Patrick Mayton

Full Screen Press

by Brett Levine     Photo by Jerry Siegel

I’ve always had a conflict about whether what I do is or isn’t art,” muses graphic designer and printmaker Patrick Mayton.  Best known for his ongoing works for bands, several of his posters were recently featured in the UAB Visual Art Gallery’s retrospective of promotional show work for Bottletree.  “I started out in collage,” he explains, “and my early work was influenced by the local punk scene and the graphics that accompanied them.”

Mayton pursued formal training in printmaking and graphic design at Montevallo and then earned an MFA at Arizona State University.  “Arizona State has the second largest collection of lead type in the world,” he says. “So I was really able to think about fonts, shapes and forms.” This further reinforced his love of the processes of printmaking, and it led to an even more significant revelation.  “What I realized was that printmaking gave me a lot of the freedom and the creativity I was looking for,” he says. “In some instances, like screenprinting, it can be set up economically, and the process itself can be quick and efficient.  I also realized that the public can engage with printmaking reasonably easily because a lot of my material — letterforms and text — is something they can identify.”

He had a transformational moment at his graduate exhibition.  “I created 27 ‘bricks’ with a different word on every side.  I used blue, red, green and yellow as the color scheme.  The work was interactive. You picked two words and made a poem.”  Mayton wasn’t prepared for the response.  “There was this gutter punk kid who came in every single day and made a poem,” he says.  “I knew that this simple, understandable approach could be really powerful.”

Mayton combines his roles as chair of the Department of Art at the Jefferson State Shelby campus and as an artist and designer with ongoing branding work for bands with a continual investigation of ways to extend his personal printmaking practice.  “One of the things I like to do when I am creating a screen is literally make a photogram.  Rather than just using a film, I will literally put an object down and expose it.  It can create some unexpected, more three-dimensional effects.”  He also likes using his raw materials as a base but altering them in some way.  “Since I usually only print an edition of 50 posters,” he explains, “I often use something that will alter the physical and visual effects.  I might add a metal base to the ink, for example, or change it in some other noticeable way.”

Given his extensive history branding bands, he often receives complete creative control over every aspect of a band’s materials.  “I think of everything as having a relationship, so I link the poster, the t-shirt, the album and the poster.  This doesn’t mean that they all just have the same imagery,” he continues, “but instead the different pieces combine to tell a story about the band.”  Mayton also works closely with his clients to understand how they would like to be positioned.  “It is really important for clients to give you their perceptions of themselves, where they think of themselves musically and who they might find as influences.  This gives me a framework for thinking about a direction for their image and their brand, so they feel like part of the contemporary history of music.”

Perhaps his biggest challenge today is his reach.  “I think what I am trying to focus on at the moment is reaching a larger audience.  I want to make works that have the same aesthetics that I enjoy exploring, but that have a more universal, positive message.”  For Mayton, this is what it is all about.  He takes the deceptively complex medium of printmaking, makes it look simple and creates multi-layered works he hopes everyone can understand.  “I suppose I am really a word artist,” he says, laughing. “I know that every color and every letter is always loaded with meaning.”

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