the blur between


Tag: design

Flying Tiger Brewery

So for a long time now, I’ve been working on a commercial project, an ongoing project that I wasn’t including on this blog. In fact, that project was keeping me off this blog due to the secrecy of it. Secret because I didn’t want to reveal the designs until the company had a chance to do it first. Well now the work is everywhere so finally, here I am to talk about it and show off some of the work. It’s for Flying Tiger Brewery in Monroe, LA. I designed their logo, their beer cans, and some social media and swag along the way.

By the way, nowhere in this long post am i going into any detail about what a flying tiger is or was, or what historical significance the plane and the pilots hold – suffice it to say, they made a difference and one outstanding man has ties to the region where the brewery is located, hence the name – alas, this isn’t a history blog. If you want more insight, there’s wikipedia.

The logo. Here’s the original “approved” logo…


The shark-mouth-circle, based upon the traditional flying tiger nose design, was supposed to go along with the word mark as a secondary image to make up the logo.


It’s a cool, little illustration and while we still use it here and there (shirts, hats), it ended up not being the final logo. Nope, the final logo happened as I was designing a possible sticker or coaster to add to their collection of goods. But once the powers-that-be saw it, they preferred it over mr. shark mouth and the rest is history. And here we are…


See how the propeller cuts into the red circle? Originally it cut into the letters too but that just didn’t translate well. Also, the original design had blasts of fire near the 2 guns (barely visible) on the wings, but somewhere along the way those were removed. But the real meat of this project is the can designs. I had never designed anything for cans before and began the project without realizing there are certain limitations within the medium. Which is a good thing, limitations are anti-creative.

I knew i wanted to give the cans some common elements other than colors so the stripes were implemented early on; they changed shape and color a time or two but remained until the very end. Also, from nearly the very beginning, I thought of using different “characters” to represent different beer styles/flavors. And while this idea also stood the test of time, the characters themselves changed radically.

The following are a few preliminary attempts/roughs, including the original sketch for Mr. Heroic Hops himself when he was single (and also before he grew his exquisite facial hair). While we figured out what look we wanted to give the cans, things naturally evolved and developed, essentially creating the look of the company. Enjoy.


One of my favorite flavors to work on was the Burma Blonde. But while i was figuring out the look, somewhere along the way i should’ve zigged instead of zagged or something and i produced this homely specimen:


Yea, i’m not sure what happened there. But then when i was finding my footing again, i over-rotated and went a little too far on the sex-appeal meter. Exhibit A:


I like her.

But they thought her face was a little too cartoony. And when compared to the other designs, it is. So you’ll see below that her look is a little more realistic and her shirt is a little less revealing.

I want to mention the dots real quick. I was using dots, or a halftone pattern, or both, a lot on the first designs. It reminded me of old news print, which i thought reflected the era i was going for somehow – but due to color limitations, those were eventually lost.


Above is the final burma blonde design in all her glory, with her Indian motorcycle and white as a ghost complexion (color limitations and all, i’m hoping to add a little pigment once we put her on a shirt).

And here are the other two:



And here’s the Nitro Bomb Milk, along with the illustration before all the bells and whistles were added:




The nitro bomb has yet to actually be printed (and it may not as a nitrogenized beer is hard to replicate in a can i’m told) which is why the design looks so much different than the other three. I never got to the point of finalizing it for the manufacture’s specifications.

There’s also a fifth design that i’m very proud of featuring a tank. I’m not including it here because it’s yet to be printed. Hopefully it will see the light of day because next to the nitro design, it’s my favorite.

Now that i understand the methodology a little better regarding ink on cans, i would probably do things a little differently. But with that said, i’m very happy with the outcome. And luckily, the beer is fantastic. It would suck to have my designs on a product i didn’t care for. If you’re in the Monroe area, check out the brewery. I can’t recommend the nitro bomb enough… so good.

And i would be remiss not to thank Rob Brewer and James Simpson for coming to me with this project in the first place. Thanks guys. You have a stellar product, I hope you enjoy the designs as much as i enjoy the beer… probably depends on how many i’ve had… moving on.

On a side note, because i feel the need to mention it – there are several band posters that follow this post -I did those when i just needed to take a mental break from the Flying Tiger stuff. If you feel the need to continue reading after all this, you’ll see them below. I designed each of those with some rules in place – the first being that i had to use the same color scheme, and the second is that i only gave myself an hour for each. Why rules? I don’t know. Maybe i liked the challenge. Maybe i’m lazy and an hour was all i was willing to give to a non-paying project. Do we have to question everything?

Thanks for reading.


Alrighty, new piece. A true mixed bag of ideas and mediums, which honestly is something i was trying to get away from as my ideas tend to go in a direction away from those with disposable incomes… alas, it’s hard to get away from who you are. Let’s take a moment and reflect on the wisdom of my words.

