Maker of the Month: Aaron Scamihorn

Aaron Scamihorn, owner of Ronlewhorn Industries, and AJ Scamihorn, Executive Quality Control Manager, run a screen printing and illustration company specializing in hand screen printed gig posters and art prints. Scamihorn has been in the screen printing business a little over seven years, and his appreciation for the old-school art process is displayed with each product made.

The Plan

What piqued your initial interest in designing your product(s)? I grew up with a family who makes things with our hands. Both of my parents are ceramic artists and mom is an art teacher. When I moved into a career of graphic design I missed that tactile creation. Having been designing show posters and fliers for a while, I took the logical step to teaching myself to screen print.

How would you describe your design aesthetics and values? I draw a lot of inspiration from comic book art, 60’s pop art and old advertising illustration. I describe my aesthetic as vintage comic pop with a modern and iconic twist.

Simplicity, iconic imagery and type are at the core of my design approach.

What comes first for you, the design materials or the design concept? Knowing that my work will almost always be produced as a screen print significantly drives how I create shapes and lines. Always being aware of the end result is extremely helpful in not only saving time in translation from digital to print but also helping generate concepts as I think about how colors will look.

The Process

Could you describe the process of creating a piece – from conception to finish? The creative process as well as material selection and labor process, too? I typically start by scouring the internet, magazines, movies and music to seek inspiration. If it is a gig poster, a band’s lyrics greatly drive the creative. From there I’ll do a combination of sketching and image reference collage. Those elements are brought into Adobe Illustrator, and from there I utilize layers of lines and color blocks to piece together the art. Once completed, I break apart the pieces into solid black layers that are printed onto transparency film. Those films are placed on screens that have been coated in light-sensitive emulsion. When exposed to light, the emulsion hardens everywhere except where the films block the light. Washing out the screen removes the remaining soft emulsion and leaves you with a screen ready to print. I use French Paper Co. stock exclusively with Speedball permanent acrylic ink to lay down each color one at a time. Once finished, I have them trimmed down at Faulkenberg Printing, take them home and sign, number and stamp them. Prints are either shipped to a venue or gallery or readied for a show and retail sale at Homespun Modern Handmade.

What is your favorite tool, and why? I value my micro-registration bar more than any other tool. Prior to finding it, my process was clunky and organic to the point that color layers rarely lined up properly. It not only saves time and headache, but it makes everything so much faster!

Describe a piece you’ve created that you are most proud of. What was special about it? I did a full nude portrait of Jason Segel for Gallery 1988 in LA that was for a Judd Apatow tribute show. The reference was a mix of Jason from Freaks and Geeks and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It was 3’ wide by 4’ tall printed on wood and coated in resin. When it hung in the gallery, they had to put a post-it note over his junk since there might be children coming in. It resulted in an interactive piece that garnered a lot of attention because of the curiosity of the viewers. Also, on my way out, I thanked the gallery owner for the opportunity, and he made mention to me that Jason often comes into the gallery the week after an opening to check out the work. He was pretty sure Jason would see it and get a kick out of it. All this and I got to see Martin Starr at the opening!

Describe the commissioning process. What are the best and worst aspects about doing commissions? Most of my commissions come from bands I love and reach out to gauge interest or repeat clients and bands that have seen posters that I’ve done and they want something similar. The result of this makes a majority of them a truly enjoyable experience. I either love the music and am able to gladly work with a band even if they’re difficult or they are a band that already like my work and typically give me a lot of freedom to do what I want.

The normal process is typically three stages: sketches, design roughs and final for approval. After that sign-off, it moves into screen printing, and I’ll send them some images of the colors as they go down on paper.

All-in-all, I’ve been very lucky to not have any nightmare clients that don’t like what I’m showing them or have complaints once they see the finished product. I’m knocking on wood that it stays that way!

The Product

What is one thing that the creative/design community can do in Indianapolis to help grow an audience for custom or hand-crafted work? Be active. Take every opportunity to create for events, shows and spaces. The more we put out our hand-crafted work for more people to see, the more the general public will choose local & hand-crafted over something mass produced.

Dream commission/client? I love illustrating unique and interesting faces; the more wrinkles and sunken eyes the better! A dream commission would be Steve Buscemi doing a book and hiring me to illustrate his face for the cover and printing posters of that art for the tour dates.

Do what you love doing, put it out there for people to see. Keep doing this and eventually you’ll start getting the exposure to be hired/commissioned to do that very thing.

What makes your work different from anyone else’s? I feel like my portrait style and typography work is pretty distinct. This, I assume, results in people being able to spot my aesthetic when they see it.

What’s your most rewarding memory in your business? My first gig poster was done for Mayer Hawthorne. When we chatted after the show, he said “I’ve had a ton of posters created for me, but this, this is the Sh**t!”

All photos taken by Aubrey Smith.

You can follow Scamihorn on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and visit his website to view his products.

You can purchase Ronlewhorn Industries products at Homespun Modern Handmade.