Interview: Artist Lindsay Johnson On Finding Unity Between D.C.’s Music and Art Scenes
When it comes to creating her signature concert flyer designs, D.C. artist Lindsay Johnson sees the medium as something bigger than just promotional material. “The way I prefer to use it is to create an atmosphere. A sense of what is going to be happening or something that is happening”, says Johnson.
When she looks at the great rock posters of yesteryear, Johnson sees artists who took the medium one step further and cultivated imaginative, fantastical and psychedelic pieces. “It took you to what that show was going to be about,” Johnson adds.
Designing posters for bands from Ra Ra Rasputin to The Royal Baths as well as D.C. Music Download’s very own Summer Sizzler poster, Johnson has shown her indelible style and left a trademark on the local music scene. Along with work in rock posters and flyers, Johnson has also expanded her resume to include gallery showcases and published work.
Johnson grew up near Cleveland,“which has such a big history with Rock ‘n Roll and really influenced my love for [it], and really fueled my love for rock posters,” she says of her adolescence in the Ohio suburbs. Even though she wasn’t much of a musician, Johnson was active in the local music scene. “I could not play the guitar, but I loved going to shows,” she laughs.
After graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2009, Johnson was still looking for the right direction to take her skills in and was hoping to combine them with her passion for rock.
“At the time, I really didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with that path,” she says.
By 2010, many of her friends had scattered throughout the nation. “I had aspirations to move because there weren’t many jobs in Cleveland. One person went to Washington, D.C. and some more people followed, sort of like a gold rush-“Hey! It’s easy to get a job over here right now,’” she says of her choice to move to the DMV. “So I went, and within the first week I got a good freelance gig.”
Her first opportunity to work with local musicians came while she was working at an Adams Morgan-based print and design shop.
“I got to meet a bunch of people: bookers, promoters, artists and musicians. I kind of got to know the scene that way,” she says of her exposure early on.
Admittedly, Johnson didn’t really care for some of the posters and flyers coming out at the time. “A lot of the posters sucked,” she chortles. She casually dropped hints about her talents and ambitions, and then a friend asked her and a coworker to create some posters for a show at Comet Ping Pong. After her initial posters became popular, more requests poured in.
“It started as this side project and then it turned into a full-time gig,” she says. “And then it just sort of expanded from there; we got to meet a lot more bands and got to know a lot of the other venues.”
Projects such as a collaboration with the band Paperhaus, which combined charity, arts and music, were major high points for Johnson and she is hoping to see similar events in the future. She will also serve as the live artist for D.C. Music Download’s big 9:30 Club show on Saturday, January 25.
In addition to her current projects, Johnson is also looking into using music and puppetry in future projects. “I’m looking to weave that into some sort of big show that uses music, lights and storytelling to really draw you further into a different world.”
Johnson says that she loves how the visual art scene in D.C. is beginning to work more with the music scene. “More and more often, [at] shows that I go to, there are a bunch of artists who are showing their work there,” she says. Johnson hopes that in the near future the two scenes become more integrated, with both music and visuals sharing the same space. “D.C. has a great opportunity. We have so many venues that allow for this sort of coming together of all types of art.”