CULTURE KLASH: The Graphic Hustle

By on May 9, 2017

Artist unveils new book that spans beautiful to ‘the warts and moles.’

Aaron James Draplin brings his new book to Asymbol Wednesday and the film Gender Revolution screens at the library Monday.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – For Aaron Draplin, graphic design was something fun to do with his skateboarding and snowboarding friends while growing up in Michigan.

When he and his buddies tired of coaches in organized sports telling them what to do, how to act, and even what to wear, they turned to skateboarding and snowboarding where the rules disappeared. It wasn’t about who was the best, or winning. In place of uniforms, they wore T-shirts and hats with logos Draplin designed.

Today, Draplin is a successful graphic designer, creating logos for brands like Coal Headwear, Union Binding Co., and former President Barack Obama’s stimulus package the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Yet Draplin still works in many ways like he did as a kid—small-batch projects and often for friends or acquaintances.

Draplin will talk Wednesday about his career in graphic design and his recently published book Aaron Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything. He’s speaking at Asymbol—a gallery for which he designed the logo.

“I knew Travis as a punk ass kid, then he exploded,” Draplin said of the gallery’s owner/pro- snowboarder Travis Rice.

It’s a perfect example of Draplin working with athletes before they were big, and continuing to design with them after they’ve made a name for themselves, a career path he’ll expand on during his talk.

“It’s part book lecture, but also talking about the folly of my little career,” he explained.

Draplin pursued graphic design because he loved making snowboarding graphics. But he also knew that graphic design would offer some job security if needed. There would always be companies needing ads or logos. “I’ve always had one foot in the pragmatic and one foot in the ethereal mystery of art,” he said.

When he finished design school, he kept pursuing what had taken him down the career path in the first place—working with friends who loved to snowboard and skateboard. As those friends found success and sponsors, they referred him to the companies they worked with and Draplin steadily built his portfolio. For him, there was never a big break, but instead a series of small breaks.

The book is a full retrospective of his work. It’s colorful and fun, he said. It’s not only the big and beautiful projects. “I show the crustiest things in this book, too,” Draplin said. “I wanted to pack in all the warts and moles.”

It also charts his career and how it impacted his life—how he managed to pay off his debt and buy a house. He said he hopes people see it and remember “there are a lot of ways to make it.”

Aaron Draplin, book signing and talk, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 10 at Asymbol Gallery, $10.

A film to open the hearts and minds of a small town

Today, most people know someone who is gay or bisexual. But when it comes to understanding gender identity, people are still learning, said Mark Houser, coordinator for Jackson Hole PFLAG, which stands for parents, families and friends of lesbians and gays. Fewer people personally know someone who is transgender.

“Jackson PFLAG sees sexual orientation and gender identity as complex social issues,” Houser said.

On Monday, Jackson Hole PFLAG is offering a free screening of National Geographic documentary Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric, that explores the complexities of gender in everyday life from birth to old age. The film features interviews with scientists, psychologists, activists and authors to investigate the role of genetics, brain chemistry and modern culture on gender fluidity. But the core of the film is the personal stories.

“I think the film personalizes the issue, which for me, often leads to greater understanding,” Houser said.

This type of film can also help those who feel isolated about their gender identity. It’s a way to recognize and honor those experiences, Houser said.

Houser was impressed with Katie Couric, who interviews people in the film. She approached the subject of gender with curiosity and compassion and spoke to a spectrum of people representing different identities and backgrounds. National Geographic made the film available to schools and nonprofits for screening.

While Jackson is ahead of some communities in Wyoming concerning its awareness of LGBTQ issues, gender identity is still a new term for most people. “The verdict is out as to how our community will respond,” Houser said.

Gender identity is not a new issue, but one that is rising in visibility. When more than a decade ago Houser worked with Teton County commissioners to designate the county a “Hate Free Zone,” gender identity wasn’t even part of the nomenclature, he said. Houser explained that as more people hear about gender identity and understand the term “transgender,” it seemed the perfect time to provide a film that can offer more information to the community.

He hopes the screening will give insight into what it means to be transgender, as well as catalyze new community dialogue and partnerships. PJH

Screening of Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric, sponsored by Jackson Hole PFLAG, 6 p.m. Monday, May 15 at Teton County Public Library, free.

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