The following piece originally appeared in the Sunday edition of the Festival 8 Express.
Longtime Phish poster artist Jim Pollock is on site at Festival 8 presenting a gallery of his work for the band. He has also donated original artwork as a grand prize in HeadCount’s Reality Check trivia game show, which will be held all weekend, and concludes at the Tournament of Champions before Phish’s final set on Sunday. The Express sat down with the artist for a discussion about his craft, long association with Phish, his gallery exhibitions in various cities and of course, his work presented at Festival 8’s WaterWheel table gallery, where four Pollock original Halloween masks will be displayed, along with gallery of his work.
Like many artists you did not start out this way. At Goddard College in Vermont, you began on a more structured path.
Yeah, I did a little bit of computer programming, but then I was always doing the Phish merch. Something started to click when I started doing the posters and stuff like that. It’s actually a combination of things. I have a son, and it was very helpful to do a job that I could work at night, and then take care of my son during the day. I parlayed that into full-time activity. My wife became a writer, too. She writes children’s books, and books for teachers. We decided to go it on our own at one point when my son was around 4, and we started our business.
Luckily, it’s been a terrific year with [Phish] coming back. I’ve actually had other jobs come up, not necessarily related to Phish, but it’s been a very busy year for me with Phish coming back and other things being thrown at me.
At festivals, you are holding these nice, friendly conversations with fans, and the whole time, you’ll be working your craft, and creating art. I’ve always been fascinated by that process because it is almost medieval in the best possible way when a craftsman would work amongst the villagers, and it was quite commonplace.
Yeah, I found that really early on when I did the Great Went. People really respond when people are working, and doing their thing. It definitely offers a different view of how the art process works. Unfortunately, this weekend, I’m not going to be printing. I was lucky to get everything done, actually (laughs).
I created a couple of posters for the merch. I did this new thing that I dreamed up with a friend of mine. There are two posters—one is a 3-D poster. We were thinking it would be cool to make a mask, and use 3-D glasses to be able to see through the mask, and see this poster. However then I re-thought it and I didn’t think that people would wear these masks with 3-D glasses the whole time.
I created these masks as a fundraiser for WaterWheel. We wanted to create a cheaper, more inexpensive type of merchandise to raise money for that. It’s a series of four masks that I created. This is the first time I’ve done die cuts, which is cutting the paper down to shapes. I made these fashion glasses, and put double-sided Scotch tape on them to stick on a mask, and they came out really cool. I was pleased with them. I’m hoping people really like this. Beth Montuori [Rowles from Phish, Inc.] helps out with WaterWheel, and we came out with this notion. This should be fun. It obviously goes along with the Halloween theme.
And it is all tied in with HeadCount’s Reality Check trivia game, too, right?
Yeah, I’m going to be donating some art for the winners of their contest. I did something last year for HeadCount, too. It was when they were trying to get people signed on as voters. They did a great job. Every little bit helped. Fortunately, you know, the winds were going our way, as they say. Yeah, it was really good.
I want to work more with them. I like that whole notion of making people a little more politically engaged at a rock concert. I always feel like, outside of people who go to concerts and stuff like that, it’s hard to talk to people. I make business contacts, and different types of connections and stuff like that at these rock shows, but it’s true—it’s a social gathering, and there’s a lot of very interesting people wanting to do some interesting projects there. I love to talk with the people. There are always all kinds of things that go on as a result of all of those conversations.
Let’s look at your evolving creative process in relation to this phenomenon. What has influenced your artistic choices over the years?
I think it’s all serendipity. I think it’s a little like Phish. For close to 15 years, I had done T-shirt designs and stuff like that, and actually, when my wife was doing teacher education, she was doing methods of teaching art, and one of them was to do a linoleum block. I had always wanted to, but never gotten around to it. A lot of my influences are from the printmaking medium like Rembrandt, Albrecht Durer, and a lot of the German Renaissance artists. I had looked at it as inspiration, but had never done any printmaking. I started around 1994, and just never stopped, mainly linoleum carving.
I’m not sure. I guess I’m assuming I was a printer in a previous life, or something like that. (laughter) I hang around print shops and love print nerds. I don’t know. I’m into the older process, an older type of print style. Most of the stuff that I’ve done recently is in a letterpress style. Some stuff that Phish has done for merchandise has been silkscreen, but generally, I’ve done linoleum, and now I do other types of plates, but all letterpress.
Like I said, it’s kind of serendipity. I started doing it and then realized that there aren’t many poster artists that really even work in letter press. Most people use silkscreen, and I think that really helps me stand out from other poster artists. It’s just very helpful. The actual printmaking medium is part of my style, basically. It’s what people come to expect, which is cool. Totally not planned; it just happened. It’s crazy that way.