Flatstock 43 in Austin

It’s South by Southwest time in Austin and for me that means it’s time for my annual visit to the Flatstock poster show. As always, the show was great, but every year it seems harder to get to than the year before as SXSW spreads out over more and more of Austin with ever more ridiculous numbers of bearded hipsters in attendance.

This time I had to park more than a mile from the convention center and use Uber to summon a pedicab to get me from my parking place to the convention center. Took a while, but it was worth the extra effort.

Many of the same poster designers and publishers were participating as in previous years, including Jacknife Posters from the UK with a bunch of new designs,  Voodoo Catbox and the prolific Robert Lee of Methane Studios with some great new posters continuing his series of tour posters for Queens of the Stoneage and Lords of Death Metal.

Some things were very different from previous years.  Whether it was conscious selection or coincidence, some of the more unusual artists from past years were not present, including the exclusion of all artists working in more non-traditional media like spraypaint and stencil.  Almost everything was silk-screened or digitally printed.

There were also some interesting trends on display.  A lot of the collections featured triptychs or diptychs – much more so than in previous years.  The subjects were also heavily dominated by certain bands, particularly Queens of the Stoneaage, St. Vincent, the Black Keys, Eric Church, High on Fire and rather surprisingly 80s costume metal oddity band Gwar. Flatstock requires that participants have some posters from rock shows to qualify to participate, but it seems clear that certain bands are much more committed to having cool posters for their shows than others are.

The overall quality of design was as high as or higher than previous years, with artists from as near as Austin and Houston and as far away as England and Germany. Among those who stood out were John Vogl at thebungaloo.com, Carolos Hernandez at carloshernandezprints.com, Billy Perkins and Jackknife Posters from Bristol in the UK.

One interesting oddity among the interesting collage-style posters from John Howard of MonkeyInk was a collection of special posters designed to recognize the work of various project teams at Mozilla, each with a monkey theme and made exclusively as rewards for Mozilla’s volunteer designers – an interesting diversion from endless rock posters.

Another notable trend was the increasing prominence of original art in the featured designs. Unfortunately this included far more reliance on original hand lettering and less use of poster fonts. Sad for us when our fonts were featured prominently in past years. This year the only example I saw was in the novelty Lord of the Rings poster to the right, which features our Scurlock font in the title.

All told a great show with an overwhelming assortment of poster art. If a Flatstock comes anywhere near you take a day to attend. It’s worth the time.

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