In our 9th Overtime episode, Dan chats with JP Boneyard, Creative Director of The Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series and producer of the National Poster Retrospecticus. JP shares what it’s like to work with other designers, how he got into curating and hosting events at a young age, an in-depth explanation of the screen printing process, and more.
This episode of Overtime is brought to you by Hired. Hired makes your job search faster, focused, and stress-free—plus you get paid to get hired. Overtime listeners can earn an extra $2,000 bucks (that’s double the normal hiring bonus) by signing up today at hired.com/dribbble.
Links Mentioned in Overtime
- JP Boneyard
- JP on Dribbble
- JP on Instagram
- Follow JP on Twitter
- Fifty-Nine Parks Project
- Fifty-Nine Parks Project Instagram
- Fifty-Nine Parks on Dribbble
- National Poster Retrospecticus
Dan: Hello, everybody. Welcome to Overtime. This is Dribbble’s official podcast. It goes behind the shots of your favorite designers. I’m your host Dan Cederholm. And this is Episode 9, with JP Boneyard. Today we’re going to be talking with JP, who is a designer, front-end developer, artist, all-around crazy, talented person. We had a great conversation about his creative direction of the Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series, which you might have seen on Dribbble, and also his role as producer of the National Poster Retrospecticus, which is a traveling poster art show that he takes around the country.
So he’s sort of a touring on tour poster rock star basically. We talk about his upbringing in Massachusetts, and his getting started, and actually the screen-printing process we get into a bit. We had a really great conversation. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
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Now let’s get on with the show, and speak with JP Boneyard.
Dan: Welcome to Overtime, JP Boneyard.
JP: Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
Dan: Thanks for being here because there’s so much to talk about and so much cool stuff that you’re working on and have been working on. Starting with I just want to jump right into this because it seems really timely with things that are going on in the world, and also because you have a lot of artists involved in this. This is the Fifty-Nine Parks project that is amazing. Just yesterday, I was browsing and I bought the one for Acadia National Park, which is in Maine.
My goal is to hit them all at some point, but I’m curious how that came about for you, and how it’s going so far. It’s an amazing project. Obviously, we’ll link to all this in the show notes, but a lot of great artists are involved, a lot of Dribbble members are involved, which is really neat. The art is great. The cause is great. Wondering how you got started with it, and what was the origin of it?
JP: As you know, and maybe some people listening know, I’ve been traveling with the National Post Retrospecticus, traveling poster show for the last four or five years now. Before I was doing that, hanging in galleries and whatnot every summer, I was usually putting on music events, traveling, touring with bands, or going to national parks. It’s something that would just happen by chance. You’d be driving through Montana and say there’s a national park on the way to Portland or Seattle. Should we stop here? I didn’t know anything about these places, but we would just go, friends and I, and be blown away by what you would see, especially as a younger guy. I think I started traveling and touring when I was 18, somewhere around there. Just growing up in western Massachusetts, and not really seeing much beyond that, it was a lot to take in, that perspective that the country is this big, that there are these natural places that are for the most part preserved and untouched. Crazy concept to me.
In a lot of ways, this is everything coming back around, which is a theme for me. If I started going to parks and things and playing bands, setting up shows, that’s where the poster show comes in. Then now that we’ve been doing that for a while, we have the network of artists, and the platform to show this work. The idea was we’d love to do a series of some kind. Why not the national parks? For me, it’s basketball and national parks are probably my two favorite things. The basketball thing will come later, and maybe that’s something we can touch on later here.
Dan: We have to.
JP: Those are my two favorite things, aside from design, print making, traveling, hanging with friends, and setting up shows, which right now I get to do all of that through the poster show. This is really just adding one more thing that I’m stoked on and bring it to what we’re already doing.
Dan: That’s superb. I’m envious of that because you got to see—you were really inspired by going to the parks themselves initially.
JP: Oh, yeah. For anyone that’s been to some of these spots, it’s unlike anything you’ll ever see. It’s crazy to think about where my mom’s house is in western Mass, they could have looked a little something like that back in the day, but not there’s an industrial park and a cemetery and houses and K-Marts and all that stuff.
