“Quitting my day job in porn to freelance as an artist full time,” said artist Brian Ewing of the decision that sparked his career watershed. “[I was] working for Hustler on the magazines handling scheduling, prep houses and printers. I also freelanced for them by doing illustrations for their publications. I swore that’d be my last day job.” Although Ewing transformed into one of rock music and pop art’s most prolific, iconic image-makers, he remained down-to-earth.
Brian became a sought-after household name for record labels and agencies, he stayed true to the independent spirit of his art, and his style developed over time. “At first I was just happy to get a chance to draw and work with my favourite bands,” he said of his early punk-rock posters. But with his growth from poster artist to full-blown fine artist, he followed in the footsteps of his heroes and mentors–Frank Kozik, Coop, Tara McPherson and many others–building an instantly recognisable stylistic empire.
Informed by everything from art nouveau to ukiyo-e woodblock printing, from the full-throttle art of SoCal’s “kustom” car culture to the dynamism and self-assured lines of comics, Ewing’s work fuses his creative explorations of perspective, colour and space with classic, beloved imagery from rebellious American youth culture: hot punk girls, totally rad skulls, and fields of colour aflame. In this way, his work embraces a particular playful naďveté, which he continued to champion even as his style refines and technique develops. Ewing reminds us we never have to give up the imagery that fired our imaginations as teenagers; his success is a signifier of how dearly we hold our trappings of rebellion, and how they can become a vehicle through which one can mature. With a roster of clients ranging from Metallica and the Warped Tour to The Strokes and Death Cab For Cutie, and even The New Yorker and several advertising agencies, Ewing’s resume is a testament to what we love most about music, art, the allure of drama, lust, danger and darkness.
With his first monograph, “Don’t Hold Your Breath: The Art Of Brian Ewing,” which publisher Dark Horse allowed him to design himself, the reader can see the progression and maturation of his imagery, from power-packed and densely composed rock posters to the nuanced, deceptively simple and provocative works of more recent vintage.
Brian was a friend of Stopwatch Gallery before we even existed, he will be truly missed.
RIP Brian, 1974 – 2023