Linshuttr Talks His MMG Album Art And Coming Up Without A Head Start
We sat down with the illustrator to find out the story behind his artwork.
In this day and age, where art is king, musicians have taken to employing contemporary artists or creative agencies to add a more avant-garde element to their album artwork. Being that a cover is the first thing a fan or listener may see and is also an artists first chance at drawing in potential listeners, it’s of no surprise that artists have taken on the role of curator and creative director. Opting less for the grisly portrait or the environmental shot in which they bask in the ambiance set by their sonic offerings we see artists like Drake calling upon painter Kadir Nelson to handle the covers of his Nothing Was the Same, Kanye West utilizing the master hand of painter George Condo for his MBDTF album, and a bevy of hip hop heavyweights looking to creative agency Donda to design single and album artwork throughout 2013.
The artwork for the Wale remix of “Clappers” struck our eye for similar reasons. A weird, almost sculptural depiction of Wale and his peers before a dancer, money falling from the ceiling, the atmosphere set. It was expressive, crude, polarizing, and nuanced.
It garnered a reaction that you wouldn’t immediately attribute to merely looking at single artwork. Subtly in the bottom corner of the illustration we found a name attached and were immediately pulled in by the work of Queens, New York native Linshuttr. We stumbled upon his illustrations – work ranging from political to hilariously satirical – and decided to bring him in to get an idea of who the artist was and how he was able to use his talents to be a go to for some of today’s notable musicians.
Mass Appeal: So your name “Linshuttr” where does that come from?
MA: Ah, wow!
Linshuttr: …and it stuck. I was sitting one day and said, “I need a name” and I came up with “lens” and “shutter” and then I was just like “Lens, shutter.” I threw the notebook away but you could see how I was playing with the spelling and everything. I was 19 and I just became a manager at Au Bon Pain. At the time I was in a 3D class where I had to build my head then I was doing these late night meetings with this art team, and we had no idea what we were doing. I wasn’t truly a photographer or illustrator then.
MA: So, what are your tools?
Linshuttr: I sketch with a pen, I actually bought a new sketchbook. After that I photograph it with my phone to put it in the computer and then size it up and paint it.
MA: When you say you size them up and paint… You paint using?
MA: Do you use like a tablet or anything?
Linshuttr: Yeah, Wacom…
MA: Ok, because your pieces are very painterly and really textured.
Linshuttr: Yeah! That’s the thing, I don’t use the illustrator’s technique. I actually paint…well I can’t say paint, but use the strokes of the pen and everything.
MA: Yeah, you can really see the brushstrokes. So you mean illustrator’s technique in what sense?
Linshuttr: In the sense that you utilize “vector art”… like your shadows are solid shadows but with my work there are levels to the blend.
MA: Ah, I see what you mean. Illustrator’s typically work “flat.” Very interesting, so what made you make the jump to producing digital work?
Linshuttr: I’d always drawn but I was about to graduate from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and I needed work for my portfolio. I started doing the illustrations in October of 2010 and I graduated in March, so I was just starting the illustrations.
MA: So, when did you first really get into producing art?
Linshuttr: Probably when I left school. I realized, “Wow, I just did three and a half years of a degree and really didn’t enjoy myself.” I took what I learned from doing the freelance photography and put it towards illustration. I didn’t really start selling my pieces until recently. I would sell them here and there but almost as if I had a store, recently is when it started booming.
MA: Since you began selling who would you say is the craziest person that purchased one? I think I saw you had a Jordan print that was pretty popular.
Linshuttr: Teyana Taylor and Wale actually asked me for that. But it’s like, Wale wants it pretty big with a frame…
MA: The same Jordan joint?
Linshuttr: The red Jordan. I’ve been taking my time because I have to figure out how I’m gonna ship it. Darrelle Revis’ business partner actually purchased one of those. Later on, Revis was the subject of another piece I did and he actually shouted me out. I was supposed to send him that piece too but you know…people with money, they playin’ around, they can’t return text messages. Then Teyana Taylor saw the Jordan one he bought off me and said, “I want this!”
MA: You’re from Queens, NY originally? How did coming up in Queens really shape how you produced art?
Linshuttr: That’s the bad thing about it; I didn’t really get into art until I was leaving high school. I wasn’t accepted into any colleges and we had to fill out this paper for this “Arts Institute” company and they would send your information off to different schools and they contacted me and I was like, “Uh, yeah, sure!” and went through the process. I realized how behind I was; all these kids went to art school and this and that.
MA: Like having that “formal training” type deal. So, not having that academic background with art you said once you got to school you hopped to it and found your style and how you wanted to go about creating and this was after the photography?
