Lee Conklin is an amazing artist. He is also responsible for some of my favourite ever poster art. Yes, those awesome detailed psychedelic posters of the 1960s and 70s. His artwork is so striking and vibrant that, for me, they are all I think of when I think of psychedelic music. Working for BillGraham he has produced artwork for such greats as Santana, Cream, Yardbirds and pretty much every other great in music.
Here he was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
GVSE: Can you tell me about how you got started in poster design?
CONKLIN: I was born drawing, and eventually showed my portfolio to Bill Graham one Friday and by Monday I was a poster artist.
GVSE: For me, psychedelic music posters are the perfect depiction of the music and produced some of the greatest poster art seen. Can you tell me what part the music played in your designs?
CONKLIN: I listened to the radio as I worked, either KSAN or KPFA. The name of the group played a more obvious role, other times there were only sub- conscious connections to anything.
GVSE: Which bands were you really into at the time?
CONKLIN: I listened to everybody, I still Listen to the Dead , Van Morrison, Neil Young, Randy Newman, John Prine, John Fogarty, and Blessed be Pete Seger.
GVSE: Are there any posters you are most proud of? and why?
CONKLIN: I like the Grape Strike Benefit poster because aside from being good work on short notice, it was a voluntary contribution not just by myself but all involved for a just cause, and for human dignity. I also like it because it was my only Fillmore poster without Bill Graham's name on the top.
GVSE:It seemed you were given quite a lot of freedom in your posters, was this the case? Was there a strict brief?
CONKLIN: I think Bill Graham would have liked to boss me more, but tight deadlines and last minute changes in the bill meant that he never saw most of the designs untill they came off the press.
GVSE: Did you get to meet any of the bands you did designs for?
CONKLIN: Most notably Santana, but I wasn't much of a shmoozer.
GVSE: What are your influences in your work? Everything. Individuals who grabbed me include Bosch, Blake, Breugel. Dali, Davis, Stienberg,Griffin, etc
GVSE: I also saw you did work for The Damned. Were you into the punk thing at all?
CONKLIN: No, but I was into damnation.
GVSE: Can you tell me about any projects you are working on now?
CONKLIN: Watercolor and ink. I do a few posters every year Which I design using Corel Photopaint.
GVSE: Finally, as this is Good vs Evil, can you tell me what is heaven and what is hell for you?
CONKLIN: Most Hellish, Basic Training, not the exercise, the dehumanization. Most blessed and rare are the smiles from the muse.
Go see more of the legend that is Lee Conklin at www.leeconklin.com