Illustrator Mollie Tuggle’s art is a direct reflection of her life, authentic, raw and unmanufactured. “You can’t make anything perfect, and those imperfections are what makes it so cool. It’s like what gives it soul,” Tuggle said.
Having never taken an art class, Tuggle has weaved in and out of many industries, from tattooing to makeup to styling, eventually leading her to where she is today, creating matchless, hand-drawn poster illustrations for bands, musicians and venues across the country.
Let’s start with the basics. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Mollie Tuggle: I’m a freelance illustrator/ poster artist /designer. I was born in northern California, grew up mostly in and around San Francisco, but currently live in Austin, Texas. As a child, I was fairly awkward, pretty shy. So I spent almost all of my time either swimming , listening to music or drawing. I kept mostly to myself, kind of a loner, I was always daydreaming. It wasn’t until the end of high school, or early college years that I finally became better at socializing, but still it usually revolved around art and music.
When did you first begin creating art?
MT: I have been all my life, really. My grandfather was an extremely talented and accomplished man. He taught acting at UCLA, so he was involved in theater. He was a musician, could dance, sing and was a great painter. So he would buy me art sets, easels, sketch books, etc. He always encouraged me to use my imagination and be creative.
Had you always created epic, vintage posters or did you dabble in other art forms?
MT: When I was young I loved comic books, and then I got really into watercolor and making portraits. Around 17, I fell in love with tattooing. I wanted to be a tattooer and I actually worked in the industry for six years towards that goal. I learned so much about myself and art during those years, but came to realize that the industry just wasn’t for me.
Do you feel your upbringing influence your art in any way?
MT: Definitely I feel living in San Francisco influenced me. The famous venue The Fillmore is in SF, and they are notorious for having some of the best gig posters around. But, I have always been obsessed with music, I’m an avid record collector and even before I got involved with poster making everything I’d do was inspired by music some form or another. It all just kind of came together when bands started asking me for art, translating music into visuals has always made sense to me. I get inspired by a song, or a musicians style, or their emotions and what they are singing about and I try to put it into a drawing.
We saw photos of your original sketches and beginning stages of your work. Are you inspired by something in particular and then head straight to the sketch pad?
MT: For posters, it’s usually always about the music the artist is producing. Sometimes it’s about the venue or festival they will be playing at. For personal art, It’s usually something a little more deeply rooted. An album I’ll be currently obsessed with, or a book or a story that really affects me, or personal relationships: friendship/love/family. It’s hard sometimes to say where inspiration comes from. I love the 60s and 70s too, so I know I am very inspired by photographs and style during those eras. But yes, as soon as an idea comes to me, I sketch it out. Which seems to be constant. It’s the finding time to make every idea come to fruition that’s the problem. Sometimes I feel like my mind is a picture book, flipping through endless images. Just don’t ask me to remember someones name—those aren’t nearly as easy for me.
How do you feel your work has changed from when you first began to now?
MT: Haha, oh man. It’s like anything really, the more you do something the better you become at it. Knowing this, I just try to constantly work and develop my skill. You are your own best competition, so I am always trying to one-up myself. I hope in another three years i look back on what I’m doing right now, and think, ‘WOW, I’ve gotten so much better!’
Your Instagram hosts photos of the Lady of Lady bird lake mural—absolutely magical by the way. What did you love or hate about creating a massive piece like that compared to the posters?
MT: I just started working with that company actually, Showgoat Murals, but I was outsourced by another company to design that specific mural. I’m kind of just diving into that area of art, but could not be more excited about it. I love both of them for different reasons. With posters I’m usually trying to encapsulate a bands message or sound. With Murals, it’s more about expressing myself and the world I want to create. Plus it’s wonderful to see your art out on a wall, immensely larger then the original design, and on display for everyone to enjoy.
We first saw your work on the Nasty Gal Instagram, advertising for summer music festivals. How did that come about?
MT: I was contacted by one of Nasty Gals creative directors, they wanted an advertisement that was very true to the hand-drawn posters you would see in the sixties at festivals, or on Haight – Ashbury in SF, that kind of aesthetic, so right in my wheel house. I’m actually working on some shirt designs currently, but that is all still a little hush-hush. Shhh…
When you aren’t creating badass posters and awesome murals, what do you enjoy doing?
MT: I love swimming. If I could live in the ocean I would. I enjoy anything outdoors really, I’m a nature lover. I like seeing music too, going to shows, dancing, record shopping, vintage clothes. I like sewing a lot, and I’m way into coffee! I can’t live without it! I would never get anything accomplished haha.
What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects, shows, collaborations?
MT: Every year SXSW asks a musician to supply artwork that they screen print to like a canvas tote bag for vinyl records. They hand out anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 of them depending on how many parties they give them away at, depending on that. I want to say last year Yoko Ono, the year before Kiersten from Sonic Youth, Daniel Johnston do it, the girl from Bat For Lashes did it. Every year for 15 years it’s been a musician and this year, they’re having me do it instead of a musician, so that’s pretty cool.
*For more of Mollie’s creative adventures, click here.