Dan: It’s amazing these places are preserved, and they’re so important. I’m obviously a big supporter of the parks. And the posters are amazing. You mentioned having a network of designers, so through the National Poster Retrospecticus, which is a great name by the way—or NPR I guess you could call it. Tell us about that. That’s sort of the origin of the Fifty-Nine Park Series.
JP: My thought there was instead of just myself or teaming up with one other artist to make the series, I thought what might be a unique take on it is to have 59 different artists tackle each park. Part of the spirit there is every show I’ve ever set up is probably some sort of eclectic mix of bands, or if we’re talking about the poster show, it’s an eclectic mix of artists and different styles, different themes. But they play well together, even though they’re coming from different places.
That was very much the spirit of the Park Series, was to have different artists represent these different places. One park in Utah falls under the same umbrella of the Park Service. It’s probably a very different experience than what you might see in Florida. So really as a way to celebrate that and then push that a bit further, is have 59 different voices representing each park.
Dan: Wow. There’s literally a different artist per park?
JP: Yeah. We’ve doubled up in some cases, just because of time constraints or you hit hiccups with releases. You might be just coincidentally you have lunch with a friend, Brave the Woods for example shout out to Brad. And say hey, we don’t have anything coming up next month. We hit a snag with a release, and he said I’m free. I know you learn fast who’s going to deliver on time, who does solid work, and who might need a little more time. Brad checks off the boxes of he works really well, he works really fast and can hit the deadlines. It was like all right, let’s slot you in to do a second park. Because we’re going to be doing national monuments, revisiting certain parks that are really big, we’ll definitely get over 50 different artists by the time we wrap up this whole thing.
Dan: That’s amazing. When I heard about it, not to plug Dribbble, but that’s where I heard about it because some of the artists were sharing the posters. I think it was the Grand Teton National Park is the first one I noticed by Eric Nyffeler of Doe Eyed. Amazing stuff. It’s cool because each one has its own personality. They all feel official to me. I’m wondering was there anything official you had to do with the national parks to get the project started? Or is this all kosher because they’re national parks?
JP: I did my homework. I reached out to the first 20 parks we were making posters for. They all said yeah, do this thing. Just make sure you represent us accurately. Obviously, you can’t use things like their logos and things like that, but because the parks themselves belong to the people, and they’re public domain you can basically make and sell these things. It isn’t just using their likeness and making money on that. It’s a modest amount, but five percent of each online poster sale we donate back to the National Park Service.
Dan: That’s awesome. I think it’s especially relevant now with what’s going on politically in terms of the park service’s future or just environmental stuff in general. That’s really cool you’re giving back to the parks. Bravo.
JP: Appreciate it. It’s everyone who’s buying the posters really, so it’s a team effort.
Dan: It is a team effort but it’s really cool. It’s this mixture of it really hits all the feels for me outdoorsy stuff, design, giving back. It’s all there. Kudos.
You also have a print club here where you get a membership in this, where you get special stuff. It’s really well done. I’m really impressed with this. Again, this sort of came about from your traveling poster show, which has a date coming up soon in Oklahoma; is that right?
JP: Yeah. The next show we’re doing is this is a trip total white whale dream show. It’s not a National Poster Retrospecticus joint per se, but we are helping produce the poster show at the NBA All-Star Weekend next week. That’s kind of what I was alluding to earlier. I couldn’t believe, total dream show. Way too long of a story of how everything came together, but it happened at a poster show here in town. I met a friend, someone I didn’t know yet but we became friends. Started talking, and then made some introductions to the folks running the Rock On Foundation, who are putting together this art show at All-Star Weekend. They brought me on board to art direct the posters, help with production, install the show, basically copy/paste what I’m doing for the NPR and help them out with their event. That’s the next thing we’re a part of. The next full show is Oklahoma City, and then I believe Flatstock here in Austin.
Dan: Excellent. Where are you based currently?
JP: In Austin, Texas.
Dan: Great, which obviously has an amazing design community there. Amazing Dribbble community too, we’re always happy with Austin. A couple of our employees are down there too.
JP: Heck yeah.
Dan: But you grew up in small town Massachusetts.
JP: I did.
Dan: That’s where your screen-printing life began. I wonder if you could tell us about that.
