Pipeworks is a special brewery for me and my love of Chicago. The Ninja v Unicorn beer and label are part of that craft beer discovery that makes me love this project and speaking with Jason helped to reiterate that. He has fun and is doing something he loves. His studio, his band and his family are all important to him too. No egos were present in the making of this week's podcast episode and I was his first. We were gentle, but no cuddling. I look forward to the next Ink and Lead Designs inspired mini art show in my fridge.
AJK: Hello, everybody and welcome to another edition of the 16oz. Canvas. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us. We are really excited to have with us today Jason Burke checking in with us from Chicago area. We learned that Jason do his work from Pipeworks Brewing. He also has his own design firm Ink & Lead Designs. So, thank you so much for joining us today Jason.
Jason: Very glad to be here.
AJK: Excellent, excellent. So, how are things going?
Jason: Things are going great. Things are busy.
AJK: That’s what I have been noticing. Yeah. They are definitely keeping you busy and I saw you just most recently had a kind of an art show at a tattoo shop which was really cool.
Jason: Yeah. That was really cool. Yeah, the concept for that show is at Logan tattoo. They wanted to do a process show. So, it wasn’t just a finished product like putting a bunch of cans up. They had a bunch of artists from Pipeworks come over and put up like the in between parts that you don’t really get to see when you are working with a client. So, sketches, rough drafts, stuff that never made it to the final, so really cool, really cool to see that stuff up on the walls and gallery.
AJK: We have been lucky with some of the work we do with this to get some of the artists and it’s kind of like the composites or the, you know, pre-sketches and we love that stuff. So, yeah, it’s really just kind of great to see the whole process. So, that sounds awesome to me.
Jason: It is like when a musician kind of puts out the B-sides, you get to hear them and say “Oh”, you know, most of the time it’s like “Well, there is a reason why it’s a B-side or why it’s unreleased -- kind of analyze that why didn’t that make it. So, it’s always interesting for me to look at other artists back to the drawing board moment.
AJK: Yeah. I think it’s cool and fascinating from a tattoo perspective right. That’s why the foundation of the tattoos or the rough sketches kind of the framework and sometimes the people had to go multiple times to get the work done. It’s not just a one sitting type of thing. I have a nephew who is a walking tattoo. So, I have definitely seen the various phases of the tattoo process on his body.
Jason: Yeah. You don’t want to screw that up when it’s going on your skin and you also don’t want to screw it up when it’s going on thousands of labels in front of, you know, who knows how many people are sitting there looking at it while they are drinking beer. So, it’s equally as important to make a lot of rough drafts.
AJK: That’s great. Now Jason, can you give us a little about your background as an artist and a designer and how you started doing illustration and art?
Jason: Oh man. Yeah. For me it was one of those things I have always been passion about. It’s kind of started when I was a kid really, you know, my family was always really supportive and feel like I always was interested in art as a kid but didn’t really start doing it on a “professional” -- I still don’t feel like a professional but as a professional artist probably until 2001 and 2002 I started, you know, I have always worked with bands and making gig posters and way back in the day photocopying and cut and paste, that type of punk rock poster but actually learning Photoshop and not just sending over actual -- I used to send pen and ink to the magazines I do illustrations for, I'd send them the actual drawing. So, those days are way long gone. I still work in traditional media, but I guess as far as like Illustration - Ink & Lead Designs has been a serious thing since about 2005-2006. So, before that it was just kind of learning and having fun with that.
AJK: I like the name and the kind of reason behind it. Yeah, even just kind of -- even in your bio which you self admit is short given the real state that, you know, why you do stuff now more digitally than you used to -- That it’s kind of a, you know, a kind of homage to the process in the ink and the lead to the pencil. So, I like that a lot.
Jason: It’s kind of weird, you know, I do teach some classes on digital art and I have a lot of kids that come in and they are afraid of traditional media, they are afraid to lay down ink on a piece of paper and I think I had that Aha moment. I think I was trying to recreate an inkblot digitally and I am like “Wait”, I could just make a inkblot, it takes me like three seconds all right cool. So, I think when you are working in analog materials, there is a connectedness to it, a riskiness to it, that is -- for me it’s freeing, but for a lot of new kids that have only worked digital, I think it’s a little bit constraining for them, too much reliance on command Z or undo.
AJK: Yeah, which I think in a way as you're exploring is great, but the idea that they don’t have a book and have doodles in there and just kind of taken up to the size of the other notebooks in class, initially paid attention, obviously not to your class right, but just in general. You know I think that that’s one of the things I just love kind of how books get to that point.
Jason: There is a fluidity to it too. When you are working on a large piece of poster or a huge piece of actual media, something you can like reference the edges of -- it’s not like a little tablet or you know some sort of surface drawing, in the computer. You really can’t have some expressiveness and some quickness and that translates through to the final design. I don’t want to start digital and end digital. There is a stiffness to the drawing. I assume that is something you can probably get over but I just -- I have never been able to jump over that hurdle in my own art. So, definitely starting with ink or with lead, with a graphite is definitely my method of working.
AJK: It’s awesome.
Jason: Yeah. I probably strayed from the question of like how I ended up here but that was like a weird path.
AJK: Yeah. We are not confined by any rules here. Wherever we end up man is all good.
Jason: I could sidetrack easily. So, you are talking about like drawing and that’s exciting.
