Three friends, three styles, one showcase, all of them worth seeing.
On any given Friday or Saturday night at Masthead Print Studios in NoLibs, you’re almost guaranteed to find a crowd of beer-wielding 20-somethings with cool haircuts eyeing up the gallery’s latest collection of artwork. So, it seems appropriate that graphic designer and Masthead founder Shawn Hileman may have never decided to turn his screen-printing studio/apartment into a gallery space if his friends and fellow artists JP Flexner and James Heimer had not planted the seed in his head. “There might,” Flexner notes, “have been several beers involved.”
Hileman concedes the decision was made well under the influence, but he’s glad he listened to his friends. “It has been amazing to meet all the creatives and pick their brains,” the 28-year-old says.
All three are accomplished freelance artists, having each successfully found a niche in the local music scene.
Collectively, the three amigos have designed posters for practically every music venue in town and for such well-known acts as the Bouncing Souls, Matt & Kim, the Fray, Norah Jones and Foster the People. Many of these posters can now be seen showcased in the swanky Rittenhouse interior design showroom Studio: Christensen as part of their retrospective group show, Screenprints Galore.
“Making band posters is a true honor and basically every designer’s dream in school,” Hileman says. “I used to make posters for [music venue] the Fire when I first moved here. I didn’t make a dime, but it got my foot in the door.”
Musical influences aside, hanging side by side in the barren and almost blindingly white Christensen space, the three artists’ individual aesthetics seem all the more pronounced, even if a bit out of place. Hileman’s work is the most commercial, as his prints are typically clean, colorful and maybe even a little cutesy. His more recent work is also marked by a cool, laid-back vibe.
With his affinity for neon colors and close attention to detail, Flexner’s designs, on the other hand, are far more garish in comparison. Oddly enough, the Maryland transplant first met Hileman when they were both high schoolers and aspiring rockers playing a show in the neighboring town. “I grew up listening to punk rock and going to local shows—and still do,” he says. “Going to see a good show is the perfect foil to sitting around drawing all day.”
The 30-year-old moved to Philly after college, having landed a job doing packaging design and product development for the now-defunct CDI Toys. He’s currently designing apparel for clients ranging from retailers to indie music labels. He also plays drums in the local punk band Ex Friends.
As for Heimer, his featured prints have the distinction of being the most illustration-based, mastering what can only be described as an edgy, deliberate messiness. “I tend to draw really small and blow my work up to get thick, chunky, gritty lines,” says the South Philly resident. “I also try to stay away from the computer as much as possible and never clean the bed of my scanner. That all adds to the grit.”
After graduating from UArts in 2004, Heimer spent six years working as a commercial screen printer until being hired by the pop-punk outfit the Wonder Years before the band had a national following. After creating their logos, T-shirt designs and record covers, he eventually started to gain his own following. More recently, the 30-year-old has shifted his focus to editorial and cover work.
Still, if you were to ask either of these guys about their success, chances aren’t you wouldn’t get a serious answer. In fact, when ask to describe the current exhibition, Hileman responded: “A constant supply of toilet paper.”
Through Aug. 10. Studio: Christensen, 333 S. 20th St. 267.386.6036. studiochristensen.com
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