NOT BEING ABLE to drive, read, or use a cell phone could be hard to imagine for anyone, but how would the sudden loss of sight affect an artist? How could someone who relies on eyesight for work go forward when everything looks like a 20-pixel Gaussian blur in light grey?
Listen to this month’s AAA Podcast #17 to find out. What emerges is a story of one person who had the luck, drive, and talent to rise to the top of the field only to lose a key part of the necessary “equipment:” eyesight. The better part of the tale is the return from the edge with the help of family, a network of gig poster friends, some tech upgrades, and the application of workarounds (the screen printer’s friend). The podcast also touches on a parallel, if less personal, story of loss and adaptation.
The guest is Richie Goodtimes, a name you might recognize if you’re into gig posters. Regardless, Richie is part of the wider screen printing family — your family. He’s had a long journey as a textile and poster production artist, falling under the influence of those icons of rock poster art Frank Kozik (RIP) and the Firehouse crew of Chuck Sperry and Ron Donovan (RIP) just when the gig poster “rebirth” caught fire in San Francisco in the late ‘90s.
One hub of this community was a website that changed his life, my life, and the lives of a many others in this space: gigposters.com (GP). In the era before smartphones, FaceTwit, TicTube, and podcasts (yeah, I know – “shut up, Grandpa”), the GP forums were legendary as a pure source of information for aspiring flatstock printers and graphic artists worldwide.
This was a place of open sharing, inspiration, and one-upping with “Poster of The Week.” There was an archive of cross-referenced bands, artists, and hundreds of thousands of images. Leading pros answered the questions of newbies and seasoned players alike, crushed them with sarcasm, reprimanded them for not searching the forums with questions that already had been answered, and encouraged everyone with good advice.
Richie was one of those pros. He and a few others schooled all the kids on seps, tricks, and shortcuts in Photoshop and Illustrator as screenprinting artists and printers made the transition from Exacto blades, rubylith, and stat cameras to computer design and inkjet output. If you hung around, asked the right questions, read the answers, and tried it out in the privacy of your own workspace, you learned. Many people even prospered, going on to succeed by putting their knowledge and connections to work in the real world of merch ’n’ marketing. As the late, great Frank Kozik once remarked, “It’s the way the internet was supposed to work.”
Richie has worked out a distinctive style for his own art, combining vivid imagery and bold DayGlo colors with a cryptic sense of humor. In the podcast, we talk about how he approaches making it easy for the printer, minimizing the number of screens, maximizing visual impact, and more.
Of course, like most good human-made things, we wrecked GP. It became a victim of spammers, scammers, and the siren call of the new social media – fast-food takeout to replace a sit-down, full-course meal. The archives and forums vanished when the site got sold, another victim of digital devolution.
However, the community continues to thrive. The rock poster/lowbrow art ethic and the ephemera (posters, shirts, collectible toys, retro movie posters) changed the visual landscape of society and advertising and remains influential today. Flatstocks, those gatherings of the tribe at major music events worldwide, bridged the online world and physical reality, and kept the GP spark alive by igniting the careers of hundreds of artists and printers around the world.
Richie’s own spark continued to burn bright as well. After 20-odd years of hard living and pushing pixels, he had finally perfected certain parts of his sep game, tamed some of his demons, got a good relationship going with his kids, and got a steady job at a nationwide merch company near Philadelphia.
Then it all changed overnight this past January. “We’re not sure what happened to my eye,” he says. “I woke up one day and it felt stiff and then it rapidly swelled up. I had a staph infection but the doctor’s aren’t sure why. There was no visible trauma. My eye that remains has a birth defect and has never worked correctly, and that’s all I have now. The optic nerve was destroyed through the pressure from the swelling on what was my once good eye.”
As fun as it is to recall ‘the good old days’ of GP, the sudden loss of sight left Goodtimes in a bad way. And isn’t this part of the new reality for many of us? We age, our bodies break down, and all around us we start losing people. I just hit 70, and it’s disconcerting to go to the chemo ward and run into people you know. Reading the obits is a terminal case of “whatever happened to …?” But people Richie’s age (late 40s) and younger seem to be experiencing their fair share of grief. We all deal with it in different ways.
This set of seps shows how Richie uses fluorescent inks to achieve what can’t be done with standard process colors. In a world of bland photoshopped pablum, his posters scream, “Look at me!”
“It’s miserable and it’s uncomfortable all the time,” he says. “I’m adapting but I wake up every morning and realize that it’s gonna be this shit again. Everything is on the verge of being in focus, but never gets there. The world is fuzzy. I’m using two 40-inch monitors and everything is blown up comically large. It looks like I’m using Fisher-Price Photoshop. When I really need to get into something, I use the magnifier on my iPad and hold it up to the monitor to see like stray pixels and edges.”
“The technical side of my work is probably the most interesting thing, in my opinion,” he continues. “Not much has changed in how I work. I was really slow at first and I’m not as fast as I was, but I’m getting there. One thing that has changed is that I’m way more careful now and spend way more time checking my work, since I’m unsure and it’s hard to see the big picture. I’m not getting any complaints from the people who are printing my seps, so that’s good. Mainly, I have a couple of different procedures that I can draw from depending on what I’m looking at. Before I’d lost my sight I’d developed a technique for the creation and separation of my own work that’s ridiculously elegant.”
PHOTO GALLERY (9 IMAGES)
Let’s Talk About It
Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry
LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.
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