AJ Masthay Linocut Artist Shaping Contemporary Art Scene
, by Bobby Banks, 5 min reading time
, by Bobby Banks, 5 min reading time
AJ Masthay was born on February 19, 1975, in Hartford, Connecticut. From a young age, he showed a keen interest in art and was encouraged by his parents to pursue his passion. As he grew older, his talent and dedication to the craft continued to develop. In 1997, he graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration. His educational background helped him refine his skills and develop a unique artistic style that would later become his signature.
AJ Masthay's distinct style primarily revolves around the linoleum block printing process, also known as linocut. This technique involves carving a design into a linoleum block and using it as a stamp to print the design onto paper or another surface. Linocut printing has been used for centuries by artists worldwide, but Masthay's contemporary take on the process sets him apart.
His passion for linocut printing began while attending university. Masthay discovered the works of early 20th-century German Expressionist artists who used linocut printing to create powerful and evocative imagery. He found himself inspired by the bold lines, intricate patterns, and strong contrasts of these pieces. This inspiration led to his adoption and mastery of the linoleum block printing technique.
One of the reasons AJ Masthay's work stands out is due to his innovative approach to the traditional linocut printing process. He often combines multiple printing techniques, including reduction printing, hand-coloring, and chine-collé, to achieve complex and striking results.
Reduction printing involves progressively cutting away more of the linoleum block with each color applied to the print. This method allows the artist to produce multi-colored prints while using only a single block. Additionally, Masthay often hand-colors certain parts of his prints to add depth and dimension to his creations.
Chine-collé is a technique that involves adhering a thin piece of paper, typically with a different color or texture, to the final print. This process adds an extra layer of depth and sophistication to the piece. By combining these various techniques, Masthay can create uniquely textured and visually engaging prints that are unlike any other.
AJ Masthay's career took a significant turn when he began designing concert posters for jam bands like The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey's McGee, and Widespread Panic. The vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and psychedelic themes of his prints resonated with fans, quickly establishing him as a sought-after artist within the jam band community.
In addition to working with established bands, Masthay has also collaborated with up-and-coming musicians and groups, bringing his unique aesthetic to their promotional materials. This exposure has helped to increase his profile and create demand for his artwork.
One of the most significant milestones in AJ Masthay's career came in 2015 when he was commissioned by the Grateful Dead to create the official artwork for their "Fare Thee Well" 50th-anniversary concert series. This collaboration elevated Masthay's status within the music and art worlds, as the Grateful Dead have a long history of collaborating with talented artists to create iconic imagery.
The resulting artwork featured Masthay's signature linocut style, showcasing the Grateful Dead's iconic imagery, such as the skull and roses, dancing bears, and the "Steal Your Face" logo, in a fresh and innovative way. These limited-edition prints quickly became sought-after collector's items, further cementing Masthay's reputation as a leading artist in the concert poster scene.
As his reputation grew, AJ Masthay began to collaborate with various artists and brands beyond the music industry. Some of his notable collaborations include working with craft breweries, creating label art for limited-edition beer releases, and partnering with nonprofit organizations to raise awareness and funds for their causes.
Masthay's partnerships with breweries showcase his ability to adapt his artistic style to various subjects, as he has designed labels featuring everything from animals to cosmic landscapes. His work with nonprofits demonstrates his commitment to using his artistic talents for positive change, creating stunning visuals to support their missions.
Over the years, AJ Masthay has received widespread recognition and numerous accolades for his contributions to the world of art. In 2013, he was awarded the prestigious EB Art of the Week award by ExpressoBeans.com for his stunning Widespread Panic concert poster. His Grateful Dead "Fare Thee Well" artwork was also honored by the American Poster Institute at the 2015 Flatstock poster convention in Chicago, further highlighting his impact on the concert poster industry.
Masthay's artwork has been featured in various publications, galleries, and exhibitions, allowing art enthusiasts worldwide to experience his captivating creations in person. His unique approach to linocut printing, combined with his dedication to his craft, has positioned him as a prominent figure in the contemporary art scene.
In 2006, AJ Masthay founded Studio Masthay, a space dedicated to creating and showcasing his art. Based in West Hartford, Connecticut, the studio serves as a hub for his creative process and allows him to connect with fans and collectors worldwide. Through Studio Masthay, he regularly releases limited-edition prints, merchandise, and other collectibles featuring his distinctive artwork.
As he continues to refine his techniques and explore new subject matter, AJ Masthay's artistic journey shows no signs of slowing down. His work remains highly sought after by collectors and fans, and he is continually pushing the boundaries of linoleum block printing. With a growing list of collaborations and a solid foundation of devoted fans, the future looks bright for this innovative and talented artist.