Michael Bast Behind the Scenes on Celestial Seasonings Packaging

Sometimes it's not so much about the product; but where the product can take you.

Where to? Tea giant Celestial Seasonings wanted to invite us all on a trip with their green tea packaging. A retreat to an abundant estate in an exotic region of China where tea is grown in lush green hills.

Only one problem – the location they were imagining didn't exist.

Enter artist Michael Bast and his plan to bring us there (without the 15-hour plane ride).

Michael-Bast-Celestial Seasonings-Green-Tea-Package.jpeg

Creating a realistic fictional location. For Michael, step one is collecting and studying hundreds of photographic images of estates and specific geographical locations. Then he uses these photos as inspiration as he starts to sketch out an idealized vision of the pristine plantation.

"The filter is your interpretation of the scene. Your eyes and brain coupled with the ergonomic physicality of your arms and hands all play a part in the result" explains Michael.

Michael-Bast-Celestial-Seasonings-sketch to final.jpeg

Final destination. Michael shares with us some of the original sketches, photo compositions, and final details for the packaging. He creates all of his paintings in Corel Painter and has been for the past 25 years. Michael credits the program as "simply the best choice for digital painting."

When we as consumers associate a product with the place it comes from, it sparks a connection in us. We want to be a part of it. A smart campaign and a successful partnership between Celestial Seasonings and Michael Bast brings us so close to this dreamy estate, we can quite literally taste it.



Eric Nyffeler-Portland's sketchXchange Guest

Eric Nyffeler invited to sXc in Portland, OR
"Every single texture I use is something that I made myself by hand. I’ve never even played with any sort of brush or texture pack or whatever they’re called." - Eric Nyffeler

l am super excited, flattered, and/or losing-sleep-nervous that the good people at WeMake PDX have invited me to participate in their truly inspiring SketchXchange series! I will be covering the walls of their headquarters with every scribble, scrapple, and chunk of colored paper that I've made in the last few years. There will also be a Q & A / discussion moderated by Portland design celebrity Brett P Stenson, so you know I'm guaranteed to say something embarrassing once or twice. This event takes place on Friday, January 5th at 6:00pm, so hurry up and pick up a ticket, which comes with a complimentary 9" x 9" screenprint designed by yours truly! WeMake just posted an interview with me, which will give you a little more insight of what to expect from the event.

You can see Eric's portfolio by clicking here

Saved by the Boats: The Heroic Sea Evacuation of September 11

Save by the Boats Cover illustration

Written by Julie Gassman and illustrated by Stephen Eric Thomas (Under the pseudonym Steven Moors), Saved by the Boats tells the rarely told story of the sea evacuation of September 11. Nearly 500,000 people on Manhattan Island were rescued that day in what would later be called the largest sea evacuation in history. It’s a story of courage and heroism—one that shows that even in our darkest hours, people shine brightly as a beacon of hope. We sat down with Nathan Gassman, Creative Director of Capstone Publishing, Publisher of Saved by the Boats Publisher, and Stephen Eric Thomas, Illustrator of Saved by the Boats, to discuss the creative journey, from inception to execution, of this incredible project.

Plane heading for tower two illustration - Boats arriving in the harbor illustration
Plane heading for tower two illustration - Boats arriving in the harbor illustration

Q: What sparked the idea to create “Saved by the Boats”?Nathan: Both Stephen and I were in NYC on 9/11. That later led to reflections of how we remembered the day unfolding—how people’s movements and expressions changed from those first moments and early hours to multiple hours later when so much loss was felt, but still so much was unknown too. Stephen was an avid collaborator in those discussions. He fueled more questions and discussions about the rhythm of the storytelling with constant consideration of what would be interesting to a young reader as well as visually sincere in depicting the scenes.

Tower falls illustration - Smoke bellowing from towers illustration
Tower falls illustration - Smoke bellowing from towers illustration

Q: What drew each of you together for this project? Nathan: Well, our ultimate goal was to inform young readers of the historical significance of these events while highlighting the bravery of the hundreds of sea captains and crewmates. I immediately thought of Stephen’s portrait work and was drawn to both the realism and life he brought to his subjects in such a contemporary way. I had a strong sense that his exciting line work would illustrate the dynamic city and residents of New York City well.

Stephen: As Nathan mentioned, being in NYC on 9/11 was something that immediately connected us—we felt this was a story that needed to be told. I wanted to bring attention to the pivotal role that the boat rescue, and their brave crews, played in saving lives. Also, to do justice to the enormity of the tragedy, without freaking out the young demographic we were aiming for.

Rescue boat illustration
Rescue boat illustration

Q: Nathan, what were some of the thoughts that fueled the direction of the design? And Stephen, what was your approach to that direction?Nathan: We came to Stephen with the concept that the blue of the sky would play a fundamental role in the art direction of this book. The blue of the sky was noted multiple times by eyewitnesses in the aftermath and was used as the basis for the only piece of conceptual art, Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning, that hangs in the September 11 Memorial Museum.

Stephen: I agreed with Nathan that the striking blue of the sky of that day on 9/11 should be significant in the book. It was a way to use color in a meaningful way without it being a ‘colorful’ book. Which is evident in the final product.

Remembering where teh towers stood illustration
Remembering where teh towers stood illustration

Q: Speaking of the final product, what did you think of the result?Nathan: I already knew that Stephen was able to accomplish a lot with a limited palette when I reached out to him about the project. However, he surpassed my expectations with how he made the illustrations almost reach toward that blue sky in his depictions. It’s truly amazing.

