Interview with Adam Turman for The Star Tribune and

"Bars, Bikes and Beers" by Adam Turman

Photo by Richard Tsong-Taatarii

It's Thursday night and poster designer Adam Turman is in his screen-printing studio, drinking a beer and laying down layers of yellow and blue in a fervor. You've probably seen Turman's work at some point -- two-color or three-color images of Minneapolis landmarks, busty pinup girls and shiny bikes. On this night, he's making wedding invitation posters, and getting ready for the busy spring art season, which for him kicks off with a solo show at FrameUps Gallery this month and leads to group shows at ArtCrank and Art-A-Whirl.

Turman's career started out like most professionals who leave the University of Minnesota with a graphic design degree, but after a few job switches and layoffs, Turman began focusing more on getting his own art out there. Friendships with local designers like Steve Tenebrini of Squad 19 and DWITT led Turman to the world of gig poster design.

"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, Turman found that bike enthusiasts were just as eager for art as the local music scene. "The bicycle is a thing of pure beauty," Turman 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's has since whittled down his poster motifs to what he calls the "four Bs" -- bikes, beers, babes and burgers. But while his blend of Americana and cycling has made him one of the most 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 the 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 well that Turman plans to embark on a nationwide road trip to capture the icons of other states.

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 artistic talents. "My oldest, she's taken to art," he 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 explains.

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

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

Notes on this story: I wanted to interview Adam Turman because my sister and her husband are huge fans of his bike posters. Of course I got lost on my way to his house and he was very patient in giving me directions. In no way is Turman a tortured, fussy artist. I hung out at his studio for a couple hours, transcribing away, and like most stories, only about 1/15th of the material made the cut.