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Some People Can't Surf: The Graphic Design of Art Chantry Paperback – February 1, 2001

4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


It's a little odd, and a more moving sign of aging than seeing gray hair in the mirror, to read a retrospective on the career of someone one's own age, someone with definite roots in the era of punk rock, someone so hip that just as many non-designers know his work as designers. Art Chantry is a man of many styles and all of them feel decidedly in-the-moment, some even in-you-face: the truly DIY poster for an Avengers gig in 1979, the professional yet DIY-look of Rhino Records' 1994 punk reissues, the psycho-billy of a Cramps poster or CDs for Estrus (only one of the coolest labels around) or his deliciously detailed Tool-style posters like the one from 1997 promoting condom use, where the floating cop head warns: "I take one everywhere I take my penis!"

His clients have included Seattle institutions like the Bathhouse, New City, Empty Space, Organic and Repertory Theatres, the Center on Contemporary Art and the Give Peace a Dance and Hempfest benefits. In addition to Estrus and Rhino, he's also designed for Sub Pop, Chuckie-Boy and many smaller record labels like Lucky, Betty and Trash City, and created dozens and dozens of logos and type treatments, each so distinct from the others, it's as though there are just as many designers within that one person. A lot of his work uses collage; for other jobs, he's hired the best illustrators for the job (including R. Crumb, Mad Magazine's Don Martin and the late Ed "Big Daddy" Roth of Rat Fink fame). And he isn't afraid to reference vintage scinece-fiction or distressed newsprint porno ads.

At 47, Chantry still speaks fluent punk. Says 30-year-old deejay Tim Kelly (WMBR), "He's got the whole retro-'60s thing down pat. The Mono Men 'Wrecker!' album is a case in point: the hot go-go girl, the sharp color contrasts--it could be a poster for some lost Russ Meyer flick. You know the Mono Men sound like a dirty garage band just by looking at the record."

Author Julie Lasky's story of first meeting Chantry (in her pajamas?) is charming (but I won't ruin it for you). As she writes, "This book can only hint at the complexities of an underground-lurking, monster-loving, self-described iconoclast who has influenced legions of designers around the world while enlivening Seattle's streets." Lasky, former managing editor of Print and current editor of Interiors, is always entertaining, as is Karrie Jacobs, editor-in-chief of dwell, whose introduction admiringly recalls Chantry from her days working on Seattle's music magazine The Rocket, for which he was the on-and-off art director. Some People Can't Surf is fun to read and even more fun to look at: Chantry's designs will rattle your cage. It'll make you want to shut off the G4, grab an old pulp novel and turn up the stereo. -Communication Arts

About the Author

Julie Lasky is former managing editor of Print magazine and current editor of Interiors. She lives in New York.

Karrie Jacobs met Art Chantry at the Seattle music magazine The Rocket. She has since edited Colors magazine, served as architecture critic for New York magazine, and currently edits Dwell magazine in San Francisco.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; 1st edition (February 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811823652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811823654
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 1 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,035,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Pinto on November 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
In a similar manner to Paula Scher and Charles Anderson, one of the main themes of Art Chantry's work is to take old images and give them a twist. While you can see an echo of this look in almost every graphic design award annual today, Chantry has been working in this style since the late 70's. And while many have borrowed his approach, few have been able to imitate it with the same sense of grit, humor, color and power.
True to the title of the book "Some People Can't Surf" there isn't one website design to be found, but that may not be a bad thing as Chantry is a master within his medium. A very large body of work that spans three decades is showcased which includes everything from his very first poster design for a school concert to promotional work for major Hollywood record labels. One pleasant surprise is seeing quite a bit of logo design work which involves the charm and craft of hand lettering. In end Chantry reminds one of a later day Milton Glaser with a punk rock point of view.
At some points the book can become too crammed by trying to jam several posters onto a page by shrinking them down to matchbook size, however the work holds up pretty well under the strain. This volume would be valuable to any graphic designer looking for inspiration or anyone who is a fan of the Seattle music from the 90's.
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Format: Paperback
...is that Art Chantry's groundbreaking artwork (and yes--unlike some snooty traditionalist art-weenies--I DO consider graphic design to be "art"!) is more often than not gobs more compelling than the work of the people who have directly benefitted from his work (i.e. most of the so-called grunge bands from the Pacific Northwest). Yet almost nobody outside of Seattle, Tacoma or underground graphic-design circles knows who the hell he is, even though almost everyone has seen his work in one form or other (The Sub Pop logo is one example that immediately comes to mind).
In early 1991, I discovered and became obsessed with underground garagepunk & instro-surf music, the most exciting of which was coming out of the Pacific Northwest, and specifically Estrus Records, in Bellingham, Washington. It was the Estrus label that started my appreciation, and later, reverence, for Art Chantry's ir-reverent style of graphic design. When Nirvana's "Nevermind" was released later that year, the wall that previously kept mainstream riffraff from crashing "our" underground party came crumbling down, and as a result, grungy Northwest music had become suddenly (and inexplicably) marketable. The sudden onslaught of new bands inspired by this alleged "rebirth" of punkrock quickly caused the quality of Estrus' releases to assume an inversely proportional relationship to the quantity of records they put out (well, that's MY theory, at least...). Simply put, the really good music on Estrus soon became a rare commodity. Thankfully, what didn't change was the brilliant package design that thier slabs o' vinyl and silver frisbees were encased in.
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By bleeding edges on September 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
i really wasn't too familiar with Art's work before getting this. i've only seen mentionings in random other books about how influencial he is. but after seeing this i can see why. he combines the rough aesthetic of punk and shows that it can be acceptible in mainstream graphic design. it shows that there's hope for punk rock artists like myself.
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Format: Paperback
I know the word gets thrown around too lightly, but Art Chantry is a design genius. BUY this book NOW.
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By A Customer on June 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Thee-anti-cool-subversive-godfather-backroad-bar-b-que shack-genius. If you are in school but this book. If you are over 50 buy this book. If you are successful buy this book. If you are struggling-steal this book.
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