Rock Art Poster Boy Stages Huge Exhibit

April 12, 2004

An article published by 24/7. Page 12. Story by Jessica Shaw.

In Detroit’s Russell Industrial Center, artist Mark Arminski hovers over his drafting board, colored pencils scattered in every direction. He’s working on his latest project, a high-dollar deal consisting of a four-poster series commissioned by Rolling Rock Incorporated. Two young documentary filmmakers follow his every move to add to hours of footage they’ve already amassed on the artist. For decades, Mark Arminski had created rock posters. No Doubt, B.B. King, Iggy Pop and Kid Rock are among hundreds of acts who have been Arminski’s subjects, each concert announcement designed, sketched and printed in his trademark bold and sexy imagery.

Arminski’s colorful broadsides hang in Germany’s fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Cleveland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and St. Petersburg’s Dali Museum. Locally, Detroit’s Hard Rock Cafe and the State Theater house his increasingly popular posters. But recognition was never Arminski’s focus. “It was all a part of really not wanting to go to work for somebody, so I had to figure out how to make art work,” he explained. Clearly Arminski has made his art work. Currently, 300 different posters are available at Ebay teems with his art. VH-1 and MTV Road Rules have called seeking his talents for on-air demonstrations and ad design.

The long-time Royal Oak resident’s wild rise to legendary rock poster artist began in the 1960’s, sparked by a cousin and a package of psychedelic posters by renowned pop culture illustrators Stanley Mouse, Carl Lundgren, Alton Kelly and Gary Grimshaw. Never a fan of school, Arminski’s core training came in anxious bursts at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Detroit’s Center for Creative Studies. Outside of class, Arminski absorbed art books and mentor’s guidance. He co-founded Phoenix Impressions in Pontiac in 1984, a haven of printmakers fueled by passion for creativity. A path of self-discovery brought on the meshing of his scholastic experiences with new mediums. No surface was safe. Arminski’s murals appear in places like Mr. B’s and Monterrey Cantina in Royal Oak. Keith Howarth, owner of Noir Leather in Royal Oak added the ‘eArminski look’ to his annual fashion shows, asking Mark to paint on semi-nude models for an extra shock.

Countless characters along the way provided inspiration. Such was the case with Kris Dorris with whom he partnered at The Ghetto Press, which churned nearly 100 handbills of distinctive work to the forefront of the rock world. Yet, always the purist, Arminski today can often be found screen printing broadsides by hand, blonde rock-star hair swaying every stroke. 24/7 caught up with him recently to ask him some questions about his career and philosophy on art.

Tell us about your road to international recognition.

I met the devil at the corner of John R and Brush. Seriously, when I was young I knew I’d be famous or infamous. After high school I worked as a detail draftsman for a man who was willing to help me, a troubled kid at the time. One day, he painted a picture of me going to drafting school. Right then I realized I was not the kind of person who could go into the same job, day after day – I panicked and I quit.

Art is my life, but even in my art I have to change things around. I’ll do posters or paintings. I get bored. So it was that I couldn’t live a life in the regiment, so I had figure how to make a living doing art-work. It’s a form of strength to survive.

Your art has evolved throughout the years the years and mediums. How did you go through your path of discovery?

It seems my whole career was just dropped in front of me. This is true for getting into tattooing. In 1990, I had a good friend teach me how to tattoo. The same is true for body painting. Keith Howarth was having his fashion shows at Industry in Pontiac and asked me to try it out. It’s actually one of my most popular mediums to date. Then I started to incorporate that into my artwork. Like painting on models, taking pictures and making prints from that.

How do you handle needing to be an artist and self-promoter?

I reached a point when I knew it wasn’t so much about the art as getting your name out there. There are tones of exhibitions going on all the time and they’re just looking for people to submit art. There are publications, galleries, lists of magazines. Sending letters and slides to publications is a great way to promote too. I’ve send entered shows with a jurying fee. You have a book to show clients and it all just legitimizes you.

What did growing up in the 60’s do for your art?

Being 16, 17 years old, was really wild. The flower children and bellbottoms were so colorful and were everywhere. You know sayings like, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” The music was all psychedelic. I was right in the middle of it. Musically, it was The Doors, MC5, Hendrix and a ton of local bands. There were kids everywhere, parks and Belle Isle n love-ins. There’s no doubt this all influences my posters now.

Sensuality touches a great deal of your work, what is the role of eroticism?

Everybody has a view of themselves. In this country, sexuality is made to be much too important. So many things are considered taboo, yet people who never admit to doing them, do so behind closed doors. In the public eye they come out a say this is real obscene, when in fact it shouldn’t be considered obscene at all. Our society had made people feel guilty about expressing sensuality, and that’s wrong. I’m not trying to be shocking. To me it’s a nice oil painting, and it shouldn’t be taken any different then that.

Why do you think it’s important to maintain a cohesive art community?

Everything breeds something. People getting together might result in two people putting out a publication, putting on an event or working on a personal project. I wouldn’t be doing half the stuff I do if it hadn’t been for collaborating with other artists.

The perfect example is Stanley Mouse. I went to California to just stand next ti him while he painted. For years I was dying to just stand next to the guy and paint with him. He is a piece of history. At his studio, I painted with him, and I absorbed the whole experience to keep with me forever.

Any suggestions for younger artists?

Stay true to what you’re doing and do it for the reasons you believe in, and it’ll happen. Not everything is money motivated. I’m realist, but I do it for the art. If you do something expecting someone else to like it, you’ll never be happy.

Best rock experience?

Patti Smith and her band asked me to go on tour to Europe. I met them in Vienna and I spent time going to museums with band members. I got to spend time alone with Patti Smith, who is an incredible woman. I was like part of the band, working merchandise when I wanted to . So I ended up seeing Vienna, Slovenia and Prague.