Talking shop: A Q&A with Aaron Gelston and Chris Deighan
by Rachel Hunt
Night Market Cleveland commissioned two eye-catching original posters, each from very different illustrators for this year’s festivities. Attendees can take home a memento of Asiatown to fondly gaze at, inspiring dreams of tasty noodles, rich baked goods, and refreshing bubble tea from near-by favorites. They’re a great reminder to stock up on must-haves each time you’re in the neighborhood.
We caught up with the artists behind the posters to ask them a few questions about their own stories and their relationship with the iconic Cleveland community.
Tell me a little bit about your background as an artist.
I went to Cleveland State for painting and got my B.A., then went out in the world and tried to sell paintings. I realized it was almost impossible to make a living doing that and I decided to switch career paths into design. I started at Vitamix doing all of their graphic design and print work, and then moved over to their web team. It’s been about six years that I’ve been doing web work for Vitamix, and recently I switched over to a smaller agency called 42Connect. There I have an opportunity sort of climb the ladder as a designer.
Through all of this, I still loved to illustrate on the side. So me, my buddy Jim, and my wife Hannah got together and decided to start a magazine called PressureLife. That’s kind of our little baby; it’s a 10,000 issue, Cleveland-based, free, culture publication. In that role, I get to do a lot of illustration work, so that’s sort of my hobby/hopefully career one day.
For the Night Market poster art, how did you decide what to use for inspiration?
NMCLE sent me over some reference photos of what they were looking for. The initial direction was to kind of focus on the different building structures in Asiatown. I didn’t actually realize that as I was doing it. I kind of just went in my own head and thought, ‘What do I want to do?’ Basically what I wanted to do was to make Asiatown in the forefront of the city, kind of like the ‘sleeping tiger’. It’s amazing, but not many people know that. I chose the beckoning cat, because it’s a great symbol for us trying to entice people to go to that neighborhood.
What would you say defines your style? What kind of materials do you gravitate toward?
I would say that I’m a digital illustrator. I use a tablet and I basically draw free hand in Photoshop. Digital illustration and bright colors are definitely my thing, that’s kind of where I go to now. I used to do really morbid stuff in college, you know, creepy stuff. But as I grew up, I guess I’m not angry anymore! It’s a lot more colorful and playful. It’s almost comical or cartoony in a way.
What is your favorite aspect of Night Market?
I’m kind of an eater of all weird things. I love Asian food and one of my dreams is actually to go to Japan and eat live squid. Everyone always gets grossed out when I say that, but I really want to do it! The weirder the cuisine, the more I’m into it and a lot of interesting things are available at Night Market.
Do you have any other art coming out soon where people can see more of your work?
Yes, a new Pressure Life is coming out on September 16th and I’ll have some illustration work in there. I was selected to have an art box downtown. I’ll have one on E 4th and Euclid, right across the street from corner alley. You can also check out my work on Instagram at @gelston.design.
Tell me a little bit about yourself as an artist. How did you get your start and what would you say defines your style?
I have been drawing and painting ever since I can remember. I probably started around five years old and have always loved drawing scenes using detail. My favorite subject matter has always revolved around architecture and industry, making scenes involving cities, skyscrapers, factories, stadiums, trains, ships, lighthouses, farms, waterways, mountains and bridges. For the screen printing portion of what I do, I have had a lot of help from my uncles Michael Deighan and Gil Kudrin who have been operating a printing company for over 25 years called Premiere Screening located in Battery Park. They taught me everything I know about printing.
What was the inspiration behind your NMCLE poster?
The NMCLE poster was designed based on architecture from the Asiatown area. The main feature is the building along Rockwell Ave, Emperor’s Palace, in front of which Night Market is set up. I picked that to be the main focus of the poster for that reason and also because it is a unique looking building. The other buildings in the background are also from the area. I went and took photographs and came up with the design.
What do you enjoy most about the neighborhood?
I enjoy the uniqueness and diversity of Asiatown and its close proximity to the center of the city. The area also has a lot of history and culture behind it, which is represented in the architecture and businesses in the area. I am designing another Asiatown piece that I will complete this winter. It will incorporate a much more extensive amount of detail and a wider variety of subject matter from Night Market and the Asiatown area.
Many of your drawings incorporate the Cleveland skyline or well-recognized architectural structures. What do you enjoy about the city’s architecture and what drew you to it in the first place?
I have always liked drawing architecture and in particular, skyscrapers and industrial architecture. Cleveland is great for this because of our history and geographical components, in particular Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. Being from the Cleveland area, growing up I could see these structures all around me and the activity that occurred within them. I am fascinated by how many components of the city’s industrial history remain today as landmarks or as structures inside of which new purposes are now served.