“Behind the Screens” Screen Print Artist Interview Series
Artist: Joshua Budich Maryland, USA
Mark: I know from your website you went to the University of Maryland for Imaging and Digital Arts, Did you learn to illustrate there? or were you an artist before that?
Joshua: When I went to college I didn’t have plans to be an illustrator, though I’ve been a doodler for most of my life. I went to school when the whole website design thing was a huge craze. So I took my parents’ advice not to become a starving artist. But, I did want to be an artist.
Mark: I’m familiar with that parental advice!
Joshua: I decided I’d do the right thing and have a career as a graphic designer or web designer. It was super exciting at that time, as it was the “wave of the future inevitably all of that tanked! I was doing all of that kind of work for an ad agency here in the Baltimore area and I kind of stumbled upon the work of Shepard Fairey. I’ve been such a huge collector throughout my life. I have an enormous collection of Star Wars action figures.
Mark: I remember you used to show that collection on your website, but I don’t see it there anymore?
Joshua: It’s still there to catch people, but it’s not an active part of my site anymore.
As a collector I stumbled upon Obey Giant and I was like, wow, this a whole collectible type of art. It’s affordable, it’s got edition sizes. At the time I started collecting Shepard’s work, he was not putting out stuff every week, like it seems he and the rest of us do now. This was at the very beginnings of this silkscreen, poster design, movie print collector, fandom thing. At least, for me.
Mark: Did this precede the whole Mondo thing? What time frame is this?
Joshua: Going on probably 7 or 8 years ago, as far as the scene was concerned it was very much near the beginning. I really didn’t know what Mondo was at the time.
Mark: I first discovered Mondo about 2007, right around when you were getting into this.
Joshua: I started with Shep’s work and moved on to everybody else’s. I quickly discovered Tyler Stout’s work and the whole world of Mondo. I also got into Tim Doyle’s work and a couple of other guys. I was sitting in my cubicle wondering how I could work my illustration stuff more into my life… Have a job that was more fulfilling that my job at the ad agency? I made a small investment in doing my own screen prints and it just took off from there. I’ve been doing screen prints for about that last seven years now I think. It’s like a second career for me.
Mark: Do you print you own stuff?
Joshua: No I don’t. I wish I did. It’s something I aspire to do at some point. Right now I leave it up to the experts. I go with the guys who’ve been doing it, as it has a real steep learning curve. As much as I’m a do it yourselfer, I’m going to leave it up to the pros.
Mark: My last Poster Spy interview with N.E., he discussed that he prints in his garage and says it’s brutal in the summertime, in the Austin heat. I get that it’s a lot of work to do it yourself. Who does do your printing?
Joshua: I use Nakatomi, that’s run by Tim Doyle of course. I use them for a lot of my work. They’re the closest screen printer I know of. As far as large format, non-tshirt-related printing, they’re just not out here on the East Coast. I have another guy in LA that also does a work for me. If I have a show at 1988 or Spoke I have to get my prints about three weeks before they are due. I usually have my art done 4-5 weeks before a show. It’s takes about ten days to ship a box of prints from LA to me and then I sign and number them and ship them the back out to the galleries.
Mark: I’ve heard some horror stories from artists about prints being done with the wrong colorways or trimmed wrong and having to re-do stuff close to due dates.
Joshua: I’ve been really fortunate working with Nakatomi and Danny Askar. They are the best, the crème de la crème as far as I’m concerned. Shipping can be tricky. One time I lost 75 prints going from me to LA. They showed up at the gallery with huge dents in the corner. Since then I’ve worked closely with my printers to ensure this doesn’t happen again. If I could ship everything in metal boxes covered in bubble wrap, I would.
Joshua: It was awful. Lost at least ½ of the run.
Mark: I’m a collector too and the last thing we want is a print with any damage.
Joshua: It’s heartbreaking. You put 60-70 hours into something and it all hinges on absolutely nothing unfortunate happening over the course of two trips across the country. I wish I were closer to my printers, so I didn’t have to ship so much.
Mark: Also, investing in shipping in Yazoo Tubes, I can’t tell you how many things have showed up to me crushed or soaked cause some people choose to ship in cheap post office tubes.
