By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
He scratches his arm absently. He was wearing a Band-Aid on his hand for a while because his fingernails were digging into his palm, almost to the point of bleeding.
The dailymonster.com Web site was born of Bucher’s degradation. He was invited to join a design competition in Vegas that went “horribly awry.” An MC wearing a mariachi suit and devil horns presided over the contestants and several thousand spectators. The designers were asked to mutilate fiberglass lawn ornaments using power tools, glitter glue and finger paint. If you weren’t moving fast enough, the MC shot you with a water gun. Bucher’s friend, illustrator Ze Frank, walked out on the miserable spectacle because he couldn’t bear it. He said to Bucher afterward, “I just wanted to watch you draw.” That’s when Bucher decided to start a Web site where he’d film himself drawing.
Tonight, over dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant, Bucher declares the music — something they’d play at a gynecologist’s office, something gushy by Celine Dion — to be acceptable. “I’m feeling relaxed,” he says, bopping his head to the beat, “yet fertile.”
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)
Bucher is nerdishly handsome, tall, pale, lanky and German. Writers or graphic designers with muscles and a tan, he believes, are clearly not applying themselves to their craft.
“You know, I was kind of missing them yesterday, the monsters,” he says, happily munching on chicken curry. “I was all verklempt. They’re like my pets.”
Yet he has no lifelong fascination with monsters. Why not angels or cats or birds?
“I don’t know. Cats or angels or birds, I would’ve made a shitload of money.” Having alighted upon the subject of birds, ravens, he says, can fashion tools. “Ravens are amazing. They have an awareness of self and others. Ravens and otters are one opposable thumb away from world domination. ... Sorry, what was I talking about originally? I’m made entirely of anecdotes.”
To that effect, from “344 Things You Might Know About Stefan Bucher,” a promotional poster published by the American Institute of Graphic Arts on the occasion of a lecture Bucher gave for its Fresh Talent series, Item No. 31 is “I like girls. A lot.” Item No. 32, “I took needlepoint over shop in school because it was much more fun to hang out with girls.” Item No. 108 confides, “Starting a new drawing scares me.” Which leads to Item No. 109, “I’m embarrassed that stuff like that scares me. I should be scared of something better. Like being mauled by bears.”
Bucher has been the subject of many student papers. He is kind of a hotshot graphic designer, after all. He designed Dave Eggers’ 826LA Time Travel store. He gives lectures on design and says revelatory stuff like, “Every design project has a shape it wants to take, inherent in its DNA. You just have to figure out what it is.”
“What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever done?” one student asked.
“I can’t answer that because it’s not weird to me,” said Bucher, which is a good point.
Good points. Bucher is full of them. He’s a graphic designer, and graphic designers are control freaks. He turns chaotic splotches of ink into creatures with personality. All those purpose-driven little black lines flowing out of his pen, they’re the “wow” factor. It’s an exhilarating time for him right now. When his 100 Days of Monsters book came out this year, one of his fans, “Ramona, whose last name is all consonants,” sent an altar made out of an Altoids tin to congratulate him. The altar, now on his kitchen table, has a picture of a tiny piece of buttered toast and a woman raising a champagne glass.
Ze Frank wrote the foreword for the book. Well, it’s more like a series of e-mails. “Dear Stefan ... when I first met you in San Diego you were showing a CD jacket you’d recently completed. You kept zooming in. ... At each magnification you pointed out something else that you’d manipulated and carefully considered, until these tiny little numbers at 4 pt type were blown up so they covered the screen. You did this with each piece of work you presented,” Frank writes. “It scared the crap out of me.”
Frank, you’ll learn in the foreword, went to that humiliating designer vs. designer competition to watch Bucher draw, yes, but also secretly — “just a little” — to see him fail. We like it sometimes when our heroes suffer. There is a touch of monster in everybody.
Stefan Bucher’s monsters can be found at www.dailymonster.com and in the book 100 Days of Monsters, HOW Books, 220 pages, hardcover, $19.99.
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