JP: Sure. I think it was around 10th or 11th grade, friends and I started playing in bands. Then we started hosting our own DIY shows. They would be in old storefronts that were vacant for the time being, or basements, literally like in someone’s mom’s kitchen, or eventually at my mom’s backyard where we did 100 shows in the course of five years. It ranged from local bands that no one’s ever heard of, to regional bands, national bands, and eventually people from other countries.
In order to promote these events I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, but put together these flyers to hang up in neighboring towns, and eventually cut through the noise of when you’d go somewhere like Amhurst, Massachusetts, a college town. There’s going to be a million flyers up for a million different things.
The way to stand out isn’t to use goldenrod like everyone does when you’re using a Xerox machine. It’s to actually screen-print these things. Now you’ve got more than one color, the larger scale, and where most people felt like that’s art or too precious to hang, we’d just staple them to telephone poles and all of that. That’s really where my “education” began in terms of design and print making, although I didn’t know it was a thing you could do for a living. I didn’t even know it was a thing that people paid attention to until it was a necessity to promote these events. That’s where it came about for me.
Dan: That’s really cool. Out of music really a similar thing for me, design coming out of music. I totally love the story. Palmer, Massachusetts, is it in western Mass?
Dan: Near Amhurst.
JP: Yeah, Amhurst, Springfield.
Dan: From Palmer, what’s the next step for you?
JP: As I mentioned, five years of shows, and then I took some time off. I was going to school for music at Holyoke Community College. And then about halfway through finishing that I realized this design thing was more intriguing to me. I wrapped up school at HCC and then saved up some money to the only school I applied to, which was Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston.
I figured that’s the only place I visited that really spoke to me. I dug the sense of community. I think it’s the only freestanding state school in the country. Just dug the vibe there. It wasn’t too far from home. I like traveling but I like coming home. So it was a little weird to leave my community, but that felt close enough.
I applied and got in, and I couldn’t believe it. Academics were never a thing that really I excelled at. It was more getting in trouble in a small town and causing mischief, and eventually, the shows that we were putting on was my way of focusing some of that energy and doing something positive. It was my portfolio of gig posters, websites, and some album artwork that got me into Mass Art. Then I moved out there. It was crazy. Such a good experience, amazing community.
I think it was my senior year my web design teacher, Mike Swartz, who’s one of the three partners at Upstatement in Boston, we hit it off. He bought a letter set I’d just designed and screen-printed as it wasn’t quite my degree project, but it was my version of a degree project. When I was handing him the letter set, he was like “Would you want a job making websites?” I really thought that was a crazy idea, because while I learned to make one website, I didn’t know if I had what it took to make many on the scale that they do it. Eventually, after school, that’s where I ended up, was at Upstatement.
Dan: That’s right, in Boston. You got into making websites. Not just design, but code. I’m a hybrid as well, so I come from that same I like to code things. That’s part of making it, and the design too. Did you dive right into that and enjoy it right away, or was it something that took a while to catch on?
JP: I loved it right away. I don’t know. It’s something that just grabs my attention, unlike most things. Where I might have a lot going on at once, or many different interests, coding for me is like tunnel vision. It’s problem-solving. It feels like you’re actually constructing and building something. I really appreciate that. It’s kind of like working with Legos when you’re a kid. There’s a million different ways to build the exact same thing, and that’s also an intriguing piece of web design and coding.
Dan: Amen. I totally agree with you there. That really is the fun part of it, that there are so many ways to do it. And it’s pretty easy to jump in and create stuff, even if you don’t know what you’re doing at first.
Dan: Then you kind of grow from there. That’s super cool. In terms of your creation process, what do you use for tools to create? Let’s say for a poster, I’m curious because you mentioned doing screen printing when you were growing up in western Mass. I would have probably loved to do that, but I wouldn’t have known the first thing about making it happen. I’m wondering how you learned to get into that, or even logistically. Did someone have a screen-printing press in town, or did you just figure it out on your own?
JP: It was a mix. I was fortunate to be a part of the community of artists and musicians that existed in Palmer at the time, which sounds weird to say because there isn’t really anything in town set up to encourage young people to get into these things. But my friend Michael Swalowski who’s my original design guru, he was a little older so I think he graduated three years ahead of me. He was in school in Boston. I feel like Mike may have picked it up late in high school, early in college, and when he started making these things I was like cool. That’s what we have to do. This is a fun, new, challenging process. You can do a bit more visually with it. There are certain limitations.