Joshua: For me I do everything from the design, to the social media, to the advertising, the website to the fulfillment. Fulfillment is probably my least favorite part of the job
Mark: I’m sure yeah!
Joshua: You have to take a lot pride in both the creation of the artwork and the packaging, which I do. As a collector myself I know the feeling of getting a print that’s been dented, gorilla gripped or something. I want all my stuff to get to my customers, as I’d like to receive it.
Mark: I know customers/collectors are everything to artists. The last thing you want to do be on the receiving end of unhappy customers.
Joshua: Absolutely. I’ve been really lucky in the past seven years of doing this. I’ve had little to no people getting angry. When people do get angry they have a lot of passion about this hobby in particular. Realizing my entire existence in the print game is dependent on my audience, I take a lot of care in making sure they get what they want.
Mark: So I know you became aware of Shepard’s and Tim Doyle’s work early on but where did you draw the influences that inform your style. Was it other artists, comics, films or being a Star Wars fan?
Joshua: I would say growing up as a kid being exposed to all of that, Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee and all those guys doing comics. Comics played a big role. I was always the kid drawing superheroes when I was supposed to be paying attention in class.
Mark: ( Laughs)
Joshua: Yeah, growing up I exposed myself to a lot of art, like high renaissance stuff.
Mark: No kidding. So fine art as well as comic books.
Joshua: I try to be a student of illustration and my style continues to evolve as I expose myself to more and more art. I’ve been accused often of not really having a quote unquote style. I think as I continue to get better at this my style has come out as my confidence has grown.
Mark: That’s interesting to me that people accuse you of not having a style. As a collector of your work, I can definitely recognize pieces as yours. There are some that throw me for a curve. When you did that Steve Zissou portrait with sea anemones for his beard or your recent 2001 piece, or even the Princess Mononoke print from your last Fall solo show.
Joshua: Yeah, I’m an illustrator at heart; I also try to embrace being a designer and choosing what’s best for the composition. So if a piece like 2001 is not heavy on the portraits and is more of a mood piece, it demanded a different technique. It’s my mission to do what’s best for the art rather than force my style on it. For that Steve Zissou piece I wanted it to be a piece about the ocean and the objects within it versus a straight portrait.
I’ve tackled Life Aquatic before and for this one I wanted it to be about the feeling of the film. I do a lot of research, constantly looking at images, scouring the web for stuff that catches my fancy. Something that can give me inspiration.
Mark: You don’t see yourself as having a particular style? I see certain elements that are common in your work; bold use of color, sometimes bold in typography. Certain things that let me know it’s one of your pieces. Or is it just what’s best for the pieces at hand?
Joshua: I think it kind of goes both ways. Whatever is best for the piece and if it’s a piece that I think works with one of the previous styles I’ve uses, or a technique I’ve used then I think that my style for that comes out. If it’s a going to be a portrait heavy piece then I approach portraits the same way every time. Though as I try to get more confident in what I’m doing I try to inject something new into it.
Mark: I think you’re a terrific portraitist as far as doing easily recognizable close to likenesses as anyone out there.
Joshua: Thank you. I really appreciate that.
Mark: Tyler Stout & Drew Struzan are also great at capturing character likenesses, but they are very different stylistically to what you do.
Joshua: Early on in my career when people had more of an expectation of who was doing what, it seemed like I would get compared a lot to other people. As someone then just trying to get into the game you aspire to be those people at the top. Some of my early work is inspired by the work of Shepard Fairey, Tyler Stout and Tim Doyle, with his scenic movie poster types of approaches. Artists would be foolish to say their art was not inspired by something.
Mark: I can recognize those inspirations. Like that Darth Vader piece you did early on looked Fairey like. I can also see Mucha inspiration in some of your work, like for Amy Winehouse and Struzan in the collage style approach to some of your movie prints.
Joshua: I like to pay homage to those guys. Alphonse Mucha is someone I’ve drawn inspiration from many times throughout my life. When I discovered him in middle school I was definitely inspired by his work. I did that Natalie Portman piece from Hotel Chevalier, which drew from Mucha inspiration. It fits, because it’s a French setting and the art nouveau style just fits.
Mark: I think paying homage to great artists of the past and putting your own spin on it is a cool thing.
