Published on March 23rd, 2022

Linda Meli

Gig posters didn’t just illustrate the age of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll; they created it. Promotional art shaped consciousness and identity in tandem with the music, and helped different scenes and eras be seen as much as heard. Decades along, the blazing output of artists such as Victor Moscoso and Frank Kozik occupies museums and beckons today’s creators.

Which brings us to Linda Meli, a graphic designer and illustrator based in Germany whose work and visual palette are often — though not always — rock poster-powered. Meli’s Matisse-like creations for this month’s PureHoney are a world of their own, while a spin through her Instagram also reveals mind-altering musical visions.

Salmon pink pharmaceuticals cascade over a staring goth-like figure in the record release poster for “Queen of the Pill” by The Jackets. For the band Surfbort, it’s their name, woven through orange flames shooting out of a lighter in the hand of a tattooed punk rocker. One of Meli’s favorite recent projects is a series of lithographs illustrating a typically offbeat Tom Waits song, “Shore Leave.”

“My favorite thing to do when I started working as a graphic designer was to create posters, and

The Psycho Daisies

I just never stopped,” Meli says in an interview with PureHoney. “Bringing design and music together is a great passion of mine. I love discovering new music and then try to represent it in a visual way.”

Meli’s list of artistic influences covers painters, picture books and lyrics like the eerie refrains of retro folkie C.W. Stoneking’sTalkin Lion Blues.” She’s also drawn inspiration from ’50s and ’60s Swiss illustrators. “They made some great book and LP covers,” she says of those midcentury Europeans. “I have also always been fascinated by the countless music (mostly jazz) posters by Niklaus Troxler.”

Five years ago, Meli’s connection’s with Alaina Janack, concert promoter and founder of the Bern, Switzerland-based Hush Hush booking agency, got Meli her first gig poster commission, for the Canadian musician Daniel Romano — “which is still one of my favorites,” she adds.

The first Meli-Janack collaboration became a productive friendship, with Meli at one point churning out music posters nightly and attending almost every Hush Hush-produced concert. Meli’s client list has only grown since then. “One of my current favorite works is the poster for the Viennese musician Voodoo Jürgens,” she says. “It’s actually an oil painting on cardboard, which I then reproduced on a so-called Riso printer.”

Meli also works in photography, ceramics and crafts. She’s a writer as well as a DIY maker. “I still think of myself primarily as a graphic designer,” she says. “But I notice how I’m moving away from that step by step.”

Her Instagram represents that evolution with everything from tooth-shaped plant holders — “sensitive, somehow weird grown teeth,” as she puts it — to pocket ’zines to photographs shot analog on 35-millimeter film. Her work all told emanates fragility, dreaminess and freedom with a countercultural vibe — an eternal summer. As she takes on new mediums, she says she’s “trying to find the balance between graphic design jobs and free art.”

Her creativity and willingness to branch out — she recently taught herself a method of drawing directly on large stones — can be spring from curiosity, boredom or gift-giving. She says the first ceramic tooth plant holder she ever made functioned as “a gift for a friend in the hospital, a good luck charm and roommate.”

Most recently, Meli and three friends transformed an old retail kiosk in Bern into a tiny art gallery called “Suuri Zunge” — named, she says, after “a sour candy that my friend bought in that kiosk when he was a kid.” The site hosts exhibitions, concerts, art markets and workshops for young makers, and has its own Instagram at @suuri_zunge.

Outgrowing her apartment, Meli is in search of a studio with room for her paintings and her rather large ceramic kiln. She’s always on the lookout for new projects and inspirations. She mentions another performer in the mold of Waits and Stoneking with a mysterious, old-world air: “I would love to illustrate a booklet for one of Bill Callahan’s songs.”

Visit @linda_meli on Instagram and ~ Amanda Moore