Dan: Do you find the limitations being fun, as a constraint?
JP: I think up to a point, where when you’re first getting into it you’re just happy to get messy and be exploring. And eventually, once it felt like my design skills grew to a point with what I could do with posters and printing, now I was kind of rubbing up against the limitations of my homemade printing setup. Not having a backing (ph.) table, or not being able to print really large, so eventually once you start learning to that stuff and you can’t get the level of detail you’re now able to put in your work, you have friends who actually have legit setups or a full-time print studio. You have them help you with printing. Which became even more of a thing once my bandwidth in general started getting pretty maxed out just in setting up shows, and getting new artwork, and running the website, and a hundred other things that I’m doing at once. A lot of artists and friends run into this too. They’re like my time, what I’m getting paid for, what people want from me isn’t me pulling the squeegee myself. That’s not what they’re stoked on. It’s the artwork that I’m creating.
JP: It’s a bit of a tradeoff because also a lot of friends that are doing some old-school drawing by hand, really meticulous, hundreds of hours put into stuff sometimes, their wrists cannot handle pulling a squeegee for another three days, especially if it’s a six-color print and you’ve got 500 posters for a big band on tour. That’s not sustainable.
Dan: I couldn’t imagine. Knowing a bit about screen printing process, a/k/a not much, in terms of getting the screens made, that seemed the most complex part to me. You’re actually burning film, or burning holes in a screen so the ink could go through it.
JP: Right. The technology is just light sensitive liquid that dries on the screen. And it’s called photo emulsion, and I’m pretty sure the technology has been around for 100 years or something like that. It’s old school. It hasn’t changed much, but the idea is you’re creating a positive of whatever your design is, and basically wherever your film is on the screen when you’re exposing it to light, that area is going to wash out. Basically, you’ve created a stencil. Sometimes it’s easier to think of it like that.
JP: It’s a very highly detailed stencil, where if you were cutting things out by hand, you would have to tape things together. If you had just your initial, DC, it would be hard to cut that out and not have a little piece of the stencil holding it together. You have to compromise your design essentially.
Dan: Like stencil fonts have those bars everywhere so it can be like one piece of paper.
Dan: I just explained that horribly.
JP: I feel like I did too.
Dan: No, yours is better. Maybe people at home are like I already know about this, but so it’s photo emulsion, which is cool. I get that part of it. How do you actually get the image that you want to not wash away, or wash away, onto the film? Do you have to print it out on paper first?
JP: Yeah. This is what I mean by its limitations, for me. I didn’t have a large format printer. I would often tile together 8.5-by-11 transparencies, which are two dollars apiece, wherever I was getting them. You tile those together, cut them, and now you’re just hoping everything lines up with what you’re taping together. Or you could use bond paper, like for drafting or blueprints, but you can have FedEx print that out pretty big. Then coat it with baby oil.
Dan: Some tricks of the trade.
JP: It’s not the ideal way to do it.
Dan: I love the DIY ethic here. This is good.
JP: Sure. That’s the spirit of everything and it’s still very much a part of what I’m doing today.
Dan: Especially from the music world. Right? Where you’re trying to do everything on a seriously low budget. And you try to get as creative as possible with that.
Dan: So transparencies in the liquid and the light shines on it?
JP: The transparency is placed on top of the screen, which is coated and dried at this point with the photo emulsion. Then you expose it to light, and you create an area that’s going to wash out with your design, and now you have a stencil that you can reuse a couple hundred times.
Dan: Let’s fast forward. By the way, thanks for going over that with me. Hopefully, other people are interested in how this works, but I definitely am. Also fast forward to now. What’s your process? I should ask are the Fifty-Nine Parks posters screen-printed, printed, or what’s your technology like now for creating stuff?
JP: It’s essentially the same, except we’re working with friends who run print shops. Again, it’s partly because they have the time and the equipment. I would say even more expertise with print making than I would. For me, it’s mostly a bandwidth thing, especially with the number of prints we’re doing. I personally wouldn’t want to print I’ve got a couple of these up on the wall at my studio, but I wouldn’t want to print these for someone else.
