Bo & Luke is the magnet that drew me to Against the Grain Brewery and their beer as well as Robby Davis' artwork. His humorous cartoon style characters bring the brewery to life while pushing the envelope. He is a soft spoken humble man who was great about sharing his process, work phases and love of podcasts and music. Through our mutual love of General Lee and Bo & Luke we created another great episode of the podcast that I am sure you will enjoy.
AJK: Hello and welcome to another edition of the 16 Ounce Canvas. I'm really excited have with us Robby Davis who is joining us from Louisville, Kentucky. You may know some of Robby’s work from Against the Grain, I'm really excited, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today Robby.
Robby: Hey, yeah, I’m glad to be here.
AJK: Excellent, excellent. So like I said Robby is checking in from Louisville, Kentucky, we learned of Robby from his work Against the Grain brewery. You can also go to his website, see all the art design and illustrations that he’s done at robbydavis.com. So – so yeah, big fan of your work, been for a while. So, it’s really nice to finally get to talk to you.
Robby: Oh yeah, thank you, yeah. I’m glad to – glad to be involved in this project. It’s pretty cool.
AJK: Thanks, yeah. It’s been really positive and to get to speak to people like yourself has been a real privilege -- it’s good to finally be able to lock down some time. So Robby can you give a little background on yourself as a you know, as an artist and you know, a designer like how long have you been doing it and just kind of what got you into – got you into art.
Robby: Well, I’ve always been into art. I guess I’ve been kind of drawing little characters and doodles since I was I don’t know 10 years old or even younger. So throughout high school, I realized I wanted to probably combine art and computers in some fashion so that led me to pursue a degree in graphic design. So went to a small college in Indiana, got a art degree with a focus in graphic design and went into the advertising industry out of school. And really I’ve been kind of doing that full time since 2006 and outside of work I would do a lot of art shows. I would do a lot of illustrations and characters and setup a booth at different art markets and sell prints. And so I don't do that as much now, but that’s how I ended up getting in touch with the Against the Grain guys, that was back in probably 2008 or 2009 maybe and yeah, so still working full time. I do a lot of like like interactive design at a software development company right now. It’s a good job. I enjoy there quite a bit.
AJK: Yeah, so it was -- I looked it up before, it’s something with a giant.
Robby: Yeah, Forest Giant, yeah.
AJK: Yeah, that’s excellent so app work with them and do you do visual like the UX work is that the type of stuff you do?
Robby: Yeah, yeah, UX, UI, lot of website design, app design, interactive experiences, things like that but it is very creative shop, but a very tech heavy shop too. So we work side by side with lot of really talented software engineers. So it’s been very rewarding to get to work with those guys you know, come up with an idea that I’m not able to execute on and collaborate with them with their know-how and we can build cool things together. So it’s a very collaborative thing.
AJK: That's excellent. Yeah, definitely I'm a tech geek at heart, you know, when I first started my first career I was an IT you know, web design that type of stuff so I really I appreciate a good – good user experience and yeah, so that’s pretty – it must be fun, especially working side-by-side you know, I did a little coding for a while and at times I -- I miss it but, I think I miss more like being alone and just kind of being alone like doing -- do yourself and just kind of like being in control of some of this stuff, but I like the collaborative experience.
Robby: Yeah, I mean it definitely comes with its challenges, but you get in the right mix of people and get the – the right chemistry going and it’s -- it’s pretty fun.
AJK: Yeah, okay. Exactly, especially it’s people you know, with your background and their background if there's you know, a good you know, melding middle point it’s kind of – it’s pretty empowering.
Excellent. So back to your art you know, work, you know, this is the – the question that yeah, I apologize in advance for if it's a painful one, but how would you to describe your -- your esthetic you know, I think that it’s a (Robby laughs) – yeah, exactly, good, good. Again I apologize --
Robby: I don’t know I guess – I guess at least with Against the Grain stuff, it’s very – it’s cartoonish but it has some dark undertones and there's a lot of the tongue and cheek humor. With Against the Grain stuff there's a lot of tongue and cheek humor but a lot of absurdity as well. Really, it’s just -- it kind of all goes back to, like I was saying, I used to draw a lot when I was growing up, and just copying the cartoons that I would watch growing up in the 90s like the Animaniacs and Earthworm Jim and Boogerman. I don’t know if you remember any of those, but those were -- I would just draw all those all the time. So I think a lot of the aesthetic still comes from that stuff whether it is consciously done or not.
AJK: Yeah. And I think that you were saying obviously the work that you do with Against the Grain is pretty, is unique in and of itself. But I guess you go to Robby’s website, and you can see the professional work you are doing, it shows again a versatility, you know, and it’s all -- it’s all really clean, you know. I really like that you kind of see both sides of that on the site and just, kind of, in general, it kind of gives a good impression of your versatility.
Robby: Yeah. And it’s like with, with my day job being more design oriented and all that technology and you are doing, you’re solving a problem for someone else in a creative way. There’s a lot less personal creative expression in that. So doing the -- like the art prints and stuff on the side, when I would do sit at art markets, that stuff was just for -- just for pure fun, just because I wasn't getting an outlet to do that stuff at work, and I just enjoyed to do it. So and then I, you know, lucked out with Against the Grain, and oh I can kind of do that for them and get paid to do it, but it’s -- yeah, they’ve been a really awesome client.
