thrown ups: winning the cultural explosion

by Art Chantry (

After the ‘grunge explosion’ died out and the dust settled, there were, in reality, only a very few people who actually became long term successful. the number of actual “millionaires” could be counted on the fingers of both hands. most of those millionaires were record company people and rock band managers. actual musicians who ‘got rich’ were frighteningly small in number. a LOT of money was made during the ‘seattle scene’, but it sure wasn’t by the creative folks who actually made the music. but, that’s the reality of exploitation in ameria.

ed also did a swell set of collage posters to advertise thrown ups shows. they were conceived as a series, each one commenting on the last one. the whole set was like a stupid bad poem - "eat the thrown-ups', 'diddle the thrown-ups..." etc.

along with the culture shock of that moment, there were a number of artists and photographers and other folks who did ok. but, again, very very few of them actually were what we’d call ‘successes’ in any national scope. in fact, there were few real success stories out of the ‘alt nation’ that emerged from the northwest.

when i first met edwin judah fotheringham (that’s “Mr. Fotheringham” to you, fella…), he was living in group house with (i seem to remember) the (brilliant) photographer charles peterson and a couple of members of the (brilliant) band, mudhoney. he approached me with a portfolio of some of his ‘illustration’ work while i was art directing at the rocket.

ed was an excellent painter/artist in the classic northwest style of art. one of his instructors at the university of washington was the late jacob lawrence. he was regularly exhibited and represented by one of the biggest most prestigious galleries on seattle. he didn’t sell anything, but he was in the big leagues locally. what did he do for money? he worked on a loading dock.

his pals in rock bands would hire him to do images for their record covers. he developed a very competent and beautiful lino-cut style that was used a lot (i used him on the cover of love battery’s “day glo” release on sub pop). he also had a style that was peculiar and marketable that was a sort of ‘stick-figure’ style. the most prominent use was on the record cover for mudhoney’s “every good boy deserves fudge” on sub pop.

he also was the ‘singer’ in a band called The Thrown Ups. ed, leighton beezer (on bass) and mark arm and steve turner of mudhoney filled in on other instruments. they had no songs, they had no instruments. they would get puking drunk, mount the stage at some other folk’s show, grab whatever instruments they found and start playing, making up tunes as they went. ed spent most of his efforts creating elaborate stage wear – ed as the baby jesus and the band as the three wise men for an xmas show, all the band as giant daisies, ed wearing a giant zit suit with straws handed out to the audience to poke holes in the “zits” and gush out shaving cream. that sort of thing. they were a huge obscene hit. in fact, they released several well received records and are considered by the insiders as the very first “grunge band.” sad, but true.

later, mudhoney asked me to design the cover of their first major label release on reprise/warner bros. called “piece of cake”. they wanted to know if i’d work with their buddy, ed, on the design. i quickly agreed, because ed was one of the most talented and funniest wackos i knew. so, we all had a meeting.

the band kept referring to “that old jazz record cover look” specifically NOT the blue note/reid miles look, but the earlier look of jazz records. i pulled a book on the jazz covers of david stone martin from my book shelf and they all agreed THAT was what they wanted. ed took one look and said, “i can do that.” ( ed has a carefully maintained a

alian accent, so you have to read his response with an aussie slant.)

david stone martin was the illustrator who defined what jazz LOOKED like up until the era of the blue note revolution. his style was linear with a raged blotty line quality that smeared. then he’d often use a wash of grey or muted color to create a color filed. early bop was the look of david stone martin. he was the coolest.

the style he popularized was not new, it was part of every art/illustration student portfolio for decades. it was a line quality taught in art schools. ben shahn was likely the first prominent popularizer of that technique, and it’s still associated as the signature style of his work.

the fine art world utilized the style a lot as well, you can find it in the work of picasso and paul klee, and others. early andy warhol built his entire early commercial illustration career on the style, as did many others. however, it was a look that had vanished with time. nobody drew in that style any more. it was a forgotten style. then we showed that book to ed.

ed went home and spent the entire night making over 30 individual drawings. he came in the next morning with those drawings – all done in his LINO-CUT style! i looked at them and said, “no, no, no, ed. do this look, this DSM blotty line look.” he was so bleary and tired that he gave me a blank stare.

i called my old friend nathan gluck in new york and put him on the phone to ed. nathan was warhol’s in-house graphic designer in the early commercial art studio. a lot of those shoe and butterfly drawings credited to warhol were actually done by nathan (as was a n enormous amount of the lettering attributed to andy’s mother). nathan explained the ‘trick’ of engineering the style (physically hinging bristol together to literally fold and blot, then used the blotted image).

ed stumbled out the door and went back to work. at the end of the day, he came back with 30 MORE drawings, all done beautifully in that old period drawing style! and they were BRILLIANT! he was a natural.

almost immediately, ed was a hit. granted, anybody can do that blotted line look (and a million imitators went into competition with ed working in an identical blotted style). but, ed brought “ed” to the table. his ferocious wit turned every bad idea dumped in his lap by some newbie art director into a work of genius. ed became a huge secret weapon. within a year or two he landed the account to do ALL of the advertising illustration work for nieman/marcus. he was earning a very very healthy 6 figures.

so, when you look back on the seattle scene, and you count the success stories on your fingers of your two hands, strangely, the art of edwin judah fotheringham has to be one of those fingers. ed was one of the few winners of that culture explosion. who woulda thunk?

it isn’t every day you get to actually witness the birth of a brilliant career!

the image i’ve posted is one of his early xmas cards done in his blotted line style. his dented wit is in high evidence. the man’s a genius, i tell ya!

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