Howell was the first artist that I spoke to over the phone about this project. I had discussed with friends and family and decided to give it a shot and reach out to artists to pitch them on being involved with the 16oz. He replied and asked if we could setup a call and chat briefly about it and what I had in mind - it was a very southern polite way of vetting me, which looking back I really appreciate even more now. I gave him the elevator idea and told him the why and assumed logistics that I had sketched out for the project. He was supportive, positive and encouraging - as well as agreeing to be a part of it. His work to me was special and something that has always stood out to me and so his involvement gave me the momentum to get us where we are today.
When we have our documentary story about this, we will refer to this moment with Howell as 'The Call'. It's a working title.
AJK: We’re talking to Howell, he’s in North Carolina and wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for joining us.
Howell: Back to you. Thank you for having me.
AJK: Yeah, so we started doing the project, you know, I’ve really had a few artists in mind that I really -- their work really stood out to me and one of those was Howell’s. Looked and thought should this be something we do? And I’ve reached out to Howell and he asked if we could talk on the phone and we, you know, we hit it off and it kind of encouraged me to move forward with it. We’ve had some great opportunities since then so I just wanted to kind of thank you for at first taking the time to, you know, reaffirm that what I was doing was positive and just for making yourself available to be part of it.
Howell: Absolutely, absolutely AJ and I appreciate you wanting to talk to me.
AJK: All right, so how are things going, how you been?
Howell: Doing pretty good. I was just making a beer label actually right when you called so, you know, just real busy with that stuff. You know I’ve been branching out to other things, so I’ve been doing a lot of stuff. I was just doing some work for Yogi Tea - they’re rebranding their packaging and I’m drawing their little yoga poses that goes on the side. I do a variety of different things but I've been keeping busy as it seems like there’s always something to do so no, I can’t complain.
AJK: Excellent and if you get a chance folks check out -- we’ll have it up on the site and everything howellgolson.com and you can really see the extent of Howell’s portfolio, you know, from doing work with Adult Swim, doing some other labeling and packaged goods so it’s really kind of --
Howell: I would encourage people also to go to the -- sorry, I interrupted you. I would encourage people to go to my Facebook illustration page, Howell’s Illustration you see more on the beer work there so unfortunately I don’t update my website very much. In fact I think it’s like five or six years old but yeah, I would encourage to go -- people to go to Facebook as well and see more artwork there.
AJK: Excellent, and I was -- that’s kind of been a running joke with a lot of the artists is that the website is the one thing -- no one has ever said they’re not busy but everyone’s website is kind of like well, I haven’t got a chance so it’s a good sign of --
Howell: Yeah, everybody says that. Yeah, well it’s just that thing, you know that’s how it is, they’re too busy doing other things and I don’t know it’s just making a website is such a humdrum kind of especially for me. I just -- I really despise having to do that so --probably one of the reasons I haven’t done it.
AJK: Excellent, so as an artist can you give a little bit about your background and how you got started, your portfolio’s pretty robust but just kind of take us back a few years?
Howell: Oh yes. How I got started professionally?
AJK: Just -- yeah, just How the artist -- when you were younger and you’ve realized it?
Howell: Well I grew up -- you know I spent a lot of time indoors. I wasn’t like an outdoors person at all and I read a lot of comic books, specifically like French comics, Moebius, some of the guys you'd see in Heavy Metal magazine, I read a lot of that and I read, you know, like comics in general but like the Conan, Savage Sword of Conan comic books, a lot of sci-fi and it just really got me into drawing, like you know, I’ve always -- I always had a knack for drawing I guess but that’s what made me want to continue doing it. People like Moebius and all the stuff that you see in the old heavy metal magazine, you know, sci-fi and fantasy, artwork that really got me into it. I could probably say without that I would -- I might not be doing this right now so that’s -- kind of the biggest influence is those comic books I read as a kid. And plus I remember I played a whole lot of Dungeon and Dragons and so that kind of informed a lot of things that I did throughout my childhood.
AJK: Excellent. Have you ever dabbled in your own comic book or, you know, just or you can just kind of --
Howell: You know what, about that yeah, I have. Sorry I interrupted you but yeah, I have. I’ve given it up. I gave it up pretty quickly because of the amount of work that’s -- I’m sort of like an idea kind of guy. I like to get an idea on paper and this evolves to the next idea and comics are so labor intensive -- people are not thanked enough for it, you know, monetarily or anything else. They work way too hard I think for what you get out of it I think personally. So, no, I’ve long since given up making comic books.
AJK: Your comic -- yeah, your comic books are like four pages of one -- yeah, one picture on each page. It’s like there you go. Yeah.
Howell: Right, yeah, I don’t have the patience, it’s -- and I don’t. Like I said I like coming up with cool ideas and just sort of go onto the next idea instead of making it the whole kind of prosaic story about something. Yeah, I’m much more about the image but one image rather than sequential images I guess.