So, anyway I guess like as far as Pipeworks goes, I had a good friend of mine go to a tasting when Pipeworks was just getting started and he said “Hey, I really like your beer” and they said “Yeah, we are thinking about putting it in bottles and opening up an actual brewery” and he said “Well, my buddy does like illustrations, he likes working with people, so he is a nice guy kind of” and they called me up and told me about this beer called Ninja Vs. Unicorn and that was their first brew that they put out in bottles . So, they got started with a Kickstarter campaign and that was one of my first -- that was almost my very first submission to them I think Something Hoppy This Way Comes or it was the second one that I did and Ninja Vs. Unicorn has been their staple ever since. Yeah it got them started and it was weird because they were like -- I didn’t know what I was doing really. I was like “Oh, beer label, that sounds kind of cool”. They sent me this template, here is how big it has got to be, we got to put a barcode and some crazy, you know, government warning. “Yeah okay” and I probably got it memorized by now but it was just weird kind of falling ass backwards into it type of a situation, but they were great guys. They were really cool to work with and, you know, we just kind of hit it off and watched them grow and grow and gain popularity and brew some outstanding beer. So, I guess it was just like a perfect aligning of the planets if you will I don’t know. It just worked out.
AJK: Yeah. The Ninja Vs. Unicorn I think it’s a pretty iconic beer. Just I think it’s really the name is great, obviously I mean from the drinking perspective and just kind of I think it kind of goes along with the whole vibe of Pipeworks you know that -- It’s very tongue and chee you can tell they don’t take things too seriously, you know, not that they put on a shit product, but, you know, I was -- we always say that it was like they don’t take things too seriously. It’s like this is beer and if you're off by X and Y it ruins the whole batch right. I don’t mean to minimize it in that way, but I think the Ninja Vs. Unicorn and that whole series I think has become pretty iconic.
I know when I -- I travelled for work and I get to go to Chicago a few times a year and so that was Pipeworks was one of the first that kind of stuck out to me as like “Wow, they are like -- just kind of what they were doing you know, the different Unicorn series, the Ninjas, you know, the Abductions, you know, they kind of had like a little theme to all what they would know. So, I really thought that was just great and then when they came out in cans, you know, that was a game changer. We started to get their stuff here on the East Coast. I am not sure if it’s New York that gets it or Connecticut but we definitely -- I definitely can go and pick up, a four pack of that which is mind blowing.
Jason: Yeah. It’s for me too. I mean I check out Instagram once in a while just to look and see people holding cans in, you know, the East Coast or I have seen some from China, seen em out in the mountains, Colorado, you know, people like to take pictures of the beer when they are drinking it. So, “Hey, there is my can, that’s kind of cool”. I don’t know is that lame? I google myself. I Instagram my own, I have a little section in Facebook called Beer in The Wild.
I would like to see, wow, people are admiring this. There is one picture of a girl who went to a nail salon and painted her nails like the Ninja Vs. Unicorn can.
AJK: That’s pretty cool. There is another thing. I think that in the last few years I noticed two phases. On the social side, I think the breweries have been much better about recognizing the artist, not that they were snubbing them, but I think they have really appreciated the fact that they are having unique pieces of art made on the cans and now, you know, if you look at and Pipeworks has been doing it for years before I even found them, but maybe if you're listening out there and pick up a Pipeworks bottle, you pick up a can, you look it says art work by and it has the information. So, that was one of the ways we found Jason, I mean I was trying to figure out who had done some of the work and I had some new bottles here and I looked and it had the information, I was like oh that makes sense. It was actually too easy, you know, sometimes it’s little more a rabbit hold to go down. So, that was which I think just really a nice nod.
Jason: 100% and that is one of the things I have always bragged about with Pipeworks as to how they pay tribute to the artists and, you know, I think it’s a huge part of the brewery scene and to not -- I don’t know -- put some sort of byline or at least make it easily accessible who the artist is, the artwork will get you to buy the beer once, you know, it’s a foot in the door. I think the beer has the stand on its own, I don’t think you will buy it twice for cool can art maybe Ninja Vs. Unicorn. People have said they like showing up to parties with that. It’s up to the brewery once they end up in a shopping cart, you know, in a glass in front of a person like that has to stand on its own, I think you can have a brewery with great label art and shit beer, yeah, it’s not going to happe
AJK: I agree. That’s kind of what we are. What we say here is -- on our side we're beer agnostic, we do hope that the beer tastes good inside the can, but we are drawn to the art and, you know, selfishly I have been selfishly reaching out to you, you know, breweries like the beer also but it’s definitely not a game changer and so I think that -- Yeah, I found interesting, there are different schools out there with some folks have a more go with the Hopp or like the cartoony that’s kind of like a beer, you know, obvious beer label and other ones are like okay, you already know it’s beer, you already know that we are putting out a quality product, let’s take the art to the next level. So, I think Pipeworks is kind of -- has kind of done that, you know, with those
Jason: It’s true. There is kind of a formula or a template that beer cans have followed for a long time and I know that even until a few years ago if you strayed from that template clean lines, it’s more of a design type of aesthetic graphic design instead of illustration qualities to it. It was kind of unheard of or -- I can’t even really put a finger on when I started seeing illustrations on labels or cans. It was probably right around the time -- maybe it’s weird one of those things where you hear a word and then you hear it three more times in the next week. I started doing illustrations and I started seeing them popup more and more on the craft bottles. So, and I know it -- I think you are right there is a seriousness to some of the cans where they want to establish that they are, I don’t know more -- is there a seriousness, I don’t even know if that’s the right word I am looking for but some of the designs are more graphic.