AJK: Yeah. And how did you -- how did you -- you said that they just kind of saw your work at one of the shows, or they -- how they come to learn of your work?
Robby: Yeah. I said that at Louisville, we have a big art fair called The St. James Fair art fair, and it’s -- now people from all over come to it. And a lot of local artist at the time felt they weren't being represented like they should because a lot of out of town artist would come and they wouldn’t get a spot because of that. So they set up the St. James Unfair and it -- it still goes on. I think they even go on for 20 years now. But anyway, like it's just -- like anybody can show up instead of art biz and -- and that’s all you have do. So, I did that in 2008, I think, for the first time, and probably did that three-four your years in a row. And, Sam, one of the owners of Against the Grain, his wife was an artist also setup down there, and I met him probably in 2009 or 2010, I think. And he told me that him and some buddies are going to open up a brewery, and if I’d be interested in doing some artwork. And I was like, yeah, sure. And then nothing came of it. I got a call from him about one or two years later and they had started, started the brewery back in 2011. So that's kind of how that got started.
AJK: That’s excellent. What was the first kind of art you did for them?
Robby: For Against the Grain?
Robby: Ah, we did the logo. So we started with the branding and some signage. And then we moved on -- I think they had the concept of -- they were always going to have six styles of beer like session, hop, dark, malt, whim, and smoke. And then they’re going to brew different beers that fit those six styles. So we decided to do little characters to represent each beer. And then as new beers come out and they needed like a label, then we would use that same character, but put that character in a different environment to kind of play off that. And that's pretty much what the brands built around, are those six characters.
AJK: Okay, now that the characters have -- do you name them?
Robby: Well, yeah I mean that they’re just named after the style, so session, hop, dark, malt, whim, and smoke.
AJK: Okay, alright, yeah. They’re pretty epic. Yeah, one of my favorites is the Bo & Luke, I mean the beer itself is pretty amazing, but just that label, you know, is great.
Robby: Yeah, that was the first one we did.
AJK: Hit it right out of the park, right here, yeah I think it’s great and I think it's, you know – you’re probably, you kind of hint at General Lee without, you know, getting your ass in trouble with, you know, C&D and you know --
But it’s -- yeah, it’s a good one. That was a -- I think it’s one of the first time that I ever had smoked beer. Like that really kind of just blew me away. It was kind of -- so, we don't get -- we got more Against the Grain now than we had in the past. So once in a while a bottle will pop up here and there, but that's one that you can do artistically was kind of like wow, that’s like really fucking cool.
Robby: Well, thanks. That’s one of my favorite beers, and I know I probably sound biased, but I really do think that’s one of the top beers out there.
AJK: Yeah. Like I said, it’s one of the ones -- I cellar a bunch of my beers, and I always decide like, should I keep one or save it for later? It’s really hard. I never had those, you know -- like, I could really go for one of those, and I’m like, oh, you drank it a while ago when we had people over so. I’ll have travel out there and try to get some more.
Robby: Maybe I can get some, send it up to you.
AJK: You know a guy, right? Yeah.
AJK: You know, the cool thing is I was just you know, we’re talking about the prints and I realized it the other day is you know, if you go to Robby’s website, you can buy some of the artwork as prints, which I think is really cool. And so I think it’s really nice to see that -- and also did that -- I think it’s cool that the brewery let you kind of sell those too as your own pieces of art which I think shows a nice piece of the partnership there too.
Robby: Yeah, yeah. They’re really cool about stuff like that. They have got the prints for sale in their brewery, and I’ll put them up on my website. Also if I do art shows around town, I usually bring some of those for sale too.
AJK: Do you still -- I mean you're very busy before we spoke. You know, you said you’ve a, you said 18-month old or -- so you must be pretty --
Robby: Yeah, yeah. She is 14 months and now, about to turn 15 months.
AJK: Yeah, so do you still you know, you are still doing the art shows?
Robby: Not, not as much. I do about one a year or may be, there is one -- there is a holiday art show here in town. I usually set up that every year. So that’s probably the only one I have done consistently in the past for probably three years. So yeah, full time job, and then the Against the Grain side work, and 15 months old. That’s about all I can do.
AJK: Yeah. If I do my math correct, that's about a good 90+ plus hour week right there.
Robby: Yeah, it still like sometimes. I don’t know it quite gets there, but sure sounds like it.
But it’s all good. It’s a good balance like I said. It’s doing the more creative, expression stuff on the side, kind of balances out the more, analytical problem-solving at work. So it’s good.
AJK: Yeah. And definitely -- I mean the corporate stuff from what I can see you know, when I looked up at the company, you know, it’s definitely kind of the extremes, but it works really well to get -- it definitely seems like a great, a great outlet for you.
And with what you're saying about, you know, Louisville, I've limited experience, but it seem like it’s a very creative town. You know, you mentioned the various art shows that are going on, the different artists, in that local area. You know, I was just looking at the beyond the unfair. You know, that’s a good amount of folks in that scene. So that's -- that must be a really, you know, positive just to be around that type of -- type of culture.