AJK: Yeah, I can see the repetition in a way if you have that unique drawing or imagery to -- have to repeat over and over again, it might kind of thin it out a little bit also. It’s kind of like okay, I have drawn this guy, his arm moved a little bit or action now or doing that but like --
Howell: Well, some people have. I mean thankfully some people have that mentality and that’s why we have comic books and that’s why I’m drawing now that someone’s has that mentality at some point and, you know, I definitely appreciate it. It’s just something that I just -- I can’t do it.
AJK: And I think that’s also -- and to be able to just look at yourself, you know, your craft and realize how you -- you know you probably tried it, you said okay, and that makes you appreciate it more but also realize that, you know, it’s not for everybody so I think that’s -- I think you’ve found your niche. I think you’re doing quite well Howell.
Howell: Well, I’m not complaining now. I’m really enjoying the work that I’m making now so I have no complaints at all.
AJK: Now for the -- and even for the commercial stuff how does that, you know, how does that come to be?
Howell: Well I -- you know I went to school for illustrations. I went to Rhode Island School of Design and then I learned, you know, a lot in the illustration department and, you know, we learned there were certain ways of making commercial art and, you know, so I came out of school and, you know, I had started a career of, you know, doing just commercial illustration really. You know whenever anybody wanted me to do it wasn’t usually what I wanted, it was usually what they wanted me to do, they wanted me to draw sailboat so I drew them, you know, a sail boat and, you know, you’ll see that in my portfolio, you know, a lot of that, sort of dry high, you know, commercial art I mean which I still do, you know, that’s -- it’s bread and butter and -- but recently, you know, I’ve really gotten to be able to express myself or -- and do a lot of work that I think is important to me and I see people responding to it so that makes me happy too.
AJK: I think that’s a great way yeah, that makes you happy. That’s the -- your feeling yeah, that’s also your -- put it that way.
AJK: From an esthetic standpoint, from the the non artsy person would say -- it’s not my forte and I probably wouldn’t picture your stylings if I tried to describe it, but how would you describe your -- the art that makes you happy as the esthetic? It does give me some joy --
Howell: Well, I mean -- well, it’s definitely informed by those things that I was talking about earlier that they influenced me as a kid, you know, all that science fiction, just weird kind of stories that were in the Heavy Metal magazine or, you know, Epic magazine, you know, all those weird magazines that came out 70’s, 80’s was just strange stories and strange drawings that didn’t make any sense, you know, that really, really intrigued me and, you know, just fantasy and science fiction art, you know, in general, you know, mixed with this sort of surreal sort of psychedelic esthetic I guess. You know maybe that’s a good description of what I do.
I don’t know -- how to explain it.
AJK: Yeah. No, I think that the science fiction, you know, the images are to me very vivid, just for your choice of color palette, the line definitions, they’re almost three dimensional when they’re on a flat surface if that makes. They have that kind of depth to them that makes it -- that really stand out.
Howell: Well, I definitely, you know, I definitely want to create something. Like, you know, I feel like I’m a designer as well. I want to design objects and things and things that are like you said like they’re -- you know, they could be real like you could maybe print that out in 3d and, you know, it’s a real thing that I’ve sort of designed up to surface and I think I’m -- I’ve always been into that. I really want to describe something to the point where it could be a real thing, you know, it’s not just sort of playing around with the 3d or playing around with the materials or whatever, it’s actually really sort of really designing something and I’ve always been intrigued by that kind of thing, architecture, design of all kinds really so maybe that’s what you’re responding to.
AJK: Yeah. I think -- yeah, I think it’s, you know, a label is that and it’s, you know, the -- obviously the contour of the bottle, of the can, gives it, you know, a unique lay out but I just think it’s, you know, I’ve always been drawn even to a lot of the sidewalk track artists who are able to make even the sidewalk or just allow it to have -- the famous ones where it looks like you’re, you know, falling down a hole but --
Howell: Oh right.
AJK: -- and you walk up to it and you’re like oh, wow like just the way that they used their lines and, you know, get creative and yeah, a lot of work has that --
Howell: Do you see that in my work then?
AJK: -- yeah, I mean obviously I’m not falling into a hole but I definitely think that just the -- it has that, you know --
Howell: You’re not scared of falling into the beer, right.
AJK: Right, right, yeah, I’m ready to dive in but yeah, a lot of the -- and I -- yeah, a lot of them have that, you know, especially the angel series and a few of the other ones where they’re more of the oval based labeling versus the wrap. I think that really kind of has that depth to it for me, you know, which is really what drew me, has drawn me into your work. I think there’s those two styles that there’s the -- those kind of badge styles they have and the -- some of them more -- other ones recently have had more of a wrap to it.
Howell: Well, with Wicked Weed their -- they’ve got their style, you know, I mean I’ve sort of developed this -- excuse me, the style for that one, for that series and then their clean, I kind of went with a sort of, you know, a line and engraving kind of -- it’s a little bit more modern than that -- than, you know, the traditional engraving style but that’s, you know, what I was going for, for that. So, for them I’ve done two different styles and then there’s another style that I did for the barrel aged which is more sort of a painterly style so to sort of differentiate all of those three different styles of series’ of beers, we kind of went that route.