AJK: Yeah. I think that it’s – yeah, there’s definitely different schools on how to use whether the full can or go with the wrap. I think even that, you know, with the mobile canning recently you know becoming a larger thing, there was more that round sticker for a while
Jason: And now you are starting to see the mat cans are starting to make an appearance where it’s a wrap on the can, so I start to se those making an appearance “Well, look at all the colors" and oh it was like a printed label that was put on the outside”.
So, it’s pretty cool like the medium is starting to cater to the illustrations and you would need that kind of old school can. There is only three colors, four colors but now the artists are starting to, you know, expand their palette so to see the technology start to move along with the art and how they are going to print it.
AJK: Now is there a limit on the colors that you were able to use when you make the cans?
Jason: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, when I moved to cans -- I come from a screen-printing background. I always wanted to be a gig poster designer. I always wanted to screen print gig posters and I did for a while. I mean I was really super into it and then since the label design thing came along, it has kind of tapered off, I had less time for that, for cleaning screens and prepping screens and doing the designs, color separations, but doing that I think gave me a better feel for when I moved -- when Pipeworks asked me to design their cans, they said “Well, you know, you could get six colors and black and white are taken”. So, that takes you down to four colors and the sort of screen designer in me started saying “Well, how about overlaps, can we do overlaps, no, no, not really but you can do half tone”. So, all right halftone gives me shades of each color so that increases my palette and then you can do blends between halftone dots. So what’s mind blowing is the way that these things are printed with the flexo plates like a rubberstamp that they are able to role the ink can with. Every color has to have like a millimeter of silver. If you look closely at the cans, what’s really cool is you can kind of look around each color and there is a trap, just a little tiny bit of silver in between each color so that they don’t bleed into one another. So, when I am designing I am always thinking like “Oh my god, you know, this is getting too small, it’s going to clog the screen” and then wait a minute “No, it’s not going to clog the screen”. I have designed stuff way smaller and somehow they are able to print it. So, the printers are amazing. I don’t know how they do it, but really everything that I have designed they have able to capture even really tiny dot patterns. So, six colors, so I get to pick four basically and then use those to the fullest So, as a screen designer and employing your own colors, you have to pull the color under the paper and then let that dry. So, every color is another -- it could be two to three hours of prep, set up, making the prints and then letting it dry. So economy of colors is something that lot of screen printers are interested in and
when I got to the cans, it really paid off. It was like “Oh, this is just like screen printing except that I don’t have to print it”. It’s a lot more accurate than I was.
AJK: Yeah, just go do this, just make this happen.
Jason: Yeah. I love it. Yeah. I send it off and they, they will send back corrections and sometimes, you know, they are a little tough on the designs, you know, there are some things that they say “Well, we can do this or this, but we don’t really want to do it” and then you get it back and we are not printing on paper anymore, printing on aluminum. So, “Well, that looks a lot different than I thought it would or that color of green looks a lot more cloudy than I thought it would look, it’s not as vibrant”. So, we have Pantone color books that are all printed on white paper. There is no Pantone color book for printing on aluminum. So, a lot of it was a surprise. So, there is a lot of back and forth in the design process even after you get the actual design nailed down and colors where you want them it’s like “Oh, now where do we go? How do we make this optimal to match what is on the LCD screen that is in front of you?
AJK: So how is that process? Is it you send it off to them, they send you back like a print of that how it’s going to be or a prototype?
Jason: Okay yeah. So, the first one is a PDF, does the color checks, you know, optimize it for a better printability, send it back, everyone checks off on it and then they actually print a pilot can and that’s really exciting to see the pilot cans come back because that’s when you cross your fingers and say “Oh, I got to hope that pink color when it's laid over aluminum doesn’t turn into like a washed out maroon” and then everyone signs off and then we actually have to mail the can back and then they produce them by the thousands. I have a couple of shots. I think it might be on Pipeworks feed too, but the cans are shipped empty. Many people don’t know that they just ship empty palettes for cans and so I went over to Pipeworks and I was able to walk in the warehouse and it’s just like to see, you know, hundred thousand of your drawings all at once, it was kind of intimidating like “Wow, they made a lot of those and they are going to fill them all and send them out to actual people”. So it’s like a gallery show at Logan Tattoo is nothing compared to shipping these things out and having them seen by so many people.
A little stressful when you try to think about it. I am starting to feel a little crushed right now actually.
AJK: Yeah right. Yeah across the country there is many -- obviously there are many art shows of your work at all these places.
Jason: I know a little -- little mini art shows inside of refrigerators.
AJK: Yeah. In fact they are very short lived. Yeah. Very short lived.
Jason: And then they throw it away. They recycle it when they're done with it.
AJK: Yes good. That’s kind of heavy. I didn’t think about that.
Jason: I was just at a Memorial Day party and I was drinking Pipeworks from the can because I like to do that, you know, when I go to store it’s hard for me to resist, but that might be a little self-indulgent but when I am finished I have a hard time throwing it away. I am like “Yeah, you don’t have to save this one, I have so many cans right around the house”. So, it’s like the artist throwing away his own work or recycling it.
AJK: Honey can you please throw these away, please I cannot bring myself to --
Jason: Pretty odd one for me. I will drink it, you toss it. But yeah. It’s very rewarding, you know, in the long run, but no one ever sees the stuff that I see, you know, as an artist. I think a lot of artists get obsessed, you get zoomed in and screened doing your color corrections and making these little tiny adjustments and highlights of the eyes and most people, generally speaking don’t look at it for that long or see the size that you are working on it. So, it’s something that I do to is zoom out once in a while and get big picture, stop obsessing over little tiny things.
