Screenprinter shares his love for the art at SXSW

Katie Walsh

Screenprinter Gary McGarvey sits at the Austin Convention Center in front of a wall of his own work. Colorful flatstocks, or concert posters, for artists from Elton John to Leon Bridges hang on display, catching the eyes of random passersby.

As a screenprinter, McGarvey said musicians approach him to create original posters for their tours. Sometimes, McGarvey said artists have a specific vision of what they want and other times, he is given free reign and can use his own interpretation of the artist’s lyrics and sound to create the poster.

“After you've drawn something, it would be very easy for the artists here to just press print at the printer,” McGarvey said. “Whereas we are are really building up and breaking an image down to its most minimal form.”

Eight years ago, McGarvey began creating band posters in the U.K. He had worked in music venues and had friends in bands and as a graphic design student, McGarvey said screen printing seemed like a natural progression.

After leaving the U.K. and a brief stint in Toronto, McGarvey began operating out of Oaxaca, Mexico. He said his travels have influenced his personal style.

“Speaking to different artists about different things really does get the inspiration juices flowing,” McGarvey said. “I sort of tend to pick up things here and there.”

McGarvey said he has worked for artists from country western ensembles to heavy metal groups. While he is open to all genres, he said he will turn down a band if they are boring or don't inspire an image in his mind after he listens to their music.

“There is a lot of stuff I do turn down,” McGarvey said. “If it's something I feel I can't accurately represent because I'm really not into the music, then I will take a pass.”

McGarvey’s job as a screenprinter has allowed him to work with some of his favorite bands like Björk, although he said he is still holding out for Nick Cave and Tom Waits.

“Whenever you do a poster for a band you're really into or something, it's another check off the bucket list,” McGarvey said.