AJK: Yeah and I think that when you see the bottle or you see the -- it kind of budges by which labeled as, you know, that it falls into one area of Wicked Weed’s focus.
Howell: You know that was the idea and, you know, to whatever effect we -- that’s what we chose to do. I don’t really prefer either one of them. I think some of the labels, in each of those styles there are some of my favorites. I don’t really play favorite actually.
AJK: You love all your children, right?
Howell: Well, not all of them. Some of them I don’t like so much but you got a deadline, you know, and you got to put it out but, you know, thankfully I haven’t fallen, you know, flat on my face. Yeah, I don’t think but, you know, when we’ve got all these beers coming I mean that at Wicked Weed Brewing there’s this kind of -- so much energy and they put out things like every other week really and, you know, these things gets turned out so quickly and in order to keep up the quality it’s really hustle and -- but like I said I don’t -- you know, some that I don’t particularly like as much as others but I would say that I don’t -- that I’m glad that I have at least pulled through on all of them. At least with my assessments.
AJK: Now the ones that aren’t your favorite, do you go back to them and say could I give another shot at that or just kind of like that just looks --
Howell: Do you know I used to say that and now it’s just so much momentum and stuff that, you know, unless I feel like I’ve just completely fallen on my face, just thankfully I haven’t felt like that yeah, but you know sometimes things happen where, you know, the color is just wrong but usually it’s the printer thing so, you know, I take it on my shoulders maybe because I chose that color, whatever but usually it’s because of the printer can't or you know, something happened in the printing or with packaging or whatever that needs to be changed, and, you know, we’ll go back and revisit that kind of stuff but, you know, look I guess there might be some that I’d want to revisit but, you know, at this point I’m actually quite happy with the body of work actually so -- I can’t even think of one that I would change right now as we speak.
AJK: There you go. That was -- I was going to -- you lobbed it up and I was just going to ask you if you had one that was -- yeah, that was going to drive you crazy and then we’d make that the cover photo for the interview and just kind of poke at you, you know, okay.
Howell: Yeah. Well, you know, there are a few that are sort of thorns in my side that like, you know, like I said what can you do? You know you got that lines, we just -- we got to just power through. You know and I think a lot of artists should think that way maybe, you know, just make the art really and, you know, run it up a side poll and see what people say and then just move onto the next one, you know, and just try to develop what you’re doing and, you know, don’t ruminate too much I think on what you could have done or ruminate on specifically changing something, you got to move forward, you know. I think that’s a losing proposition I mean and I think it’s just better to look forward I think.
AJK: Yeah, I agree and also it gives a timestamp of a point in time and it doesn’t always -- even life, it’s not always a perfect, you know, delivery every time.
Howell: Absolutely and -- yeah, that’s true. Sorry to interrupt you but yeah, I -- you know it’s funny whenever I look at art work I think maybe other artists are like this too but when I look at it I can remember what I was making, like I can remember specifically where I was sitting or what I was doing and like you said it’s like a snapshot in time, you know, maybe that week I wasn’t feeling so good or that week I was too busy or whatever and, you know, I’ve just kind of learned to let that be I guess.
AJK: Right, or it could be that you’re learning a new style or a new way to a different color run or trying a new palette and you took a chance and then you said maybe it didn’t bleed the way you thought or when you put it out in the specific bottle it didn’t -- and you can say okay, I know that this -- well, it’s not my favorite, it helped me to make this one and this one better because I didn’t do this or vice versa so.
Howell: Or you made a choice that wasn’t so good for beer, you know, that was -- it didn’t sell the beer or it wasn’t the correct color or it wasn’t the right thing to do for that series or whatever. Like I said thankfully I haven’t fallen on my face, you know, I might have made a few, you know mistakes here and there, you know, continuing doing that but yeah, I think in general, you know, I’m sort of guiding in the right direction I believe.
AJK: Right. And you’re to be -- be honest, you are your own biggest critic so I think that also --
AJK: -- has to be through a tinted lense a little bit.
Howell: Absolutely and there is a certain amount of you got attached to, you know, the work because it is sort of -- it’s hard not to do like -- coalesce your work with who you are, you know, like this is who I am, you know, and it’s -- it shouldn’t be quite that important, you know, obviously I want to put out a good product and I’d love people to look at it, that it looks great, obviously I want that because that’s what I’m putting my effort into and -- but, you know, I’m hesitant to coalesce it with, you know, who I am as a person. I mean it’s not my entire identity I think. Beer labels are not my entire identity.
AJK: Yes. Yeah, that would be -- that would make for a pretty sad existence, it’d be like okay, you know, you’re like calling the brewery, what’s next? I -- you know I really need to make another label today and …
Howell: Right, yeah. You know like I said, you know, there’s just got to be a certain amount that you get attached to of course, you know, definitely want it to be good and I want people to say that they like it, you know.
