If you live in Rochester, you’ve probably seen artwork by Alison Cote. Her work isn’t tucked away in some gallery. It’s everywhere.
“The city is my gallery,” says Alison. “The bands that are hiring me put up my posters all over the place. Record shops, places where people get food, and even street poles.”
In the home studio, we’re surrounded by her inspirations: a life size bust of Elvis, a lamp with a 60’s style print, oversize art books. There’s a framed Beatles poster, which fits right in with the aesthetic of the posters Alison designed for her friends’ bands.
“It’s all vintage style poster art. It’s hard to pigeonhole. It’s like a hundred years of artwork, and art changed so much,” Alison explains. “That’s what I like about doing vintage style. I found a way to have creativity and flexibility, but still be recognizable.”
Alison started in hand drawing and painting. Her parents were both artists, so when growing up art supplies were plentiful. “My parents told me I always got creative with the materials that were around.”
Nowadays her artwork is done on her computer. “Even if it looks hand drawn, it’s all computer. I have brushes on Photoshop and different textures that I lay over things to make it look... I guess analog is the music term.”
“I’m glad I know how to paint, too, but it’s so much easier. There’s no cleanup involved. You just close out the window and you’re done for the day.”
But she still uses the kinds of techniques employed in traditional art. She starts with a midtone shape and then builds the light and dark areas. The portraits in particular can be challenging and time consuming to get likenesses just right. She then overlays textures to add dimension. Alison also does photography, album art, logos, t-shirt and sticker design, again aiming for a timeless vintage quality. Not only does she do work for local bands, she also gets commissioned by area businesses like Bop Shop and an East End vintage store called Op Shop.
“It’s a lot of just knowing people. It spreads by word of mouth.” Alison says. She started by doing posters for her husband’s bands. “After a while some of my other friends in bands saw the posters and said ‘Can you do one for me?’ And then it took off from there.”
Most of her clients give her a lot of creative license, which gives her the opportunity to be creative. Some pieces highlight her love of historical commercial art and pop culture, and in others her light-hearted sense of humor shines through.
“One of the Dangerbyrd posters... because it’s my husband’s band, he’ll sometimes spring things on me at the last minute and say ‘Oh, I need a poster this week.’ This was one of those times when I was really busy and kind of annoyed with him for waiting until the last minute. I’m like ‘Okay, this is what you get.’”
The result was the poster from a former show, with graffiti all over like a high school yearbook with the words ‘Like 9:30 or 10’ penciled in the margin. She posted it online with the caption ‘A warning to all of you, this is what your poster will look like if you wait until the last minute to ask me to make something.”
To see more of her artwork, you can find a gallery on her website alisoncote.com or on Instagram.