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Throwing Paintings in a River

An interview with Miles Wintner whose poster and album art catches eyes and evokes sounds
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Los Angeles-based Miles Wintner is prolific artist whose poster and album art has often caught our eye. We invited him to share his story in our latest music issue…

We love your stuff! Posters, album art, zines… is art your day job?

I am endlessly grateful that it is. (It’s also my night job, as I can work without distraction in the wee hours.) I started out self-publishing zines of one-panel comics, heavily influenced by David Shrigley, Gary Larson, and Jack Handey. After seven of those and several zine fests, I went digital. It was like Dylan going electric at Newport, only not as many people rioted. I experimented with digital art during downtime at my last desk job, using a dusty old copy of Photoshop 7. My first commission came in June 2016. I left the desk job at the end of that year to play drums for Girlpool. The art commissions continued to roll in and haven’t stopped. I still supplement my art commission income by touring and recording on drums and guitar in several bands.

How’d you end up doing so many band posters? Did you set out to do this kind of work?

I’ve always played in as many bands as possible, playing as many shows as possible. The Los Angeles music scene is home and art is always needed for upcoming shows and releases. I’d make posters for shows I was playing to advertise them, but mainly to make myself laugh. Looking back, those pieces were defiantly ridiculous and ugly. Balance, composition, minimalism, and beauty and would not be priorities for years to come. I never set out to make art professionally. One day I just realized that I was. To everyone who has ever commissioned something from me, thank you for giving me the opportunity to improve. I still think it’s absurd I fell into making art for a living, but Los Angeles is a place where that can happen: everyone has ambitious projects, and those projects need a solid aesthetic. That’s where I come in. I’ve also learned that artistic skill is only one piece of the pie. Taking direction, efficiency and speed, clear communication, and basic business sense are all just as important when it comes to thriving as a working artist.

How much input do you get from the artists? Do you go through iterations on these back and forth or is it primarily your vision?

I love when artists tell me to “just do [my] thing” because it means they trust me enough to give me free reign to experiment. It’s becoming more common, as I move towards more abstract designs. But there is growth and discipline to be found in executing someone else’s idea. I’m grateful to the artists who force me out of my comfort zone, because I do believe the most significant growth comes from difficult situations. It can be frustrating in the moment, but in the long run I’m usually happy with the final product an artist has coaxed out of me.

Am I correct in thinking that band posters are having a moment again — like alongside the resurgence of vinyl, it’s becoming more important to have these tactile things around a band or show?

Only a small percentage of the posters I make actually make it into the real, printed world. I love tactile prints, especially when I get to see my own digital work take physical form, but I try not to lament or resist the tides of change too much. What’s more important to me is that my posters could persuade people to actually congregate in a room together, be struck by the same sound waves, breathe the same air, and maybe even meet one another. If anyone reading this is marrying someone they met at a show I made a poster for, I want an invite to the wedding.

Moreso than band posters, images themselves are having a moment. I suppose what I make are glorified advertisements: images that represent something one should consider checking out, buying, or attending. In the infinite scroll of the present day, it’s never been more important to stand out. I think of posting an image to Instagram as throwing a painting in a river. It moves as fast as a thumb can scroll through the feed, but if the painting is striking enough it might catch someone’s eye for a moment before it floats on.

I think of posting an image to Instagram as throwing a painting in a river. It moves as fast as a thumb can scroll through the feed, but if the painting is striking enough it might catch someone’s eye for a moment before it floats on.

Who or what are your inspirations and influences?

Natural phenomena. The way light and water interact. The way objects fall to Earth, or don’t. Plants and animals. Clouds. Sports. The way people behave, or don’t. The images that appear behind my closed eyelids during meditation, sleep, and coitus.

Danny Miller, Eric Yahnker, Allison Schulnik, Sean Solomon, Alex Edgeworth, and Lisa Wintner have also all been direct and significant influences on my visual art practice.

If you could make art for anyone, who would it be?

I would love to make art that gets people thinking differently about diet, exercise, and good mental health practices. I suppose I don’t need to be commissioned to do that, but working with the LA County Department of Mental Health would be fulfilling. I’d also like to make more art for myself. I’ve put personal projects on the back burner while commissions have been pouring in the past few years. As it turns out, it’s way easier to complete projects when outside direction and deadlines are involved.

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