Lil Tuffy

This stunning Lost In Translation poster is from Lil Tuffy in our new Focus Features collaborative art show, currently on display at G1988. See the the entire exhibit online here: nineteeneightyeight.com/collections/focus

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Lil Tuffy and the Music Poster Renaissance

To see more of Lil Tuffy’s concert posters, check out @lil_tuffy on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

When it comes to designing silkscreen concert posters, Lil Tuffy (@lil_tuffy) just goes with his gut.

“I do a lot of last-minute jobs where I’ll get no lead-in time at all. It’s like this is due in three days — and that includes printing,” says the California-based artist. “When that happens, you basically have to take a walk around the block, clear your head and then just sit down and do it.”

Tuffy currently works out of a ground-floor studio in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, where he produces a wide range of intricate silkscreen prints. Past work includes colorful images of Devo, Wu-Tang Clan and Lana Del Rey.

Born in Detroit and raised in Cincinnati, Chicago and L.A., Tuffy (his real name is Terrance; “Lil Tuffy” was given to him by a friend years ago and has stuck ever since), started making posters more than a decade ago. At that point, he had been bartending and booking bands at small venues.

“I collected posters as a hobby,” he says. “So for my birthday party in 2002, I made a poster.”

The final piece snagged Tuffy a few design gigs. From there, he hooked up with the Firehouse, an art collective, and artist Chuck Sperry, where he learned how to screen print.

“I took printmaking classes [in college] but never screen printing classes,” he says. “So friends and I would break into the screen printing lab at night with like a case of beer and would make band T-shirts and stuff like that. That was the extent of my screen printing experience before then.”

Post-Firehouse, Tuffy set out on his own, connecting with San Francisco-area promoters and creating posters for their concerts. His work coincided with a renaissance of boutique poster making across the country — a throwback to the days when venues like the Fillmore would offer exclusive, custom images designed for local shows.

“I think when digital music started to become more prevalent and album covers took a back seat, posters really kind of filled that void,” says Tuffy. “And in the ‘90s when collecting seven inches in limited edition vinyl was like a big thing, posters kind of dovetailed right into that as well — this unique thing, only available at the show.”

Though he works directly with the promoters, in some cases Tuffy will collaborate with a few of his musician friends. Other times, he’ll hear from other artists about how much they admire his work.

“You’ll get an email thanking you,” he says. “They’re like, ‘Yeah. This is awesome. You nailed this one. I want to hang that on my wall.’”

—Instagram @music

Poster of the Day: Lil Tuffy for “Vampire Weekend.”  I have seen this poster IRL (as well as meeting Lil Tuffy himself) at Treasure Island Music Festival this year at Lil Tuffy’s booth…and it’s just as beautiful in person. LOVE it. What’s awesome is they are two separate posters that yes, you can buy one separately and it will still be ok…but…why would you want to when put together, it looks like this?? Each print is like a crutch for the other. They work as a PERFECT set (get it?).  And I applaud Lil Tuffy for still capturing the super prep that is Vampire Weekend.