By Michael Phillips
In the mid 2000s, Justin Kamerer needed to make a decision. He could stay stuck in his job in web design and comfortably build a portfolio or he could take a chance and go out on his own. Kamerer bet on himself. Adopting the moniker AngryBlue, Kamerer’s new path allowed him to explore his art on his own terms.
In the nearly 15 years that have passed, he’s been able to split his attention between two primary passions in design: brand merchandising and band posters. In both, he’s been able to represent a number of unexpected clients, ranging from Microsoft to Metallica.
Growing Up with Art in Louisville
Kamerer grew up drawing. Favoring the escape that illustrating could provide him as an introvert, he developed a lasting interest in design at duPont Manual High School, where he was able to explore different mediums in and out of the classroom. After graduating, he attended U of L briefly but, according to an interview, “didn’t have time to balance school and work,” so he left and decided to refine his creativity on his own.
Finding academia to be the wrong fit, he used his self-discipline to explore different crafts and concentrations, becoming “self-taught in design and illustration.” As editing software would become more sophisticated, Photoshop would become vital to his creative process.
After an unfulfilling foray into web design, Kamerer desperately needed a way to focus his creative energy as an unexpectedly inspiring force was unfolding before him the whole time. Always drawn by different artistic expressions through music, he found that “talking to bands that would come through town” to be a motivator to his central interest in the visual arts: printmaking.
A Master Class in Screen Printing
In this medium, Kamerer has been able to work with bands and artists across genres. He’s made poster art for metal juggernauts like Metallica and Slayer, alt-rock mainstays like the Pixies and Soundgarden, a hip hop artist like Lil Wayne, and a music festival like Forecastle. In each of these forays, he brings to the table a surreal – and sometimes nightmarish – approach with bold colors and unique precision.
Starting in 2005, Kamerer and his business and creative partner Jeral Tidwell started Crackhead Press, which gives them both the manufacturing and printing capabilities necessary to run their screen prints, posters, books, pins, and other miscellaneous projects.
As his career as an independent designer and illustrator has progressed, Kamerer’s masterful control of the screen printing behind the entirety of his portfolio has remained constant. In this capacity, he innovatively blends analog and digital to produce a combination of his “love for punk rock, iconography, teeth, branding, illustration, design & all-around jackassery.”
While there certainly is a level of camp that appears in the bulk of Kamerer’s work, some other frequent themes in his portfolio are precise linework, darker, bolder colors, and references to pop-culture. On the significance of creating poster art, he stated:
Posters are almost a tribute to the band and have a very different approach and joy to them than doing a shirt design. Because it’s a collectible and isn’t merchandise in the same way, there isn’t the same need to tie a specific album/tour theme. I just get to do whatever I feel is most appropriate in MY mind and release it into the wild without having to get management’s approval.
He has personally grappled with and ultimately challenged the album cover as a narrative artform. Specifically with genres like punk, he’s been fascinated by the way that album covers could communicate different beliefs or narratives in a visual layout. Similarly, he values the unique creative opportunities afforded by 7” records by independent labels, where bands usually have smaller budgets but more freedom to break new ground visually.
When he isn’t producing visual art, he’s usually in his studio working on his music project of the same name, AngryBlue. He typically spends about 8 hours per week making music that incorporates various synthesizers, homemade or strangely modified instruments, guitars, and recordings he’s gathered in nature and in his printing studio. His music has explored similar themes to his visual art, like horror, the occult, and insects, to name a few.
Kamerer’s love of art has unsurprisingly also played a role in his love life. He met his match in fellow artist Brittney McCormick (aka Brittney Cat or MissHappyPink) in 2006 at Highland Coffee where the couple married in 2016 – during regular business hours – on April Fool’s Day. Her work shines a light on admittedly lighter figures and themes, where Kamerer focuses on darker, more visceral and supernatural subjects.
The Future of Art in Kentucky
In 2014, Kamerer was tapped by the video game company Ubisoft to create a poster for their forthcoming release Assassin’s Creed: Unity. To promote the game at Comic Con International: San Diego, Ubisoft wanted to go a step further and produce a short, motion graphic style animation written and directed by Rob Zombie. The project called for an artist who understood narrative illustration and Kamerer instantly thought of a fellow Kentuckian: Tony Moore.
On October 23, Moore will talk more about collaboration between Kentucky artists, his craft, and the ongoing importance of creativity in the Commonwealth. Kentucky to the World invites you to engage with an intimate, interactive conversation between Moore and University of Louisville Professor Joe Turner. Join us for The Colonel of Comics: Zombies, Anti-Heroes and the Art of Tony Moore for a closer look into the significance of Kentucky artists on a national scale.