Robby: Yeah, I mean there’s a big creative scene here. I don’t know, have you ever heard of Creative Mornings? It’s like a weekly or a monthly morning talk that some cities will, I guess, have you like a franchise of it. But anyway, I think it started in New York. We’ve been posting those here in Louisville now for probably two or three years. And they’ve really taken off. I mean, they sell out every month, and a lot of other people show up, 300 to 400 people, and which is pretty big for Louisville. But yeah, there's a lot of really talented and creative souls here, lot of good foods, lot of good music.
AJK: Yeah, definitely. The food and music was definitely, you know, aware of such great -- now you’re born and raised in Kentucky
Robby: I was born in Indiana, Southern Indiana, just about 40 minutes north of Louisville. But I've always lived in this area.
AJK: That’s great. Now, from your process, you know, are you hand drawing these and then take them to the computer or what is your kind of methodology?
Robby: Yeah, they all start off like a really crappy sketch, and I'll usually rough that out fairly quick and send over concepts to the guys at Against the Grain just to get their feedback and thoughts on it, and showing which direction I am thinking. And then from there, if they're good with it I’ll redraw it probably two more times before I do the final drawing. And depending on how the label’s going to be printed, I’ll draw it differently, like the final art differently. So just add like a little background. Like for Against the Grain, we first started doing labels. We didn’t do any cans at all. So all the artwork was just on paper like for bottle labels.
So there wasn’t that much of a limitation on what you could do with like, you know, tones and number of colors and shading and things like that. Whenever we moved to cans that had to all be simplified down to six colors. So, we just kind of figured out a different style and all. So there's -- if you look at some of the bottle artwork, it’s more high fidelity and if you look at some of the can artwork, everything is simplified somewhat. Still has the same aesthetic, but it’s simplified down to like flat color so we could get within that limitation of six colors. So a lot of illustrations for the cans were done with pen and ink. So I could -- so those could turn into vector art, and I’d just, you know, scan the ink drawing in and do everything from that point on, and illustrate it on my computer.
For the raster-based labels, like all the bottle labels, pretty much the same process. But I’ll use a pencil versus pen, and scan that into the computer and do all my color and texturing on the computer. Recently, I invested in a Wacom tablet, a Cintiq tablet. So I've been doing some of the final drawings on the screen. So, it’s a kind of, you know -- it is same process, but the medium in which I execute the final sometime changes.
AJK: Okay. How was the learning curve with, you know, for that going digital with some of the stuff just from your traditional, you know, work you had done earlier on? Like I find -- I just find that amazing what people who are -- like you said, you’re always doodling and drawing. And at no point when you're doodling and drawing was that knowing you had to take it on to the computer and, you know, use illustrator.
Robby: Yeah. Well, I mean, my biggest goal is to keep the overall aesthetic of it looking like it was hand done. So even if it does end up on the computer, I don't want it to necessarily look like it was made on a computer if that makes sense.
So I tried to give everything usually, you know, have a little bit of that imperfect feel like nothing -- there’s things that are not symmetrical or things may not be straight or it is a little bit of, you know, the shakiness of my hands. So I like all that stuff, I want to keep it in there. So drawing with pencil and ink, it just comes naturally. Drawing on the screen, that’s -- I've had to do a lot of like back and forth with different brushes and textures and things like that to try to, you know, simulate that, that look. And I feel pretty good about it so far, but to see that I’ve done that way.
AJK: Yeah. That tablet that you’re talking about is like, that’s like the end all -- that’s like the Cadillac of, I think, tablets where everyone’s kind of like -- I’ve had a few folks who that mentioned they had just gotten one or kind of like, that’s my next kind of level of things. And so it’s, kind of -- the more and more I do this, I learn kind of what was like little like, you know -- if you're going to do it, you know, it’s the thing that allows, I don’t know, it was the processing or whatever it is, but it’s the closest thing to the natural touch I think. So that's been really cool.
Robby: Yeah. And I love it. I mean, it’s definitely a game changer in going that way. At work, one of the girl I work with, she got one and I get to play around with hers at work, and I was like, man, I got to get one of these for my freelance work. So I ended up fighting a bullet and picking one up at the end of the year, last year. But however, like a lot of the brushes, you know, I was telling you that I wanted to try to get brushes that would feel like natural pencil strokes or, you know, ink strokes on paper, and in Photoshop, which I usually use, you know, took the pencil drawing in and just colored it. For me personally, I didn’t -- I wasn't really liking how the brushes work. So a guy that I worked with, turned me on to Clip Studio, have you ever heard that?
Robby: Used to be called Mango Studio. So I started using that. And that’s -- they do a really good job with all their different brush offerings and just the way they handle like the paper in and paper out of the stroke, things like that. So it's a lot more flexible if you’re going to draw. If you want like, you know, type fitting tools and things like that, it's definitely not, not the software of choice. But for drawing, it's the perfect for me.
AJK: Yeah, lot of folks use thatfor comic book and a kind of that type of stuff.
AJK: More animation type of stuff, right? Yeah.
Robby: Yeah. And I never tried until recently, but, yeah I like it quite a bit.
AJK: Right. In your own vacation right and you probably get to bring that with you. You can still, you know, draw and have this -- you don’t have to bring all your brushes and everything in the world with you. It kind of it makes it a little more easier to be a little more mobile.