So as i mentioned on the last post, i’ve been trying to pursue my fine art in much the way i pursue my commercial work. Which is, i want to create pieces that people actually want to purchase without sacrificing my own style to get there. Am i selling out? Hell yes. Through my own observations, this meant creating pieces where the meaning was not quite so abstract, something more broad. Or even without meaning, something just pretty. Pretty is good right? What could be wrong with pretty? Point is, i find that most art buyers aren’t so interested in big ideas as much as they are work that just looks dope in their living rooms or kitchens. And i’m okay with that as long as i can inject the work with something that makes it uniquely mine. And it should be noted that i’m not knocking this art-buying mindset. I have a similar mindset when it comes to music – i just want something i can get down to, i don’t want to decipher the lyrics or learn about the bass player’s political interests.

However… that approach to making art… well, turns out it’s not easy.

So this piece, it’s not that. This piece is for those that want to ponder my choices for all eternity. For those that need to see something new every time they look at it. For those that want a conversation starter as much as they want to tie the room together. My people. Bask:


There are ideas in this thing that go from nautical to criminal, i’d rather not go into the specifics. Why spoil it? Here are some detail shots that are closer to actual size, ’round 80%. The painting is 48 X36 inches. Enjoy:

struggle_detail3 struggle_detail1 struggle_detail2So this badboy will be on display at the next gallery crawl, still a month away, where i’ll also be selling copies of my book.

Hopefully i’ll see some of you fine folks there. Until then… thanks for reading.

Getting it done without money and models

That could be a rap song.

I don’t show much of the commercial work i do on this site anymore. I don’t know, for a while i think i felt that it somehow compromised the integrity of the fine art that i do. I prefer fine-art. There’s no compromise in it and it’s an expression of me and not a paying client. But considering i haven’t done any fine-art in over a year, i look at that perspective now with some distance and it feels somewhat pretentious and silly. Anything i create is a reflection of me, if not in concept, in style – and more often than not, even with freelance, commercial gigs, I give my 2 cents worth. Anyway, all that is just a lead up to something i thought i would show you fine people. It’s a book jacket I designed a few months back. I’m proud of it but that’s not really why i want to show it here. Instead i thought i would use this as a tutorial in how to design when the concept requires location scouting, models, photographers, props, all that, but when there’s no budget (or time) for any of it.

So with this job, the client had very specific suggestions and ideas for what he wanted. Too specific. I run into this a lot in advertising (my day job). Clients know the ingredients they want but don’t have the knowledge, experience or foresight to envision whether these ingredients can or should work together in the end. So after whittling down the grand scheme to focus more on the central tone that the client wished to project – things got easier – but not much. He wanted to show a 50’s era diner, with 50’s era cars and kids, including a fighter jet flying over – all this in addition to the book’s title, which is quite a mouthful: “Real American French Fries in Dickesview, TX or How To Kill A Pumpkin.” See?

No problem. Only it’s not the 1950’s and I have no budget to find models or cars or the location itself. Enter google images. But wait… it’s not that easy. As an artist, I don’t want to steal photographs and repurpose them for my own work. So the trick is to just take a piece here, and a piece there and to stylize to a degree that it’s unrecognizable from the original. But that’s no easy trick. First, angles and perspectives have to match. This is where i’m going to start peppering this post with images that I pulled off the web that would make the final composite. First I needed the diner.


But the author of this book, my client, had invented this diner within his narrative – it wasn’t an actual place. So with that in mind, i didn’t want to use an actual diner, i wanted to construct one myself. But i’m no architect. The above diner worked well because it’s obviously not in use anymore.  It’s like how i feel better about putting “public art” on an abandoned building versus somebody’s storefront. Whatever. In the end, i connected the side of a completely different diner to it to create my own original structure.

Next, cars. This got tricky because, as i mentioned above, now that i had a diner with a specific perspective, the cars had to match or things would look wonky. Also, adding to the difficulty, the client asked for certain models. Here we go:


By now, i began to cut out the pieces i wanted and compile everything into a photoshop composite. Let me back up for one second – normally when someone comes to me for work, whether it’s fine-art or commercial, they are familiar with my work or familiar with something i’ve done, hence the reason they looked me up in the first place. I use this to my advantage by working in the style that got them to contact me. For example, if someone is a fan of my stencil work – that’s the angle i use; if someone likes my more conceptual work and style isn’t a factor, then i start by using my time to come up with an idea and that idea will usually dictate the style; and so on. But this client got my name from a relative of mine (what up, Jeff) and i’m fairly certain he was unaware of my work before contacting me. So while this is freeing from a creative perspective, it also ramps up the difficulty level because it gives me too many tools to choose from. But if i can work strictly within the computer from beginning to end, that’s what i’m going to do because the level of control and ease of which i can make revisions trumps any organic methodology that may be limited. So that’s what i did.

Now i needed my cool, 50’s teenagers.



By the way, if by some miracle of chance, the owner of one of these photographs is reading this blog – i hope your’e okay with me using it here. And if not, let me know and i’ll take it down. End disclaimer.

