As I was making my way along Auckland City streets last week, I stopped abruptly and pointed toward a series of posters that I saw just in the distance, these posters featured art and one had song lyrics on it. I knew that they were a part of Phantom Billsticker’s projects that they are running at the moment and I was so proud, not only of the fact that this interview would be coming out a week after I saw these posters with my own eyes but I was also proud, to see art in cityscape – I truly do think it makes for a brighter and better city and Phantom Billstickers believes this too.
Phantom who has been putting up posters and putting away campaigns for 30 years is one of the OG company’s for tangible marketing, with over 6,500 poster frames nationwide – the company which began by promoting music gigs has in 3 decades grown to advertise for notable companies – the Phantom hustle is real.
The heart of Phantom is in making the city better and brighter, their art project’s aim is to nurture artists and promote the talent we have in our nation. Two of the talented artists who were a part of the project are Luke and Rachel Rowlands, husband, and wife, the duo have masterminded works to go within Phantom’s frames and they told me all about Phantom’s art project and why bringing flora to the concrete jungle is so important.
The Phantom art project aims to strengthen and nurture the relationship between Phantom and the wider community of artists. In what ways do you think New Zealand needs to improve our relationship with art as a whole, what can we do better as a nation to support artists?
L: People think illustrators and artists can and will do work for free to get their name out to a wider audience. There’s only so much free work you can do before you need to be paid, we all have rent to pay, bills, that sort of thing… It’s nice to be recognised for your art style but we could do better as a nation to pay creatives for the work they put in, as well as helping them get recognition in the wider community.
R: Yeah, the Phantom Art Project is a good start. It has helped me engage with a bigger audience for my art, which in turn is helping me gain traction as an artist, leading to more opportunities… I have friends who own shops and will host art shows for their artist friends which helps with exposure. I feel that’s still on the underground side of things though; breaking out into the mainstream is really hard so I think having a way for the general public to access upcoming artists in New Zealand is really important. I feel like a lot of the art world is geared up for established artists so it’s hard to break through and do it full-time to make a living from it.
A lot of campaigning/marketing/messaging now takes place online. Phantom does campaigning through posters/print and in your case, by showcasing art. What makes Phantom’s kind of campaigning different and arguably better than what might take place online? And what do you think it is about print/tangible art that people respond to?
R: It’s real life. You can’t beat that. Being face to face with something, That’s why I love the Phantom art and poetry projects: They’re an outdoor gallery. I might be biased but I reckon this is also why ad campaigns with Phantom are better… things can be tactile, interactive and street level and will always grab your attention.
L: I think that people forget that there is a lot more to than the internet. There’s the world around you, Phantom takes a grey wall in the city and gives it life and colour. People get annoyed by online advertising pop-ups cutting into your youtube or facebook time, but with Phantom, it’s not so aggressively in your face, it’s more like a gentle reminder as you pass by to go see a play, or maybe try something new! People still have a love for posters, books, and art.
With printed material, you can take a look up close and you can see how it was made, tiny dots creating a bigger picture… Also, I think people just love to feeling of paper and that’s why we still sell books and magazines. We can get all of this information online, but we still go for something physical. That’s the power of print.
Phantom aims to be flora for the concrete jungle, but I have also recognised that their works aim to give people – especially creatives in music, literacy, and art – a voice. How has the art project strengthened your voice and what messages do you aim to portray as artists? (What is your voice)
R: I definitely feel more confident in showing my art to the world now. I’ve witnessed a lot of people stop and look at my art which makes me feel reassured that my art is working. It’s grabbing people’s attention.
L: I don’t know if my voice has been strengthened by the process, but it does bring a smile to my face Knowing that my art is seen by so many. I love to draw and illustrate so seeing my art out and about in Auckland just reconfirms that I should keep on going with what I’m doing. My message if any is to not take the world at face value, keep trying.
Other than your featured work during the art project, what have been some pieces by other artists that you’ve really loved – and why?
R: Cullum at Rawpower’s print work: I love the trippy grossness of his work, I also like the Art Project poster by Vincent Konrad – the comic strip one, it’s awesomely strange and I do love a good comic… I’d also like to say that I love my husband’s work, but I’ll always pick his stuff. It’s all over our house.
L: hmmm, tricky…… Chippy’s artwork was cool. Simple but detailed at the same time, I like the small creatures creating a big pattern. Rachel Rowlands, I might be a little biased because she is my wife but she always puts heaps of imagination into her work, I love her “fish tits”… piece because it’s hilarious and cool, and “Run” piece is cool and stylistic. Also podgy pandas “coffee” print is great, a lot of cute characters to create one image. But seriously, they’re all pretty damn good.
What style of art do you do and what started you within that style?
L: I’ve been doing illustration most of my life. Reading comics (Mad magazines, Hagar the horrible and Farside) and watching cartoons from a young age started me on the illustration buzz. Also, my mum is pretty arty so that was pretty encouraging when it came to art. My art is constantly evolving and moving forward while keeping with my personal style and always incorporating the same elements.
R: I guess that I have the same kinda story… started drawing young with the ol’ felt tips. I watched a lot of cartoons on TV then I studied animation (that’s where i met this one). I worked in animation and now I do my own kinda illustratey-arty thing. So style wise, I guess people describe my style as cartoon-y, which is super broad but I guess it just means that I’m not painting old style masterpieces. I like to think of it as Illustrator art if that’s a thing.