AJK: Yeah. I looked up those, they are not cheap. So I think that's a big investment. So I am excited to see where it's going, and more folks being able to use that. So it's really interesting. Those tools are pretty sick.
So when you started working with then, how was that kind of -- the bone looping at first that you said you’re able with the more colors, but designing for the contour of the bottle, and now the cans, has that, how has that been for you just in terms of what you're trying to design, you know, looking at, you know, different pane of the like the bottle or the can? Is that -- how was that process for you?
Robby: Like -- Designing for different shape, containers of it?
AJK: Yeah, yeah.
Robby: Well, I mean, when they started, we were only doing 750 bottles and the 650 bottles to and it was just those two. So I mean the labels were pretty much -- they were pretty similar in size. I think the 750s would be like a 5x7 label, and the 650s are a little smaller. But I guess to answer your question, I’d get the physical bottle in hands so I could have those to like do mockups with, and I would usually make myself a template, you know. Like I would, you now, print off the labels, stick it on the bottle, and then try to make, make guides so I can know like how much of my canvas am I going to see one of bottles on the shelf. So when we design, my illustration just fit within that area, and just put some guide marks on the template and then do a lot of pencil sketches within those boundaries. Sometimes I would sketch with a label, with a piece of paper tapes to the actual bottle, but usually I would just get my template setup and then just sketch on paper like on my desk.
AJK: But early on you would put the paper on the bottle, and then used that like just literally be -- then from there, be like your template for the future that you know what the parameter were, where things would fall?
Robby: Yeah. So I setup templates for any, any bottle shape that we were doing. So now – so now whenever I do another one I know where I want my artwork to go and where the boundaries are, where the things should bleed and all that. So I don’t have to do that every time. It was mainly -- if I get a new container shape, then there's a lot of back and forth setup of that template to get things setup the way I wanted, and then I'll use that to do my sketches on for any, any label that we put in that container in the future.
So with cans -- with cans, it is very similar. I mean, it’s just a full wrap and I personally like doing the cans more because you got so much more real estate to work with on the can. However, there are limitations with color, so there are some give and takes.
AJK: Now, you said there is more to work with. Now how -- if the bottles were bigger, it is just bottle itself is bigger, but not the label, is that why you say more to work with?
Robby: Yes. Even on, like a 750 bottle, the label size is might be 5x7ish something like that. But on 16 ounce can, it’s quite a bit bigger. I mean, it's probably another inch taller and, may be an inch or two wider maybe. So yeah, you got a lot more work on the can.
AJK: I guess -- I mean, I guess since a lot of times the bottles too are almost two labels too, they’re not -- it’s very rare to see a full wrapped label on the bottle.
Robby: Yeah. Well, with Against the Grain, we never used a neck -- yeah, we never used a neck label or a back label on the bottle. So if we ever did that, that would probably provide the same amount of real estate as a can, but
AJK: That’s good to know now. Now, I have to ask about one of the ones, it's -- I don’t know how to describe it. The Brown Note, that’s probably one of the most infamous or, you know, kind of conversational pieces that you’ve probably ever done, yeah. How was that -- I mean if folks don’t know what the brown note is, I don’t even know how to describe it. I mean, for me, musically, the brown note is, you know, a base note can be so low that it can make you, I guess, for the lack of better term, shit yourself. So I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know how that relates -- I don’t know how that relates to the beer. It is a brown, and it’s the malt guy in his tighty-whities and so there's a couple – yeah, we’ll just kind of leave it at that. But how did that come together? How was that discussion, you know, hey, Robby, we’ve got this beer -- was the name beforehand or did you just kind of run with it?
Robby: The name was definitely beforehand. All the names are already decided for the most part I think before we do the artwork. So I had name, and this was also one of the first ones we did. And I think -- I think we just did -- I think I did a couple of concept sketches and sent it over to the guys. And one of them was more out there, and it was, like you described, it was the malt character. He is also an amputee, and he is -- he is seeing from his backside, and he is wearing tighty-whities, and there’s a big shit stain on his pants, so that was just kind of an idea we threw out there, and they liked it. So we just ran with that. And it has definitely been a beer that gets probably, you know, it's polarizing I guess. People either, you know, love that one or they hate it. They won’t buy it because of the art, but it’s funny because if they do hate it a lot, they will, you know -- if you look on Instagram or social media, you’ll see people dogging it, saying they don’t like it, but they're talking about it. So something is working.
AJK: Yeah, I mean I have -- yeah I've not bought it, but I have it, it’s good. But like it’s just like -- and what I like too, again, it’s subtle. I mean it looks like he’s shitting himself currently like not just the stain. And this is a weird conversation we’re having with two grown men, two grown men -- but like you’re using the background color and way it lays out, like I think, it kind of, gets around, you know, what's going on there too. I think it's a good way to, you know, kind of -- it’s visually like a trick. You know, if you look at it from far, it looks like it's not a post -- in process. But, now was that -- I know there’s like -- there is some of the, you know, the advisory boards or whatever that pass the label to get approved. That must have been -- it’s impressive they were so open minded thought that one go through which I think is a good testament to that I guess.
