Historical Sign Update

Recently, I got to work on a historical sign update in Collbran, Colorado. On February 1, Mesa County Libraries installed new window signage at the Collbran Branch Library. Paying homage to the history of Collbran, the new signage is a unique addition to the library.

Thanks to a Historical Society Grant in 1995, the Collbran Branch was relocated to the Stockmen Bank Building on Main Street, Collbran. The original Stockmen Bank opened for business in 1916 and the building was remodeled to its current form in 1929.

The Collbran Branch maintains much of the original charm of the 1929 remodel including the original bank safe dated to 1908, interior wood molding accents, iron work surround the exterior windows and door, and decorative brickwork on the front facade, including “Stockmen’s Bank” in blue and white terracotta frieze.

While the building itself is a beautiful example of early twentieth century western architecture, it has proved challenging to rebrand it as a Mesa County Libraries location. The building was added to the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties in March 8, 1995, so major modifications were out of the question.

Working with the Town of Collbran (Stockmen Bank building owners), we were able to get approval to add a window signage to building to help identify the building as a library, and prominently display library hours.  

In an effort to match the charm and historical nature of the building, we threw out our style book and focused on designing signage that would have been historically accurate to 1929. Specifically, we sought to replicate the hand-painted, gold leaf signs often found on bank, salon, and barbershop windows from that era.

Using historical photos of Plateau Valley and other western towns for reference, the design focuses on the word “Library.” Large, gold block serif letters scroll across the top of the design, and are framed by hand-drawn ornaments. Mesa County Libraries colorful sunrise logo was redesigned as a two color, gold and black logo to help unify the sign to the existing building elements.   

Working with a sign vendor we were able to find on a vinyl material that replicates a gold leaf texture, while still being affordable and durable enough to hold up to the weather elements. The overall look is pretty stunning, and adds new sparkle to the Stockmen Bank.    

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Concert Posters

Designers are always looking for total creative freedom. When approaching a project, nothing is more appealing than the phrase “do whatever you want.” While that attitude doesn’t work out so well for commissioned projects, it always plays when making concert posters.

Concert posters are a blast to make, and since I play in a band (Mount Orchid) and hang out with a lot of musicians, I get the chance to make a lot of them. My general approach is to be as wild as possible, no limitations.

Wild color schemes, fun font treatments, and weird art make for an eye catching combo. I’m a fan of taking art out of context and reusing it in creative ways. This three-armed gorilla for example, was a piece of art I found on a vintage Czech circus poster. With some color adjustments, hand-drawn fonts, and an expressive brush palette, it’s now a fun advertisement for a concert.

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moon-poster

The stakes are pretty low when designing concert posters. They are temporary ads that are not meant to last forever, like a commissioned logo. I think that’s why I like making them so much. It’s total freedom and the chance to be creative just for the sake of being creative.

Longo, Bacon

“I believe in deeply ordered chaos.” – Francis Bacon, painter

“Longo, Bacon” is an art piece I made for recent art show celebrating artists Francis Bacon and Robert Longo. Both artists made work about identity, isolation, and anxiety, themes I often feel and think about.

This collage takes the iconic character poses from Longo’s “Man in Cities” project, and places them in the expressive and chaotic world of Bacon. All the expressive brush work and boxes hint at themes of isolation and anxiousness. Creating this piece, I imagined myself as the central image trying to make sense of the world around me. I like the juxtaposition of a dirty maddening background against the clean but anguished characters of Longo. It suggests that even when you think you’ve got the world figured out, chaos is all around you.

Generally, this style of art work falls outside of my comfort zone. However, as a creative it is important to push your self to try new styles. As Longo said, “an artist should know art history.”

The final piece is a 24 x 32 inch, mixed media collage.

The Punisher – Season 2

Frank Castle is back! From the looks of this trailer, “The Punisher” season 2 picks right up where season 1 left off – with Frank dishing out vigilante justice.

Check out the trailer for Marvel’s “The Punisher” season 2. I got the chance to create some graphics and set decorations for the show and I’m beyond excited to see the new season. I’ve been a comic fanboy all my life so this is literally one of the coolest projects I’ll ever work on. Season 2 of Marvel’s “The Punisher” debuts on Netflix January 18.