AJK: Yeah, yeah. Whatever it is you're doing - obsessing or not, it’s I'm digging it - I think that it has really resonated with lot of people.
Jason: Thanks man.
AJK: Whatever your process is, yeah, to each their own -- it seems to be effective. I love the learning about the limited color palettes. I find that really interesting that been a brand new level of appreciation over the last few weeks is just kind of, let’s come up a couple of times.
Jason: Yeah, yeah for sure. It’s a struggle sometimes, you know, when you look at those -- all the cans in the store, you really do -- it starts to increase your awareness of printed media all around I guess when you start to look into gig posters and things that have that same limitation.
AJK: Yeah. I have a lot of gig posters. I don't have a lot of framed gig posters but it’s a whole another discussion. Yeah. I always get them -- then when you realize how much it costs to frame something it’s like “Oh, man”.
Jason: I think everyone collect gig posters, just have a pile of them. I didn’t think anyone really hung them up through those things. We just put them in a pile or somewhere and people hang them up - is that a thing?
Jason: You know at the Gallery show I had a guy come up to me and I,printed and I made some really nice print for the show on aluminum. There are a couple of places online that actually print on metal because -- and it loses something when you print it on just paper. You don’t the silver showing -- I use this silver as a color. I use it as one of the -- so I technically get seven colors. So, if I have a sword or something in the print, I just leave it and say “Okay, well, it’s just going to be a metal so use it as showing through”. So, when you print it on paper, it’s just grey, you don’t see it. So, I printed them on aluminum and this guy comes up to me and tells me how much he loves the Ninja Vs. Unicorn can” and he actually cut it with an X-Acto blade and flattened it and hung it up on his wall and I was like “Wow man, that’s hard core”. I said can I get you one of these aluminum prints, you canhang up one of these real thing. I think it was a street cred thing, you know, like you were saying about the gig posters. He cut it out and lay it flat on the wall then it’s real. I drank that poster you know.
AJK: Your guy had -- the guy had four fingers and scars all over his hands. Yeah. He is like it took me four six packs to do this but I finally have one. Excellent. Yeah. I like the idea -- I like the idea of using the silver I mean that to me, yeah, one of our favorites, you know, the iconic Heady Topper and how they just use the silver can with the black print on it. So, I think that’s really smart technique actually.
Jason: Yeah, yeah. It does. It adds a lot but it is one of the limitations when you are trying to show someone else on a screen like “Oh, yeah, that’s pretty cool”, that is very cooler on the can and really is, the metalics and the translucency.
AJK: Yeah. Imagine that’s being really shiny and cool ...
Jason: Imagine that and round and only seeing -- and that’s one of the things that you know one of my early drafts was for Blood of the Unicorn and it was the third -- I think it was the third label that I did for them -- I don’t remember second or third. So, I came up with this like really -- I don’t want to say like it’s a bad thing but it’s more designy type of illustration where there were some symmetrical elements to it, there was a central subject with the label, like more what you would expect on a beer label. They rejected it because their cans and the bottle labels too - one of things that I have always done is kind of tell a story as you turn around. So, you can’t see the whole thing at once, but as you look at the label from the front, I guess what you call the front, you see the text and then the main figure of whatever the thing is right there in alignment with the text and as you turn the can, you expose the story of what’s happening on a label. So, for instance Glaucus is a merman, you know, and as you turn the can you could just see the hydra in the background there and its tail. So, what you may not see right away as you expose the story as you flip the can around, you kind of learn about it.
So, I did another Blood of the Unicorn where it was the unicorn all bloodied up from the front and then as you turn it, you see that he is being ridden by this evil knight with big horns and a sword hanging over his head. So, I think one of the best ones and one of the most -- I had the most doubt about Close Encounter because from the front it’s a close encounter and you see a helmet with like lipstick on it -- like lips and lipstick and as you turn it, you see a space alien babe and as you turn it the other way, you see a floating astronaut without a helmet. So, the story you have to kind of put together you will know that she was kissing his helmet, took his helmet off and now he is floating in the background suffocating, but you can’t see that all from one side. You have to really turn the can and expose the story. Maybe it’s -- for me that was kind of like risky to not put it all in one view, but they love it, they really like that idea of telling a story around the can and I don’t see -- these kind of unique to Pipeworks compared to many other breweries taking that type of risk.
You know, when they take pictures and they put them up on the social media account, they always have to show both sides, they have to have two cans next to each other, show one side and the other. So, you know, you don't get half the story.
AJK: Now did you also do the original Close Encounter, the bottle?
Jason: No, that was Harebrained.
Jason: Harebrained did the original. I tried to pay tribute to that one. That’s the red one with -- and she will have four arms or four eyes, I love that one.
AJK: Yeah. It looks like she -- I think she is in bed. It looks like she --
Jason: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah. She is in bed. The can one is the green -- she is more green and then the blue helmet --
AJK: Yeah, that’s Closer Encounter which is like the Orangie Red
Jason: Closer Encounter?
AJK: Yeah. She is in bed and then there is the Close Encounter which is the one with the four eyes. So, she definitely evolved.
Jason: Yeah. All right.
AJK: Now, how is that process for you? You know, you said you liked the story aspect of it, it’s not being all -- you know right there in the front -- first -- you know the front that you have to move the can and I think I really like how it’s going with the Instagram photo or just a photo in general of a beer with one has that wrapper on the two or three next to each other to fully give the whole picture and I think that shows it - that people are cognizant of the art work which is a nice little kind of just subtle tip of the cap but how is the process for you from when, you know, the beers coming out you know working with them to “Okay, we are this beer, they gave you the name, they have a vision for the label obviously with some of these, they have a legacy”, but, you know, how was that process?
