Panda Meat: Source Book 1: Foreword by Frank Kozik, 120 pgs. By Keith

Yeah, it’s published by Last Gasp, but apparently in name only. This book was compiled via the Gig Posters website (www.gigiposters.com) and is apparently a hundred percent DIY effort, assembled and paid for via the contributors themselves. Panda Meat began as an open call to people who post their work on the site; you pay for your page and you’re in. The only guideline being that the artists must regularly “illustrate, design, and print their own work.”

So we’ve got over one hundred different designers, illustrators, and silk screeners who make up the bulk of the book. Kozik, in his ten-sentence foreword, hopes that the reader will consider Panda Meat a healthy alternative to “normal” design bibles, and I suppose it is, to some degree. There’s a handful of folks who I’m familiar with, mostly due to their involvement in the poster or lowbrow art scenes; heavy-hitters Jeff Kleinsmith, Emek, Mike King, and the Print Mafia people all make appearances here. There’s also a handful of people that turned in amazing shit, but that have (thus far to my limited knowledge, anyway) slipped under the radar until now; Casey Burns, P-Jay Fidler, Jason Goad, Matt Terich, and Bradley Zimmerman all have excellent pages as well.

The majority of the work here is steeped in the silkscreen/poster design tradition, with the occasional oil painting of Mexican wrestlers or what looks a lot like Illustrator-created tattoo flash making up the remainders. Despite the tepid design on the cover, it’s generally a pretty book, and a simple and straightforward one—there’s Kozik’s page, the contributor pages, then an index listing each artist and their contact information. Boom, you’re done. It’s definitely a switch from the average design book, and I guess the idea of “paying to play” is a refreshing idea to some degree, but overall I found that about a third of the book was actually interesting; having only one page per artist made it hard for me to really get a handle on what some of these people were shooting for. It would’ve been nice if each person had been able to get two or three pages, or have more than one image per page, but then I suppose the cost would’ve been significantly higher.

As it stands now, Panda Meat’s a pretty decent coffee table for me and a nice bit of portfolio work for the artists involved. –Keith Rosson (Last Gasp, 777 Florida St., SF, CA 94110)