Zine Party

I was recently asked to contribute some artwork and writing to a pop-up magazine. These projects are fun to work on as it is a chance to create something completely from your own imagination without having to answer to a client.

For this pop-up I created four items: “Shed Your Skin – Wild Ghost logo,” “Electric Ballroom” short story, John Contino tribute skull, and “Dog-o and Chef,” an original comic short.

Shed Your Skin – Wild Ghost logo

This is a new take on my own Wild Ghost logo. I’ve had the idea to make a glyph using the Wild Ghost snake in the shape of a “G” for a while and this iteration feels really good. Eventually as I develop my brand I see this as being a stand alone mark.

The “Shed Your Skin” text is really a reminder to myself that when I fell boxed in to a certain artistic style that I have the freedom to change as needed. This really is the essence of Wild Ghost and why I founded the company. I wanted to create something that was unshackled and free to inhabit any artistic form I need the company to take, hence, Wild Ghost.

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“Electric Ballroom” – Short Story / John Contino Tribute Skull 

The “Electric Ballroom” short story in an excerpt from a longer unpublished fictional piece I wrote about a local band struggling for attention in a small town. I chose this section because I really like description of the main character playing guitar. I’m obsessed with Fender instruments and their offset guitars always seemed so cool to me.

John Contino is one of my favorite designers and I love how expressive he can be using a combination of digital and hand drawn art. I struggle sometimes with digital art, particularly getting a computer to be as expressive as I want it to be. I’ve been studying Contino’s technique in the hopes of learning how to bring a more personal feel to digital design. This skull was hand drawn, based off one of his drawings, scanned into Photoshop, and redrawn from there. The lines in the finished skull seem more lively to me. It’s a little extra work to get this effect, but I’m looking forward to using this technique in upcoming projects.

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Dog-o and Chef – Comic Short

This was by far my favorite piece to create for the magazine. I’m my spare time I really love cooking and every time I’m in the kitchen my Boston Terrier is at my feet, hoping to catch a couple scraps. This is a real pecan pie recipe, but as you can see, when you let a dog be your sous-chef, things can take a turn for the worse!

While fun, this project turned out to be much more time intensive than I anticipated. Character drawing in particular was difficult. Drawing my dog in multiple positions, while still maintaining his defining characteristics was a challenge.

boston-poses

Nathaniel Rateliff

This article originally appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Spoke + Blossom magazine. 

Atop the Colorado music scene sit Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. Since the release of their 2015 eponymous debut album, the band is one must-see act currently active in the Colorado music scene. Led by their powerfully charismatic songwriter-and-lead-singer Rateliff, the Night Sweats are totally worthy of the accolades and love the state has shown them.

Even casual music fans will know the boisterous, bearded Rateliff from headlining gigs at Red Rocks, annual holiday shows at the Ogden Theater in Denver, or multiple appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Rateliff and Co., fueled by a little bit of vintage soul and classic rock charm, have struck a chord with music fans around the state — and the world.

The band’s success, however, is still a relatively new phenomenon. Before Colorado was a trendy destination for twentysomethings, before Open Air on Colorado Public Radio championed local music through the airwaves, back when the Underground Music Showcase was indeed an underground music showcase, Denver music fans will remember Rateliff as a mildly successful folk/gospel artist, and not as the headlining frontman from the Night Sweats.

Venture through old YouTube videos of Rateliff playing solo gigs, and you will find a denim-clad songwriter with the voice and chops primed for a breakout. Listen closely to his acoustic work, and you will also hear the early influences and song structures that the Night Sweats developed to great success.

Rateliff’s solo music is slower and a bit more tender than that of the Night Sweats. Often strumming a nylon-string classical guitar, Rateliff is an introspective storyteller. His work on the 2013 album Falling Faster Than You Can Run demonstrates his ability to pierce the soul with little more than his voice and a thoughtful lyric.