AJK: I think that’s human nature, right? Anything, where you’re like -- when someone listens to this, I hope they are going to say, “wow, this was really interesting and I enjoyed it” and like I said before when you told me you were interested and you thought it was a good idea, you know, I respected your art so implicitly you approving the idea, helped me move forward with it and, you know, so I think it’s -- yeah, it’s major.
Howell: Well, I’m happy that it worked out that way.
Howell: Because I think, you know, like I said I’m interested to hear other artists have to say.
AJK: Yeah, exactly me too and that’s -- I think when I look it, when I look at -- obviously I think packaging is a huge part of it and, you know, I have a marketing background and, you know, you look at it but I think in the craft beer I think it’s in a different -- it’s almost in a different level. I mean there’s those ones that -- because a lot of these are -- brewery only releases in their special and I think they have special art work kind of really ties it in, you know, I wish some of these beers that you’re making labels for that they’re a little bit easier for me to get up here but yeah, it’s -- you know, that’s I think it makes it a more special experience, especially some of these beers, you know, I know for me it’s a social piece to enjoying beer and sharing that harder to get beer or beer that I know somebody would like and so it just brings it kind of altogether. It’s -- and I -- so that’s -- to me it’s a communal and a social aspect of it too.
Howell: Yeah. It occurs to me, I have a question for you. Do you -- you’re in the business of beer label art obviously, do you have a collection of bottles, do you keep the bottles?
AJK: I started to do that but happy wife, happy life and so I just, you know, I have a lot of photos. I mean I do take pictures of them and I store them and I keep them and I have different links and, you know, social things that I keep and keep track of, you know, I definitely try to find who does the art work and then follow them as an artist on various social platforms. So, --
Howell: Right, keep it digital.
AJK: Yeah and until I the proper, you know, man cave, you know but one of the hopes of this for me is that, you know, is yeah, I think at some point I would love to have prints or pieces, you know, of -- or sketches of these labels, you know, and have them you know nicely framed, you know, in my home or something like that or to show them and thinking or art or maybe by just talking maybe an artist decides to do a show and does something like that. Yeah, that’s my kind of hope from it is I would, you know, there’s few of them who have different stores or, you know, make, you know things available here and there so I try to keep an eye on that and that’s kind of the new goal for me. So, if you set up a little store shop, you know, just drop me a link and let me know.
AJK: Now, before we were talking about sometimes you rush, you know, how -- the process. How is the process for you as an artist working with the brewery in terms of upcoming releases and scheduling which ones you work on, that type of thing.
Howell: Well, are you talking about Wicked Weed in particular like I worked with some different breweries...
AJK: Yeah, let’s stick to Wicked Weed.
Howell: I mean in general like people do things differently I mean especially in the beer world I think -- you know in the beer world you’ve got other people who have never worked with artists before. They haven’t -- they probably haven’t even had a business before and a lot of times they -- you know they just want to start up a brewing business because they can brew beer and it seems like they can do -- so for the most part they’re kind of near this whole thing so they kind of let me sort of show them what they want. Usually what happens in beer industry is a little different or sometimes they’ll tell you exactly what they want and you just sort of nod and do it. In beer it seems like they’re open to what I think, you know, they’re more open and I think, you know, in beer labels you can show -- you can be more -- you can be a lot of different things that’s what I’m trying to say. You can be wild and creative and still really, really out there kind of stuff where you probably couldn’t do that on a, you know, a soap box or, you know, something more dryer than that.
But as far as the process goes -- well, let’s just talk about Wicked Weed in particular, you know, they’ll tell me what kind of beer it is and, you know, I want to know what the ingredients are, I want to know what’s in it, I want to know what the ABV is or I want to know what style of beer it is. Sometimes if it’s something that I don’t know about like recently there’s -- Wicked Weed has been doing a lot of sort of cocktail inspired beers that, you know, I haven’t -- some of them I haven’t tasted so I don’t -- I don’t really know where they fall into like as far as demographic, who’s going to buy it, who wants this because I got to think about that too like who’s going to respond to this label, who’s going to drink this beer, you know, sometimes I have to think about that as well to try to appeal to them. So, once I get all that sort of information I’ll just work up some ideas really. And I think about color a whole lot. You mentioned about the four -- about some of the color palettes that I use, you know, it’s really important. It’s almost more important than what type of label to me sometimes to get that color palette correct and something that you can respond to before you even really actually see what the contents of the illustration is. I think it’s really important to get that correct I guess, you know, before you get into it but luckily people like Wicked Weed allow me to basically do what I want to do so -- and it appears to be working for them so that’s sort of the luckiness of that situation. The other people are a little bit different, they have a more sort of a tighter idea of what they want and what they need and they’re not interested to hear about my weird ideas so.