Robby: I think they probably -- I think they denied that one. Like -- I forget the guy’s name. I think his used to be or was the Captain maybe. I forget, but he worked at the TTB which is like the government regulation that approve all -- and he was notorious for just denying every single label that we ever sent in -- always. And we’d have to make a change, and lot of times, it would be like a change in the wording or something. But, yeah -- I don't, I think with The Brown Note, we may have had to -- may had to change some, some of the looks, some of the text. But the artwork, I don’t know, either they approved it or we just went ahead and did it anyway. I can't remember. We definitely went ahead and done it anyway in some cases where we knew it was going to be a long-term production, but --
AJK: Yeah. A few folks have said, I was kind of like well knew this was kind of on the edge, but we knew there is maybe a one or two off and so it was just, you know, we went with it for posterity sake.
Robby: Yeah. We’ve had -- there has been some labels where we’ve -- we actually got these little like half-inch stickers print, and then just say rules are roles. And if there -- we used them on a couple different labels I think, but for whatever reason, it didn't pass. Something had to be censored. So instead of redoing the artwork, we would just put that sticker on top of the area, a kind of stab at the TTB a little bit, but also just be able to use what we’ve already made.
AJK: Yeah, I think it a good because then yeah, it’s a kind of like -- there has been different you know, always the Black Crowes album was like that, and that was like that. And even just I spoke to the, the art director at Founders and they, you know, their breakfast out, they couldn’t, they couldn’t sell that with the baby on it in like Michigan. That was like the only state that like in their home states. So they had to make -- yeah something with -- I think it’s some sort of law where you can’t have children selling alcohol, like used to promote alcohol. So they had to take the baby off of it, and they made like a Michigan only label. And basically it was like -- like the baby is missing, and they setup like a hotline or something and it was pretty funny.
Robby: Yeah, that’s funny, yeah. We haven’t run into any like specific state issue yet, but maybe that will happen sometime, hopefully not.
AJK: Yeah, let’s not jinx it. Let’s not jinx it like, yeah right, you’ll be like oh that fucking interview you did there, Robby. You got us into a lot of trouble in Idaho. Yeah.
Robby: Yeah. Man, I hope not. Yeah, but, you know, at the end of the day, we’re always abide by the TTB rules.
AJK: Exactly. And yeah I just like the labels in general. I think that the cartoon nature of it and repeating of the characters, coming back, I just -- I think that when breweries make a conscious choice to have, you know, make the labels be more than just, kind of, okay, beer A with this hops and ABV, I think it just says a lot about the character of the folks who work there. I definitely feel the guys, you know, they have good time and they, you know, worked hard, play hard type of stuff. And I really, I really admire that because it mean -- at the end of the day, it’s beer, and it’s lot of hard work that goes into it. So when you finally release it, I think to have some fun with it, you know, I think that’s really complimentary.
Yeah. And we -- and even the collaboration stuff, you know, the one you guys did with Hoof Hearted, I really like the -- the can artwork that work you did for that. You know, we interviewed their artist and, you know, they have really nice things to do say about, you know, Against the Grain. So it was a kind of nice to see that, you know. It wasn't just a good beer, so that was cool to see.
Robby: That’s cool, yeah. That’s cool. Yeah, I really like their beer a lot. They were down here in Louisville for Beer Fest in October, and I found myself going back to their tent multiple times, good stuff.
Some good artwork too.
AJK: Yeah, yeah Tom Lesnar, we interviewed him. He’s a – he lives in – from Philly. He is a really good guy. Now, how does that work with the collaboration stuff? Like have you had the opportunity to collaborate on the artwork, or it is depending where the beer comes out.
Robby: No, usually -- usually it’s just like the breweries will do the collaboration, and then depending on which brewery wants to handle the art and own that, then they’ll do it. So far I have never collaborated with another artist on a label.
It’s always been -- I mean, I am open to that, but it’s just hasn’t worked up that way yet. Usually it’s more of, you know -- we collaborated on the beer, and Against the Grain, it’s going to handle this label and you guys handle, the other one that we did. So --
We’ve done some withStillwater. We’ve done some Stillwater where we done the take on their beers, and they have done take on Against the Grain beers, and they’ve always used their artists, you know, do the label for their take on our beers and by vice versa for us.
AJK: That's cool, yeah. That's -- Michael Van Hall. You know, we interviewed him who is -- when you’re listening to this, it would have been episode 13. So yeah, he does Stillwater -- and now he does also work Aslin out of Virginia. So he does -- yeah, he’s one of the few artists that I have met that does, you know, more than one brewery. So it’s a kind of cool.
Robby: That's cool.
AJK: Yeah, it’s a kind of nice. Like I don't know all the brewers, but I know more of the artists like from the brewers now than I've probably ever thought I would which is fun.
Robby: Now, I think it would be -- I think it’d be fun to do, to collaborate with another artist on a label. That definitely will take a lot of communication to make it work depending on the aesthetics of the style, you know, trying to get the two to match, or to fit in together in some way. But I think it would be fun.
AJK: I think aesthetic wise, to go back to our awful question, I think that you and Tom would I think hit off pretty well with your aesthetics, you know, and then trying to assimilate with, you know, with Stillwater which is a little more fine art modernism, you know. So I think that’d be a lot more difficult, you know, or maybe --
Robby: Yeah, Hoof Hearted would be a good one. Would be a good one to try that on. I think just from a brewery standpoint, those guys to seem to have a lot of the same -- That’d be a good fit for it.
