by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Travis Braun is combining two of his biggest passions into a unique project and he needs your help.
A 1999 Central High School graduate, Braun, 32, has long loved both drawing, a talent he excelled at even as a kid, and music, whether through buying numerous CDs as a teenager or playing guitar for his high school band, Star Larva.
Now a resident of Orem, Utah, Braun is promoting his intricate rock poster art through Kickstarter, the online company that provides tools to raise funds for creative projects.
With Kickstarter, supporters can donate funds in support of a project, and if a funding goal is met, it becomes a reality.
Braun’s interest in both music and art were strongly encouraged as his parents, Bruce and MaryKay of Waconia, were both elementary school teachers and pushed Braun and his siblings, Alicia, Kahli and Nolan, to pursue their interests.
“They wanted to get us involved in some sort of activity,” said Braun. “From a very young age I was into art. My parents bought me art supplies when I was 5 or 6 years old.”
Braun recalled winning an power safety art competition by the Northern State Power Company as a sixth-grader, and also starting played the guitar with his high school friends.
While his three guitars are collecting dust recently, Braun fondly remembers Star Larva and fellow bandmembers Chris Fahey on vocals and guitar, Tim Schultz on bass and Aaron Whitaker on drums
“It was just a really fun thing,” he said. “We played at school dances. We didn’t have a ton of songs so we’d play half of the dance and DJ the rest.”
Art always has remained his focus though.
“I started out drawing mixing my ideas with other things I liked,” he said, adding one of his earliest ones is Bart Simpson on his skateboard.
Those drawings soon emerged though into drawings of rock band logos, like Aerosmith, Guns and Roses and Nirvana, he found in CDs.
“Even in high school I spent all the money I made purchasing CDs,” he recalls as he would work at the Waconia Theater and drive to Minneapolis to visit Cheapo in Uptown. “I would walk out with $100 in CDs. I was in heaven.”
Braun said he has since gotten rid of “a few,” but still has over 700 CDs in his collection.
Shortly after graduating from Central, Braun went on a mission trip to Guatemala for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he met his current wife, Adrienne, and her family.
“They were working a construction project for a local school that happened to be in my same area,” he said. “I was invited to come over and eat some dinner and became friends with her dad.”
After making a long-distance relationship work, Braun married Adrienne in 2003, when Braun moved to Utah.
Braun graduated from BYU with a fine arts degree in 2007, where he was able to start making detailed rock posters.
“In college I was able to do some assignments for classes and incorporates music-related artwork,” he said. “I wanted to really combine my two passions.”
Now Braun is a ceramics and painting teacher at Oquirrh Hills Middle School but also pursues his art in the summer.
“The great thing about art is that I am able to teach,” he said.
Braun’s creation process for the detailed rock posters in unique, far beyond the simple ones he created in high school, or even college.
His intense work mostly takes place “man cave,” a studio space set up with his computer and easel, the site for many of his CDs, which are integral to the first step of his process.
“I spend 15 hours, maybe more than that, doing research,” he said. “I read through the lyrics of every single song the band has written.”
For bands with vast collections like the Beatles, U2 and Radiohead, the task is immense.
“I devour the lyrics and try to get into the mindset of the musician,” he said. “Taking in those song lyrics feed my creativity.”
Moving on, Braun delves into reference artwork, such as music videos and album covers, which he incorporate his work, beginning with detailed ink drawings of the band members, concept art and others, which usually takes him 30 to 50 hours to complete.
Once those drawings are scanned into his computer, Braun works with Photoshop to create multi-layered works with his art, album art and even photographs.
The effort is worth it though as his recent pieces are far more advanced than the simple Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana ones he did early in college.
“They look horrible,” he said, laughing. “They don’t look like my current style.”
Among his best are Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam and Tom Waits.
“Those turned out well,” he said. “I really like them and feel they’re a good representation of the band and their music.”
His posters are as diverse as his musical tastes, which vary greatly, including his current favorites like Radiohead – “I really love all the depth and layers of their music” – Jack White, John Mayer and Black Keys, to 90’s grunge bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana, to Metallica and System of a Down, to classics such as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
While he loves creating the art mixed with his favorite bands, it hasn’t quite taken off for Braun, leading to his Kickstarter project.
Braun first became familiar with Kickstarter from friends a few years ago, but didn’t realize it’s potential until he heard about “Ukiyo-e Heroes,” a project by the brother, Jed Henry, of one of his Facebook friends. The project is among the highest funded project, raising over $300,000.
“It just didn’t click and I was busy doing other stuff,” he said. “When I saw Jed’s project, I was blown away. The wheels started turning and I said ‘let’s give it a try.’”
While Braun’s Kickstarter is still shy of its goal, Braun is still hopeful of his project.
“The great thing is there is little risk involved,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about it, because there’s no money unless your successful. Let’s throw it up there and see what happens.”
If it isn’t successful, Braun said he will reevaluate his project but intends to keep creating posters and marketing them in some way.
With the school year now over and summer beginning, Braun is eager to create new posters, although he is losing some of his fan base in the students he teaches.
“A lot don’t understand the time involved but I’ve got a handful of students that get it and really, really love them,” he said.
His best fans are his family and friends, mainly wife, Adrienne, a singer, and their 8-month-old daughter, Kosette.
“She’s been great,” he said of Adrienne. “Our kids are going to be really weird as far as art is concerned… She understands it’s more than a hobby for me.”
For more information, visit http://rocknrollerart.com/ or the Kickstarter for “50 Rock n Roll posters” at kickstarter.com.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]