Art-A-Whirl artists Adam Turman, Andy Kiekhafer, Brian Geihl & David Witt “DWITT” share their creative process.
These artists will debut original limited-edition prints for the upcoming Posters and Pints show. Tickets on sale here.
Clockwise from top-left: Adam Turman, Brian Geihlk, David Witt “DWITT” and Andy Kiekhafer.
How did you come to find yourself as one of the twin cities artist best known for beer-themed posters?
Adam: For me it was getting in early with Surly, right when they were very first starting out, asking to trade for free beer. You can’t do that any more, but it was for a party. One thing led to another. I was making art and having other people see it, especially in the beer community, which ultimately got me where I’m at today. It’s really about building network where starts at one place and spirals out from there.
Andy: Plain and simple. My love/hate relationship with screen printing and my love for craft/quality beer. I typically print with a beer or two within arms reach so it made sense to further combine the two to show my love for both.
Brian: I started making beer posters that weren’t necessary Minnesota-themed but people started seeing them more and more, particularly the “drink local” growler poster became popular at the same time many breweries and taprooms were popping up. People saw that and connected with a clean graphic that’s simple and to the point. People are into the local beer scene and that spring-boarded me into doing more beer art.
DWITT: Beer-themed posters go back to when I was living in a house with a bunch of guys in Minneapolis and we created a holiday every August named “International Canned Beer Month”. It’s 14 years old at this point. We pushed it hard for ten years which led to the attention of can brewers [breweries that can their beer]. That eventually grabbed Omar’s attention at Surly and led me to do the 2009 Surly Darkness bottle artwork. I also knew several Twin Cities PBR reps that sponsored events. I did beer-themed posters for those, and that led to working with Craig Drehmel, he’s given me tons of work and it’s awesome. It really kicked into overdrive when Joe and Mat from the Beer Dabbler called and said we want you to do our posters. Now I’m doing the covers for their publication the Growler. It’s very steady work, constantly about beer, doing my art for beer.
What’s your source of inspiration? Something we might see in your poster?
Adam: I tend to look at the local scene and ask myself: What are breweries doing? How are they making their beer? How are the people involved? What is the audience and what are they into? Are they into bicycles or beer or hops? Lately I’ve found interest on how breweries are actually making their beer. This ranges from how they are packaging and distributing to the actual vessels be it tulip or pint glasses. I’m also inspired by the aura of the taproom. No promises but you might see some of that in my piece.
Andy: Inspiration is drawn from many places. my favorite places to draw from are personal experience and my surroundings. Living in NE has no shortage of beer related encounters.
Brian: My piece is going to be less about the production of beer and more about the act of enjoying it. People might be camping, at a lake or a concert. In the past I’ve done a few beer-production related pieces, including glasses and vessels, so I want to try something new. I’m going to focus on the other side.
DWITT: I treat it like a gig poster where there’s text, usually a quote because I like those, blended with an image. It ties into my comic book background where I combined pictures and words into one piece. You’ll likely see some aspect of that in the poster I do; you might even see a Shakespeare quote.
Can you give us some insight into the Art-A-Whirl experience past and present?
Adam: My first experience was in the Northrop King Building about five years ago. I see a change where it’s becoming a thing to do, not a weekend just to see art, but also to enjoy the music, beer and food. To add those elements, for me, has been an improvement. Originally it was art-centric and now it’s whole atmosphere of fun. It’s more about the community and getting people out in North East. I’d like to think it’s helping the art community by getting more people to the actual venues. People, who wouldn’t normally go and see art, come out to the event and end up seeing art. So, I like seeing it graduate from one thing to another and I’m excited to see where Art-a-Whirl goes. Thanks for 612 Brew for hosting it and letting us be part of it.
Andy: Art-a-whirl was great this year. I know there’s some controversy about what it has become vs. what it once was. I was still able to hit up some studios and buy some awesome local art and attend some great music acts. Mostly, I just love watching the neighborhood come alive for three days!