Jason: It’s true, that’s true. I guess a little bit different in that way where some of them do have a legacy where another artist has touched it and I think Glaucus and Close Encounter those two had prior designs and I did try to pay a little tribute to that design. In some way I studied it and at least tried to borrow elements of it or some I think for Glaucus -- there was this the sneakiest one and there was one in their way, way, way, way early designs. It’s the merman that I designed and he used to be kind of a smaller emo kind of guy with like a stripe shirt. I love the design. It’s an older design. It’s hard to find now, but in a background of that he was like this funky little like Whale-type guy with like a waterspout coming out of his blowhole and I really like that guy in the original design. So, he kind of ended up on the new can. He was kind of like revived and brought back and since then these characters, these animals that they come up with the latest ones are the guppies. The guppies are kind of living in a similar universe. I imagine them all living in a similar world. So, maybe the alien from Close Encounter, you know, can fly down and hang out with the merman from Glaucus and the knight from Blood of the unicorn but I guess the overall approach that -- they were calling me with a concept, particular set of things that they want to see in a can, maybe just a rough outline, it’s kind of toss it out there and sometimes we have a type of beer, sometimes not, sometimes it’s not quite ready -- not sure what it’s going to be but they know that this is going to be in these lines as what they want to see on the next can and then I started sketching usually my processes to flood my brain which is much imagery, you know, think out for Google image search and obvious great stock exchange sites, as you can just like make this image more of items that you want to see or maybe want to see so justR&D, I guess, would be my first step, and then I take a little break.
I take maybe a couple of days away from it. I put some distance between myself and the design and think about stuff that I want to throw in there, and then I’ll sit down and just started sketching. Then start drawing out ideas, not really have a composition and may have some loose ideas that were what I want to be foreground, background, what I want to be front and centre, what I wanted to be off the sites but just started kind of drawing some ideas out and then taking those elements and trying some different arrangements with them, trying to plug them in. It’s weird. One of the first things that I started doing with the last, it looks like I’m trying to finding my font that I like best and letting the font kind of dictate a little bit about the design.
The guppies there were four -- guppies, you know, maybe three right now and kind of a graffiti-style font so that -- I let that kind of lead the design a little bit for -- oh I see -- the one before that which I think like Lizard King had this the really wild kind of torn-up looking font and I found that and just let it guide my drawing around it because I do -- I want the font to speak clearly and mildly. I don’t want it to be too mysterious. Although I remember as a gig poster designer hearing about the, you know, late 60s or early 70s gig posters and how a lot of designers would make them purposely psychedelic and hard to read because only the people that would take the time to look at and read with the ones they wanted to show up at the show. I guess they’ve kind of pushed them to their boundaries like -- hey, let’s make this a little harder to read, let’s make this a little edgier and not put it out there as clearly and as concisely as maybe, you know, a big time brewery would or not kind of big time but like I believe that was more graphically inclined, you know, to make it super clear. So, then they would bounce back the design back and forth a couple times then refine it, give it multiple passes and then it goes to the printer, more passes, more clarification on color, then proof, and then I guess that goes to print after that, press checks and then print, and then they fill them with beer -- delicious beer.
AJK: Excellent. Now, how long this -- the process from idea sketched to, you know, because they had to go to the TTP, right? So, that’s stuff or another -- because they don’t do them.
Jason: Yeah, that’s a whole another like weird stuff that I wasn’t used to it first and there’s a lot of obscured rows and things that you can’t show the effects of the alcohol, you can’t show anyone actually imbibing -- too much kid-friendliness, so all those things are no-nos and I’m not involved in that processes as much so they definitely know more about it.
AJK: Right. Do you ever get okay this wasn’t approved do you have tweak it I mean your stuff doesn't seem to be on that on the cusp-- yeah, your stuff not, yeah, I would be surprised if you said that but, you know?
Jason: Yeah, you know, I don’t -- It’s never really been an issue. You know, since the bottles even go and back there for, I don’t think -- I don’t think anyone would mistake it for a kid’s drink, although I feel like a kid when I drink it. Yeah, man. It’s like the old school like mascots I grew up with, you know, Cap’n Crunch --
AJK: Yeah, Joe Camel.
Jason: -- but if Cap’n Crunch had like sharp teeth and bloodshot eyes.
AJK: Yeah, exactly, yeah, especially the old Joe Camel thing, kind of, I think ruined the two cartoony aspects of stuff for designers but --
Jason: Right, but I think they started it. I think there’s a point where I took a look at like the whole, you know, bibliography or whatever you call it, the body of work for the cans and there was an overwhelming amount of bearing of teeth in the design. So, there is a lot of open mouths with like viciousness to them and I don’t know if I did it subconsciously or that was just I don’t know maybe my way of creating an edginess to them, maybe see it like right away on like Lizard King but then if you look at other ones and there is definitely a gnashing even like the iconic like Ninja Unicorn, the horse is like biting on the sword -- the nostrils are flared
AJK: The little Citra is probably the most chill of your attackers
Jason: I think that’s where it came -- I think the original design I had was the cat's mouth wide open like sharp teeth and claws and I think we said, you know what let’s have one where, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s just like chill.
AJK: Yeah, you have War Bird which mean just the name of it is definitely not chill.
