Take a wild ride with Fred Lammers

Fred Lammers "Thorque Dragson"

Image courtesy of Fred Lammers
“Thorque Dragson” by Fred Lammers.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Grab your board. I’ll pull down the convertible top. I’m amped to take you for a spin to the hip, whimsical, world of Norwegian artist Fred Lammers. His work is a cross between the advertising aesthetic à la Mad Men—sophisticated, slick, and smart—and the coolest art posters you’ve ever seen.

Most of his work has a touch of the ’60s craze for surf and wheels. Even his logo has pizzazz with the vibe of a hot rod, as he’s created his own car grill.

Victoria Hofmo: Can you speak a little about where you’re from and your early years?

Fred Lammers: I was born in a small town south of Oslo called Fredrikstad; guess where my name is from? But I grew up in the countryside just north of Oslo in a place called Eidsvoll, where our constitution was declared.

VH: How did you get interested in art?

FL: I’ve been drawing since before I could walk. My parents were very supportive—my older brother too. He’s also the one responsible for my interest in old cars, American cars. He had magazines with them, the plastic model kits, and soon he had the real deal. After a while, he had a whole bunch of them. I had some cars too, before I moved to the city. Anything from ’60s Mini to ’58 Plymouth, with the tail fins. Even an ’80s Volkswagen bus for a while when exploring surfing.

My parents nurtured my interest by supplying endless pencils and paper. They also inspired my appreciation of music. They didn’t guide me too much—mostly just pointed in a general direction so I could explore the world of any arts on my own. Still do. Dad is really into photography: black and white, always. He even made a pinhole camera once. Mom made all kinds of things but was very good with the sewing machine. Not just to fix old clothes; she could sew amazing stuff. Custom-made clothes and whatnot. So I was exposed to many different ways of creativity. It goes back further though. There are many creative folks on both sides of my family.

My interest in art in general is something that just comes naturally to me. But I guess it also has something to do with my upbringing too.

Fred Lammers album cover

Image courtesy of Fred Lammers
Lammers creates what he likes: old cars, tikis, music, and men. Many of his designs are posters and album covers, like the one above.

VH: What kind of art training did you have?

FL: I really didn’t have much formal training. I remember a short class many, many years ago, but when I think of it, it was kinda boring. I learned a bit about lighting maybe and some technical points, but I find anything technical very boring. It is not creative at all. I prefer to just experiment on my own. I did go to an art school for a year but learned more about personal growth than art. I did learn about—but probably forgot most of it, since I have never worked with it in 20 years—clay sculpting.

VH: Are you currently living in Norway?

FL: I’m currently living in Norway—Oslo to be precise. I had dreams of moving abroad, mainly to San Francisco, but for one reason or another it never became a reality. But I do visit when I can. I have strong ties to that area, friends and relatives. Now I’m more or less happy with where I am, though I still have a dream about living somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. I still love the Bay Area, but my compass is now pointing slightly more north than earlier and has been doing so for the last few years.

VH: How is the art scene where you live now?

FL: The art scene here is not bad, but I don’t feel like a part of it at all. I have always been a bit of an outsider. I’m not in touch with artists as such but am with some who’re into graphic design. I’d rather hang out with musicians, so I’ve made some posters for them.

VH: Your work reminds me of ’60s advertising. Were you influenced by this style?

FL: I do appreciate the technical achievements of the old masters, the “classics,” but I was drawn more into surreal, abstract art or more importantly, pop art, which shares a lot with advertising artwork in my opinion.

VH: When viewing your work, there is a huge focus on cars and surfing. What drew you to those themes?

FL: With my older brother being so into cars—customized cars, hot rods, beach buggies, and so on—that means California, and “everybody in California surfs.” The image of the surfer probably impressed me more than him, but I took a long time to truly explore that culture deeper. When I finally did, it just worked out for me. The interest is also in exploring an era and finding much humor in the early ’60s California scene, which is so much fun to dive into.

VH: Most of your images are limited to three or four colors that have a very distinctive, unusual palette. Can you speak about your use of color?

FL: Colors. I guess it can be related to some abstracts and early pop art where the use of bold but few colors is often common. I do love to go mad with many colors and even more details, but in general I am more fascinated with simpler works, to see how much one color—or line for that matter—can do. To go on a detail frenzy may take longer to make, but for me it is not so challenging. So when I have an idea I’m working with, I often try to eliminate things rather than add things.

