Pete MacPhee, the artist who designed the bold, distinctive Rhythm & Roots T-shirts last year, is back with two new designs and another offering of the 2018 version, which sold out in one day.
You can’t miss a MacPhee design, although it’s hard to define. He creates bold, sharp, colorful and complicated designs that proved popular with the music lovers at Rhythm & Roots. He sold his posters here last year and his T-shirts sold fast. If you can picture a blend of art nouveau, German folk art and vintage wallpaper – as described by one writer – you get the sense of the look of a recent poster for last year’s Oktoberfest in Wakefield. He brings a similar sensibility to his posters and T-shirts for Rhythm & Roots.
MacPhee, who grew up in Narragansett and lives in Portsmouth, does business as the Swamp Yankee. Once upon a time, he showed up at a show with a pile of posters of his own design, and asked someone in the merchandise booth if it was OK to sell them. Bands now make much more money on merchandise than record sales, so the landscape has changed and the arrangements with musicians are more formal.
From drawing superheroes as a kid, MacPhee went on to the Rochester Institute of Technology and earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts illustration. An early influence was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was considered a mere poster artist in his day, but his colorful images of nightlife in late 1800s-France is considered a precursor to Andy Warhol.
MacPhee, like Lautrec’s use of early printmaking techniques, is not shy about using the latest tools. Sometimes his designs are drawn by hand and sometimes he scans his images into the computer to colorize them and make them sharper.
MacPhee, who says he has a knack for drawing skulls and shamrocks, has done much of the album art, posters, stage backdrops and T-shirts for the Dropkick Murphys. Irish pub bands seek him out. He’s also produced art for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Social Distortion, Black Sabbath, Bob Seger, the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Black Sabbath and Motley Crue.
MacPhee has also done his time on the stage, as a guitar and keyboard player in various bands. Now he makes most of his money from his art and enjoys selling his work at festivals a few times a year. Don’t miss his booth at Rhythm & Roots this year and check out his new T-shirt designs!