Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jiggs Digs: PhanArt

Jiggs Digs will be a new feature here at the blog highlighting various things in and around the Phish community. I’d like to use the “interview format” for this feature. I feel like this gives the person or people a chance to explain things in their own words. I’d very much like this to be a monthly feature, but if time allows I may make more than one post in a month.

I thought we would start with the most obvious one: PhanArt. If you have been part of the Phish Internet community for any time at all, then you have at least heard of PhanArt. But, what or who is it exactly? What is it for? 

PhanArt started as a book, which was the brainchild of long time Phish fan Pete Mason. From Pete’s website:
PhanArt: The Art of the Fans of Phish, is a 400+ page coffee table book featuring over 1600 pieces of Phish fan created art.  Included in the book are over 400 posters, more than 500 shirts, 350+ stickers, and 100′s of license plates, dozens of tattoos, articles, interviews, essays, and other creations Phish fans made from the late 1980s through 2004. This comprehensive collection is a must-have for any Phish fan.  Hundreds of Phish fans and artists worked to contribute to the collection which was laid out and compiled by Author and Editor Pete Mason.” 

1. What was the origin of PhanArt?
On the ride back from Coventry, I had a drive down I-91 where everyone in the car was asleep and I had a few moments to look back on the past few days and what was left behind in the Northeast Kingdom. I'm highly sentimental for even the small stuff and all the relationships and friendships I had made during Phish would surely change, provided we stayed in touch and saw each other. I didn't know the community very well, that of the artists and fans who made posters, shirts, stickers and other fun and creative things...I didn't know them very well and had just gotten into the posters at Hampton with the 'Best Poster Convention' which was fortunately held at my hotel. I didn't want to let this community's creations to slip away into oblivion. Sure, there's expressobeans.com but there was a ton of art that was going to be packed up and stored for the long term since Phish was not coming back any time soon after Coventry. So I had the idea to compile all the art, got advice from close friends and went to work getting in touch with artists in the Phish community and those who collected art, and set about making the book. 

2. How much work was involved in putting the book together?
Way more than I anticipated and way more than some realize. From October 2004 until mid-2008, I was collecting art that I knew about and didn't know existed, so I had literally no idea what was out there beyond that which was made by artists who I was able to reach out to. For example, I knew Ryan Kerrigan from a poster show in Miami in 2003. I met him briefly, bought a print and remembered him when it came time to recruit him for PhanArt. So when he submitted around 40 pieces of art made over the years, that was easy, Ryan is a known artist. 
 
Pete, Noah, and Jim
Now consider a lot shirt that has no name and no one knows the creator of. I had a few of those and there were likely many hundreds of these shirts out there. Asking fans to look through their closets for shirts was the only way to go about it and that netted a great deal of contributions. I will say that a few folks made this task incredibly easier. Warren Baker has a few hundred phish shirts and prints (official and non), Natalie Gasparini contributed 100 pieces of random art, Noah Phence made a lot and collected plus Frank and Christine Cortazzo sent me a few hundred items as well. You sent in a few things very early as well, I remember wondering 'who the heck is named Jiggs?'  Tracking down these collectors (or them tracking down me) led to the book being complete. By the middle of 2008, the amount of art I was looking for and that was submitted dwindled to maybe one submission a day at most. So I got to work on laying out the book using Adobe InDesign. That was a painstaking process but went by fast throughout the fall of 2008. The book was printed in January 2009 and we had the kickoff party on February 7th, 2009.


3. Will there be a second book?
Yes and No. Since the size of PhanArt made the printing very expensive and the cost has since gone up considerably for full color printing, I cant rationalize another book just like the original. Plus, the amount of time it takes to put the book together who curtail all current projects I am working on (A book on music festivals, my website, writing for Upstate Live and other music sites) just to get it done. So an idea I came up with last fall was to have a yearly book produced in e-book form every year in the fall, with a collection of art from just one year at a time presented to fans. It would keep costs low, make the compiling of the art easier and allows for a more collaborative effort in designing the book. Josh Jacobs, a graphic designer from San Diego will be helping with layout and improving the format of the book as we progress. One year at a time is the plan, so 2009 would be released later this year, 2010 in the fall of 2013, and so on. this allows for all the art from those years to be collected without missing out on any art. 

I'm open to printing some version of PhanArt in the future, but I'm not committed to another PhanArt book in print in the near future.

4. What is the most common fan created theme/art/item that you have seen?
Stickers. Over 400 of them are in the book because they are cheap and easy to design - you just need a catchphrase, lyric or word and you're set. They're a cheap and easy way to fun tour if you are serious about it. Woo-Hoo guy used to tour on his Woo-Hoo stickers alone! Shirts though are also common, and will continue to be as more fans get ideas for designs, get availability to silkscreens and make shirts that fans love. 
Woo-Hoo!

5. Is the Phish organization aware of your efforts?
Very much so. When I started the book, I contacted Kevin Shapiro and told him what I was proposing to do. We talked and he suggested that before going any further, I retain legal counsel. This led to a meeting in Burlington with Kevin, Beth and Julia. We had a good conversation about the art, which was in a grey area because fan made art was not authorized by the band, but rather tolerated as long as the art wasn't infringing on the Phish copyrights. They were somewhat receptive to the idea but from their point of view, I was just a fan with an idea. Showing a finished product was more important. My lawyer and Kevin worked out the details after that first meeting and we brought the first draft to them in February 2008 so we could take out the art that was made by Phish that I was otherwise unaware of (this book had to be 100% fan made art, nothing official) and to go over the finer points of publishing a book related to Phish. I sent the band copies, as well as copies for Kevin, Beth and Julia, but have yet to get feedback from the band. One day....

6. What are some of the challenges of running the PhanArt website?
The challenges at first were making sure there was fresh content for the site, since this was a first of its kind in the Phish community. Getting regular contributions, learning code, developing the layout of the site with my brother, all these things were great challenges at first. After some time, things have become quite manageable with the site. Artists who regularly appear on the site send in the info needed (see how to submit your stuff here) and that leads to greater ease in getting things up on the site. 2011 was by far the busiest year for PhanArt but the least challenging and stressful. Word has spread and the response to the site and the art has been tremendous. 

7. If you could change anything about the community, what would it be?
I'd like to see less infringing art. I approached the topic recently after much discussion with artists and friends (Smart Art in the Phish Community). Creativity will flow on its own, but fans, especially those who are newer to the scene need to be aware of the boundaries we have (mostly) respected and need to continue respecting in order for the Phish art community to continue thriving.

8. What’s the most unusual/interesting/memorable interaction you have had as a result of PhanArt?
There are so many memories I have as a result of the book. I've met a ton of fans and had great friendships formed as a result. The most memorable ones are when I'm on the lot or at a show and someone recognizes me and thanks me for the book, website and helping to raise money for Mockingbird. Those are the most memorable for me. 

9. Have you ever had a famous or semi-famous contributor? 
Well the book has Kurt Vonnegut's piece 'Hook Line and Sinker', an intro from Richard Gehr, and art from some of the bigger artists in the Phish community - AJ Masthay, Ryan Kerrigan and TRiPP. I definitely consider them to be famous in their own right, beyond the Phish community as well as within. 

10. What keeps you going? 
Lately, yerba mate and motivation to finish my book on music festivals by late 2013. I truly enjoy all the art the Phish community has to offer and love seeing the donations made to Mockingbird as a result. Continuing to improve the website, keep fans aware of the great art being made and encourage the development of art in the Phish community all keep me moving; it feels good doing all this.


Do you know someone who should be featured in Jiggs Digs?
Email jiggslikesphish@gmail.com and let me know.

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