Jason: But, that was not me; that was definitely a request. They sent me a picture of an ostrich with human teeth as part of the reference for that. That one went through a ton of changes, oh, man. Yeah, he had like a robo helmet at one point and we switched it to like a World War II, fighter-pilot helmet -- it’s an ostrich being ridden by a ninja and the ostrich is wearing -- he is still wearing that techno suite with the machine guns on it but then he’s got his World War II helmet and then there is more ninjas flying on ostriches in the background but for sure he was gnashing his teeth like big time and huge claws coming up off of the page, you know, clawing at the title.
AJK: Yeah, I'm noticing a theme, the ninjas are kind of everywhere, you know the abductions and then there is the -- they're big on the fish which I didn’t realize as much and you mentioned the guppies but they’re the best like the bunch of other those in the puffer fish and a few others throughout the years. So, it’s definitely -- that was an interesting find going through the old art work.
Jason: Yeah, you know, that was, and so the new -- there’s Mango Guppy -- and Passion Fruit Guppy which is really very soon I think. It’s not out already but there’s a super chill like the super chill guppy fish who just seems to float around and not care and blow little bubbles and all around him is like violent and chaos and things happening, you know, treasure chests and skulls and eel. So, those are definitely the more calm like, you know, these are kind of goes along with some of the flavorings and I think that was another one where I tried to pay tribute to the original bottles -- because they were also very chill fish -- just kind of doing their thing.
AJK: Yeah, that was when you mentioned the grouper I was just poking around there is just so many of them I mean which is just a testament to -- how long they have been doing at the puffer the basslet, fire fish, dragon, like the fish I'm not even sure - the snapper, you know, so that was really cool apparently just -- this has been one of the -- the more enjoyable parts of the project is kind of just diving back into the breweries
Jason: Yeah, and those -- and so they have like a bunch of different artists working on all those bottle labels and I think I did like maybe five or six bottle labels before I moved onto the cans. So, now I’m exclusively cans, I don’t really do the bottle labels anymore.
Jason: I might be revisiting it pretty soon -- maybe some cool -projects coming up or it might re-release a bottle or have a new bottle coming out.
AJK: I like the barrel aged ones I have found that canvas almost wild west kind of manila coloring to it, there’s always get especially tough to get.
Jason: Yeah, insofar the bottle or the bottle labels, Ninja Unicorn, Galaxy Unicorn which was just re-released, Something Hoppy this way comes -- oh, was that a Mid Summer’s Night which was an apricot ale, I think. So, there’s a few out there. You know, like -- you know, for the most part they said that the other artist BJ one of the founders, he’s one of the artists that works on the label art too and he does some great stuff but all the people who are in the Logan tattoo show also contribute to the look and feel and there it is -- it’s like -- it’s crazy. He said looking through their catalogue it’s like wow so many cool artists, Harry Bernstein, he’s done a couple of labels, Jeff Kuhnie -- god, so many -- but I’m leaving out bunch of names but if you look at that Logan tattoo why don’t you just go look at their bottles, they’re just awesome.
See, so many people brought in the community. They are all really cool guys and really challenge it. I mean the stuff that they put out it consistently like pushing boundaries. Yeah, the whole abduction line is so cool. All the ninja labels which are, you know, they’re framed out like eyes. Really super cool stuff but, yeah, they’re just too like to have that awesome responsibility to put your artwork on someone else’s beer and that’s their -- their life's passion, you know, those guys have -- that’s really all they wanted to do. They’re driving mission in life. So, I’m really -- I’m always honored to be given that opportunity to put my crazy drawings on their life's work.
AJK: Yeah, it’s cool to see, you know, BJ being the founder and more the brewers and just kind of, his name being on lot of their, you know, artwork as well so must be -- it’s always a -- even bigger compliment I’ve come to realize as one, you know, one of the founders and, you know, kind of the key players. He’s also an artist and for them to hand that over to somebody else is kind of, you know, that’s a huge trust factor, that’s a compliment to you, you know, artist to artist.
Jason: Absolutely, I’ve never taken that for granted to get to do this cans has been a crazy ride. It’s not something I ever really expected like -- like I said it came from really humble beginnings like -- “Hey, you want to try to do this we're making this name beer Ninja Unicorn? Yeah, sure.” You barely knew Photoshop back then and when I knew enough to get in trouble but illustrator was a complete mystery to me. So, all this learning that went on along the way I think are on both sides and now they’ve grown, they’re huge, their distribution is grown and I know I’ve definitely grown as an artist but looking back it’s some of the earlier stuff, not just for them but, you know, I designed for a couple of breweries but for them in particular that is a longest lineage of I guess my growth as an artist. So, for sure it’s cool to look back and have grown with them.
AJK: Yeah. You also do work from, if I’m not mistaken with -- I believe it’s called New Oberpfalz.
Jason: Yeah, New Oberpfalz in Indiana, they’re out in Griffith -- and Griffith, I mean Indiana is like the hotbed for brewing. Out here it has got 3 Floyds, 18th Street -- you go cross the border and you got you picked but Oberpfalz I’ve done -- think about, oh god, 14-15 labels for them and so I kind of like, you know, reserve a little bit of style for them. You know, I have my own way of illustrating stuff for them and Gus, the owner - he’s a joy to work with. He’s one that -- he gives me -- he gives me ultimate freedom. He was kind of like toss the name out or give me a crazy idea. I think Toad Storm was one of the first ones I did form him and he said, “I don’t know, we keep finding toads and salamanders around the property.” He renovated his own property out there, and he’s got a nice restaurant and a tasting room. He said keep finding toads and salamanders all over the place out here. He’s like let’s have like a beer called Toad Storm, and it’ll be raining toads. I said, “Awesome”. So, Toad Storm was my first one for them and it’s like this crazy toad holding a salamander godfather style like I don’t know Dr. Evil rubbing his forehead, rubbing the back of a salamander as toads are raining down around him. So, yeah, that one -- and then we’ve done -- we’ve come a long way with those too. He’s moved on to 6 packs and doing 6 pack holders, but again totally different ideas, totally different rendering styles, but again I can’t say that I’ve restrained from gnashing teeth, I think there might be a couple of wide-mouthed vicious creatures.