AJK: Well, yeah maybe when you’re restrictive for the non-openness, sort of weird ideas, allows -- when you’re allowed to let your -- you know your freak flag fly so to speak, you know, lets it -- kind of let you go a little wilder I guess because you’re -- so it makes you --
Howell: Well-- yeah, the great thing about all of it is that, you know, that you get a lot more rewards for being -- sort of for taking the risk, you know, like a lot of the -- some of the stuff was pretty risky I think, you know and thankfully within the beer industry is that, you know, risks are -- you know you don’t -- you can’t say at all this too much but still I think some of those things -- I think -- actually I think the most -- the ones that people like the most, the ones that are most successful I think are the ones where I just realize I went out on a limb, just sort of went overboard and taking that risk that got you -- got the most rewards so -- and I learned a lot about that during the process and on the same token I’m sensitive about not doing something -- not making something weird for weirdness sake, I really feel it’s important to grab that into something that’s real and I think that’s why people respond to it so much. It’s not just plain strange, you know, it’s rooted and it’s something that’s appropriate to the beer or to the whole Wicked Weed sort of mindset I think.
AJK: Yeah. I think it’s kind of like for lack of a better -- controlled chaos. Like it’s not just, you know -- you’re not just throwing it out there but yeah and I was looking --
Howell: Yeah, I mean I show a lot of restraint, you know, in doing that. I do need to control, you know, and make sure that my composition is good. That there’s not complete nonsense going on.
AJK: Now is there someone or is it -- you present it to the brewery or the client? I mean if we’ll talk Wicked Weed in this example but were there like you’ve got to come back to earth a little bit here, it’s kind of too crazy or -- and then do you --
Howell: Well, you know obviously Wicked Weed’s never said that to me before and honestly also I’ve never even tried to do sort of psychedelic, strange concepts with other people. I didn’t -- don’t even go there because I’ll just -- I just assume that’s not what they want, you know, and with Wicked Weed it’s hilarious. I think if I had -- the first label I did for them was Black Angel and I had all these angels, all these like -- yeah, really class fully styled sort of angels, dark, you know, but very kind of broken like, you know, just showing them all these different sort of angels and they were like well, this is cool but what would you do? And I was like do you really want -- and they were like yeah, just show me what you do.
When I showed it to them and one of the guys was like yeah, no we’re going to have to dial that back and so I was like okay, you know, that’s what I expected and then the other brother Luke, he saw it, he was like yeah, he was like we can’t use this? Because the other brother was saying no, we don’t want this, you know, it’s just too out there whatever and the other brother was like totally on board so thankfully it happened that way because, you know, I realized what I was dealing with here and yeah, thankfully I was allowed to do all these beer labels for them.
AJK: Now how did you come to connect with them?
Howell: I -- yeah, it’s funny. I, you know, just like how it usually is these days but they’ve seen things that I’ve done online but I just put up some stuff, my own sort of sketches and things. I think I showed you those on behance.com. I just put up a bunch of work that I’ve done personal works, you know, that I’ve just been working on and just, you know, just ruminations and thoughts and that’s what they responded to. Like one of the people -- one of their employees or whoever was in charge of looking for sort of the artists, you know, and saw it and saw that I lived in the area and I think that was a big thing for them too. They wanted somebody -- they wanted to have a relationship with an artist that was sort of local and -- so they found me and that’s what happened.
AJK: So Black Angel was the first one you did for them?
Howell: That was the first one, right. They started bottling sours before they started bottling their cold beers. So, I did that one, I did Serenity, Genesis, those are the early ones.
AJK: Right, and did you -- I mean I think the angel series just kind of taken off and that were just some of my favorite labels, you know Golden Angel is probably my favorite of those -- from
Howell: Oh really? Oh well, people always say Red Angel that’s the one everyone likes the most.
AJK: Well, yeah from, you know, from a beer perspective then I was -- yeah, but I definitely -- yeah, they’re tough. I think they’re a great series of White Angels, another great label, you know and then the Angel of Darkness, I mean I think they’re all really solid. Yeah.
Howell: I think that that series is really successful I think, you know, because we sort named it and, you know, made it -- made them all kind of sort of look the same but be, you know, obviously different colors but yeah, it’s definitely successful I think.
AJK: Now that -- how do you pick the animals, they’re all kind of -- they’re sci-fi, kind of not -- but they all have kind of a basis and it looks -- they look kind of, you know, like a deer and what’s called angel it looks like a -- it’s like a bird, a smaller type of bird, you know, and the White Angel is like a fox right?
Howell: Right. How did I do that? Well, initially like they had told me they have an Angel series and I was just not into -- like drawing angels, the connotations of angels and like a person with wings and, you know, all this sort of -- all these ideas kind of around angels and everything. So, I just -- I really wanted to take it somewhere completely different so I sort of came up with these sort of strange spirit animals that -- what I had done first when I came up with the animal, the deer, I just came up with the deer because it’s -- I just thought it was -- I just thought it was just interesting to me. I was -- it’s kind of hard to explain really.
So, I did the deer and they liked it so much that they wanted to continue the series of sort of different animals that were sort of animal spirit, lizards, you know. So, we had just continued along with that idea, you know, we did Golden Angels second and so I chose a bird and then the white one I wanted to do an owl at first but I’ve just done a bird so I decided to do the fox instead because it was light as well and then the angel darkness is kind of like a -- I don’t know a bear I guess, I mean I guess it looks most like a bear. It’s none of those things but I just -- I wanted to just turn it into just a geometric mess, you know, just like something that was just kind of just unexplainable really. I mean it looks like a jungle gym I guess, like a demonic jungle gym with like a bear face. It’s an open interpretation I guess.