Joshua: I’m happy to hear you say it like that. During my seven or eight years of doing this, it’s kind of 50/50. There’s a crowd of people that just hate my work and the other half which are buying my stuff. I’ve always thought that’s room for everyone in this game and I don’t think we need to hate on anyone.
Mark: I agree. I also think it’s kind of ridiculous when an artist departs from an expected style that the haters come out. Like Tyler Stout’s did this recent Alien print and it wasn’t like his typical Mondo style or what the fans were expecting and the gloves came off.
Joshua: Yeah, I’m totally on board with that. I don’t ever want to be pegged as a one trick pony. I don’t want to be the guy you come to for portraits and they are always four-color flat shading, that type of thing. I want to be the artist you come to with a design problem, however it needs to be solved.
Mark: I wonder if your ad agency training has to do with that approach? I’ve worked on the production side of TV advertising and it’s always about design problems and considerations and how you’re going to approach them.
Joshua: I think your style, when you’re in that type of environment, evolves quickly and it changes a lot. There’s no way to do things the same way all the time.
Mark: That’s a good lead in to talking about clients. How do you approach projects differently if it’s for a gallery like Spoke or 1988 vs. a private commission?
Joshua: When someone commissions me to do a piece, they usually send along a reference piece of something that they found or like. I kind of get a good vibe from that as to their expectations.
Mark: That’s interesting to me that they give you a reference rather then leave you to your own devices?
Joshua: I’m big on giving myself some self-imposed rules as to how I’m going to get the piece done. I have two kids and two jobs, so I have to give myself restraints in order to get things done in a timely manner. I think it’s good when a client approaches you and says, ‘hey I saw your Indiana Jones pieces and I’d love to commission you for something.’ At that point I kind of know whether it’s going to be a portrait piece and they looking for a halftone technique, or another guy will say I liked your 2010 Life Aquatic, print so maybe they are looking for a flat graphic comicbook’esque look. I look for constraints. This gives me a set of expectations as well as the client.
When I do work for myself or a gallery show, that’s when I really challenge myself to do something different maybe that isn’t wholly expected. That’s where the Steve Zissou piece came out of. A lot of people saw that and said ‘Who did this piece?’
Mark: I really saw the range of what you could do when I saw that piece. It was really quite different for you.
Joshua: I really like the opportunities to do something completely different. I know I sometimes alienate part of my fan group or customers. ‘Why isn’t this like all your other pieces?’
Mark: ( Laughs)
Joshua: Maybe the next one will be what you’re looking for, but right now what I’m inspired by is this. Getting back to your original question, I hope I answered it.
Mark: You did. I’m also curious, you’ve done a lot of Star Wars work. Have you had to deal with LucasFilm? Is all your stuff authorized?
Joshua: (Laughs) Let’s see. The original piece I did, the Darth Vader one, very stencil-like; Shepard Fairey style. That one got a C & D. That one I was not able to sell. It didn’t go off like I had hoped. I did do licensed work for Acme Archives where I did triptychs. The first one “X-wing Jockeys”, and then Princess Leia, in the three different movies…
Mark: And then Scoundrels right?
Joshua: Those are officially licensed pieces and that was awesome. I love that bit of recognition from the actual studio. It’s hard to get away from the occasional piece that’s not licensed. Whether it’s for a gallery or for yourself. A lot of my counterparts; we’re all influenced by the same things. We all kind of grew up in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. Over the top heroes, comics, cartoons. So if you ask me what I’m influenced by and are going to make art about, it’s that stuff. Star Wars is a huge part of my life and now my kid’s lives. It’s something that we share together. I often do pieces for my children and that is a topic I like to do.
Mark: Star Wars is kind of getting a new life at Disney, are you excited for Episode 7? Or are you uncertain about it?
Joshua: I am super excited actually. I can’t wait to share it with my son in same way I loved it when it came out in the late 70’s & 80’s. Now to have this new opportunity to share that with him it’s remarkable and exciting. I love J.J. Abrams so it’s hard for me to say that it would be awful. I’m a huge fan boy!
Mark: I kind of feel the same way. I’m a J.J. Abrams fan and I’m excited to see what he does with the franchise. I’m excited by what little we’ve seen in the teaser trailer so far.
