Each year Busy Beaver invites an artist or designer from the community to curate a limited edition button series. The resulting series is then distributed through our Button-O-Matic machines in locations across the country. It’s our way of supporting artists and spreading the button love.
For the 2016 series, we chose Clay Hickson of Tan & Loose Press to curate. He enlisted ten illustrators from around the world to design a Happy Hour themed 1 inch button. Those designs were then printed on a Risograph machine. A first for the Button-O-Matic Series, this unique printing method rendered a beautiful collection of buttons including this martini wearing black cat design by Pete Gamlen.
Pete Gamlen’s clean and bold lines lend themselves perfectly to editorial and iconic work and has landed an impressive client list including Warby Parker, The New York Times, and GQ to name a few. Pete’s illustration style also stands out in his sequential pieces like his comics, zines, and monthly newsletters. In his monthly publication (which ran from November 2014 to March 2016), Zugzwang, a mail-only zine that featured Pete’s artwork and prose. And cats. Pete likes cats.
Can you talk about how you began illustrating and printing? How you were you initially attracted to risograph printing?
I’ve drawn ever since I was a kid, so studying illustration at University and pursuing it as a career felt like a natural progression. There’s a lot of cool things you can do with a risograph to achieve different looks and effects, due to the translucent nature of the inks. Clay is an excellent printer, and collaborating with him is always an opportunity to push something to a new level.
You have really great clean and bold line work that lends itself well to a lot of different types of projects—what types of projects do you find most enjoyable?
Thank you! I get the most satisfaction from editorials where my own political viewpoint or subjects of interest aligns with the article. The quick turnarounds these assignments usually have also provide an extra need for focus, and being able to access that intense concentration is usually where I feel happiest. I also particularly enjoy drawing buildings – I’ve worked on a few projects involving cut-away street scenes which were hugely fun to do.
What inspired your “Happy-Hour” themed button?
I usually have cats on the brain, and black ones doubly so in October which is when Clay asked me to design the button. I knew I wanted to do something with solid shapes for maximum visual impact for the size of the button, so the iconographic quality of both the cat and the martini glass lent themselves well to that.
When do you get your best work done?
I’m usually happiest and most awake in the mornings, so I try and use that time for coming up with ideas, then use the afternoon or evening for more sustained drawing.
Favorite Happy-Hour beverage?
Mezcal Old Fashioned
What helps you get out of a creative block?
Mezcal Old Fashioned
What types of drawing tools can normally be found in your bag when you’re on the go?
Most of my professional work I do with brush and ink, but I really enjoy drawing with even more direct media for fun, such as thick lead-holders and oil pastels.
How do you celebrate completed projects?
By submitting an invoice.
To see Pete Gamlen’s work in person you can purchase your own 2016 Button-O-Matic artist series button packs in our gift shop. He’ll also be a part of “The Great Outdoors” at the Gowanus Print Lab in Brooklyn on March 26th in which all the artwork is for sale and all the proceeds going toward the Sierra Club.