A key part of the live music community are the artists who create posters, pins, and other work to commemorate the events. This month, we’re featuring local artist Maria DiChappari!
What was your first memorable interaction with art – whether it be illustration, painting, music, film, or any other sort?
I’m proud to say that my father played a large role in my life in terms of sparking my love for music and art. First off and most importantly, he introduced me to the Beatles when I was a little girl (thanks dad)! I remember at three years old, he would pop his vinyl’s in the record player and I would listen, full of joy and excitement. Pennylane is the first song I really remember feeling connected to. I guess that is when my love for music began to bloom. I’m not sure if my dad is even aware, but the hours he spent sitting with me every night helping me color in my coloring books turned out to have a huge impact on creating the foundation of my artistic abilities. I don’t have too many memories of being three, but those have always stayed with me.
How did you start getting into poster illustration, specifically for live music events?
I attended college in Burlington, Vermont, studying Multimedia & Graphic Design and was constantly going to live shows at the Higher Ground and Nectars. I always admired the funky concert poster illustrations that decorated the walls inside the Higher Ground and would think to myself “How amazing would it be to create concert posters”? Eventually I joined the Nectars street team and after getting to know the guys that worked there, I asked them if I could design some concert posters and they agreed. I was ecstatic. I loved seeing my artwork hanging all around town and campus! That was when I got my first taste of concert poster design and when I realized it was a path I wanted to pursue. After I had graduated, I moved to Boulder, Colorado and landed a job designing concert posters for venues throughout the country. It was perfect timing and exactly what I was looking for. I was then able to combine both my loves for music and design. I just love when everything aligns the way it’s supposed to; it feels like confirmation from the universe that you are in the right place. It was that position where I really began to develop my skills and love for concert poster design.
Working as a freelance artist, how do you choose which acts and shows to create posters for?
Back when I was only freelancing, I would design as many posters as I could. The deciding factor was whether or not I would be attending the show because most of the time I would sell my posters after the show. At that time I had the freedom to attend more concerts so I was able to create a great amount of posters. The more concerts I saw, the more inspired I became so the ideas were flowing pretty easily. Now that I have a full time job in addition to freelancing, I have to choose the concert more wisely. The questions I ask myself now are “Is there anything special about the date or venue?” For example, a New Years show, Halloween, or anything else of significance.
In your eyes, what is the connection between concert artwork and the music itself?
I think that they are both reflections of each other, just in different forms. They complement one another – like peanut butter and jelly! Also, from an artist’s perspective, you have to tap into the same energies to find that place of inspiration and creativity when creating both art and music. Once the match gets lit, my sense of time and space all disappear, sending me into “the zone” and opening up my spirit to all the endless possibilities. From the outlook of both a designer and someone who plays music… that is personally where I find the connection. They both put me in the same, centered state of mind.
Every concert is a unique event with its own vibe – what is your inspiration in style, form, or subject matter for a piece that you create before the show?
My inspiration comes from a number of different places, such as the time of year in which the concert is taking place, the location, the venue and even the date – if it has any special meaning. All of those factors play a huge role in shaping how the design turns out. For example if the concert is taking place in the winter, I try to go with colder colors, such as hues of blues, grays, whites and black. (You can check out my Phish poster at Madison Square Garden in 2011 to see a great example of how I used that color palette). In terms of my inspiration in style or form, I honestly feel like I have no control over that. It’s not something I am too conscious of – it just kind of flows out of me naturally.
Where does a piece begin – is it a sketch? An idea? A color palette?
It usually begins with an idea. What inspires me most before I begin designing is a good conversation! So I’ll usually call up a friend, pour myself a cup of tea, throw some music on and just get lost in conversation. I usually try to bounce ideas off of them while I brainstorm; it really helps me get my creative juices flowing. Coming up with the idea is always the hardest part for me. As soon as I’m confident in the idea everything else falls right into place. Something I do find amusing is that the design rarely ends up looking like it does in my head. It’s almost as if the design creates itself and I am just the vessel.