AJK: I think kind of there’s, especially with like, you know, the brown note, just kind of the edginess of the, of the labels, you know, a kind of that are like, this is how we are going to do it, not that we -- like, almost like we don’t give a fuck, like not like disrespectful kind of way, but would just kind of be like being passionate about what you’re doing. They are called Hoof Hearted, you know, so it's like --
It’s just kind of that, that style which I think is cool to see. There’s a few others that we’ve spoken to that have that culture. So it’s really cool to see. Awesome. Now did you said your favorite beer from Against the Grain is the Bo & Luke?
Robby: It’s definitely up there. Like that one a lot. I like the -- the Rico and the Citra Ass Down, those are two both really good IPAs. And then the 70K is also one of my favorite.
AJK: Yeah, yeah, that was cool because I’ve had 35K and to see that. I think the Citra Ass Down was one of the first ones I remember seeing you guys that was in the cans. That was -- I think that was one of the kind of the can explosion took off, and it was like, okay, we can now get this in a can. I like that one a lot, and I love Citra Hops in general. And so it was just nice to see and the name was pretty, pretty smooth too.
Robby: Cool. Yeah, and that was one of the first one we ever did for the bottle and that was the first can we did. Like I was saying earlier, a lot of -- lot of those -- the artwork on those are original bottle beers like Citra Ass Down and Brown Note and those all had to be -- they all had to be redone for the can. So you might go and see a bottle of -- if you find it still, I don’t know. You might see a bottle of Brown Note or bottle of Citra Ass Down, and it’s the same artwork, but it's very -- it’s much more high stability. There’s more like pencil shading and things like that, and then -- so the version of it on the can is very simplified.
AJK: Okay. So then -- so the bottles all still hold the original or was it easier just to go with now this new kind of low fidelity or more low res versions, did you kind of just replace them all or the bottles get the more detailed than the cans get the six color limitation?
Robby: It’s kind of mix still right now. I think if we know the beer will never go to can, it will only be bottle, like a lot of barrel aged stuff then we will do the more high fidelity style for the label. But if it is going to go on can, then we will usually do a more simplified version of it.
AJK: Now, with the Kentucky, the Kentucky Ryed Chiquen, there's the, you know, some of those came out with the feathers around the top. Whose idea was -- whose idea was that?
Robby: That was Sam’s of Against the Grain. He was like, what do you think about tarring and feathering the bottle next. I was like, man, I mean I liked it.
Robby: We did it. Those are pretty cool. I think they were kind of the mesh and like a huge headache to keep up with and -- and I think by the time they ended up showing up at the, at the different bottle shops, a lot of feathers had fallen off. So they looked like, you know, a bluffed chicken. But that kind of fit into the aesthetic of the label anyway. So we a kind of ran with it. But they did that for, I don’t know, may be six months, something like that, and then we ended up just doing like, like a neck capper for it.
AJK: Yeah. Logistically, I think they’re trying to set that up must have been a major pain in the ass.
Robby: I think they had a guy that was his job for a while. He just had to tar and feather bottles.
AJK: Like a hazing process, yeah.
AJK: You’re the chicken feather guy. It’s like what, what’s your day to day work? Oh, I tarred and feathered a bunch of beer bottles. He’s like, oh, okay. Must have been pissed at you that day, yeah.
AJK: Excellent, now when you’re, when you're creating, how is, you know -- do you’ve certain music, what's the kind of the scene like? You’re a music guy or you’re a kind of relaxation kind of quiet person, what's the -- what's the Robby Davis vibe like.
Robby: That’s a mix I guess. I definitely will usually have music on. A lot of time, it’s kind of background music. But, man, very lately I listen to lot of podcast, and I listen to -- there is a radio program called American Routes R-O-U-T-E-S.
And it's just like, I don’t know -- it’s kind of themed week to week, but it’s a lot -- it’s an eclectic mix. A lot of it is like southern, like Americana southern roots type stuff like old stuff from the 30s and 50s and 70s, and just all kind of all over the place. But it's an eclectic mix of music that I may not have gotten exposed to elsewhere. So I listen to that just more as a background music. Yeah, it’s just kind of all over the place really. I don't -- it’s hard to describe like what genre of music I like because I like a lot of them, but –
AJK: Okay. What kind of bands like -- what bands listen to – just the reason I ask is use usually try to, well I used to in my former life do some radio work and then I always like to try to tie it all together when we do the episodes so we can put some music over.
Robby: Well, I am a huge Bob Dylan fan. That’d be probably my number one artist. I’ve definitely went through like a Woody Guthrie phase also. I still go back to that quite a bit.
AJK: It's a good phase to have
Robby: Yeah. Let’s see, I’m trying to think. I listen to a lot of My Morning Jacket this morning. Let’s see. I listen to a lot of podcast more recently. So kind of drawing a blank on it. I did -- I read a post about, let’s see, it was Hunter S. Thompson, and he had suggested his top 10 records of the 60s. So I ended up looking at some of those, and so I've been watching those lately, but one of them was Miles Davis, Sketches in Spain.