Linshuttr: Yeah, it was late. My friend introduced me to um… just everything your office is about, everything you have on your laptop, like all that was a subculture that I knew nothing about. It was easily something I took a liking to and got lost in. I stopped paying attention in class for awhile; I would be editing photos in class and this was when I was doing 3D illustration, I just did like 2D, didn’t like 3D. That was my three and a half years in school struggling through that. It got better towards the end but I realized it just wasn’t for me.
MA: We came across you and your art because we saw the “Clappers” artwork that you did. How did they approach you for that and what was that process like?
Linshuttr: The top of 2013 I was working in a kitchen and I barely had time to do art. I would do like one or two pieces at a time, a week. I did a Miguel piece when he dropped the “Leg Drop.” I put that out then I woke up, Wale followed me and “liked” the photo. When I went to Art Basel in Miami this past December, I was with my friend Sean and I was telling him how Teyana Taylor commented on the photo of the picture given to Revis. It wasn’t like she was buying it or putting me on or nothing, so I didn’t really care. Then Sean starts saying, “You never know.” When I got home – I was living in Orlando – on Instagram I sent a direct message to Wale, Teyana Taylor, and some others about the Jordan piece and Wale answered me back, and said talk to my mans, so I hit his man up. I didn’t get a response so I waited like a week later to reach out again. It was late at night and the dude posted a photo of a beach or something so I said, “Yo Wale told me to contact you about an address,” and that night he emailed me and said, “We want you to do work.”
MA: That’s official man. I know that you told me prior to that you worked with an artist that worked with Azealia Banks.
Linshuttr: Yeah Shystie.
MA: Word, so how were you able to connect with and subsequently produce a piece for her?
Linshuttr: Yeah, she said on her Facebook page, “I need somebody who can do an illustration,” or something to that effect for cover art. One of my friends tagged me and I started posting my website on her wall and they eventually contacted me. That was the first time I did art on a more public scale.
MA: After that is when folks took notice?
Linshuttr: Yeah, they were like “Oh this is good!” but that time was rough. I was living in Pittsburgh and I wasn’t working besides doing art but I was still doing photography on the side because it was easy money. I was making a little bit of money and I was doing a little co-teaching, co-art teaching with my friends…it was tough times.
MA: Now we have MMG. You said you just recently did the artwork for the Slutty Boyz Da New Kool mixtape that just dropped, so are those some of the biggest artists that you’ve worked with or worked for?
MA: Was it more like a third party contact or did they hit you up personally?
Linshuttr: Oh, nah. Wale’s right hand guy hits me up but Wale has contacted me personally, even through Twitter, sometimes out of the blue like, “Yo, happy to have you doing work for me,” you know just like as if I had been working with you for two months and you just hit me up like, “Thanks a lot man.” Well actually, I’m not supposed to share this but I’m actually… I’ll just say I loaned art to a really big artist who’s coming out with a film soon.
MA:: Oh, ok.
Linshuttr: …and um yeah, that’s the biggest thing I did.
MA: Ok…not gonna…
Linshuttr: I think they probably gave me the wrong name to the movie. Whenever you do movies they give you the wrong name just to make sure it stays confidential.
MA:: I’ll keep that off the record, when that comes out I’ll let it come out.
Linshuttr: I want to see how they put it in there but they had me send in 15 prints…
MA:: That’s very tight. Aside from the mystery collaboration coming soon where else would you want to go with your art?
Linshuttr: I wanna live off it. You’re not supposed to compare your journey to other people’s but I’ve always looked to other people for motivation, “if he can do that then I can do this” and it’s like you look at stuff…you watch Basquiat’s story a million times and how he was homeless for like three years. His rise was as fast as his downfall but it’s like you look at his journey or you ever see “Exit Through The Gift Shop”? Mr Brainwash’s journey, where he was just super-passionate about stuff and they told him go make some art and he did it. Now he has Rick Ross’ album cover under his belt.
MA: I remember when that movie came out people were immediately trying to shut his shit down. It’s true man, you’ve got to persevere.
Linshuttr: You can’t blame him for just being passionate, he was just so crazy that he was naively passionate and it worked for him totally, you have to applaud that. He had a family, he re-mortgaged his house, in the end it just worked. That’s what I want to do and everybody keeps saying, “Make t-shirts” but the thing is I sell prints that would cost the same as t-shirts. It costs me less to produce prints. That’s why I was skeptical about making t-shirts.
MA: T-shirts fade over time, with this…framed, someone can have this for a very long time.
Linshuttr: What I want to do is make t-shirts but I also want to go to thrift stores and do one of one pieces with a “Linshuttr” on it.
MA: That’ll be tight man…
Linshuttr: Yeah, just something like that where I can sell jackets for like a hundred dollars apiece. A hundred dollars for a jacket nowadays, that’s nothing. That’s my next mission because I can continue making art until I die, but you always have to find ways to expand your horizon.