AJK: Right, yeah. That art speaks -- yeah, speak to you how it must. Now most recently there’s the collaboration with Jester King, Red Atrial which is the Red Angel and then the Atrial from Jester King. How -- if looking at that label it definitely is, you know, it has both, you know styles, you know your work and then also, you know, Josh Cockrell. Did you work with Josh on that? How did that process?
Howell: Well, first of all I didn’t do -- I didn’t have anything to do with that label. It was -- we have another -- artists, we had another artist, his name is Jordan Atkinson and he’s been doing the Farmhouse Ales and he was -- did some of the collaborations and he worked on that one so he basically took my artwork and I believe the artwork of, what was his name, Josh from -- Jester King, yeah Josh and put those together. Yeah, we -- so they’ve got so many beers comes out and it’s just -- I can’t do all of them so you realize that pretty early on that I can’t do everything so we’ve got other -- another artist that sort of take on that other work.
AJK: So how is that -- that’s kind of interesting because like that is your kind of deer spirit, you know and --
Howell: Yeah. Yeah, it is. Yeah, I don’t know, I kind of wish that they’d let me do it but yeah, whatever.
AJK: Right, because yeah, it’s -- yeah, I can see just kind of the -- yeah, the collaboration, the joining of the two images together that were already pre-existing but that’s interesting.
Howell: Yeah. I hear it’s a really good beer too. I haven’t tasted it but I imagine it’s awesome.
AJK: Yeah, exactly and then recently the -- but the names are always hard for me, they should -- in your art work you should have like a -- how to say the beers names like, sounds like this and spelt out, that would be helpful but it’s always hard for me the Pompoen, Pompoene?
Howell: Yeah, I think the way that they say is Pompoen (Pom-pone).
AJK: That’s a newer label that was previously just the Canvas series, the more flat. How was that decided to become its own kind of -- Howell production?
Howell: Well, this is -- started to become sort of a theme with them now is that, you know, they’ll come out with the Canvas series there and most of them become, you know, the full on, you know, sour beers in the sour series -- excuse me so I mean a lot of them are getting the treatment of the full label so then Pompoen is one of them.
AJK: No, that’s kind of -- so --
AJK: Yeah, so yeah -- I think with the Canvas ones to go to your point of how many beers are coming out so quickly I think that -- I mean sometimes a simple artwork and layout is -- but those just allows them to get it out there and then that makes sense of it
Howell: That’s why we did the Canvas label. Yeah, we made it a whole different Canvas label so that they could spit those out quickly without having to, you know, spend too much time on it with, you know, just in case it didn’t do well or, you know, people don’t like it or whatever.
AJK: Yeah, I agree. Now there’s a great video on Wicked Weed’s YouTube I think of you kind of just creating your work. How -- what is the typical design size you work off of to then -- and then the process to get it actually to be label size?
Howell: Like how does it start off?
AJK: Right, are you -- yeah, you just draw?
Howell: Well, yeah these -- with the sour ones it’s funny because very little of it is not drawn. Everything on the label basically is drawn except for the type I guess. So, what I’ll do is I’ll do a drawing of really -- really quite large I guess, maybe 18 by 20 or something, like really big.
Howell: And I see other people do their -- and when I see their beer label artwork it’s like 8 x 6 or something and yeah, I think that’s good enough. I mean because it is being shrunk down about half of that but I don’t know I just -- I feel like my drawings -- I don’t know for some reason they demand me to draw it a little big, I don’t know, I like -- I don’t know how to explain that. I mean because I don’t want to spend the extra time if I don’t have to but I feel like it deserves and I feel like it does make a difference to make them that large and shrink them down that small. And plus, you know, if anyone, you know, and like if we make prints or something at some point they’re already large enough, you know, for the poster size so you got that as well.
AJK: There you go. Yeah, two birds with one stone.
Howell: Exactly. Yeah, I usually draw things quite large.
AJK: You know when you start is it -- are you using pencils, do you have, you know, are you painting certain types of color, you know, how -- what’s your medium?
Howell: Yeah. Some people have really embraced the digital age with such that they don’t use paper anymore and they sort of draw they got these little - Wacom makes this Cintiq thing, where you could draw straight onto the monitor, all that kind of stuff and I wish I had one but still I always draw, I always do the first half with pencil and paper and, you know, with like real materials and get something. I just feel more comfortable that way. I feel like I’m going to get the results that I want that way, easier and quicker. It’s more direct for me to do it the traditional way.
