Milwaukee based artist Jes Seamans is one half of the illustration and printmaking force that is Landland and recently she was named as a core member of The Vacvvm, a brain trust of some of the biggest names in modern art and illustration formed by artist Aaron Horkey and Mitch Putnam (Posters & Toys, Mondo, OMG Posters).
Her first release under The Vacvvm banner is ‘The Wanton Sea,’ a print that revisits and revises a gig poster Seamans and fellow Landland collaborator Dan Black did for the band Baroness’ 2013 summer tour. What Seamans does is take a powerful image and strengthens it — increases the heft and danger. Heightens the calamity. It’s a gorgeous illustration that side by side with the original reads like the division of night and day, of heaven and hell. The same bones, the same beast.
CJ: For your first release through The Vacvvm you recreated the gig poster you and Dan did for Baroness’ 2013 summer tour. Was it a complete redrawing?
JS: Sort of. I started with the original files, but I actually put probably another 50 hours into it, believe it or not. The changes may seem sort of subtle but I would definitely assert that if you put them side by side, the new one is going to look a lot more… finished.
One major difference between the two is the color palette – the Vacvvm version is much more ominous and frightening. The figures on the whale are no longer decorative, but an outer skeleton. It’s a stunning piece and side by side the two create an interesting set – day and night. Aggression and calm. What prompted you to revisit that design? Were you not happy with it on its initial release?
I really liked the Baroness version, but with a gig poster it only makes sense to put so much time into it…and at the time I was still working almost totally analog, so I was even slower then. I knew when I sent off the original files that I wanted to revisit it at some point; I was super excited about the image but at the time it just wasn’t possible for me to put as much into it as I’d have liked. Also, I didn’t want to burden another printer with tons of extra layers an all that.
I guess I just felt like I wanted to spend more time with the thing and make all my own decisions; not worry about an imagined audience at all. I put a lot more penises into this new one, and then I took most of them out. You can’t waste that kind of time on a gig poster.
With Landland, you and Dan are in complete control of the printing process, but for the Baroness poster printing was done by Burlesque of North America. With the Vacvvm version, printing was handled by you. Is the printing process similar to the creative process? Meaning, you give two printers the same files and information, will you get the same print in the end?
It’s definitely part of the creative process for me, although in the moment I often find myself wishing I could quit printing altogether. Dan will verify that my separations can be super confusing and almost nonsensical up until the last layer goes down, and I’m really picky about ink colors, and I use a lot of transparency in the ink to achieve bonus colors where the inks overlap, which always seems like a great idea when I’m still in the computer stage but really daunting when I’m dealing with actual physical ink.
I really do love printing but it can be quite…emotional. Ha! I do love watching stuff come together, I just sometimes wish I had two of me so one can draw and one can print and they can both have some time to do stuff that is neither drawing or printing, you know what I mean? Fancy problem, I know. I would think you’d get different prints…I know I’m always adjusting colors and whatnot as I go. I think if you give the same files to two printers, and one of the printers is the artist, the artist’s will be more likely to veer from the jpeg, just because they’re probably going to continue making decisions (improvements? Hopefully) right up until the end. If you give the same files to two printers for hire, I think then it just depends on how good the individual printers are.
This is credited as a ‘Jes Seamans’ print, did Dan handle any part of the print? Does it feel odd to move out from the Landland banner?
I do most of my own printing, but I’m always happy when Dan is around to help me out when I’m too deep into something that I can’t really see it clearly anymore, which is often the case. He’s really good at talking me down when I’m stressed or frustrated; he’s had ten plus years of practice at this point…
Full disclosure: we’re releasing a color variant through Landland in a few weeks, so it’s still not a full departure from Landland for me. I think the Vacvvm will be a good chance for me to try out stuff that’s weirder or darker and hopefully reaches a wider audience, but I have no plans to stop making stuff under the Landland name, and Dan is and probably always will be my very first sounding board for my prints and drawings, and I’ll always seek and value his input, and I don’t really imagine my general process changing too much, other than the usual natural evolution, and so I don’t think things are going to feel too different for me.
With your work with Dan as Landland there’s shared credit – each project is a ‘Landland’ project. A team. Was it a difficult decision to branch out and be a part of The Vacvvm, a new team? How did Mitch sell you on the idea?
I definitely wanted to make sure Dan was comfortable with it; we’ve been working together so long and we’re such good friends that I did feel a little twinge when I first thought about doing stuff outside of the Landland name, but ultimately we’re both our own artists and this seemed like a pretty great opportunity for me to do some more art prints and to make more giclees and stuff like that.
I’m super stoked about the Vacvvm lineup, I think I’m a good addition to the mix, I’m flattered to be asked, and Dan’s in total agreement with me. It might be harder if Dan wasn’t into it, but he’s honestly the most supportive studio partner I could imagine. So, Mitch didn’t have to sell me at all — I pretty much jumped at the chance. Their asking me was enough.