As a solo artist Rateliff found a reasonable amount of success touring the country. He was featured in multiple music blogs and magazines like Spin and Paste Magazine, as well as the documentary Austin to Boston, which shows the highs and lows of musicians on a low-budget cross-country tour in a caravan of old Volkswagen buses.

For music fans who missed his career as a solo artist, this archival footage shows that it was all there in the early days. Rateliff’s songwriting and massive voice were well-honed before people really started to pay attention. If you can entertain a bar with just your voice and a simple guitar riff, then you’ve really got something. Rateliff’s always had it.

Lucky locals enjoyed a rare chance to see a more retro Rateliff perform a stripped-down set opening for folk icon John Prine, who himself is having quite a moment following the release of his recent album, The Tree of Forgiveness. Their November 8 show at the Avalon Theatre in Grand Junction was just one of a handful of concerts together. (Western Slopers have another chance to see Rateliff, along with the Night Sweats, at the Belly Up in Aspen on December 15 and 16.)

Regarding the significance of playing alongside a living legend like Prine, Rateliff remarked, “We keep losing all this magic as people pass away, and now we just have to start making it for ourselves again.” Whether solo or with the Sweats, Rateliff has proven himself a magician indeed.

Downtown Art Scene

This article originally appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Spoke + Blossom magazine. 

Downtown Grand Junction streets are lined with sculptures, monuments, and interactive art pieces, all vying for our attention. These colorful wood, metal, and fused-glass installations inspire whimsy, curiosity, and Instagram photos from thousands of tourists and local visitors who flock downtown to enjoy Grand Junction’s most popular destination for art and culture.

With music venues, art galleries, and a rotating Art on the Corner exhibit, Downtown Grand Junction has made significant investments in the artistic community.

“We are striving to be art friendly,” says Downtown Grand Junction Marketing and Communications Specialist Caitlyn Love. “With new programs like Street Beat, Electric Art, and the downtown mural projects, we try to be supportive of art projects and the creative community.”

The beauty and vibrancy we enjoy today is largely thanks to Dave Davis, a visionary sculptor and magnet in the Colorado art scene. Davis, who passed away this past August in his Clifton art studio, was key in jumpstarting downtown’s investment in the arts by founding Art on the Corner in 1984. The public art project helped galvanize a community still dealing with the fallout of the infamous “Black Sunday” oil-shale bust of 1982.

What originally started as a downtown beautification and revitalization project has now grown to be a proven economic driver for downtown businesses and artists.

“Art on the Corner is a huge draw for the downtown area,” Love says. “It brings so many people together, and it gives visitors a chance to connect with artists and see their unique style.”

For sculpture artists like Pavia Justinian, Art on the Corner and similar programs are invaluable chances to connect with art collectors and sell their work.

“Big art displays well. Small art sells well,” Justinian says. “People may not buy a big sculpture, but they might contact me later to see if other work is available for purchase. It’s great publicity for artists.”

Artists who take advantage of programs like Art on the Corner can collect multiple stipends on work that would be valued in the tens of thousands but may be difficult to sell. For sculpture artists in particular, these stipends are one of the few realistic ways to monetize their art.

“Dave really laid the groundwork for other cities to emulate Art on the Corner,” Justinian says. “Now that other cities have similar programs, there is more opportunity for me to get art on public display, and a way to make money.”

Justinian is a graduate of Colorado Mesa University and a former apprentice under Davis. Through Davis’ guidance she learned new artistic techniques and trade skills, like how to weld and work with various metals. Now an accomplished sculptor, Justinian has shown her work in exhibits across the West. In 2016, she won Best in Show in Art on the Corner for “Sigma.” In this year’s collection, she debuted a new piece made in collaboration with Davis, called “Untitled.” Davis and Justinian finished this abstract sculpture about one month before his passing, and it is likely his last completed sculpture.

For working artists, opportunity is everything. Now, thanks to a new designation, there may be more opportunities for artists coming to the downtown area. Recently, Downtown Grand Junction was awarded Creative District status by Colorado Creative Industries. The goal of the designation is to draw artists to the downtown community and foster local economic activity through the arts. According to Love, it brings Downtown Grand Junction more opportunities for grant funding and helps it get on Colorado Department of Transportation signage, which means more statewide exposure.