AJK: Yeah, it’s been -- that’s been an interesting perspective. Some folks you said have embraced it and, you know, I’ve seen them, you know, a couple that are face-to-faces, they had their tablet right there and like some special brushes and it was amazing to me because I’ve always thought that transition from the, you know, on the actual, you know, paper or painting on the canvas, like that whole -- to transform that, the learning curve, I always felt like would be so dramatic for me if I --
Howell: Well it used to be. It used to be worse than it is now and now it’s getting easier and easier. I’m getting -- sometimes I like -- I have this epiphany and be like well, I don’t want to just do this, why do I have to scan this in and clean it up and blah, blah, blah if I could just do it on the computer? And I think technology is getting to the point where it’s becoming easier and easier and it’s less and less of a disparity thing to -- and it’s getting easier for people to make the leap I think.
AJK: That’s -- it’s exciting and I just -- yeah, I think I always -- maybe like just learning Photoshop or other software’s, like I know what can be done but just kind of learning and making it feel like it’s second nature and I feel art, what -- if you were having to think too much about well how does this work or how does this technology represent what I’m trying to do that, you know, that’s where I always find interesting that some folk can just be able to not really skip a beat and having not be okay, I’m learning the software, I just want the software just --
Howell: Right, yeah. But yeah, that -- I think that’s what I was trying to say it’s become more intuitive I believe.
It’s just there’s lot of disparity between the two now whereas before you had to learn how to do it, finagle it and sort of, you know, get back after it and sort of make it look more like it was real, later and edit it and stuff like that but now it’s more intuitive I think.
AJK: Yeah, one of the gentleman Tim who does some of the work for Veil Brewing he had just his little satchel on, he said normally in the past if I was mobile and I knew I’d be drawing, I had to bring, you know, ten or 15 different pen, you know I’d have like, you know, backpack or two worth of stuff and now I have, you know, couple of clicks and I can get that brush or that, you know, that texture that I’m looking for. He said, you know, he was pretty new on it so you can kind of -- it was like a kid at Christmas, you know pretty early on -- kind of see like he just kind of had that crack moment where he figured it out and was like this is going to make things a lot easier because while he was waiting, while I was setting up he was just doing some sketching, so it was cool to see that.
Howell: Yeah. I mean I used to have to -- had a lot of different materials. For example I used to do a lot -- well, I still do but I used to do a lot of scratch board art work which is -- I don’t know if you’re familiar with it but it’s scratch into a black board and it scratches into a white so you can make a, you know, it looks like engraving like you don’t have to actually print anything, it’s -- you scratch it into the board and I used to do that a lot and I used to struggle with against it all the time because half of it was trying to you know get the drawing onto the board, to transfer it on there, you know, struggled with the sharpness of the tool, the tool’s not working, you know, if you make a mistake you got to go back in with the ink and be careful not to scrape too much away because then it’s too much, but now I just do it on the computer and it looks better, it’s faster, I can make infinite changes and it’s just a whole new world of what it used to be. I don’t have to struggle up against anything.
So, it’s a great day and age to be in for artists like with materials but also for reference. All I got to do is go on Google and search for things to, you know, to reference things, to draw them whereas before I had to go to a library or a, you know, search through national geographic magazines or, you know, like just spend a lot of time looking through reference to -- for drawing and now, you know, at the tip of your fingers.
AJK: Now since this won’t be out for probably another month and a half, since you’re working on a label now, you -- I have to ask my -- as an investigative journalist, that’s what I call myself right now, what are you working on right now?
Howell: Well, it’s another beer. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Wicked Weed Coolcumber beer that they make.
AJK: Yeah, I was just looking at the -- we talked about for -- your illustration page on Facebook. I was actually -- I was looking at that -- when you were talking about the cocktail type of series.
Howell: Right. That’s the original one and they’re coming out with an Imperial gin barrel aged version so I’m looking at that right now which it’s basically sort of the same elements but the color palettes changed and the style is different so.
Doing like what I did with -- I don’t know if you’re familiar with like let’s see Xibalba and then the barrel aged Xibalba, the pumpkin beer.
Howell: Sort of the same elements but then I just kind of -- I changed up the styles more like a painterly style and -- yeah, so that’s the one I’m doing right now and I just finished one that’s the cocktail, it’s called Southern Ambrosia and it’s cocktail inspired, it’s like -- gosh, I think it’s wine or is it rum? Rum barrel aged high ABV, blackberries, cherries and Serrano peppers, so I’m interested to find out what that takes like, but it’s like I was saying like some of these beers I don’t even know what to think of them but I don’t know what that’s like, I don’t know what that is. Yeah, I don’t know which style that is, it’s like -- it’s hard to tell until you drink it.
AJK: As a beer drinker is there certain styles you find yourself drawn to just as consumer or just in general?
Howell: Oh for drinking?
Howell: Yeah, well I kind of laid off the IPA’s recently. They give me like sinus headaches and -- I think something about the hop, it really kind of makes me congested and it sort of gives me a hangover even I drink a couple of them so I leave those alone. But recently I mean, you know, I follow the season -- recently I’ve been drinking the Imperial styles, the barrel aged ones and the regular ones. Sort of really gotten into them just because it is winter time.
