Briscoe Center Digitizes Extraordinary Texas Poster Art Collection - Essay page 2
Jim Franklin, the most influential of the Austin poster artists, is known universally for his armadillo-inspired creations and is closely associated with the Armadillo World Headquarters, although he first designed posters for the Vulcan Gas Company. In August 1970, three months after the Vulcan's demise, the
Jim Franklin, Grand Opening - Armadillo World Headquarters, 1970. Texas Poster Art Collection, Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin; TPA_0280. ©Jim Franklin/Briscoe Center for American History.
Armadillo World Headquarters opened just south of the Colorado River. During its ten-year history, Franklin, Priest, Guy Juke, Kerry Awn, Danny Garrett, and numerous others turned out hundreds of posters, many of which are preserved in the Center's archives. Nels
Jacobson, who contributed to the Austin poster scene under the nom de plume of Jagmo, has written that Austin's reputation for producing great music posters is second only to that of San Francisco.
The artists perfected the psychedelic designs highly popular in the late-1960s by using "free-form" lettering and incorporating into the printing process a "split-fountain" technique that allowed the poster's colors to merge gracefully. According to Jacobson, the overall goal of the graphic artist in the psychedelic period was "achieving a stunning overall effect" rather than "using a specific image on any one particular piece." Indeed, some Texas music posters must be viewed from all sides because both the images and lettering are intentionally multi-directional. Franklin was "a major leader in this movement," Wheat said, "because he took the armadillo, a bumbling night creature, and made it a symbol of the counter culture
in Texas. The cosmic cowboy posters, just as important to the Armadillo World Headquarters poster milieu, captured a real earth-based cultural symbol of Texas—the cowboy—and wedded it to the cosmic consciousness of drugs, progressive rock, and jazz." Priest, considered by
Micael Priest, Michael Murphey, 1973. Texas Poster Art Collection, Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin; TPA_0002. ©Micael Priest/Briscoe Center for American History.
some to be the most innovative graphic artist of the cosmic cowboy period, created works that successfully captured the hybrid nature of the Armadillo era in Austin.