Lindsay Nehls of LD Nehls Art & Design

Lindsay Nehls is an illustrator and photographer who has made a name for herslef as an ally to the Cincinnati music scene. Working to provide concert posters, album cover art, T-shirt designs and more, Nehls' enigmatic and playful work is starting to be seen beyond the Queen City as she takes on clients abroad.

How did you start commissioning art?
I moved to Cincinnati in 2006 to study at DAAP, and I met a lot of great people and talented musicians from CCM. The paid work and commissions only started to happen after several years of doing posters and photographing shows for free to help my friends because I enjoyed it.

I didn't initially see it as a potential way to make a living, but it snowballed for a few years, and now I've just lucked out that friends have gotten to the point in their careers where they can pay me with real money instead of beer and pizza. The band SHADOWRAPTR has always been incredibly supportive. They were the first band to ask me to do album art for them, and they actually yelled at me when I tried to insist on doing it for free.

What Cincinnati resources did you take advantage of and how did they help?
The Marburg Collective. Everyone involved with that group is so committed to the local music and art scene. They put together great shows, host touring bands and generally make Cincinnati a better and more interesting place. Their actions as individuals and the amount of work and love they put into every event as a group is a constant source of inspiration.

Their current Monday Night at the Comet series, for which I am usually the on-call photographer, has been a great way to hear and meet new local and touring musicians (and drink some great beers...and eat some great burritos.) Working for Modern Makers has been wonderful too. Anh Tran and Catherine Richards put on so many different events and the resources and opportunities they provide, like free life drawing sessions or projects that invite collaboration between visual artists, chefs, designers and musicians, are totally unique and invaluable.

How is Cincinnati a unique city for artists?
I moved here because of DAAP and I had a great experience there, but I stayed here because of the vibrant local music and art scene and the passionate and genuinely good people working to support and improve it.

Cincinnati has the unique big city-meets-small town vibe. You can take a short bus ride and be in woods large enough to get lost in, or head downtown and see art at a big, established place like the CAC or a few blocks away in a new little gallery some college students started a week ago.

The size of the city is in the perfect Goldilocks zone, and I think to be an artist in a huge city like New York, you have to be constantly concerned with networking with a capital "N." Here, you don't have to see dollar signs. Instead, you see the potential for a friendship when you meet someone. In the end, if you are making art for or about people that you genuinely love and are promoting things that you are genuinely passionate about supporting, it will show in the final product. And if you don't want to be a starving artist, the cheap rent here helps a lot, too!

What’s next for you?
The next goal is overcoming my inner Luddite and making a website. I finally just broke down and made a Facebook page, which has actually been really useful for working with musicians from outside of Cincinnati. The long-term plan for working with musicians is to set up a studio to screenprint posters and shirts. I would like to eventually offer an all-in-one service for touring bands where I design, print and post flyers around town for their show before they even get here. I'm also taking advantage of the warm weather to work on my own painting and sculpture in my Northside garage-turned-fine-art-studio to prepare for a show in June with Joey Cook at Smartfish Studio & Sustainable Supply.

Interview by Sean Peters