Brian: This is my first Art-A-whirl and it’s been a lot of fun. 612 Brew has been a great facility for it. People have been coming to enjoy the beer and music combined with the nice weather this weekend. I’ve see a variety of visitors flowing through ranging from new to familiar faces I’ve seen at other shows. I’ve helped Adam in the past and to have the opportunity to sell my own artwork has been a great experience. Having people see my work for the first time has been a true highlight, the positive feedback gets me fired up to make more art. After this weekend I’m confident that I’m doing the right thing. Also, you really can’t beat the mix of music, art and beer. It’s a cool blend for sure.
DWITT: Last year was overwhelming because it was the first year I was a part of it. Tons of people flowed by constantly. It’s always cool when people see my work for the first time. I’m grateful for the hospitality of 612Brew who introducing me to the world of Art-A-Whirl and asked me to be a part of it. I’ve always been active in the Saint Paul art crawl, for the past twelve years, and it was a new experience to be part of the big northeast event. Now I want to be part of it every year, so it’s great that 612 had me back!
Can you shed light on the other mediums you’re exploring?
Adam: The process with murals is not so different from posters for me. It typically starts with a client, we try to get direction from them, but it’s art that’s specific for a customer. It’s still an illustrated piece, and it’s painted, but there’s a lot more design. With the paintings it’s challenging because I’m trying to make something that I like but my design and illustrative sensibilities always compete with my painter sensibilities. I’m always aiming for something that’s appealing, not only to myself, but also my audience. Painting is really cool, and fun, because I get to do what I want to do. With the Enjoy The Ride show all the piece were done very quickly (many were based off of friend’s Facebook photos) and I got to paint them without any client approvals. Murals are different, but I also like them, especially because they are huge and eye-catching.
Brian: I’ve been helping Adam with some of his murals over the past three years starting with the Butcher and the Boar mural. Back then he coached me through it, taught me how to cut an edge and how to fill colors. Over time we’ve improved our efficiency and communication working together. We’re both learning as we do these projects. Adam has been the guiding force with his designs, and finishing touches, but we go back-and-forth improving our technique all the time It’s really been fun for me to work on these pieces.
DWITT: I’m constantly trying new things and exploring with the mediums I’m familiar with. I bill myself as an all-purpose illustrator: I want to anything with everything. With the new Growler covers I’m only using acrylic painting, they aren’t ink and watercolor like the first 12 covers. I don’t want my work to get old or boring– I want it to be interesting to me and hopefully to other people too.
All proceeds from Posters and Pints are going to support Art Buddies (a nonprofit that pairs inner-city kids with creative mentors), what causes are you passionate about and how have you worked with charities?
Adam: I support bicycling culture. Some proceeds from the recent “Enjoy The Ride” show went to support Free Bikes 4 Kids. It was an obvious fit since 30 Days of Biking (also helping with the show) was working with Free Bikes 4 Kids. I like giving back to the local bicycle scene. Schools are another thing I love to support. When I do happen to donate prints it’s always for groups, ordinations and companies that I work directly with.
Andy: I’m all about clean water. I think its something a lot of folks take for granted, and sometimes I do as well. It’s kind of easy because here in MN we are surrounded by it. I just want to keep it clean and safe so generations down the line can enjoy it like we do. Oh, and let’s not forget, it’s the first ingredient in beer.
Brian: In the past I’ve been asked to donate prints to schools, AIGA and other organizations. Typically it’s for silent auctions where those proceeds go to kids, and schools, getting access to art supplies. I’m passionate exposing kids to the arts and proving them with resources to make art at an early age. It’s important, when people ask me to donate, to know it goes to the right cause.
Can you tell us about your arts education and how that led to making posters?
Andy: My art education is a BFA in graphic design from UW-Stout. And I luckily had the opportunity to head off to Hildesheim, Germany for one of my FIVE years in college. Turns out the school had a rad print shop and a really cool professor. I was hooked. I loved the process, I could use digital tools and use my hands as well.
DWITT: When I graduated from high school I wanted to be a comic book artist. I was involved in a small press comic book company in Detroit all through collage. While I tried different things, I was always into comics, but the press folded around the same time I was starting a band. When the band booked its first show, needed a poster, I volunteered. I soon realized I could it for other bands. That snowballed and over ten years I made over 500 posters before coming full circle back to the world of comic books. These days I have the attention of comic writers and as much work as I can draw.