so much from when I first started. If you look at my prints now, compared to my early stuff, there is a huge difference. That early stuff has a lot of heart but, it is really brute. My printing now is a lot better than it was.
Mark: So besides Star Wars, I know you’re working on this Die Hard commission, have you got anything else that you can speak about or tease that’s coming up?
N.E.: I have a Clockwork Orange thing that I did for Spoke Art, it’s just a general release it’s not for a gallery show. It’s just going to drop it in one of their emails or something. That’s finished, it just needs to be printed and I was supposed to print it this past weekend, but I don’t know what I was thinking, they needed 100 copies and I only ordered 100 sheets of paper.
Mark: So you can’t screw up!
N.E.: You always have to have a little bit extra to have your hundred. I also learned with this tube sale that it’s good to have extra copies, so people who miss it the first time or there’s that chance or having it for a tube sale. I didn’t know the sale was going to be as popular as it was. Seemed like people were pleased for the most part.
Mark: As a proud recipient of your tube sale I was very happy to get a Gold Night of the Living Dead and Fight Club.
N.E.: I’m glad! I try to do my best to give everybody something. The Night of the Living Dead, was important for me to put in as I know no one had it unless they got it from the sale.
Mark: I think you went above and beyond dude. Not all the artists out there doing what you do, would have taken the extra time and care to do what you did with the tube sale.
N.E.: Well, I’ll be honest with you. I have a real problem with some artists and I love those other guys but, I’ve got a real problem when you can’t take the time to combine shipping for people because it’s too much effort for you or your wife or whatever.
N.E.: I think it’s an important part of the business to make sure that people are happy with what they are getting…All you have is your customers or the people who are into the art. Even if they only buy one poster you still have to make sure they don’t feel ripped off.
Mark: That’s a very good point and being part of the collector crowd myself, it’s a very fussy bunch at times. They are very particular about the condition of the stuff they get, what they get, and when they get it. It’s a hard crowd to please. So I know what you’re up against as an artist sending out stuff.
N.E.: Yeah, honestly I’ve been really fortunate. I haven’t lost too many things and especially I have not lost anything (knock on wood) that’s been irreplaceable. I always have back-ups and all that stuff. Now if it’s something like I did with The Exorcist variant that were signed and I can’t make more. That’s a different story.
Mark: You can’t exactly get Mr. Friedkin to come over to your garage and sign some more?
Mark: I would love to see you do a Sorcerer print someday. I love that movie. I saw the one that Friedkin signed that Jay Shaw did.
N.E.: Yah, I saw that. I didn’t have a chance to go to the screening. He actually said something and I hadn’t seen the movie when I was given the offer and he’s like if you want to do that you’ve got the same feel with The Exorcist or just do it, same thing with French Connection. Problem is I don’t want to go back to the same well too many times.
Mark: For Sure!
N.E.: I been thinking about trying to do a director’s series and have that kind of be the first print, technically a variant version and get a director to sign them, a director’s collection.
Mark: That would be awesome.
Mark: So fans can sometimes also be punitive. I remember when Martin Ansin did his Frankenstein, it was a little bit different style than his Dracula and Mummy poster. And no one seemed to want it.
NE: Yes that is hard. In my opinion, I don’t necessarily have a go to style. I mean do you want a pen and ink like Night of the Living Dead? Or do you want a painted piece like Fight Club? Or a line work thing like Jake? I have a bunch of different go tos. I also have the kind of format of a large likeness at the top and a scene at the bottom like Prometheus.
Mark: So the glue that holds your work together, is your exploration of these moments, these kind of singular moments from these films you’re illustrating. It’s a thread that goes through your work. Choosing and exploring moments from the film that you think are visually interesting?
N.E.: Right. The tone or the feeling of a moment is ultimately the glue not a particular style. That is a risky way of thinking. I like to take chances, but right now I’m in a position where I can’t do that necessarily safely, because it’s all economics. This is what I do for a living, I need to work, but at the same time everything’s changed so much. Because of the output from Mondo, the output from Gallery 1988 etc., a whole lot of posters are coming out. There are a lot of people who only buy Mondo posters from a few of their artists. So if it’s not something that flips for $300 or something that’s going to immediately knock their Martin Ansin Taxi Driver off the wall, they’re not going to buy it.
Mark: I like the fact that you’re this independent artist and shop, kind of David to Mondo’s Goliath. I think you should keep it up. Big guys need to have those smaller competitors nipping at their shins.
N.E.: I’m the alternate, alternative! I mean I try my best! Yeah, it’s exciting. I’m in a situation, where as long as I can keep the balls in the air, I’m doing fine…I really appreciate everybody who has given me the benefit of the doubt. Even, the sub thing is a huge risk for people. I mean it’s a lot of money. And I’ve been thinking about doing another one just because for me it’s a good thing to have people on your side looking forward to what’s going to happen next. I mean you kind of have those people who have a vested interest in your creativity, which gives you fuel to produce.
Mark: I completely get that and I look forward to what’s coming next from you!
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