Stephen: I’m happy that Nathan is happy—glad to have been part of the solution.

Meg Hunt Works Her Magic

Meg Hunt's Creature Feaure Enamel Pins
Meg Hunt's Creature Feaure Enamel Pins

The creative process fascinates me. It's a good thing too because, in my line of work, I get a front row seat to the show each time an artist on my team turns a thought into a thing. I asked Meg Hunt to share a little bit about her newest project, and how she brought life to something that only lived in her imagination.

“For the past several years, I take part in a huge holiday sale in Portland, Oregon called Crafty Wonderland. Every time I participate, I find it's an opportunity to challenge myself in different way. Over the last few years I've focused in on a common theme to make a mini-collection of products. This year's theme was "Creature Feature."

The pin designs stemmed out of a lifelong love of mythological creatures. I have always been fascinated by those larger-than-life creatures that are both monstrous and beautiful, who would be emblazoned on heraldry as a source of strength but also told harrowing tales about over campfires. Monsters and mythology bridge cultures and can explain those things that we can't fully know, but suspect exist out there. In a way, it ties in with my love of characters-- you can find a personality in the shapes and lines that make up a character, but it's not something you can completely define. However, I didn't want to portray these creatures as being fearsome or alien, but playful and curious. Thus, the mermaid, griffin, faun and mandrake root are from different locales (the woods, the earth, the air, the sea) but could join you on your own journey, providing strength and cheer.”

I can spot the difference between art created with the intent to profit, and art created with the intent to inspire from a mile away. And you know what? So can consumers. That's why I only work with artists who bring big inspiration to everything they create. It makes all of the difference, all of the time.


Scott Hull Associates Seeing into the Future at AdobeMAX

Mark Riedy-Adobe MAX-Floor Graphic

Scott Hull Associates take on the world’s most massive creative conference at Adobe MAX 2017 Over 12,000 creatives gathered in Las Vegas last month hoping to discover "what's next" in a world where creativity and technology are equal partners in original design.  With Illustrator, Photoshop, and Lightroom as the top utilized software for artists, we are always eager to learn the newest trends and changes in the industry.  Scott Hull Associates had some of our best eyes and ears on the ground at MAX to find out what the future holds for widened creativity, increased productivity and a more streamlined way of fulfilling our client's needs.  While there is no crystal ball to show us the future, we'll take every sneak peaks we can get.

We came, we saw, we contributed.   Representing such respected talent in this field means we don't just show up at the event.  This year Adobe reached out to our artists to lend some exciting visuals to their already impressive exposition. In addition to attending the conference, our own Mark Riedy was hired by Adobe to create an anamorphic art installation at the entrance of the MAX Pavilion.  Naturally, he couldn't resist hanging out just to see how attendees interacted with this trippy threshold.

Mark's "Land of Giant Mushrooms" delights conference goers.

For Mark, MAX was a chance to get a bird’s eye view of some amazing creative tools.  He reminds us that many artists have their head down working so ferociously to create compelling art and meet deadlines, that when they take a moment to look up, they see the creative landscape has changed around them.  The frustration lies when artists feel like they can't keep up with the technology side of the business.

"I thought Dimension was a cool program for packaging comps. I can see myself using Capture to find typefaces and create textures and patterns."

Illustrative designer Von Glitschka has been invited by Russell Brown, the creative director of Adobe, to speak in his three-day workshop the last few years.  This year Brown used Von's artwork as a promotional poster for the workshop.

Von Glitschka-Adobe MAX-Mad Max

Von's MAD MAX themed poster offers up inspiration for workshop attendees.  

After the conference, Von optimistically reported Adobe demonstrated greater sensitivity to legitimate criticism from professional users.  "I think they realize they can no longer ignore it because the competition is catching up fast and threatening their chokehold on the industry."  Recent new features in illustrator are not really blowing Von's hair back, but one add-on worth mentioning is "Puppet Warp" which allows users to twist and distort parts of their artwork.  He believes time will prove this feature is novel or indeed useful.  The big draw for attending the conference in Von's eyes was meeting other creatives and learning new methods.

“I Always come away ready to jump into it when I get home, so that alone makes it worth it for me."

How intelligent can something artificial really be?  Meg Hunt accepted an invitation to attend MAX as their guest after judging at Adobe's Creative Jam events in Portland. She saw a great opportunity to gain greater understanding of the creative community, learn more about Adobe's dense products, but also shake things up for herself.

Adobe MAX Speaker
Adobe MAX Speaker

Meg reported one of Adobe's main innovations focuses on automation and artificial intelligence to accelerate creatives' workflow.  Certainly, this could be beneficial for the technical application of a project, but it raises questions about the importance of experimentation, mistakes, play and the personal touch that can make work stand out in a crowded market.

"I wonder how similar things will wind up looking, and where happy accidents will take place.  I worry things will flatten out and styles will be very repetitive after a while.  I don't think I'll ever switch over to fully automating my work.  I think I need those surprises to keep things fresh."

Meg is excited however about using Adobe Dimension for mocking up 3D applications of her work, whether handmade or something to be pitched to a company. "I'll definitely be trying that one out!" she says.  

Overall the conference reminded us of technology itself --Extremely shiny and exciting, mostly useful and helpful, and a little bit full of itself.  The tools are audacious, but only in the hands of a truly skilled artist will they create something positively extraordinary.