Aaron Beebe, Plastikcomb
Maryland-based artist/graphic designer Aaron Beebe is known for his collages of type and image, and has recently launched Plastikcomb magazine as a vehicle for his work and passion. Here he introduces the first issue and design collaborator Thomas Schostok, while looking ahead at his week.
Tell us about your typical Monday morning
I live in Frederick, Maryland, and like most of the world, I work from home these days. Even pandemic aside, I only take a few paces from our bedroom to get to my office. I am recently retired from the military, and receive a monthly pension, so I am very fortunate to be able to work on the magazine full-time. Along with many other projects I have going on at the moment.
I am usually up insanely early, around 4:30am, due to our new French Bulldog puppy, Lasagna (above). We play around for a while, I chat with my wife Abigail about what the day has in store, and then I head up to my office after Lasagna’s first nap.
By then I am on my second cup of espresso, and ready to handle writing or responding to emails, or doing whatever design work I have at the moment. But even outside of office time, I am always thinking of new ideas for the magazine. I will immediately jot down or sketch them, then bounce the idea off of Thomas Schostok, who is one of the head designers of the magazine.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
Despite my work that tends to be a bit chaotic, my desk stays pretty organized and neat. Outside of a computer monitor and keyboard, I usually just have writing pens, sketch books, readers, an iPad, and bits of a project or pieces of daily inspiration. It’s quite nice to have the natural light come directly into my office through the window.
And every so often I can see a magnificent red-headed cardinal, or look off into the distance and view the mountains on the horizon. My dad keeps me company in spirit—he served 20 years in the military, and I framed one of his uniforms in his honour (below).
I have been known to work on too many projects at once. I am a multi-passionate creative. I want to dabble in numerous mediums, which Plastikcomb gives me the freedom to explore. Most recently, while ramping up for the second issue, I finished a book called REIHEN with Thomas (below).
This limited edition, collaborative project contains a series of collages with no particular story but with the intent of total creative freedom. The book was laid out from both our perspectives, completely different editorial designs, and the result is two distinct books, along with different front and back covers. This experiment shows the outcome when designers are provided the same imagery, and are asked to pair up editorial designs, based on their personal creative observations.
I’m also working on Inner-state ’98 with my good friend and designer Chris Ferebee. It’s a retrospective from our 1998 cross country trip in America, which will include photos, journal entries, and short films.
Are you feeling optimistic about 2021?
Oh most definitely! I am actually very optimistic, due to a new American administration, and the serious measures that are being taken to try and combat the current global situation, and I think that goes for environmentally as well. No matter where your political beliefs lie, we need a drastic change to try to get back to some kind of “normalcy”—whatever that means these days.
As far as Plastikcomb, two more issues will come out this year, so it's quite exciting to think about how they will turn out. Also, I hope the magazine will reach a broader audience with each issue.
Which magazine do you first remember?
Thrasher. It was their unique font that I will always remember. In the mid-eighties, I was a skater in my early teens. So I was heavily influenced in my youth by skateboarding culture, and the graphics of Powell Peralta, Alva, and Santa Cruz. I remember looking through the magazine at the pictures and crazy typographic layouts, which helped shape my style as a designer.
But, I would have to say that Mad is a close second. I always loved the illustrations and wonderful spoofs on current events, Spy vs Spy, and the back cover that you folded to reveal something completely different from the original ark work.
Plastikcomb definitely is inspired by both of these classic magazines.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
46 pgs, a self-published magazine from Europe, that has a heavy topographic style, like that of Plastikcomb. They were making their debut issue at around the same time as us. They embody the total creative freedom within their editorial design that I like.
The creator of the publication, Nevio Buzov, reached out to me, and said the main reason he started graphic design was because of Thomas’ earlier work on Beast magazine. I am learning that the design community can be quite small in some aspects.
Describe your magazine in three words
A beautiful mess
What does the name ‘Plastikcomb’ mean?
Plastikcomb is actually a metaphor for collage. In the States, when it was picture day, you were handed a plastic comb, in which your current hairdo was styled to make you look “presentable,” and more than often you ended up looking like a completely different person. Like collage, you take an image, and make it something else, or perhaps give it a new purpose or meaning.
You’re planning to collaborate with a different designer each issue; does this mean issue two will look very different?
Yes, each issue will be completely different, since the featured artists’ imagery helps dictate the editorial design. We are not just text on one page and an image on the other. The words interact with the art, making the whole publication in itself an artistic body of work. Plastikcomb two will include some new graphic designers, Max-o-matic, and Erik Brandt, who will be doing editorial layouts.
Funny story, I have yet to meet Thomas, talk to him over the phone, or video chat. In May 2020, I reached out to him to see if he was interested in doing a layout for a magazine I was starting. I thought his design style was a perfect match, and he came back and said he was interested—next thing you know he ended up designing half the magazine! And now he is a permanent team member of Plastikcomb, and has become a good friend. We work effortlessly together, even though we live 3,292 miles apart.
THOMAS: ‘Collaborations are always difficult, especially over long distances, or so they say. To be honest, I can actually work best this way. I think Aaron can explain it best, since Plastikcomb is his idea and he is its “mastermind” or inventor. But the goal was clearly defined, the goal naturally evolved. We see it very simply, I think.
‘We have material and start working. There is nothing complicated. I’ve always found working together very uncomplicated, which may also be because Aaron and I are on the same wavelength, and we don't have to talk much about things, and if we do, they are decided quickly. I think you shouldn't see everything so doggedly and should just go for it. I did some magazine layouts in the past and I loved the pressure to work on, to do something in a short amount. Unfortunately, I have not been able to contribute to a magazine for quite some time. Coincidentally, Aaron contacted me and asked if I would like to contribute a little. A beautiful project, everything fit, how can I say no to something like that.’
Promo for issue one
The magazine is immediately fascinating for it’s collaged aesthetic; tell us more about the stories in this first issue
Even though Plastikcomb is not a collage magazine, the first issue was heavy with collage artists, since that has been my primary choice of medium since 2013.
I wanted to celebrate my ties to the collage community by featuring all the artists who had a huge influence on my work. I will always have a soft spot for Charles Wilkin. He was the main reason I started doing collage. My favorite is his full spread in the beginning of the magazine. Also, my wife, Abigail Aldrich, did an amazing job with conducting all the interviews, through in-depth research of each artist, which the readers really love.
What’s going to be the highlight of this coming week for you?
A lot of exciting things! Plastikcomb 1.0 was only released in November, but it is already sparking an international interest. This week we will hear back from interested magazine distributors. Plus, we officially started working on the second issue, which will include numerous collaborations with designers, artists, and a project with the design department of a university.
Oh yeah, and I get to interview Ed Fella! He will be in this edition, that includes new works by the legend.