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Poster Backstory: Alicia Mickes — ARTCRANK Seattle 2014

Written by in Profiles


Alicia Mickes Creates Colorful Characters

Baring It All — On Bicycles.

From the earliest days of her childhood, Alicia Mickes was encouraged to try everything — and this freedom made creating fun. “Growing up I was always an artist. I loved crafting, comics and cartoons, often tried drawing my favorites such as Rainbow Bright, The ThunderCats, JEM, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

ARTCRANK® and Neenah Paper

ARTCRANK® is a poster show about bicycles. Since 2007, ARTCRANK has staged more than 50 pop-up art shows featuring handmade, bike-inspired posters created by local artists and graphic designers in the U.S., the U.K. and France.

A longtime sponsor of ARTCRANK, Neenah Paper is teaming up with the show to highlight the work of four poster artists in 10 U.S. cities throughout 2014: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC.

Each Poster Backstory feature follows the artist’s creative process as they develop their ideas and print them on a Neenah Paper stock, using craft techniques such as silkscreen and letterpress. Behind-the-scenes poster stories will appear on the ARTCRANK site and here on Against The Grain.

Alicia’s dad worked at James River Paper Mill in Camas, Washington, giving her ready access to everything from tracing paper and drawing paper to flashier stuff like the fun fluorescent-colored, heat-sensitive paper that was popular in the early ‘90s.

That sense of playfulness continues in her work today. “My best designs are created by having fun, taking risks and experimenting as I go. I often don’t have all the answers or everything flushed out, but I have the confidence to follow-through with my ideas tweaking and refining along the way.


The idea behind Alicia’s poster for ARTCRANK Seattle was cycling naked, how fun and freeing it sounds since she’s never actually done it. “I was inspired by the act of cycling naked itself, and the variety and details I could work into the poster,” she says. One of her favorite cycling events is the Fremont Summer Solstice parade, held every year in Seattle. As Alicia puts it, “Cyclists from all over get naked, paint their bodies and celebrate by cycling through the Fremont Neighborhood.


When she started, Alicia knew that she wanted a colored paper that made the cool white and metallic silver in her illustration pop. She chose Neenah’s ENVIRONMENT Double Thick Cover STONE, with a Smooth finish.


“The STONE color was the perfect choice, because it’s a warmer shade of gray. In general, I always feel good using an environmentally friendly, recycled paper.” she said. The sheet’s thickness also played a part: “I’m just a big nerd for super-thick paper. Thick paper is especially good for any sort of art print or poster. It really feels like it will stand the test of time.”


After she finalized her design, Alicia had her poster printed at Broken Press in Fremont. “The owner and printer, Andy Crawshaw, did a wonderful job capturing super-fine details in my illustration like the spokes and super-tiny chains,” she says.


Andy was a fan of the way ENVIRONMENT performed with such heavy ink coverage. “Surprisingly, there was very little stretch or warping after each color was printed.” he says. “We were able to hold registration was very little loss throughout the run.”


Alicia’s biggest concern was getting the colors right. Andy suggested under-printing the lime green and warm red colors with a white to make sure they came out crisp and saturated. “The Solstice Parade is a fantastic example of Seattle and creativity that comes in all shapes, sizes and colors,” she says. “The bold costumes and crazy mix of characters make for the most wonderful and unique way to welcome in the beautiful Seattle Summer we all love so much.”