Derek Wycoff, who creates collage art and graphic design as Maple Fortress details his influences and creative processes for show posters and album art, including designing the record cover for his band, Naked Gods.
How would you describe your graphic artwork as Maple Fortress? Is there a particular aesthetic or style that you try to subscribe to or is it a more organic approach based on whatever the project is about?
I would say it’s mostly project based. Overall, I like to keep things less refined and just zone out and make stuff.
Every time I start working, I’m just looking to create something I can be okay with in a few months, years, or even the next day. The key for me has always been trying to maintain a feeling of looseness and excitement.
I gravitate towards more pop and op-art kind of stuff, but I really try to be open to any new influences and use improvisation as much as I can to achieve results.
Your portfolio includes album artwork and show posters and an array of other projects. How did you get started doing graphic art and what were your earliest inspirations?
When I was a kid, I would draw and make comics. I started playing music and being in bands as a teenager and that’s where my interest gravitated. In high school, I started designing really simple websites. They looked horrible, like most things on the web back then, but that took me on the career path I have now. My day job is a web-developer.
At a certain point, music brought me full-circle into art and design and I figured out how to integrate everything. My earliest inspiration was album covers and show posters. That is still my biggest influence and the main way I find many graphic artists I love.
What role does music play in your work? How does the music of an artist you're designing a piece of art for dictate your design, if at all?
I’m usually listening to podcasts when I work! Honestly, an artist or band’s music doesn’t have much influence on the work created. Most of the time I make stuff based off a feeling or inspiration of a particular moment. If I can create something quickly without thinking too much, then I have all I need to get started. The rest of the process is editing and reshaping.
You are the drummer for one of our favorite bands, Naked Gods, from Boone, NC. How is your creativity utilized differently as a drummer than as a graphic artist? What similarities are there in your processes writing drum pieces and designing as Maple Fortress?
When I started playing drums I was constantly breaking sticks, warping drums heads, and cracking cymbals. I’ve listened to some of those recordings and I really loved how much soul and creativity was lurking under the surface of the sloppiness.
At a certain point I learned how to not break things and my style became a little more focused. When you become technically better at something there is always a risk of losing the charm that made your playing interesting. Recently, there’s been a process where I’m trying to integrate the two styles of playing, the reckless with the newly refined. I feel like that is my mission statement with most things I make. Trying to reclaim the wild parts and make them presentable.
Are you contracted by bands to do show posters or is it something you do independently to promote shows? What's been your favorite band to work with?
Sometimes it’s the bands, but most of the time it’s the show promoter or a friend. I like working with everyone!
Your artwork is the album art for your band's latest self-titled record. How is it different doing art for your own product than for a client? What was the inspiration behind that album artwork?
The band has given me a platform to freely create which I am very thankful for. It’s a lot of work trying to add a visual element to this thing you’ve already spent so much time writing and recording.
I am very lucky to be in a band with thoughtful/creative people who are very supportive. Our guitarist also creates art and is a talented screen-printer. Most bands aren’t lucky enough to have two visual-artists. I feel like we kind of tag-team the visuals and that keeps things interesting.
As far as the album artwork, Corita Kent was probably my biggest influence. I was really into her color palettes at the time. I love the overwhelmingly positive nature of her artwork and her story is amazing.
I was listening to this at the time as well. Maybe the cover art was somewhere in my subconscious? Add in a heady-dose of the 2015 NBA playoffs and that pretty much sums it up! I’m actually watching the 2017 playoffs as I’m typing this…
Are you taking on new clients currently? What's the easiest way for someone to get in touch with you to contract out some design work?
Of course! Just shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I work with all sorts of people on all sorts of projects. Don’t be a stranger.
Check out Maple Fortress here.