AJK: That might be your signature, that’s your beer signature.
Jason: Totally, then. Totally, it’s my thing I guess.
AJK: Yeah, you got a thing.
Jason: Gnashing teeth. I dig it like, you know, I think, a lot of that comes from like the early gig poster that punk rock aesthetic, where like you had to -- you had to grab attention, you had to do something that was almost like an offense to the senses I mean that goes along with punk rock in general like it was an assault on the sense, it was like -- “Hey, pay attention to me, look at me I’m over here. So, this is what do.” -- and I tried to carry that for us with loud colors and thick bold lines-- I studied those early gig poster artists quite a bit.
AJK: Yeah, a lot of folks that we’ve interviewed, you know, it’s been a -- underlying theme is that music and making posters for their bands or, you know, different local artists or, you know, bands their into so I do love that coming from a music being important part of my life so it’s always interesting.
Jason: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I used to tag along with a bunch of different bands. I was never in a band until I was in my 30s and I started playing with a group of guys out here Stolen Airplane and we, you know, just making gig posters for them. There is a trip you were actually being able to design a poster or a CD or a record for a band I’m actually in which is kind of like a cool bonus, but it didn’t pay as well.
AJK: So, you got the full experience of the band life out there.
AJK: Now, one more, got one more for you but how would -- this is kind of the cringe-worthy about I’ve put all other artists through these questions, I figure. I mean how would you describe your aesthetic? I mean I think that, yeah, it’s -- that kind of the art question, the university type of question, but I have to ask you, I’ve put it around so.
Jason: Yeah, I know. It’s good to be a little introspective here. I think, you know, if there’s a theme running through my work it’s bright colors, bold, thick lines, and gnashing teeth. Those are perfect for describing my aesthetic, the things that I look for. I grew up on comic books, you know. I used to sit and draw from comics and it’s really heavy outlines. This is before and I worried about my kids now that -- all they watch is like Pixar and like 3D-rendered stuff. There’s no more outlines things and I love outline, I love the boldness and kind of captures, the color in between and a lot of gig posters that’s an important element because the color trapping underneath. It hides where two colors meet. It’s that black line. So, I guess it was more of necessity early on and now it’s more just because I am a freak about line quality, thickness and thinness of line. When I look at lettering, when I look at fonts I try to find the most expressive voice that I can that I think captures what I’m trying to draw and, yeah, I guess it’s kind of a twisted, violent, a notion of creepy animals and expressiveness I guess.
AJK: Well, thank you.
Jason: You know, does that work?
AJK: Yeah. Oh, no that’s I mean I hope that one thing you took away from this is that would be very loose and there is no, you know, preconceived where things are going to go
Jason: Yeah, you know, I listen to a couple of other ones that’s cool but it wasn’t like formulaic definitely led down from interesting paths.
AJK: Right. You know, we have our shell of questions that we tried to ask and you know we get to most of them, sometimes we don’t but I just -- we’d like just the art and that obviously there is -- you can’t just throw everything just on the canvas sort of speak but I think there’s some creativity and kind of exploring things and seeing where it goes and that’s what we’re trying to here.
Jason: Sure. I appreciate the qualities of a lot of the label artists that there is not an eliteness. I’ve met a lot of people who worked in this industry, well, not a lot, but maybe handful actually pretty modesty like -- “Hey, how did we end up here? I don’t think we’re good enough to do this type of stuff like wow, there is people that I admire doing stuff, you know, why didn’t they get shows and why me and I think there was some modesty to it and modest quality to it like -- wow -- it was crazy -- how did this happen. It’s not lack of seriousness like you said with the labels but it’s they’re definitely serious about it but not overly confident I guess. This keeps us working hard.
AJK: Yeah. The humility has been universal and I think everyone’s been interesting and I think a lot of time you said before to get introspective, you know, to look at their story and say holy shit like okay I did kind of have some cool ways I fell into this, you know, and who knows, you know. I think that being creative art, music, that you know, those types of fields aren’t always the easiest to pay the bills on. So, I think there are a lots of folks to A) take that leap, hey, it’s a big job and then for them to be successful, you know, is another one. So, I think when you hear someone talk about it kind of goes, “Wow, okay, that’s really amazing that I'm at this point in time. So, I think that’s --
Jason: All right, totally. I'm amazed that people event want to hear me talked about it, they are like, “Wow, it’s crazy”.
AJK: It does not get that far, we haven’t released this. Right.
Jason: Keep me just talking. This is you and me now in a great conversation. You did a great job with this thing.
AJK: Excellent, and when you’re creating, you know, what’s your setup like do you have rocking music out, do you have some sort of quiet, you know, peacefulness to let you think, what’s going on over there at Ink and Lead when it’s time to create?