I think, Sketches of Spain, and there is a Herbie Mann, Memphis underground, and The Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead. They mostly ended those a lot lately, but you know --.
AJK: So you’re kind of like got an old soul to you like old Americana, like throwback routes type of stuff, which is cool.
Robby: Yeah, yeah, yeah that’s the good way to describe it.
AJK: Nice, yeah. And then you’re just talking about kind of Spain and Europe and I was -- we've mentioned cool thing -- one of the cool things I like is also your, your Instagram where you show some of your sketches like before they become, you know, before they become finalized. And so that's Robbydavis01. Whoever Robby Davis plain, we’re coming after you. I was like yeah, I was like some random dude and this like family, no offense buddy, but, yeah, this is kind of fun. Yeah it was just a-- I was like, oh one, who the hell is playing Robby Davis? And it’s just like some, yeah, middle aged dad with his kids --
Robby: He beat me to it.
AJK: Yeah, right exactly. I was always like, oh you bastard. Yeah, so but I think -- and it's really cool, there's a new -- it’s just kind of how you describe it. It’s kind of like they are doppelgängers of the, the kind of the European versions of the, of the Against the Grain family characters. So I think that was really cool. There's a, you know, couple of those that are up there, has met there like I believe like Grand Canyon and just some -- then in New York City kind of just like super American tourists going for it. So I really dug those.
Robby: Yeah, those are -- those are part of the collaboration series were doing with Freigest out of Germany, and hopefully there will be more of those because we’ve kind of setup the concept where those could grow over time. But we’ll see how things go. I think last time I heard, we might be like maybe five a year potentially. I might be wrong on that, but -- so the first two -- yeah it's the Against the Grain European doppelgänger characters, and they’ve all come to the States to see all the sites. And they have a tour guide, her name is Touri and she is modeled after a girl that lives here in Louisville that owns a bar and bottle shop. She is very well traveled, she has been to the Europe many times. And so they -- they wanted to model that character after her after the tour guide because in real life, she could, she could be that tour guide if she wanted to be. So anyway, the concept is they all, they all come to the States, she is giving them tours of Ellis Island and the Grand Canyon and so on. And then over time, her facial expressions will change from bottle to bottle as she becomes more and more frustrated and panicked by dealing with these characters that are just out of control.
AJK: Nice, yeah. I think it’s great. There's a little Touri video up on the site too, right on your Instagram page, which is funny, yeah
Meet Touri, part of a new @atgbrewery European beer series in the works. She's quickly beginning to regret her role as tour guide. 😬 . . . #atgbrewery #euro #tourguide #europe #illustration #illustrator #beerart #beerporn #beerlabelart #packaging #packagedesign #characterillustration #wacom #cintiq #louisville #kentucky #artistsoninstagram #cartoon #comicart #bones #characterillustration #characterdesign #stars #america #craftbeer #beer #labelart
AJK: Now did she know that you guys are doing that? Did she take it as a complement?
Robby: You know, I don’t personally know. I think Sam and the guys from Against the Grain, I think they’ve probably spoken to her about it. But I couldn’t say one way or the other honestly. I would imagine she probably knows.
AJK: So do you have other -- what are the landmarks you’re thinking, that’s got to be fun, right. You got to think like just a kind of go extreme tourist on all these little occasions and -- that must be kind of fun concept to be, you know, brainstorming about.
Robby: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean the Against the Grain guys came up with the, the first two. So I think depending on the beer style and, and what the beer is then I think they'll assign a location to it. So I think the plan is just all the major like touristy spots if you come to America, you got to see these things.
AJK: Oh yeah, the DC ones.
Robby: Probably, yeah.
AJK: DC --
Robby: Yeah, there's probably going to be like yeah DC, Hollywood, yeah.
AJK: Yeah, I hope that series goes well because the possibilities are endless. And I like the – if you haven’t seen like I say go to Robbydavis01 on Instagram and see to come to the market soon. But I -- it’s a subtle piece of it is the longitude and latitude of it, I think that’s a nice real touch.
Robby: Thanks, yeah.
AJK: And I guess before you can see some of the sketches and kind of the early you know, workings on some them to see the early coloring of the Ellis Island one is kind of I always appreciate when the artist, you know, let everybody in, you know some folks just really wanted to be the final product and kind of just not show the process, but I think just for anyone who is an artist just to see how you got from point A to point B is really cool. The composite sketches and the blocking, the color stuff, I think it’s really, thank you for sharing this.
Robby: Yeah, I had to – yeah, that’s a good example of the initial sketch that would be sent over for approval. So it's -- it's really crappy if you look at it, but it’s really, really lose, really quick and just again I can’t get over our composition and concept down. And then from that point it's probably redrawn two or three times before it’s done. That’s just, that might be weird but that's the just process I've always done is I’ll the kind of cleanup line work and make curves better and things like that, so you usually draw it like three times to just get to that point where I like it.
AJK: Now, your tools -- your for pen and ink work, the pen you post with your photos, it look pretty distinct, is that certain brand that you’ve a kind of warmed to or that's you always use when you’re sketching.
Robby: Like a pencil, the --
AJK: Yes, as it pencils that what it is.