“The potential of a creative art district is exciting,” Justinian says. “I’m excited to see where it goes, but if you’re going to be a creative district it needs to be something more than the name.”

Throughout history, Downtown Grand Junction has reinvented itself for the better. It’s taken bold leaders with big ideas to guide the future of the area. Community leaders came together in 1962 to complete Operation Foresight, an innovative city design project that added the iconic curve to Main Street and won Grand Junction the All-American City award. Davis created Art on the Corner 22 years later, further adding to the beauty and economic diversity of downtown. Now a new opportunity presents itself with the Creative District designation. The only question is, who will have the next great idea to build upon Downtown Grand Junction’s growing vitality?

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“Affirmation Station” by Timothy Flood photo by Caitlyn Love. 

Vibrant Together Logo

Vibrant Together is an update to Downtown Grand Junction’s 2019 plan of development. The goal of the project is to outline a strategic plan for the multiple areas of Downtown Grand Junction including the River District, Rail District, and the Central Business District.

Vibrant-TogetherDowntown Grand Junction wanted a logo for the project that represented more than just Main Street. For the design I choose to color block abstract representations of the various districts included in the plan. The orange buildings represent the brick buildings on Main Street, the red building represents the warehouses in the Rail District, the blue building is the Los Colonias Amphitheater in the River District, and the green building represents the Business District.

The bold color choices are meant to reflect the creativity and vibrant energy of Downtown Grand Junction. As the project develops, the goal is to use the colors to represent the individual downtown districts.

Downtown-District-Map

New growth is already taking place in the River and Rail Districts so it was important to highlight those areas as much as possible in the design. The new Los Colonias Amphitheater sits at the center of the design, just above two bold blue lines meant to invoke the prominence of the Colorado River. Anchored on each side of the logo are the brick buildings of Main Street. This adds balance to the design and is meant to unify the districts and show that the strategic plan is focused on the entire area, and not just the Central Business District.

Vibrant-Rack-cards

 

Dia de los Muertos

Bold colors, big ideas, these are the types of projects I love working on. This year for Día del los Muertos I got the chance to create some artwork for a Spanish celebration. The first image is a alebrije, which is a fantastical creature from Mexican folklore.

My take on the alebriije is a cat with antlers and raptor claws. Not really sure where this idea came from but the client gave me free reign to create something unique and wild, and this was the result!

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The brightly colored creatures in the excellent Pixar movie Coco are all alebrijes. I used the movie for color and pattern reference and based this drawing off the general shape of an ocelot. I also textured the alebrije with a watercolor paper pattern to give it a textile feel.

The second image is an owl done in the Día del los Muertos style. Here the image is framed with marigolds, the flower traditionally placed on alters during Día del los Muertos.

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Boneshaker Adventures

Boneshaker Adventures is a mountain biking skills camp and adventure tour group based in Grand Junction, Colorado. Boneshaker focuses on teaching kids skills to navigate mountain bike trails safely.

This design project is more of a design update than a total redesign. Boneshaker already had the essential idea for their logo sketched up and asked us to update the overall look. For the update we focused on three things: redrawing the skull while still using the essential elements, updating the typeface, and adding color.

Boneshaker-Before-After

Starting with the skull element, our goal was to simplify the art and make it more legible at multiple sizes. We kept the main bone shaker bike as the eyes but redrew it slightly to add symmetry to the art. We also resized elements like the bike seat nose and chain link teeth for simplicity. The over all shape of the skull was also reimagined to give it a more classic and easily identifiable look.

As you can see from the original Boneshaker design, a majority of our effort was spent working on a new typeface that captured Boneshaker’s youthful spirit and was more legible at distance. The only instruction was to create something bold and something that wasn’t overtly masculine. The new Boneshaker typeface is bold, shows movement, and can work as a stand-alone element.

The overall design update is impactful in one tone but we also wanted to add color. The orange and gold color scheme is inspired by the natural sandstone features and sunsets that dominate high desert landscape. Adding spots of teal, purple, and white add a vibrancy to the logo and again, match the playful nature of Boneshaker Adventures.

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