Alan Ashcraft is a graphic designer and commercial artist. Over the last 6 years he has designed merch, album artwork, tour posters, and even skate decks for several bands, solo artists, and record labels. His work has a crisp graphic style and…ah, hell..let’s cut to the chase…he did a shirt for the Ultimate Warrior!!! In addition, he is in the progressive symphonic metal band Across The Sun on Metalblade. Time to spend some time with Alan…
Which came first visual arts or music?
Music came approximately four or five years before art. However, I’ve always had a deep curiosity regarding graphic design and more specifically, merchandise design.
Who are your artistic influences?
When I first began immersing myself in the world of art, I found myself marveling at the work of Derek Deal and his then design studio, Altair Industries. I loved his graphic compositions that, more often than not, were devoid of any hand drawn elements. His merch designs for In This Moment, and Phoenix Mourning, at the time, put my jaw on the floor.
Currently, I’m finding new influences everyday. Being a part of design communities such as Band Job, and Mintees, opens me up to the work of several talented artists that I, otherwise, wouldn’t not be privy to.
What words best describe your artistic style?
Organized, sharp, versatile.
It seems like you work in various styles…what is your favorite stuff to do?
I love to mix it up. My preferences in design styles come and go. Currently, I’ve been having a blast working within a more “Americana” theme. Soft, textured artwork that would have seen in the late 50′s early 60′s, but with a modern composition. It doesn’t hurt that it’s somewhat popular right now as well.
What materials do you use? Is everything done on the computer?
I generally sketch out my ideas on paper to get an idea of the correct shape, and structure of the design I’m attempting. When I’m content with my preparation, and feel confident enough to begin bringing the art to life, I commence piecing it all together in Photoshop.
Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
While I may have a specific idea that I want to attempt, in my head, I try not to prohibit the design from taking shape on its own. In this practice, I find myself producing organic, and natural artwork. Even after I consider a design finished, I may come back to it a day later and see if there’s any room for improvement.
What bands have you done work for?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Circa Survive, Innerpartysystem, Across The Sun, The All American Rejects, Stray From The Path, The Ultimate Warrior, 36 Crazyfists, and many others.
What is your favorite project that you have done?
Without a doubt, that would be the layout for my band, Across The Sun’s album, Before The Night Takes Us. The pressure was on since it was our debut album on Metal Blade Records. I worked tirelessly to complete the giant fifteen panel layout in a very short period of time. In the end, it’s something I couldn’t be more proud of. Everyone at the label, and the rest of the band have expressed how happy they are with it as well.
Do the bands give you any direction?
Some bands will give me an amazing art brief. Others will not. I prefer to be given some direction, but I always tell my clients “specifics kill the art.” I feel as though I produce my best work when given a vague outline of the emotion and theme that the client hopes for me to capture. This provides some breathing space for me to be the artist that the client is hiring. Being too particular can result in sterile, uninteresting design.. the bane of my existence.
What merch companies have you worked for?
GoMerch, Cinder Block, and Bravado.
Do you have any advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
Don’t rush the process. You won’t find yourself working for your favorite band right off the bat. Sharpen your skills before approaching a record label or merch company. You will need to continually knock it out of the park for bigger clients if they’re going to keep you around.
What are you currently working on?
Right now I’m working on a few merch designs for Modern Rebellion, a clothing company owned and operated by Jason Mageau (Blk Heart Records) and Tim Lambesis (As I Lay Dying).
How do you balance being in the band Across the Sun and doing freelance art?
They work well together. Being in Across The Sun, and touring the country helps me meet many of my future clients. Also, designing on my laptop from the road is fairly convenient, and a very rad way to score food money while being away from home. I’m always aware of how lucky I am to have more than one passion my life currently, and by doing that, it makes the balancing act very simple.
Give us three words that best describe Across the Sun?
Epic. Symphonic. Metal.
Who are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
Three of my favorite bands are: Deftones, Katatonia, and Trenches. Currently, I’m listening to City & Colour – Little Hell, and This Will Destroy You – Tunnel Blanket.
Name one artist you would you like to see interviewed on Metal Band Art and why?
I’d love to see Raul from merchgrinder.com interviewed. I’ve worked with him on projects in the past. He’s a designer that I respect, and has several hilarious stories about the 13 years he was incarcerated for male prostitution (that last part may or may not be true).
Check out more of his work at: itcamefromthesky.net