Donielle Flynn

John Rio - Detroit based Graphic Artist

John Rios has been a professional graphic artist for decades. Throughout his career, he has built a reputation as one of the most talented graphic artists in America. His work has been featured in magazines and on the cover of the Orange Country Choppers Calendar, and on designs for many musicians and professional sports franchises including the Motley Crue, Ted Nugent, NASCAR, the NHL and many others.

Donielle Flynn and John Rios

Doni and John Rios at Pine Knob

John Rios is amazing.  I have been a fan of his graphic designs since the 90’s.  He is self-taught and unbelievably creative.  I was first introduced to John when he came to the radio station where I was working with Ted Nugent.  John drew fabulous characters of us in minutes.  I am truly in awe of this man’s talent.  Here’s my Q &A with John Rios. – Doni

  • Where did you grow up?

    I grew up in a small town in West Michigan called Stanton. Attended Central Montcalm Schools and that’s where I took my last art class. After school, I went into the Marine Corps, got stationed in Hawaii and traveled the world. I got out of the Corps because I wanted to become an artist. I didn’t know what path that would take me but I knew I had to go for it.

    Ted Nugent Uncleted Art John Rios

    John’s Uncle Ted Art

  • When did you first publish your designs?

    My first published stage artwork was for Ted Nugent. It all started with a “Flaming Middle Finger.”  Ted was still using that art on his last tour, I believe.  (Part of John’s unbelievable skill is his ability to capture the persona of the artist in his graphic.  His ability to gauge the personality and taste of the artist is another reason he’s done so well. – Doni)

    Ted Nugent Middle Finger Art John Rios

    Ted Nugent Middle Finger Art

    The folks out in California remembered me from that piece and once they got the call to produce the set graphics for Crue Fest II, a year later, they reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in working for Motley Crue. Of course, I jumped at the chance and the rest is history. The next thing I know, I’m working on stage graphics for Don Henley, Billy Idol, Rod Stewart, Kiss, Kid Rock, Alice Cooper, Korn, Disturbed, Bush, Megadeth, and many other bands.

  • Which Pine Knob concert has a special spot in your heart?

    I’ll never forget going to Crue Fest II at Pine Knob… My first major production… I’m in the pit with my camera shooting pics as fast as I could, My heart pumping a million miles an hour. It was one of those out-of-body experiences seeing my art, larger than life on that stage… I was hooked… They opened the show, the band in a padded room, that broke away and there were the graphics I had created… Basically, the insane asylum from Dr. Feelgood comes to life.

    More Crue Fest John Rios

    Crue Fest backdrops by John Rios

    Getting to know Nikki Sixx a bit during that time didn’t suck either. It’s kind of surreal getting emails from rock stars like him, Nuge, etc…The other shows that really stand out from Pine Knob are all of the Nugent shows from about ’99 on, The Alice Cooper shows…( His current set features my work in the castle wall backdrop, the “dead baby” gobos that are projected on the wall. Even the dead baby balloon art for the massive balloons.

    John Rios Gallery Feature

  • Which of your stage art pieces are you the most proud of and why?

    I’d have to say the piece I’m most proud of is the cats that are on the drum riser skirt for KISS… When I was growing up KISS was it… No other band mattered to me as much as KISS… To go from seeing the cats for the first time on the inside of Alive II to creating the latest version they’ve used for about seven years now is as cool as it gets for me. When I created this piece I had very little reference to what was done before. All the small pics I could find had explosions in front of them, fire, etc… Some versions of the cats had heads that were sculpted. I had to reimagine what they would look like and keep them as true to the original as possible.

    The thing that makes my version unique is that before my version the cats never had stripes. Long story but I was trying to come up with a way to illustrate the fabric having this kind of droopy look like the cats did back in the day and ended up coming up with these really funky wild stripes. They even use the art on Eric Singers’ vest at the end of the road tour… I got to see KISS at Pine knob last summer and see my cats in person for the first time… Another unforgettable moment.

    KISS Backdrop Art John Rios

    KISS Backdrop Art

  • How does the business side of your art work?

    As far as the business behind it, how it works… I usually work with the set designer, tour manager, lighting director or sometimes the artist and develop their concept. I’d say 90% of the time they come to me with a vision. Sometimes they want to use an old album cover as a backdrop. The art was never intended to print at 25’ tall or 40’ wide. I sometimes have to recreate the album art down every last detail.. ( Korn, Bad Religion etc..)  Other times I use a combo of photos I take and illustrations to create what is needed.

    Korn Doll Art John Rios

    Korn Doll Art by John Rios

    Alice Cooper’s current stage features a castle wall with rocks from a church in Lapeer, MI. I took the photos, cut out the rocks, and worked on them to create blocks. I then had to build the wall block by block.. I’ve done some crazy art over the years… I like to have a “never say no” attitude when I’m approached to create someone’s vision.

    Alice Cooper brick background inspired by a Lapeer church!

    Alice Cooper brick background inspired by a Lapeer church!

  • John Rios Gallery

    John Rios and Alice Cooper

    No Johns were harmed by any Alices in the taking of this picture.

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