Have there been any particular pieces of yours that you felt perfectly captured the show, looking back on it afterwards?
The first piece that comes to mind is my Phish poster from their Halloween show in Atlantic City back in 2010. My goal was to convey that dark and creepy Halloween vibe throughout the design. I did so by applying a black, white and red color scheme to the poster. I also used imagery of a mischievous woman (wearing a Fishman dress) in the middle of the night with the city skyline, flying bats and a giant moon shining vibrantly behind her. I feel like it captured the shows that weekend perfectly because the band also embodied the spirit of Halloween, with their eerie, ominous jamming and busting out songs such as Ghost, Spooky and Big Black Furry Creature from Mars. And wow what a weekend of incredible music that was! I still have sweet dreams of the Chalkdust Torture>Whole Lotta Love>Chalkdust Torture!
Freelance or “third-party” art for events is a huge market, and as such there are some copyright restrictions you have to work around. Can you speak briefly about what those are? Do you think that they are fair? Have you ever felt that they inhibit your creative process?
It can definitely be challenging at times to work around copyright restrictions. Not being able to use a bands logo or photograph means I need to dig deeper into my creativity, think outside the box and find a way to portray what show the poster is for without crossing any lines. Of course I would be able to explore more design ideas if I were allowed to incorporate the band name on the poster, but I have never considered it as inhibiting my creative process; it’s more of a small hurdle to hop over. Do I think it’s fair? Absolutely. The band owns the rights to their name and images so they can handle those rights however they please. I’m just grateful I am able to create poster art and share it with everyone.
Are there any artists in particular who have inspired your style?
Oh there are just so many! I don’t know if I can say that they inspired my style per say, but they have definitely inspired me to pursue concert poster art and push me to continue to grow as an artist. I would say some of those artists are Stanley Mouse (who I got to sit with during an art exhibit years ago in Vermont and watch him draw, it was an unforgettable experience), Wes Wilson, Bob Masse, Mucha (and everything Art Nuveau) EMEK, Chris Shaw, Darren Grealish…I could go on forever but those are my main squeezes!
Why is live music important to you?
The best things in life usually can’t be explained! And this is definitely one of them. Live music to me is truly one of the greatest things I have in this life. I don’t even know where to begin to answer this, but I’ll give it a shot…
Live music is one of the few things that has ever really resonated with me. No matter what is happening in my life, live music has always given me this sense of well-being and comfort. I experience it as a form of therapy and most importantly, celebration.
I am the type of person who is constantly in my head, thinking and over-analyzing. Typical girl, I know! Live music allows me to be in the moment and forget about everything else. It quiets my mind and calms my spirit. The same goes for when I’m designing, painting, or playing my guitar; it helps me to be in the now. It’s the greatest form of meditation for me.
There is also nothing more exciting than being completely absorbed in the music and then looking around you to see everyone else dancing and smiling, knowing that they are all on the same level as you. I love that feeling of connectedness. It makes me feel like I am surrounded by thousands of friends. Where else can you feel something like that? I just feel so much love. I think it all comes down to the love. Yes, that’s my answer. Live music is important to me because of the love. It’s the best feeling. Ever.
What was your most memorable concert experience?
The first memory that comes to mind is when I saw Phish at IT back in 2003. It was my very first Phish festival and I was there with all of my closest friends. We danced and laughed all day and all night, well into the next morning. The music was undeniably on point and being that it was my first Phish festival, it was the beginning of a whole new world for me.
One moment in particular that I keep close to my heart is during the 2nd night when the band began playing “The Lizards” (my favorite Phish song! And still the only time I have ever heard it live!) I was surrounded by all of my friends who I love SO much. We were dancing and smiling, the wind was blowing gently in the summer heat and the stars were shining brightly; it was such a magical moment. So peaceful and beautiful. I remember then turning to my friend Krissy and saying “I wish this moment would never end”. I wanted to freeze that moment in time. It was just so perfect.
We’d like to give a big thanks to Maria for taking to the time to speak with us! If you’re interested in checking out more of her work, Maria has her work available through Ebay and Etsy!