Ryan Duggan’s Irreverent Illustrations Channel Ghosts of Chicago’s Past
For the last decade and change, Ryan Duggan has designed and printed posters in Chicago as Drug Factory Press. In that time, he’s cultivated a bold, handmade cartoon style that splits the difference between classic punk fliers, the heroes of Chicago underground comics (Ivan Brunetti, early Daniel Clowes), handmade urban sign-painting, and even the high/low trailblazing of the Chicago Imagists. Also a muralist and multi-disciplinary fine artist, Duggan’s heart resides in music.
What came first: art, or rock ‘n’ roll?
RYAN DUGGAN: I’ve always been interested in drawing (my dad loved to draw and instilled it in my sister Rachal and I), but it was playing in bands and befriending musicians in the mid-2000s that set me down this path. Ultimately, I decided that making the poster for the show was more fun than playing the show, but there is something to be said for the creative freedom of making your own merch.
Analog vs. Digital?
My style evolved out of complete necessity. When I first started making posters, I didn’t even have a personal computer. I was using my work computer for email and web access and then spending my time outside of work totally disconnected from the internet — can you even imagine? I figured out I could make positives by drawing or painting right onto sheets of acetate, so that’s what I did for years. It really helped me carve out my lettering skills and general aesthetic. These days, it’s a 50/50 split between this method and scanning in drawings and using Photoshop.
Big Vs. Small
Murals can be fun, but I really fell in love with making multiples. There’s something exciting about a big stack of art, ready to filter out into the world. Posters have become a staple of the merch table, but I take pride when I see my work up at a record store, actually promoting the show.
Most of my work is at least tangentially related to music (barf bags for Sub Pop’s SEA-TAC airport location, a million band T-shirts), but sometimes I get to work on projects involving other interests, like beer or skateboarding. I’ve also had the honor of drawing a number of covers for the Chicago Reader; but with the state of the printed word, those are a little more rare these days.
In Praise of Gumby
I’ve bastardized Gumby in a couple posters for comedic effect, but in all seriousness, Art Clokey was a goddamn genius. To create something that appeals to a child just as much as an insurance salesman — or a stoned twenty-year-old — is masterful.
Daring to Dream
I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of my favorite contemporary bands, like Thee Oh Sees, Metz, Pissed Jeans, etc., but I’d say the holy grail would be Devo, or maybe the Stooges.
That Toddlin’ Town
I love Chicago. Even when it’s a pain in the ass, I love it. It’s also home to more poster artists than any other city. I’d go as far as to say I might not have fallen into this little art niche had I moved somewhere else.