Veteran artist Junior Tomlin is renowned for his stunning flyer and record cover art, mostly produced during the golden era of rave culture. His visionary work combines influences from sci-fi, surrealism, fantasy, futurism and comics. The result is a collection of artwork that defined an era and earned him the title ‘The Salvador Dali of Rave’. We’re delighted to be publishing a book called Junior Tomlin: Flyer & Cover Art, a comprehensive insight into Junior’s incredible back catalogue. In this exclusive excerpt from the book, Junior talks influences and how he approaches his work.
My book is a celebration of 30 years of art and creativity, from airbrushed pieces to vector graphics and the movement of pixels. It represents two sections of my life: the era when I was creating record covers and, subsequently, my time producing rave flyers. Both stories are intertwined through people, records, labels, rave promoters, DJs and MCs, with the ever-changing genres of music, and, of course, the ravers who urged me to create bigger and better vistas stretching their imagination and their perception of the world around them.
From the beginning, creating artwork was, and still is, a very beautiful process. I drew inspiration from the great masters: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, René Magritte, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Jim Burns, Frank Finley and plenty of others, from painters to comic strip artists to film directors to internet radio stations. Reading comics, watching films and listening to music are key sources of inspiration for me. I love films and directors like Orson Wells, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and the Russo Brothers.
On the DJ side artists like DJ Rap, Andy C, Grooverider, Johnny Jungle and many more provided the soundtrack to which I produced some of my most iconic work. In the early days I could pick out the sci-fi clips that the music producers sampled and fused into their tracks – there was an almost symbiotic connection between my projections of the future and the tunes being played in the raves, it seemed.
The sci-fi vibe in my art has been there as far back as I can remember. It started very early on when I used to watch a TV show called Lost In Space. That’s a big part of my story, I loved the robot in that show. Later on, I read Isaac Asimov, a scientist and science-fiction writer who incidentally gave us the ‘three laws of robotics’ and my love for sci-fi was well and truly born. I can’t forget Star Wars and Star Trek, hugely influential shows. This idea of fantasy meets the future merged with my other main influence – the surrealist movement – resulting in the work you’ll see in this book and much more besides.
Every record cover and flyer starts with an idea. Once I’m briefed, I do some research and create a series of roughs. In my mind, I know what colours I will be using immediately and make notes on the roughs themselves. From the get-go, my work has always been bold, striking and colourful. Strong use of colour is a key component of my creations, as you’ll see. I think the best way to describe the colour choices is “as colourful as African fabric”. Over the years, I have accumulated many, many sketchbooks full of ideas, which I still draw upon from time to time. I revisit long lost ideas and bring them forward, even creating mashups of my own existing work, so certain characters and motifs are reprised and regenerated in different forms.
Everyone has a spark of creativity in them, some on the surface where they can easily access it and others who bury it deep down, perhaps due to a bad creative experience. It is my hope that people who have lost the fire rekindle it through the pages of this book.
Whether you were there at the birth of rave culture or not, I hope my work transports to that special place – the dance floor – where peace, love, harmony and a sense of optimism about the future of humanity is always present.