I wouldn’t want to mess them up. I wouldn’t want that stress. Hats off to all our friends and printers who are tackling these posters with us. There’s a whole other level of skill going into these things. If anyone goes to check out our Biscayne National Park poster, Justin Santora made that one. Just insane, that seems like the hardest poster to print to me. Beautiful illustration but seven or eight colors, a run of 200. I’m not touching that.
Dan: Wow, seven or eight colors. I’m looking at it now. It’s the turtles underwater. Really amazing image. Looking at it, it’s hard to believe that that’s screen-printed. Are there colors being mixed together as well?
JP: Right, so once the colors are stacked you’re going to get a second or third color.
Dan: That’s a whole other level of these are beautiful. I hope people listening are looking at these while we’re talking about them.
JP: Go check it out. There’s a bunch on Dribbble and then 59parks.net. Shout out to everyone who’s helped us print these things. Industry Print Shop here in town, D&L Screenprinting, Half And Half, there’s a bunch of folks that we’ve worked with. Those are the more frequently folks we team up with, but if you don’t already know about them, go check them out.
Dan: Everybody should, because this is awesome, and it’s a great cause.
JP: And Burlesque, they’re awesome too. They got some stuff going up in Minneapolis. They’ve just printed our “Bing Bend National Park” poster, the time-released. Looks amazing.
Dan: And they’re in Minneapolis?
Dan: The “Grand Canyon National Park” is particularly stunning to me as well. Maybe because it has a kayaker on it too, which I like. That one is another one where it’s hard to imagine the screens that go into this, the color separation. It’s just beautiful.
JP: If it’s any help for you or for anyone listening, on our Instagram account we have layer by layer separations of each poster. You can at least get a better idea of how the colors go down, in what order, what gets knocked out.
Dan: I think that would be amazing, the kind of thing I’d want to fall asleep to or something, just watching a loop of that. Maybe I’m a little weird.
JP: I’m with you. Dan: It’s cathartic, seeing that ink hit the page, and how it’s put together. So you’re not pulling the squeegee.
Dan: Which I love. I’m going to start using that term for everything that I don’t do anymore. Dan, can you run payroll? No. I don’t pull the squeegee anymore. So you’re not doing that, but are you designing poster these days, or mostly just managing all these amazing things?
JP: That’s the crazy part. I feel like this has been part of my history through all of my creative endeavors. Originally, I started playing drums because a friend was like I want someone to play drums with me. I’m too scared to play by myself. And I was like sure, I love your music. Let’s do this. Except, I don’t own a drum set and I don’t know how to play. So I eventually figured it out, and was pretty alright at drums. Eventually, I was in six or seven bands. But then we didn’t have a place to play locally do I kind of put drums as not the priority and put booking and hosting shows as the priority.
Then when I moved and didn’t have a venue, it became focusing more on design, print making, and then some of the web stuff. After that, it started going more into putting on the poster show and traveling with that.
Now it’s moved further away from making the posters myself, printing and designing. I’m worried that might sound like this guy just doesn’t do what he’s passionate about. This is exactly what I want to be doing. I wish I could be doing all of these things at the same speed at all times, but I just don’t have the bandwidth for it.
I’m still a part of the creative process with art directing, and creative direction for the entire series. I feel like it’s kind of the certification thing is like cool, I’m doing something here. It’s hearing people in person saying “I love the series.” I can’t believe it’s different artists because they all feel cohesive. I feel like that’s where some of the art direction comes in, and really helping the series feel—each piece being unique but still feel like it fits under the same umbrella. They still talk to each other in a certain way.
Dan: Absolutely. The art direction you’re doing is not minimal. To me, they all feel cohesive, like a unit, even though they’re from different artists, and that’s a talent in itself. I’m impressed with a lot of things, but I’m impressed with your…
JP: Appreciate it.
Dan: Yeah, I’m a big fan.
JP: As a guy who’s doing some pretty awesome stuff himself. I appreciate it.
Dan: I’m not pulling the squeegee anymore. I am impressed with your trajectory of your growth as a creative person. You start doing one thing and build on that to the next thing. I can’t wait to see what you do next now.
JP: I have no idea what that’s going to be, but I feel like this is the most cohesive and—if you want to say “legit” thing—not my words, but I’ve been making posters forever. None of my family has opted to hang any of them on the wall, or any of them from my friends. This park series has been totally different in that regard. Family and friends are buying posters and hanging them, like five of them on their living room walls now. It speaks to people in a different way than these weird band posters we would make.
