YOUR BRAIN ON HOPS - WHAT IT TAKES TO DESIGN FOR A BREWERY
This month I sat down to talk about the design process from paper to can with KCBC’s very own Creative Director, Earl Holloway. Earl has been designing can art for the brewery for a few years now. He took the time to share a few tips ‘n’ tricks he’s picked up along the way. Enjoy!
1. WHY DON’T YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO WHERE YOU’RE AT NOW?
We can go way back on this question but to be brief I can say that for as far back as I can remember I liked drawing a lot. The desire to create images has stuck it out in me through ups and downs. Like a lot of other people it was a coping mechanism at first, a way to exercise control, a pretense to interact with people. For a person like me because that was all pretty important as I was a bit of an introverted kid.
More to the point I’ve been friendly with one of the head brewers Peter Lengyel for close to thirteen years. He was working in biology at the time and had started home brewing in earnest in, I believe, 2006 and shortly thereafter embarked on becoming a professional brewer. When he opened up KCBC with his partners he and the other brewers approached me to produce some labels and see what would come out. I can say safely that we gelled well and have gone on to make some interested work together.
Art and commerce can create wonderful things, it has made for a creative space for people to work in which has really been missing due to the reduction of the print and newspaper world.
2. YOU HAVE SUCH A UNIQUE STYLE, WAS THIS SOMETHING VERY PERSONAL TO YOU BEFORE YOU MET KCBC? IF SO WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
The way I’m working on KCBC material is from the tradition of comic books down through its history. It’s really fun to understand and use comics as a starting point for what I want to get across because most people already know the language so the art produced is usually immediately accessible. I had the good fortune of being able to study with an artist named Jack Potter in which I gained a wealth of knowledge of understanding how to put pictures together and to expand on my drawing skills. I draw a lot of my influence from comics, film, animation, German Expressionism, pulp cover art, traditional painting, American illustrative art from the 1950’s and 60’s and British science fiction illustrators from the 1970’s and 1980’s.
3. HOW HAVE KCBC BEEN ABLE TO PUSH YOUR STYLE AND CREATIVITY? DO YOU FEEL AS IF THE BREWERY IS EXPANDING YOUR HORIZONS IN TERMS OF DESIGN?
One of the most alluring parts of working with KCBC is that they’re interested in collaborating. As much on imagery as they’re with working in tandem with other breweries. Because of that dynamic the three brewers all have differing interests in terms of subject matter. Zack Kinney (KCBC brewer) for example worked in advertising so he has a fundamental understanding of the creative process. He and I work closely on ideas for upcoming labels. KCBC uses a very talented graphic designer named Christy Borg, she makes the fonts and package elements that adorn the cans. This all ultimately means I’m learning how to dovetail my coworkers wants with what I want to do, along with a time crunch and how to operate in those limitations-something I wouldn’t have otherwise.
4. MOST DESIGNERS HAVE A PROCESS THEY LIKE TO TAKE ON THEIR WORK, WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO TALK US THROUGH YOURS?
My principle way of approaching KCBC labels is working out everything I possibly can on paper. First comes a talk with the brewers to see what they have planned and going over some gut reactions to our conversations. From there it’s on to thumbnail sketches and looking at work people have done that will inform what I’m working on (this could be from photography, film, sculpture, illustration, cartooning etc…). I move on to drawing things out in pencil and non photo blue penciling to get everything worked out and then on to inks and then on using a computer to color digitally and do editing there as well.
5. THE DESIGNS ARE PRETTY WILD, IS THERE ANYTHING KCBC HAVE EVER SAID NO TO?
That’s a tough one because there’s usually an array of sketches produced with the name of the beer in mind. The brewers come up with interesting names that inform the imagery which I can start playing with.
6. BEER DESIGN IS NOW BOOMING. I THINK I SEE A NEW CAN EACH TIME I CAN INTO MY LOCAL SHOP. ARE THERE ANY REPEATING TRENDS YOU’RE NOTICING, BOTH GOOD AND BAD? HOW DO YOU THINK BREWERIES AND DESIGNERS CAN STAND OUT FROM EACH OTHER?
First and foremost it’s nice to see small breweries populating the area I live in and some of the breweries seem committed to go that extra mile to make room for art. I understand completely why they do this but art and commerce can create wonderful things, it has made for a creative space for people to work in which has really been missing due to the reduction of the print and newspaper world and I always see interesting stuff at my local super market. What I see a lot of is an either/or trend between graphics and text heavy label design. To me it’s always more interesting to see a pairing of the two.
7. MANY GRAPHIC DESIGNERS OUT THERE PROBABLY WOULD LOVE TO GET THEIR DESIGN ON A CAN, ANY TIPS FOR THEM?
I can only tell you what I know. Unbeknownst to me I had the good fortune of having a brewery interested in what I was doing personally for a while before they reached out. I had spent about five years steadily working on my own self published comic book, sketch book drawing and generally the type of art that put me in the position of being able to work with KCBC. I can’t stress how much I didn’t pursue artwork with that in mind. In fact I had all but ruled out working for or with other people, I was only creating for myself and the friends that were interested in what I was doing. What I’ve gleaned from other label artists I’ve interacted with, they say find a brewery you like but has shitty art on it and see if they’re interested in working with you.
8. FINALLY CAN YOU TELL US WHAT’S NEXT FOR KCBC AND THEIR CANS? ANY ARTWORK WE SHOULD BE KEEPING AN EYE OUT FOR?
KCBC turns two years old on September 6, 2018, I would say there’s going to be a big party and everyone will be having some fun. The brewery is continuing to put out seasonal varieties of beers and collaborating with breweries both near and far. They’ve been steadily growing and have had a very good first and second year. It really looks as if that trend will continue for them, which is great to see. Hopefully I’ll continue to evolve in my roll, become stronger with composition and drawing and keep putting out work on their labels that are a lot of fun to look at and keep people engaged.
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