Jason: All right. Well, here in my studio is at my kitchen table -- and usually there’s a swirl of children and wife walking around throwing things, trying to distract me. So, I’ll put on my headphones and jam different music while I’m trying to draw and create. I like -- I don’t know like I could be in a studio separated from my family. I spend a lot of time doing this stuff and I guess I feel like if the kids are watching me at least they’re seeing their dad I feel like -- if I was hidden away in a back room somewhere or isolated, you know, I don’t know if they would be able to appreciate it as much that I’m busting my ass like -- hey, try and become better as an artist, I’m your dad but I’m still furthering myself in my career and hopefully that rubs off on them as people later in life like -- ah, dad’s actually doing stuff, he’s making art and it’s not always that the thing like the parents battling their kids who want to become an art major, but I would never do that. I’d be like yes, please, go be an art major, go work on art because you saw your dad grown up working on his art, you know honing his craft.
So, they come up and they look at the computer and they’ll ask what I’m drawing, sometimes I force them to -- come over here, look at this, this is what I’m working at, check it out, this is what you’ve been distracting me from with your video games and you temper tantrums but yeah when they, you know, hopefully when they see me sitting at the kitchen table hour after hour toiling over designs that opens their eyes too. I mean, when they’re out or when they’re looking at mass-produced goods that they start to see like there’s no risk behind that and that could be valid career -- a career path for them. They're 4 and 8 so I don’t know if that syncs it, who knows.
AJK: We’re not, I think, I mean, as a father we’re talking before I do think it’s important -- it sets a tone right that whatever that decision they make it might not be the -- it might stray, they might not be designer, they might do something really unique or maybe really, you know, maybe really pick up instrument or just maybe, you know, do something that’s maybe “out of the box” and I think that to just encourage or leave that door open to them I think this is important in general and I think they’re just one of the underlying kind of small lines here is hopeful that there may be an artist who’s up and coming, right and they’re listening to this and going wild, there’s all these folks that took that chance and they -- I can do it, you know, so maybe, you know, maybe they put an extra hour or they grind a little harder that day, you know, that we’ve heard stories of folks who are architects and who were working at used car stocks and doing all sorts of other, you know, “shitty jobs”, you know, and they didn’t --
Jason: For sure.
AJK: -- and they didn’t, you know, if they didn’t take that leap, you know, who knows what they would be, you know, and so I think that success and happiness is kind of, you know, and I think are philosophical but I think it’s a relative term, it’s not always a quantifiable thing so I think to give people the positivity that they can take a chance and, you know, it’s not a one shot in life, you know, you can take a couple of chances and it may not work out. You know, I tried the band thing it didn’t work out, but I don’t have any regrets on that and like I know that I did that, you know, and so there’s things -- I think it’s important. So, I think that’s one of the things and that’s one of the reasons especially folks like yourself who have their own shop, you know, that’s even whole another level of commitment, you know, to be on their own and that, you know, we can talk for days about that, you know, you’re the entrepreneurial, we’re trying to horn the term artrepreneur.
Jason: Art entrepreneur -- I like that, I like that.
AJK: So, you can use that on your nonactive Instagram page, you get all your followers to join along to the revolution.
Jason: I hope so. I think if there is any aspiring artist listening to it, you know, if you’re doing it if you’re showing up that’s like I said earlier this 90% maybe more, may be 95% it’s just putting your work out there because there's too many people that just get defeated before even try and it sounds it’s easy like just make a little page for yourself, make a little corner of the universe about you and just start putting your stuff out there and I could offer any other advice it would be don’t do anything for free, don’t do it for exposure. We know that for bands, right? At least get a few beer tickets out of it. Never work for free, put a value on it, don’t make it offer--
AJK: I think that’s, yeah, I think that’s the hardest thing, you know, especially like you don’t think you get paid to be on this podcast, do we miss on that?
Jason: What, you’re not. Wait, wait. Is the check in the mail?
AJK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’ll be coming, no, but -- yeah, obviously, yeah, some like, but you know what I’m saying. I agree I think that art I mean --
Jason: This is value, yeah.
AJK: Yeah. I think that, yeah, even like I feel lot of same stories I mean my thought is folks don’t listen all the time so if you do listen you heard the same stories I thank you so if you -- I would love for someone to say AJ you tell the same stories over and over again to me to listen more than one but yeah, even then I tried to even for a period of time do web design and it was really hard to do that because it was like this kind of unknown thing and friends would have a site or band or company and they would ask to do it and what I felt was a fair price was kind of like wait what and so that’s why I do my, that’s why I do my own website because it’s just easier and it allows me to not have to minimize somebody else’s work which I respect, you know, a lot of often, I love good web design.
Jason: Yeah, and there is a value to it that people think, that can be underestimate that when you go to website and ease of you it’s invisible, the work that went into it and I think that -- you know, what’s you’re doing here exposing that -- exposing the amount of thought and work and it’s not luck, it’s never luck. Luck might gig a switch through the door, luck might end you in a right interview or in front of the right person but hard working and perseverance will allow you to continue on that path. There’s no amount of luck that will just bounce you along, you know, willy nilly so it definitely has to -- it has to come from both places and then choosing opportunities, you know, when they come across, okay? Let’s try it, I’ve never done a podcast before.
AJK: Well, hell, yeah.
Jason: You have a go, let’s give it a shot.
AJK: We thank you for that.
Jason: You’re relieved.
Jason: Yeah, man. I appreciate it, this was great.
AJK: Thank you once again, Jason. I really enjoy talking to you. I will definitely next time when in the area I will reach out and hopefully we can throw away one of your pieces of art that had to be--
Jason: Yeah, let’s throw it away together, we’ll step on it.
AJK: Yeah. It’s like that, yeah, exactly, yeah exactly. So, I look forward to buying you art and throwing it out pretty soon. So, I’ll look forward to.
Jason: Yeah, I look forward to listening to your art.