There’s been a huge response to The Mission’s issue 37 cover. We knew it would be popular, but we did not know it would be this popular with our hits going through the roof and, of the 14 fine art prints we had made of the cover, eight sold in two days.

It’s not hard to see why it resonated with so many people. Combining old school action movie poster vibes, with hints of Boys’ Own Adventure storytelling, artist Simon Berndt of One Horse Town did a bloody good job not only evoking that sense of adventure, but also connecting it to the cover story about Tanzania’s Majestic Rivers. We interviewed him after the fact about his method and more.

Simon Berndt of One Horse Town

Simon Berndt of One Horse Town

What’s your art background? Did you train somewhere or are you self-taught? When did you start One Horse Town?

I studied Graphic Design, specialising in illustration, at CPUT in Cape Town. I started One Horse Town in the same year I did my B-Tech Post Grad Degree in 2009 but the business has come a long way since then metamorphosing from a three man operation with a focus on advertising to what it is today, where it’s just me and I focus much more on work that’s orientated around music, bands and small business illustrative branding.

In terms of your usual clientele, is it accurate to say you usually work with American bands on their tour posters? Which bands have you worked with?

Yeah, but not just US bands. I’ve worked with bands from all over but the majority of my work is from the US and while I do other kinds of projects my forte is definitely in gig, festival  and tour poster art, album art and band and festival merchandise. I actually work with a few festivals who always have a great poster art element associated with their events like Hellfest in France and Levitation Festival in Austin, Texas to name a couple.

I’ve been very fortunate to work with quite a few at this point, it’s a long list, but some of my highlights have been John Lennon, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Jefferson Airplane, Billy Strings, Kikagaku Moyo, The Jesus and Marychain, The Black Angels, Deep Purple, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Slowdive, Death Cab for Cutie and Kadavar.

How easy/challenging was this cover?

It was quite challenging just because of the specificity it required in terms of getting the fish right and creating a sense of the location and through the artwork. But I really enjoyed it and learned a lot about the region and the kind of fish that are pursued there. It opened my eyes more to an absolutely exquisite part of the world and gave me more insight into the admirable adventurous spirit of the fishermen who travel there. It’s also quote intimidating creating art for Conrad Botes (one of SA’s best known artists who also happens to be The Mission’s Editor At Large), someone I’ve admired since my school days.

What sort of process do you follow? Do you sketch by hand initially or is it all digital?

I used to sketch everything by hand and I often still do tiny thumbnails when I get ideas on the scraps of paper that I always keep next to me at my desk. But the majority of my sketches I do digitally now. It;s just so easy with tablets these days and saves on time and paper. I hardly ever use my scanner any more for work these days.

The cover references some of the elements that appear in the Tanzania story (e.g. tigerfish, hippos, snakes, planes). What else were you looking to incorporate into the design?

I did some research into traditional textiles of the area which I incorporated into the design in the form of the radial patterns. I also looked at a lot of the landscapes of the area. I really wanted it to be true to the narrative while also creating a larger than life narrative of adventure, exploration and a somewhat magical, sacred or mythical destination.

It has a sort of Hardy Boys/Willard Price/Tintin feel to it. Was that something you had in mind?

Yeah. This was something that came up in my discussions with Tudor and Conrad. I loved TinTin as a child and as much as I worked primarily as a poster artist, old illustrative book covers are often a great source of inspiration to me! I wanted it to feel a bit like an old book cover or film poster.

Do you fly fish? If not, how do you get your kicks outdoors?

I don’t. I’ve got a few friends who are avid fishermen though, after doing the cover I’m more inclined to try and join them some time. I walk often and I’ve just got into longer overnight hiking adventures with a few friends. We’re already planning some exciting missions of our own for when it gets a bit cooler. I also grew up camping with my family and it’s still something I love to do. My wife and I love being out in nature, watching and identifying birds and looking for frogs and lizards amongst the rivers and rocks.

We see you’re involved in a few other projects like Psych Night and Endless Daze. Can you tell us about that?  

Yeah, sure. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been involved in a music project here which started out as something called Psych Night and eventually grew into an all out, two day, multistage outdoor festival in association with VANS. Myself and 4 good friends started out just trying to create a platform for more alternative bands and musicians to play and be heard. We always dreamed of bringing our favorite touring bands from overseas to local shores and in 2013 we did our first tour with Night Beats. We went on to do three more international tours with Golden Animals, Allah Las and The Black Lips before doing our first Endless Daze festival in 2016. We did four in total but with Covid everything ground to a halt. At the moment there is a bit of uncertainty as to whether we’ll do another one for a myriad of reasons. Whether we do so or not we’re hugely grateful to have had the opportunity to have done what we did in the ten years we were active. I was the art director of the festival and the work I created for it and the bands who traveled to South Africa to perform at Endless Daze certainly helped to open a lot of the doors to the work I do today.

Any shameless punts? Your own website, merch or other stuff you want our readers to check out?

My website is horribly out of date but you can follow me on Instagram at @1horsetown and I have an online store where I stock my screen printed posters and prints which you can visit at shop.1horsetown.co.za.

If you want to nab one of the issue 37 cover fine art prints, move fast as there are only six left here.

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