The Art Direction of Musician Magazine: Patrick Mitchell

The Art Direction of Musician Magazine: Patrick Mitchell For much of the 1980s and 90s, Musician magazine served as a home for creative art direction and imagery. It was a place where art directors learned their trade while producing cool covers and feature spreads. Art directors during this period included Gary Koepke, David Carson, Patrick Mitchell, John Korpics, and Miriam Campiz.

This is the fourth part of our month-long celebration of the art direction of Musician, featuring the work of Patrick Mitchell, who was the art director from 1989-1991. He had been doing Sunday newspaper magazines at The Dallas Morning News and Detroit Free Press before moving to Gloucester, Massachusetts, where Musician was based. Mitchell left Musician to be the art director of Garbage magazine, and in 1995 became the design director of Fast Company. In 2003 he launched PlutoMedia, where he is currently creative director.

(Above): November 1991.

Patrick Mitchell: Musician was one of the wildest magazine operations ever. I moved to New England from Detroit to take the job--it was my first newsstand magazine. I was replacing David Carson, just as he was becoming DAVID CARSON. Much of the staff was made up of actual musicians who had all gravitated to the funky little place in "The Fort" in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Gary Koepke mentioned our incredible locale, right on the beach in the harbor, and how the "sea breezes wafted" through the place. Well, in typical rock 'n' roll fashion, sea breezes weren't the only thing wafting through those offices. The remote location allowed for all kinds of shenanigans.

Hans Teensma had been hired to redesign the magazine, and he brought me in to be the AD. Hans had done a new logo to replace the incredibly bad original. It didn't last very long. The publisher panicked and we quickly went back to the original. Then he asked me to add a super-cool underline and put it in a box, making it even worse.

The era of Macintosh and desktop publishing hit when I was at Musician. The future arrived in a huge beige box with two floppy drives and a 19-inch black and white monitor. We literally put away our waxer and exactos one month and moved to the mouse and keyboard the next.

001.jpgMarch 1990. Photograph by Max Aguilera-Hellweg.

Patrick Mitchell: The absolute coolest thing that happened at Musician was getting to meet and hang out with an actual, live Beatle. I mean, really, how many people can say that? George Harrison was such a sweetheart, you'd never guess at the life he'd lived. He did have a kind of Ricky Bobby "I'm not quite sure what to do with my hands" moment with the actual shoot, though.

003.jpgApril 1990.

Patrick Mitchell: Not being Rolling Stone, Musician often had little bargaining power with the big acts. Sometimes we'd have to use the photos they gave us, which led to ideas like this.

004.jpgDecember 1991. Photograph by Aaron Rappoport.

Patrick Mitchell: This was my final cover for Musician (and Miles Davis's, too).

006-A.jpgJuly 1990. Illustration by Marshall Arisman.

Patrick Mitchell: One of my favorite things to do was to hire an illustrator who was not really known for doing likenesses and asking them to do just that. This one by Marshall Arisman is one of my favorites.

007.jpgPhotographs by the Douglas Brothers.

Patrick Mitchell: One of the most prolific relationships I had was with the London-based photography duo The Douglas Brothers. When I look at their stuff, it kind of sums up the photography of that period.

Patrick Mitchell: The editor gave us one goal: get a shot of Sinead O'Connor smiling. Nobody had ever seen that, plus she had just appeared on SNL ripping up a photo of the Pope. But we got it. (We also got fllipped off). We later had a similar assignment with Slash from Guns 'n Roses: "We have to see his eyes." We got that one, too.

010-B.jpgMarch 1990. Illustrations by David Cowles.

Patrick Mitchell: Illustrator David Cowles pitched this one to me, and it was brilliant. Match a pop star with a famous work of art. I believe shortly after publication each of the musicians shown called to request their original.

011.jpgFebruary 1991. Photograph by David Peterson.

April 1990. Photograph by Karen Kuehn, lettering by Lilla Rogers.

Patrick Mitchell: A young Lenny Kravitz in his stairwell (long before Mark Seliger's famous book.)

012.jpgAugust 1991. Photograph by Aaron Rapoport.

013.jpgApril 1991. Photograph by Paul Elledge.

Patrick Mitchell: Fun with finger paint! This was another case where the band was totally stiff and we had to make something happen after the fact.

See related stories:
The Art Direction of Musician Magazine: Gary Koepke
The Art Direction of Musician Magazine: John Korpics
The Art Direction of Musician Magazine: Miriam Campiz

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