Robby: Yeah, it’s mechanical pencil. It’s -- I like it a lot and it’s got a good weight to it, but just a Graphgear 1000 by Pentel and I have been using it for a long time, but I like to use to just sketch with and for inking and I’ll just use Michrons.
AJK: Cool, yeah, we’ll get some -- we’ll get some free some pencils out of it, sop hopefully we’ll send the links and get them the little sponsorship.
AJK: Yeah, well people tell me actually things -- some of things cost, it's like oh wow that’s fucking, it’s a lot of cash.
Robby: Yeah, this pencil it probably costs 20 bucks, but definitely probably the most expensive pencil I've bought but I've had it – I had it for years and it works well and like it still, so it was money well spent.
AJK: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, like I said you know, I really like that and I like your aesthetic, I like your design and I just I've really liked the fact that you're showing the different phases of the process and you can see all the different cans and sketch work that they're doing. So I really, I do appreciate you know that you’re – that you a kind of make yourself open and available to people to see that part of your craft, it’s not just kind of finished -- finished product so it’s really nice to see.
Robby: Oh cool, thank you.
AJK: Yeah, especially for folks who are fan of the, you know, of the Against the Grain stuff and you can see a lot of the stuff and it’s, you know early infancy, you know kind of where it was and even just kind of some of the process for the different prints you have out there and like I said you got robbydavis.com, is who is the character within the eyeballs out, he’s a kind of like your icon, you know, he’s one of your early sketches, self-portrait.
Robby: Oh it’s mine, yeah it’s a self-portrait and yeah. I did or we did a doodle or die, daily doodle challenge, it’s probably a couple years ago now, but it was just a monthly challenge and we came up with a different word for each day and the first day it was portrait. So that was the doodle I did for that, but --
AJK: Now, who you did you – who you did you that contest with?
Robby: It wasn’t really a contest, it was just -- just a creative exercise, you know like to just -- just for fun really. I did it with a couple of guys that I worked with. We just threw out some hash tags and you know, a lot of people jumped in and participated with it, but I think we only did it, we did two different instances of it, so we did one, one month and we took a couple months off and did another one and I think those were the only two we’ve done, but I’d like to do another one.
AJK: Oh yeah --
Robby: It was fun.
AJK: Yeah, it’s cool. There is a letterpress print on your site which is that I assume it's off of that. I'm not sure if that is of that one, but of that concept and I really -- I think it’s really cool, so that’s good to hear the story about that.
Robby: Yeah, that that print just is a collection of my favorites from both of those two challenges.
AJK: Yeah, and one of the cool things I like is that it has been note that it in the standard IKEA frames, which if you’re out there buying frame you can always get a good deal on like IKEA frame, but you can’t always get a piece of art where that fits properly. It's like -- it's like an inch or two off from normal you know.
Robby: I know it's so frustrating. We’ve got -- I’ve got so many poster prints at home that I’ve just haven't framed or probably never will frame because I’ve to get to custom frame made for them because they want design to fit a standard you know, frame size.
AJK: Right, yeah, you go to IKEA and you’re like oh this is great, it’s only 8 bucks you know, like this will fit this and you go home it’s like, no fuck, it doesn't that right.
AJK: You have to go to someplace and buy your own. Yeah, I always in my head Ill get the matting, I’ll do it all myself and I’ve all those tubes and cones in my basement and they're like yeah, I think that maybe like once or twice a year, I’ll like splurge. I get it -- I find like a good deal kind of like go and bring it, but it’s just – it’s just pricey.
It’s somebody’s art you know, and somebody is really good, but it just kind of 300 or 400 dollars to get something to put on my wall, it’s a kind of hard -- hard pill to swallow. With that said I’m probably, I'm looking your website and thinking oh man, I’m going to buy some of these, so I am probably hopefully -- hopefully it will fit an IKEA frames that I buy, but yeah.
Robby: Yeah and well yeah, they all fit. They all will fit in standard prints.
AJK: I got to say now, I’d say yeah probably, that's huge. I don’t think most folks think about that. I mean it’s you're already making something so. We've been talking about IKEA frames and grown men in their undies shitting, so I think it's has been a -- it’s has been a pretty full spectrum of discussion.
Well, I thank you so much Robby for making the time. I really – like I said I am a big fan of what you’re doing and I really dig your style and you know just, the cleanliness and this edgy stuff with Against the Grain. So I really think it's really versatile and I love them, you know, kind of behind the scene stuff at how you know, how you bring it to life and so I just wanted to just really thank you for making the time available to be part of this.
Robby: Yeah, I'm happy too. Thanks, thanks a lot for the chat today and I'm glad to be involved in the podcast project and it’s going to be cool.
AJK: Yeah, especially with someone who is an advocate, you know, a big podcast listener, I’m going to load you on there. So, I mean obviously you’re probably listened -- obviously you’re listening to all of the episodes, you know, 16 ounce canvas on iTune.
Robby: Oh yeah.
AJK: But hopefully, yeah we loved it. Hopefully you know, you and Tom to create -- collaborate on something we love to – love to see that and for everybody scoring at home, robbydavis.com you get some of those great prints and we look forward to, you know, may be cracking a Bo & Luke together in the future.
Robby: Oh yeah, that’d be fun.