And drinking the ones that I did labels for, you know. It’s always exciting to see the new label, you know, printed with the beer and satisfying to take the beer after that but yeah, I mean I like a lot of styles, you know ever since I started doing labels I branched out a whole lot, you know, because I’ve learned a lot more about beer. I’ve actually just become a beer nerd by proxy really and it’s because, you know, I’ve been doing all these labels it’s got me interested obviously.
AJK: Yeah. I think that the technology just, you know, being more -- and really be more aware of the different styles and breweries and breweries taking chances, you know, it’s not always a home run by trying to, you know, unique, you know, takes or spins on it. I think it’s been a pretty adventurous time to be a beer drinking.
Howell: Plus Wicked Weed makes it easy because they do everything pretty well and they do a lot of things very well so, you know, it’s -- if you want to try a style, you know, when I’m there, you know, usually it’s a good example about styles so they make it easy for me.
AJK: Yeah. It has to have some perks right? Yeah, so I think one of the first -- of the first Wicked Weed beer I ever had though is -- it was kind of -- which was the Freak of Nature which is double IPA but -- and then from there, you know, folks down that way sent me, you know, a couple of the angels and, you know, for a guy -- I mean we did get distribution in Boston recently so that’s kind of becoming kind of weird and cool really.
AJK: When you’re creating you -- do you have a studio or do you work from home?
Howell: I work from home at the moment. I’ve worked in studios before but now it’s working pretty well for me to be at home. I’ve got two young kids and it’s good for me to be around them, you know, if they need to go to their class or whatever.
Howell: I’m real easy to access so.
AJK: Now has is the setup? Do you -- are you listening to tunes while you’re working there, do you have kind of -- like you --
Howell: Yeah, I do. Yeah, well it’s funny. I don’t listen to music quite that much. It’s definitely informed what I do. I think if I had to pick a style or genre that has sort of informed my idea would be probably like 70’s British heavy metal arts, you know, like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, you know, those big metal bands and then, you know, more psychedelic bands, heavy psychedelic bands and I don’t know, I think you might have noticed that I like space a lot.
Depicting space and so usually it’s heavy and psychedelic and have something to do with space, I’d probably like it.
Howell: But I was, you know, just online somewhere, I don’t know where I read this but someone made the assertion that beer labels are the new albums covers and I thought it was pretty interesting thing to say that they would be -- they would be kind of lifted to that. I mean just by the fact that you’re doing a podcast about, you know, that means something, you know, that they’re being lifted to some sort of pedestal.
That was an interesting thing to say.
AJK: Yeah and -- yeah, because I think all the, you know, new ones has, you know, the ability to, you know, technology to create the art and, you know, and easier distribution of beer and, you know, graphics is a lot easier, you know, there’s more options for printing so I think people -- especially, you know, I think with beer and just kind of in general is that it’s such a craft, you know, you spend all this time making sure, you know, it’s the right, you know mixture of, you know, the different ingredients, you know, making sure that the levels are right and, you know, so, you know, you just go through this very detailed process and I think just to slap it on, you know, on an aluminum can or, you know, green glass and just kind of stick it out there like you used to and that’s all you could do. I think now it’s like okay, this is my heart and soul, you know, this is bottle --
Howell: Or also the popularity of these breweries is becoming such that they’re almost like rock bands in a way, you know, people have all of their, you know, licensed material or some of them wear shirts, you know, like they went to, you know, the brewery and they’re wearing, you know, people wearing shirts and hats and, you know, just completely nerdy-out about, you know, a certain brewery or whatever they’re almost like the 70’s rock bands, you know these overblown sort of, you know, and sort of labels I -- you know it sort of makes sense that their art would be like rock art labels, art covers.
AJK: Well right because these -- that’s the one thing it’s kind of probably flipped like people would line up or in some crazy cases, you know, might even like sleep out for, you know, the --
Howell: Yeah, exactly. No, I mean I think the parallels are there and --
AJK: Yeah, because I mean that’s the one thing with music, you know, I mean used to go to your local ticket master or ticket outlet you try to be the first in line so that now it’s -- you’re dressed like a, you know, crazy person hitting refresh you know on your computer hoping you get in there but I do miss those days but yeah, it’s exciting, it’s really -- people are just as passionate as they are, you know, the old Stones versus the Beatles you know conversation, you know people get pretty passionate about their favorite brewery versus this brewery and this release versus that so.
Howell: Yeah, I agree.
AJK: For better or for worse if it’s a little crazy but --
Howell: Yeah, some people go a little overboard with it. It’s just beer.
AJK: Well Howell I want to thank you. I thought this was great. I really, you know, appreciate learning more about --
Howell: I had a great time AJ.
AJK: Just keep doing your thing man, it’s really inspiring and I really like the work and it’s unique. You know I think that’s as an artist that you have a style that’s definitely you, that you look at those -- you wouldn't have to put the name of the beer or the brewery you’re working with on there and people would know that was your style, that’s one of the things you always -- you kind of hope for to have something that’s unique and that you’re proud about and so I --
Howell: Well, thanks. Thanks so much. That means a lot and, you know, as long as there are people out there who care about I’ll keep be doing good work I guess. I appreciate it. Thank you.