Dan Barbour adds a layer of color to his screen printed poster for the Hopscotch Music Festival's Posterscotch, an art exhibit of the state's most acclaimed poster artists.
CLAYTON -- Dan Barbour’s interests have always hovered between visual arts and music, focusing on one more than the other during different times in his life.
But when he made a promotional poster for one of his own bands, Barbour found a way to merge his two interests, and has since been working as one of the main poster artists in the Triangle music scene under the name Dantanamo Designs.
His first foray into the scene was with The Love Language, a pop rock outfit from Raleigh that signed with Merge Records in 2010. Barbour reached out to his old friend from recording school, B.J. Burton, to see if they might want a poster for their upcoming winter tour.
With a Love Language poster on his resume, Barbour could then reach out to more area bands and make posters for their upcoming shows in Triangle venues like the Cat’s Cradle, King’s Barcade and the Local 506. Now, bands are more likely to contact him.
But his posters aren’t just simple promotional posters sporting a band name and a concert date and location. They’re hand-screened works of art, each with a unique illustration that captures the band’s personality, the mood of their current album, or both.
“I try to do it differently every time,” Barbour said. “I try to keep everything changing, but keep the same kind of feel to it.”
For instance, if he sees a repeat of shapes from one poster to another, he’ll actively try to avoid that design on the next poster he makes.
Barbour designs each poster on an illustration program on his computer, and then makes stencils for each individual layer of color. Usually making batches of 50 to 60 posters, he’ll screen one color for each poster, wait for them to dry, and then screen the next color, and on and on.
“It’s so repetitive, it’s really relaxing. It just comes natural to me I guess,” Barbour said.
Although he attended graphic design school at Johnston Community College, Barbour said he has mostly taught himself screen printing from YouTube videos and from talking technique with other screen printers.
Aside from working on concert posters, Barbour does other freelance design work, including wedding invitations and thank you cards. Some of his commissioned work won’t involve screen printing at all, but that’s the medium he prefers to work in.
“I like doing stuff I can print, like wedding invitations – anything that can have a handmade feel to it,” Barbour said.
Barbour works out of a workshop on his grandmother’s property in Clayton. A Clayton native, Barbour met his wife, Miranda, at Clayton High School, where they both took art with Clayton art teacher Jane Roberts.
For the last year and a half, screen printing has been Barbour’s full-time job, and he says he couldn’t do it without his wife.
“She is the most supportive person in the world,” Barbour said.
Focused on Clayton
When a photographer friend in Durham asked Barbour to do prints of iconic Durham locales that she could give to friends who were leaving town, Barbour’s wife suggested that he do something like that for his own hometown.
In time for the Millstock Art and Music Festival where folks might not immediately recognize posters for bands like Bombadil, Whatever Brains and Mandolin Orange, Barbour crafted a series of Clayton posters portraying landmarks of his hometown.
The posters depict the B.M. Robertson Mule Company building, Jones Lunch, T.R. Lee’s Laundromat, and Clayton Food Town. Barbour said the posters sold like hot cakes at Millstock, inspiring him to screen print T-shirts from the designs.
But he’s also looking to expand the series and do four more posters of places in Clayton that are either gone or mostly changed from the way he remembers them as a child. For instance, he’s looking to do a poster of Dairy King, an ice cream shop that used to be where the Verizon building now sits on U.S. 70.
He said he remembers people always accidentally driving into the sign, so he’s considering including the wrecked sign in the poster. He’s started asking around town to see if anyone has photos of these old landmarks, but he might have to design the posters from memory.
Regardless of what his next project might be, it’s unlikely Barbour will give up his passion for screen printing.
“It’s one of the only things I’ve ever done where I just want to do it more and more,” he said.