Wow, did the stars ever align with this one!? This is the first (and only?) time an artist has illustrated a park that was in their backyard growing up. That was the case for Michael Tabie who is one-half of Two Arms Inc. Mike's enthusiasm, love, and knowledge of the park and it's unique ecosystem is on point. It's part of what helped him create such a beautiful poster. Our history with Two Arms goes back a few years to the first US tour with The National Poster Retrospecticus. We've always appreciated their involvement with the tour, especially back in it's infancy. Mike and I had a chance to catch up to talk shop about design, printmaking, and what it was like growing up 15 minutes away from one of the wildest parks around.
Where does the story of Two Arms begin?
Our story starts with two star crossed kids who met across printing press in Orlando Florida. I was working with a small boutique agency at the time as a designer. We also had a screen-print set up for prints and posters. I was managing the print shop at the time. We ended up hiring Karen as a part-time print assistant for the summer when she graduated college. On our own paths we both ended up in NYC about a year or so later. We both freelanced and bounced around the NY design scene for a while before making the decision to just go for it and start our own thing. To this day we always say “no matter what happens, we can always go get real jobs if we need to”. So far so good!
Your work often includes some great textures. The trees in your Everglades poster are a beautiful example. Can you share with us how you typically approach creating textures in your work?
Most of our textures are created by hand. We use brayers, markers, spray paint, photo copiers, and wood blocks. All of this is printed randomly onto paper, and then scanned in. We have a pretty decent collection of different textures we then use within our work. Its good to get off the computer and make stuff by hand.
My friend accidentally dropped his paddle in the river. Without thinking I jumped into the water and swam after it. As soon as I look up I noticed 3 or 4 of the big gators slid into the water. I never swam so fast in my life!
What drew you to screen printing your own posters and printmaking? What keeps you coming back for more?
I always loved printmaking in college and started out as an engraver. Once I discovered screen printing I was hooked on the instant satisfaction of physically pulling a print. Screen printing is so low-tech. I mean yeah you can use all kinds semi automatic crazy badass equipment, but you can also build an entire set up with a trip to home depot. It’s accessible to everyone, and most of the print community is happy to talk shop and geek out on cool new ways to make printing easier.
Two Arms pretty much does it all from branding, lettering, printmaking, illustration, and packaging. With such a wide range of capabilities and interests what are a few tips for staying sharp across the board?
Its a bit of a double edged sword really. We always enjoy working on everything, and we love having diversity in our work. But it also really helps to have a more focused direction. Living and working in NYC has taught us that the best way to be successful is to focus on what you love and do that one thing the best you can. We have been trying to narrow down our focus.
Why are the National Parks so awesome?
The National Parks are a National treasure. We always make it a point to visit the any and all of the parks we can when we travel. Living in NYC makes you really appreciate all the green and nature that is available. We both are up surrounded by it in Florida, so it was a bit of an adjustment moving to the city.
Tell us about growing up in South Florida and your connection to The Everglades.
My parents house was really only about 15-20mins away from the edge of the everglades. My best friend and I would fish in the Everglades National Park all the time. It’s this beautiful intersection of fresh water, meets, slat water; land meets sea, meets sky. We would catch snook and tarpon that would swim up into the brackish water to spawn. We saw and experienced an incredible amount of wildlife. Camping, canoeing, fossil hunting, and “slogging" ( wading out into the cypress tree stand, waist deep ) was all a part of my childhood. We were always surrounded by nature.
The Everglades is a truly wild place. It's home to gators, crocodiles, sharks, panthers and even an invasive species of python. Do you have any stories about close calls or awesome sightings?
Once on a school trip my friends and I were canoeing down the river. We had gotten separated from the group and were trying to catch up. Its totally common to see tons of alligators sunning on the banks. We paddled out into a large clearing so the banks were a ways away from us. My friend accidentally dropped his paddle in the river. Without thinking I jumped into the water and swam after it. As soon as I look up I noticed 3 or 4 of the big gators slid into the water. I never swam so fast in my life, pulled myself back into the canoe.
I’ve seen all kinds of cool wildlife; Eagles, Red Shoulder Hawk, Snail Kite, Alligator Gar, Manatee, Massive soft shell turtles, and even armadillos. Anytime I see something I recognize I geek out like a little kid
What's next for Two Arms? Are there any upcoming projects that you're stoked on?
Right now we are really enjoying editorial illustration. We have a ton of new stuff we need to add to our portfolio. We have had the pleasure of working with Field and Stream, Country Living, AARP, and ESPN magazine.