Fred Lammers "The yellow cab"

Image courtesy of Fred Lammers
“The yellow cab” by Fred Lammers.

VH: Can you speak a little about your satirical images, like the one on the cover?

FL: “The yellow cab.” At that time a friend in San Francisco was driving a cab. He told me stories about all kinds of strange people coming in and out of the cab all night long. That gave me this image in my mind. I could choose any kind of car, real or fantasy, but I like to have pop cultural references in many of my drawings, as a nod to different things I like (often movies or music). So I went for a 1959 Plymouth. Not just because I love those cars, but more importantly, two of them, both yellow cabs, are used in the last chase in It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Scorsese’s Taxi Driver also referenced them with Travis and 44.

VH: I was pleasantly surprised when I saw your image with the businessman catching a merman on his line. It was a sweet way to show that attraction comes in all forms. How has the public responded to these images?

FL: Ah, the gay images. I admit I was a bit nervous in the beginning and had no idea what way it would go or how it would be received but thought, “why not?” The more I made them, it seemed like more people appreciated them and even more so when I mixed them with hot rods, tikis, and surf. My close friends were cool with it and I wanted to be upfront about this aspect of myself, and hopefully have a little fun while at it. Luckily it went very well. Those images are a combination of what I like personally. I like old cars, tikis, rock ’n’ roll, and men.

One friend called it “a radically natural moment.” Seems no one had done that before in such a way, and it opened up a whole new and very appreciative audience without losing the people who liked my work already. It immediately became just another aspect of what I do, without replacing what I was already known for.

Fred Lammers, "The merman"

Image courtesy of Fred Lammers
Some of Lammers’ images, like “The merman” above, are more personal in nature.

VH: Have you had any exhibits in the United States?

FL: I haven’t had any true exhibitions here. Well, a couple of very small ones, many years ago. Not really an exhibition, but something my good friends in the Bay Area put together, a party in my honor, for all the posters I’ve made for them. That was huge for me. I’d never thought that would happen in my life. It’s something I like to think back on now and then, if I’m down. It’s an important point in my life.

VH: What are you working on now?

FL: 1) I am always creating and exploring my art, at what seems at times like a comically furious pace. Now the thing is to make my years of work available to the public via e-commerce and social media. I just partnered with The Grand Review to create and promote an online catalog on Etsy, Shopify, and other outlets.

An artist has to thrive as well as create, and after 15 years of non-stop creating, fans have shown that they are really ready for a way to bring my work into their homes and onto their walls.

I am forever thankful for Todd’s work, interest, and enthusiasm. Otherwise, I still produce a lot of fliers and posters for the rock ’n’ roll scene in the Bay Area and other places in the country. Most recently I did some work for the Asbury Surf Music Festival and other East Coast gigs by the same people. I’m always getting new ideas for a wide range of things that I freely explore, though I focus on the posters and CD covers for my friends. They rely on my work as part of the scene they make happen.

2) The new Etsy shop will help a lot—now I’m sketching on my version of a simple Norwegian dream house I’d love to have built somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Lots of Norwegian Americans there. Maybe by a lake, a bit secluded. A mix of mid-century modern, or “mid-century northern” in this case, a real Norse stabbur-style log cabin. For me, in the past few years the beach hut is slowly turning into a log cabin by a lake. The beach buggy to a jeep, and palm trees to pines. One might see some of it in my artwork too, as more elements or references are now from northern cultures. I’ve returned to Norway without leaving Norway!

3) Working on finding the very best 1958 Plymouth Savoy!

Many works by Fred Lammers are available in his Etsy shop. Visit it at www.etsy.com/shop/FredLammersNOWSVILLE.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 23, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Avatar photo

Victoria Hofmo

Victoria Hofmo was born, raised, and still lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the historical heart of Norwegian New York. She is 3/4 Scandinavian: 1/2 Norwegian and 1/4 Danish/Swedish. Self-employed, she runs an out-of-school-time program that articulates learning through the arts. Hofmo is an advocate for arts and culture, education, and the preservation of the built and natural environment of her hometown, with a love for most things Scandinavian.