Concert posters line the bulletin boards of cafes and bars alike. They are stuck to posts at crosswalks. From the deli you regularly frequent to your online newsfeed, the posters seem to be everywhere. And yet the artist behind them usually stays unknown.

    When Einxel Reyes entered Columbia College in Chicago, he started studying printmaking. In his first printmaking classes, he learned about the classic poster and screenprinting artists Ryan Duggan and Jay Ryan, who both live in the Chicago area. At the beginning, he learned “through trial and error,” he said, “I studied minimal design but I wanted to experiment more.”

    Then he started getting into zines. And when word got out that he designs, his friends in bands started asking him to design t-shirts and posters.

    These days, Reyes designs t-shirts regularly and he creates posters about once a week. Much of the posters he designs are for Chicago bands that play at the Empty Bottle or Lincoln Hall. One of the bands he worked with most recently is The Walters, who are playing with Post AnimalSummer Salt, and Pool Holograph at Lincoln Hall on November 26th.

   To create gig posters, an artist coordinates with the bands, not the venues. It’s a competitive field, Reyes said, since there are so few venues and “lots of people active in DIY Chicago scene.”

    Naturally, a lot of artists and designers do the work for fun. As a freelancer, Reyes finds that designing concert posters possesses a challenge unique to its form because “there’s more creative freedom.” He explained, “with packaging projects or brochures, it’s very tight.” With gig posters he admitted, “sometimes I don’t know where to start!”

   “My weakness is my thoughts,” he mused. With so much creative freedom, the only limitation for a poster artist, besides the 88 or so square inches of a blank sheet of paper, is the artist’s imagination.

   Reyes has a ritual when he designs posters. “I listen to the music all the way through, and then sometimes refer to photos I take, and I try to base it on the experience I go through with the band.”

     Although there’s usually “a lot of back and forth” between Reyes and the band as well as “a lot of revising,” and the bands don’t always have a concrete vision for a concert poster, they do end up liking what Reyes designs.

     Chicago in particular holds a rich community of poster artists. Reyes recommends for curious people to check out the artist and printmaking cooperatives Sputnik PressChicago Printmakers Collaborative, and Delicious Design League.

     Einxel Reyes moved to Houston this past summer but he still designs posters for Midwestern indie bands. You can find more examples of his work on his website.