Joshua: Admittedly when I saw that triple bladed light saber, my eyes got misty. How can they reinvent the light saber again, and that was it. It’s a treat that the series is continuing. I can’t wait!
Mark: What do you think of collectives of artists doing alt. poster art, like the Poster Posse? Are you a fan of their work?
Joshua: Yeah, artists just love to be influenced by media. To give artists an outlet to be inspired by even small clips of a trailer of a new film is awesome. A lot of times studios look at this stuff and hopefully it inspires them as well.
Mark: I think the filmmakers enjoy seeing this work as well. It was great to see Brian Singer post up all the alt. art for X-men in his production office as inspiration and to see studios use alt. art for Imax giveaways. It’s great to see this art movement influence studio work. As a longtime collector of movie art it’s also great to see this revival of the craft. I hated when posters went from lithographs to c-prints with bad comping in the mid 1980’s.
Joshua: People are realizing that the studios aren’t putting any kind of real work into their posters. The days of the great studio posters has really tanked. It’s just not what it used to be, but there’s this remarkable group of artists who have come in and filled that void with art prints. It’s inevitable that the studios will have to embrace this. With such large scale movie productions, they really should get somebody who is skilled and talented to capture the film for the poster.
Mark: They seem to be embracing it in a small way. Be great if it happened in a larger way.
Speaking of larger, what is your relationship with Mondo? Have you worked for them or are you a small competitor to what they do?
Joshua: ( hearty laugh) I’m thrilled that you call me a competitor. I wonder if they feel that way too?
Mark: I’m sure they know who you are.
Joshua: I’m good friends with a lot of the guys who do work for Mondo and I have the utmost respect for the artists who have had an opportunity to work with them. I will not, for better or worse, work with them. It’s not for any particular reason. I took a direction early on in the print game and it didn’t converge with Mondo’s vision. On one hand, I wonder what it would have been like if I had had an opportunity to show something to the Mondo audience, as it’s so large. But, on the other hand, I embrace being the guy who is on the outside. I’m not one of the cool kids, but I’d like to think I’m still relevant in the game.
Mark: I think there has to be a strong independent element to rival Mondo. I think Mondo goes back to the same well over and over. I’d like to see them expand their roster of artists. They do expand incrementally, but I’d like to see them draw from a larger pool.
Joshua: I imagine it’s tempting to keep going back to the same talent pool when it’s so incredibly talented. You’re going to go to your guys who are going to sell 600-700 posters every time. Yeah, there are a lot of people doing amazing work out there that looks nothing like we expect from these posters.
Mark: I discover on a weekly basis, new print artists I’ve not been exposed to. There are new people in the last year like Nicholas Delort who are doing striking work that’s not like anything else out there.
Joshua: His work is amazing. I did manage to pick up one of his pieces called The Courage of a Woman. It’s incredible in person. I’m very jealous of that type of level of detail. I imagine it kills your hand to do that. ( laughs) It keeps me motivated to continue to hone my craft.
Mark: I was blown away by his Nosferatu piece. I hadn’t seen anything like that. There are plenty of people doing darker stuff but just not quite like that. Speaking of dark , your work doesn’t seem to go to those places. You’ve done Hitchcock’s Psycho, Game of Thrones, and Twin Peaks, but your art never goes into darkness. Is that a conscience decision?
Joshua: I think in a way it’s very conscience for me. As a kid my parents had strict rules about R rated films, especially horror films so I just didn’t get exposed to it. When I was old enough to watch the film I just didn’t have the interest in it. When I do a piece of a more gory subject matter, I don’t think it translates as well. I don’t feel like it’s genuine, so I shy away from that subject matter. It’s something I don’t have a huge interest in. As a collector I want to believe that the artists I buy work from are completely invested in the subject matter.
Mark: I respect that you feel that way. If your hearts not in it then…Do you have a passion project that you haven’t been able to do?
Joshua: With two young children I have a lot of passion for things that they are into.
I’ve been a huge Pixar fan for a long time. They’ve been looped into the whole Disney machine. I’d love to do a piece for Disney.
Mark: I would love to see you do something in the world of Pixar. I know there’s another Incredibles film in the works. They have put out an amazing amount of quality work.
