Printmaker Justin Santora worked with avant-garde hip hop group Tomorrow Kings to produce a song and print titled "Borrowed Ladders". Colin asked Justin about the process and his work.
Colin: I'm curious about how you guys went about the producing the song and print. There are a bunch of guys in TK, and just one of you. Did the print come out of a response to an idea developed by TK, or was it something that you were all contributing to from the beginning?
Justin: We started off with a couple of very general ideas, but I don't think there were rigid guidelines on either end. Lamon sent me the beat before there were any vocals recorded, and I listened to it and tried to come up with a few ideas that fit the feel of the song. After hearing the final version with all the vocal tracks completed, the song definitely took on a new form and the sketches I had come up with didn't really seem to fit anywhere. I ended up using a new concept that was somewhere between an illustration of a section of the lyrics that I found particularly interesting and trying to convey a scene that sort of goes with the song's aesthetic. I think we originally intended for the process to involve a little more back and forth between Tomorrow Kings and myself, but I'm pleased with how we did it.
Colin: I think the print compliments the beat in the song really well. It's minimal, has a lot of room, but has these elements that feel really charged. You do a lot of posters for bands, and I'm wondering how much you consider the feel of a song or band in your work. You have such a distinct style, I'm curious if it's something you think a lot about, or is it more intuitive?
Justin: The beat of the song has this kind of driving sense of urgency that I think is also present in some of the lyrics. The original sketches I'd drawn before hearing the finished version of the song were very different from the final concept mainly because a good chunk of the imagery in the print is based on lyrics in the song.
I always try to consider the band when working on a poster; I think most poster artists will tell you that you want to come up with imagery that is relevant to the band in some way. There are a lot of different ways to relate an illustration or design to a band or a single song, so part of the process is almost always cognitive. At the same time, I have an inclination towards certain types of scenes/subject matter/components/etc. that regularly seems to factor into the equation, so intuition seems to be a part of it as well. I try to find a good balance between the two, hopefully not ever completely abandoning one in pursuit of the other.
Colin: What's next on the horizon for you?
Justin: Up ahead should be a lot of drawing and printing, like always. I hope I have a chance to do some more painting this year. Right now, I'm working on a couple of art prints, a poster, and a label for a beer bottle. I'm planning some poster art related travels to England, Spain, Germany, and North Dakota at different points during the year. I also hope to start shaving again real soon.