Dan: It really does. It’s more universal.
JP: Totally. I feel like in regards to the trajectory thing, it’s a trip to think doing exactly what I was doing in some capacity as I was in high school. And I just expanded upon it, and learned a ton in the process. For me, it’s like I could still be playing drums now if I just stayed with that, and I’m sure I’d be pretty alright, but it’s more in the interest of what’s needed right now.
Whatever this awesome community is that I’m a part of, what can I do to best help? And again, that might sound like why don’t you do what you’re stoked on. Because I’m excited about all of it. If this is the best place I can see being more of a facilitator, and it puts some of my other fun creative stuff on the back burner, or I do them less frequently, that’s fine. I’m stoked on what I’m doing right now. I get to travel. I get to live with this stuff every single day. Crazy stuff like when I said this feels like it’s probably the most legit thing we’ve done is because you get crazy stuff happening. Like the Library of Congress reaches out and says they want to archive the entire series.
Dan: I was going to mention that. That’s incredible.
JP: It’s a trip. I couldn’t believe that. I honestly sincerely thought when the series is done we’ll see if they want it. They got in touch with us. That’s insane.
Dan: That shows the reach of what you’re doing already.
JP: Right. That’s what I mean by this is perceived as something more than the kids’ stuff that friends and I have been doing for 15 years of bands, gig posters, or whatever goofy stuff we’re making. Or if you say to someone I make websites, cool. So you work on the computer. Yeah, and that’s the extent of their knowledge of what you do. This is a thing they can see. It’s a little more old school so they kind of understand it.
Dan: Everybody knows the national parks, whether they’ve been there or not, and hopefully will continue to know them.
JP: That is my hope as well.
Dan: Not to get political again. It’s super awesome. Hats off to you. We need more JPs in the world.
JP: I don’t know about that but appreciate it.
Dan: It’s JP Boneyard. I didn’t know this until recently, but maybe you could tell the story of how your name came to be.
JP: I think just by way of having a last name that’s hard to pronounce. I would say that as a young man, I think friends and I had counted, and I had some twenty-some-odd nicknames that were variations of Boilard, which is my last name, but that’s not even how you’re supposed to pronounce it if you’re talking to a French-Canadian person or a French person. I’m saying it wrong even, but
Dan: It’s probably [Boo-yay’] or something.
JP: I’m not even going to attempt it. You’re close.
Dan: I’m embarrassed that I did attempt it.
JP: So I think Boneyard was one that just stuck, and everyone started calling me it. I never referred to myself as that until I was like I need I used to make one-inch buttons for bands and for whoever. I needed a name for this I’m going “air quotes” this business. It was Boneyard Buttons.
JP: It just stuck, and the half my family refers to me as JP, and just put them together, there you go. It’s not because I’m a tough guy or jacked or anything like that. That’s not the case.
Dan: I think you could take me. I love it. I love the story behind it. It’s sort of a play on your last name. It got me thinking I should have done the same thing a long time ago. No one spells or says my name right. It should be like “Woodhouse” or something.
JP: I think at this point I could be wrong
Dan: D. Woodhouse.
JP: I feel like your name is recognizable at this point, so you’d have to re-establish your brand.
Dan: Maybe that would be fun, though. Now I’m thinking of logos and everything. I gotta stop. JP, this was awesome to talk to you.
Dan: So cool what you’re doing. I think everybody should check it out if they haven’t. Check out the Fifty-Nine Park Series, the NPR National Poster Retrospecticus. And where else can folks find you out there?
JP: I’d say my personal Instagram account is the thing that I use for the poster show.
Dan: Definitely check that out.
JP: So @jpboneyard, you can see some of the new stuff for the parks, or for the poster show. We’ve been showing some work from the All-Star poster show that we’re helping with.
Dan: The NBA All-Star Show, which is incredible. I can’t wait to see more about that. Thanks for being here. Thanks for what you’re doing. Keep up the awesome work over there.
JP: Likewise. I appreciate it. I feel like we’re doing very similar things with helping facilitate good things happening in the design community, and appreciate you.
Dan: Thanks man.