Spin art

  • Article by: REBECCA LANG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 13, 2010 - 4:21 PM

St. Louis Park's Adam Turman designs posters of bikes, beer, babes and burgers.

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Adam Turman is a popular local artist/screenprinter who is famous for his prints of the Grain Belt beer sign and his bike art. Here he is making posters being used as wedding invitations for a couple getting married.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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It's Thursday night and poster designer Adam Turman is in his screenprinting studio, drinking a beer and laying down layers of yellow and blue with the fervor of a workout. He's best known for creating two- or three-color images of Minneapolis icons, busty women and shiny bikes. Tonight, he's making wedding-invitation posters and getting ready for the busy local art season, which for him kicks off with a solo show at FrameUps Gallery and leads to collective shows at ArtCrank and Art-a-Whirl.

After earning a graphic design degree from the University of Minnesota, Turman worked various design jobs before focusing on his own art. Designer friends, including Steve Tenebrini of Squad 19, introduced Turman to the world of posters for music acts.

"Gig posters are like the absolute perfect little design project because there's a deadline, limitations and you're designing something for a band," Turman says.

Eventually, the designer found that bike enthusiasts were just as eager for art as local bands.

"The bicycle is a thing of pure beauty," Turman, 34, explains. "In my mind, it's one of the most well designed machines. There's a simplicity to it, but you can make it so unique and so you."

Turman has since whittled down his poster motifs to what he calls the "four B's" -- bikes, beers, babes and burgers. But while his blend of Americana and cycling has made him one of the more popular illustrators representing Minneapolis, his cityscapes may be playing the largest role in his growing fame. There's a sense of wide-eyed awe in his urban prints, as the angles render the landmarks larger than life. On his "Grain Belt Sign (Version 3) Red," his often muted use of color takes a turn for bold reds that challenge the serenity of the scene. That image, and prints of the Ritz Theater and the Gold Medal Flour sign, have sold so successfully that Turman plans to embark on a nationwide road trip to capture iconic images of other cities.

Family tradition

Turman bounces his ideas off his wife, Sara, a speech pathologist for the Hopkins school district, to see if they have potential.

"She's not artsy-fartsy-minded like I am," he says. "She'll tell me what's what."

The couple have two daughters, Ada, 5, and Mae, 3, and Turman hopes to cultivate their own artistic talents.

"My oldest, she's taken to art," Turman says. "I try and support her. Pretty much every holiday or birthday, I just get her art supplies."

To be close to his family, Turman built his printing studio in the garage of their St. Louis Park home. The space is cozy and bright, with a speckled red floor and inspirational prints along the walls and ceilings. Some are by friends, some by heroes and one of his favorites, an oil painting of a tiger, is by his grandma.

"She gave it to me at 7, and it's been in every studio I've ever had," Turman says.

Up next for the designer is a foray into the art of letterpress printing, as well as a continued expansion of his brand through his website, AdamTurman.com. His latest design, a poster of Portland, Ore., uses giant bike tires to display the city's status as a cycling haven. But he's fiercely loyal to Minnesota bikers.

"We would kick Portland's ass if they had a winter," he jokes.

Rebecca Lang is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.

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  • "Bars, Bikes and Beers" by Adam Turman

  • "First Ave Girl" by Adam Turman

  • ADAM TURMAN

    What: Solo show featuring new prints, framed works and $10 test prints.

    When: Ends April 16.

    Where: FrameUps Gallery, 4325 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.

    Web:AdamTurman.com

    Frameups.net

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