Joshua: It’s got a real richness to it that I just really love. I do things now with my kids in mind. I watch all their cartoons with them.
Mark: Sounds like you’re a great dad. I introduced my kids to Star Wars and comic books and I’m proud of passing on that passionate geekdom. It makes me smile.
Mark: So anything you can talk about that’s in the pipeline? Any gallery shows coming up?
Joshua: I have a solo show that’s opening in May at Gallery 1988 where I proposed continuing my fictional food series. I’m doing brand new pieces for that. I’ll being continuing the 6”x 6” series, as well as doing some larger character and food based work. I’m also doing Bad Dads again which I love being a part of.
New Gallery 1988 Show “Fictional Food” Teasers
Joshua’s work from previous related gallery shows
Mark: I’m happy that the Bad Dads show is going to be in New York this year. I loved going to the Scorsese Spoke show when it was in New York.
Joshua: Did you come to opening night for Scorsese?
Joshua: You did? I was there.
Mark: Really? Loved that show, I thought that was so cool, that was an amazing show. I heard he showed at some point, I don’t know if he came on opening night or not, but I think he went through. I don’t know if he bought anything, but I know that he was in the house at some point.
Joshua: Yeah, it was really cool. When I showed up, right before the doors opened, they had a bunch of red stickers on stuff and they said that his people had come through and picked out the stuff that he wanted.
Mark: No kidding!
Joshua: He got a lot of stuff. Yeah it was really cool, its always fun when you actually get to interact with the people that you do these pieces for. Like the recent piece that I did for El Rey, for Robert Rodriguez and Francis Ford Coppola.
Mark: I love that by the way, a great piece.
Joshua: Thank you. Yeah he’s actually going see that piece, so I was like, hell yeah, if I can get a piece in front of the guy I’m drawing a portrait of, that’s awesome. That’s totally what I want to do.
Mark: You had a lot of pieces in that Scorsese show, right? Like four or five pieces?
Joshua: I did, I had three pieces that each had a variant, so it was almost like having six.
Mark: I think that’s one of the best of film based shows, around a director or around a film that I’ve seen. Really creative, cool stuff; it’s one of my favorite shows that I’ve seen. I mean the Bad Dad shows are great too…
Joshua: Yeah, it was kind of a long time coming, I was kind of surprised that there wasn’t some other big Scorsese show, like prior to that I can’t remember. But yeah, it’s like when Ken from Spoke came to me and said “y’know we’re going to do this show, and it’s going be in New York,” and I was like, “Yes!” Because I would catch a train to New York; where I have to fly to LA, and like 90% of the stuff I do is on the west coast, and I never get to go. So yeah, Bad Dads being in New York, fingers crossed, you know. As far as I know, it opens in August. So yeah, it should be a fun time. It will be the first one I’ve actually been to. Whenever there’s anything in New York, I’m like yes, I can finally go!
Mark: Do you ever work with Bottleneck Gallery in New York?
Joshua: I think I’ve worked with them, maybe once. But no, not since then. I think I did one, one or two things with them.
Mark: Yeah because if you were going do a solo thing on the east coast, that would be a great place for you to do that.
Joshua: Yeah, definitely.
Mark: Do you ever paint, or do other art for shows, or is it pretty much all screen-printed stuff?
Joshua: For the last few years it’s all been screen printed stuff, but yeah I hear you, I would love to, make an effort to return to pen-and-ink, and maybe coloring with water colors and colored pencils, and just anything that [laughs] anything that I can use that is not a Wacom [laughs]. It would be a really interesting process, to going back to doing that again, I mean things can start to look too digital at a point, so its always nice to get brush strokes, and errant ink somewhere, right now I kind of have to manufacture mistakes [laughs].
Mark: Sure. I remember your Edward Scissorhands piece, that would have looked fantastic as an original pen-and-ink thing, that would have been really cool to see, I think.
Joshua: Yeah, I missed an opportunity with that [laughs].
Mark: You can always go back, right, can’t you?
Joshua: [laughs] Yeah.
We’d like to say a big thanks to Joshua for sitting in for this interview, be sure to follow him on his social networks!
Social Media for Joshua