Around the Press in 80 Books: Dirtdobber Blues

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Senior Designer Michelle Neustrom writes about Dirtdobber Blues.

Dirtdobber BluesWhile doing jacket design research for Cyril Vetter’s novel about his almost-famous singer/songwriter friend Charles “Butch” Hornsby, I was surprised to find out that Butch was also an avid artist. Once he left the music business, Butch focused on creating paintings, sculptures, and collages using found objects from the woods or people’s trash. He used anything and everything: newspaper clippings, bottles, records, sign remnants, appliance parts, clothing, license plates, and other random discarded items. His chaotic collages are a stark contrast to his soulful guitar-playing musicians, but both strike a chord of authenticity.

Record BidnessWhen it came time to design the book cover, his painting titled Mommy, Look, The Man is Crying was chosen because it instantly conveyed music and emotion. And there was a nice open space in the top right corner for the title (always a plus). For this book, I didn’t want to just pick an appropriate typeface to go with the painting. Instead, I wanted to be like Butch and make something from nothing. I wanted to go out into the woods and gather materials and get my hands dirty!

Mommy Look, the Man is CryingWell, I didn’t make it as far as the woods–I searched around my office, found an old box, tore off the flaps, and painted the title Dirtdobber Blues on it with a pallet knife. It was not an exceptional piece of art, but it was more about the process and about being authentic. As a graphic designer, the majority of my time is spent on the computer. The physical process of making something is lost. Butch’s artwork prompted me to break from my normal routine and look at my surroundings in a different way.

I keep that poorly painted cardboard sign on top of a bookcase in my office (right next to a Goudchaux’s hat box, but that’s another story for another blog post). I see it everyday, and it reminds me to stop, observe, and get my hands dirty every once in a while.

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