Pop Art a Go go - Brian Ewing

Published: 22 June, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 200, June, 2011

There’s nothing quite like a bit of tattoo/skull-inspired art to brighten your day, your office and your home. Brian Ewing has been brightening days over in the US for quite some time now, but it hasn’t always been that way: “I was working for Hustler on the magazines handling scheduling, prep houses and printers. I swore that’d be my last day job.”

Although Ewing has transformed into one of pop art’s most prolific, iconic image-makers, remaining down-to-earth and staying inspired are key elements to the growth of his rebellious art empire. While he’s become a sought-after household name for record labels and agencies, Ewing has stayed true to the independent spirit of his art, and his style has developed over time. 

“At first I was just happy to get a chance to draw and work with my favorite bands,” he says of his early punk-rock posters. But with his growth from poster artist to full-blown fine artist, he’s followed in the footsteps of his heroes and mentors – Frank Kozik, Coop, Tara McPherson and many others – building an instantly recognizable stylistic empire.

Inspired by everything from art nouveau to ukiyo-e woodblock printing, from the full-throttle art of SoCal’s “kustom” car culture to the dynamism and self-assured lines of comics; Ewing’s work fuses his own creative explorations of perspective, color and space with classic, beloved imagery from rebellious American youth culture: hot punk girls, totally rad skulls, and fields of color aflame. In this way, his work embraces a particular playful naïveté, which he then continues to champion even as his style refines itself and as his technique develops. Ewing reminds us we never have to give up the imagery that fired our imaginations as teenagers; his own success is a signifier for how dearly we hold our own trappings of rebellion, and how they can become a vehicle through which one can mature. With a roster of clients ranging from Metallica and the Warped Tour, to The Strokes and Death Cab For Cutie, and even The New Yorker and a number of advertising agencies; Ewing’s resume is a testament to what we love most about music, art, the allure of drama, lust, danger and darkness.

With his first monograph, “Don’t Hold Your Breath: The Art Of Brian Ewing,”  which publisher Dark Horse allowed him to design himself, the reader can see the progression and maturation of his imagery, from power-packed and densely composed rock posters to the nuanced, deceptively simple and subversive works of more recent vintage. What’s next? Only Ewing knows, but no matter what, it will be unmistakably his.

You can check out Brian’s world and webstore online at brianewing.com where you can buy copies of all you see here and more. On the “nerds” tab on there, you’ll also find some fan collector tattoos. I’m thinking that a little feature might not go amiss sometime in the future and if you happen to find yourself in New York anytime before July 3rd, you can also go check out his exhibition at Cotton Candy Machine – full details are on the site.


Text: Sion Smith; Photography: Brian Ewing