I can’t find the final composite that i used after the client made revisions. But this composite shows how i used all the above photos (and more) to create a unique image that i then redrew, getting even further away from the original photos.


As you can see, the diner is called Frosty’s Burger Heaven. The client wanted an American Flag in the background (or either i put it there because of the book’s title – i can’t remember). After using the above as the foundation to my illustration, the client requested that i add more kids and lose the guy in the suit. Oh, and the jet:

Lockheed F-104G

That exact jet was another specific request from the client. Happy to oblige.

So after toying with various color combinations and font treatments and various other design options – the final result goes a little something like this:


DFW is the author in case you couldn’t figure that out.

Before, i said that this is a book jacket. That’s actually not true. It’s just the cover, designed strictly for the digital market – think Kindle. However, when i started the design, i laid it out as a true, paper book, complete with front and back… cause i knew it would be easier to crop the cover now than try to redesign it with a back in case the need ever arose one day. Did that make sense? Anyway, here’s how i intend the design to work if it’s ever published as an actual book. The space on the back is for a possible photo and blurb about the author and/or a synopsis of the story. I’ll have to increase the width to include a spine (a big one considering the book is over 500 pages) if that day ever comes.


That’s it. Thanks for taking the time. – jbn


The problem with getting prepared for my solo show so far in advance – december 5th here in monroe, plug, plug – is that it leaves me with too much time… idle hands and all that. My brain doesn’t turn off it’s creative impulses. I have several ideas at the moment that may in fact make it into the show – a show i was planning on hanging this weekend… might have to put that off a week… i digress.

In the past, i’ve done work for bands or artists that i like, non-commissioned stuff, just in the hopes that the work could lead to real work. This is actually successful more often than you would think. Maybe because of mutual respect. Maybe because the bands i like are usually independent with small budgets and therefore love doing business with other independents (myself) that don’t charge an arm and a leg. Maybe it’s just serendipity. So, i’ll design a piece, send it to them and wait… like a vulture… and more often than not, i’ll get an email and we’ll end up collaborating somehow. And if not, i still got to exercise the creative demon that was chewing on me and now the artist in question knows they have a fan and that can’t be bad thing, right?  So I’ve been wanting to do something for rap collective, Doomtree, or more specifically P.O.S., for some time now. I’ve been a fan of his for years and frequently listen to his music when i paint. Recently he’s released a couple new joints so i thought the time was right to do something.

So, one night when i didn’t have any freelance to work on (a rare and glorious thing), i spent a couple of hours and put this together:


I think it came out pretty good. The words in the foreground say, ” Bolt cutter, box cutter, brick,” a verse from one of his songs that always gets stuck in my head. I wasn’t worried so much about it being legible – those with any interest will know.

Most of this was done in illustrator. Finished it out in photoshop because i thought i would put some photo-style flourishes in it but i really didn’t . There’s some photography in the background and some rastered images but nothing i couldn’t have just placed in illustrator. This entire paragraph is only for the graphic nerds. Here’s a detail:


That photo of the girl in the background looks way more explicit than it actually is. So Mom, if you’re reading, she’s actually licking her own knee – still, it’s provocative and that’s the point. There’s a photo of some riot cops in there too but it’s cropped out.

So that’s that. Maybe the P.O.S. camp will give me a shout. If not, it was a fun piece to do and gave me something new to post.  I have one final painting (probably) thats included in my show that i’ve yet to post, so i’ll be doing that soon … then hopefully I’ll get started on that other project i eluded to some weeks ago. I think i gotta get this show done and out of my system before i can move on to something big. Stay tuned. And thanks for reading. – jbn

UPDATE – I typed all of the above last week but never posted it because when i write these posts, it’s like a stream of consciousness sorta thing and i like to go back and edit – which i never got around to doing – so it sat in limbo… but in the meantime i got an email from P.O.S., the man himself. He was complimentary and thanked me for the design. So that was very cool.


So i found the following image online and really liked it. The mask, the running, the reality, all so urgent, dangerous and visceral. Plus, rebellion is a great thing to capture in art i think.

rioterLet me digress for a second. I found this science-project-style, wooden, display board in a dumpster at a school about a year ago, maybe longer. It was fairly large, three panels, complete with hinges. I dug it out of the dumpster and it’s been sitting in my studio ever since. For my upcoming show, i couldn’t justify spending any more money on canvases – for all intensive purposes, art has yet to pay so i cut corners where i can… so i decided to take off the hinges and try to use the pieces of board as canvases once an idea struck. Took a long time for an idea to strike that worked within the shape of the boards. And in that time, one of the boards got damaged, i used another one to test colors on, but luckily the third survived and now we have this…

filigree_riotIt’s pretty long, maybe 5 feet… 4 at least. I should measure these things before i do these posts.

I went through a spell where i was using a filigree pattern all the time. It reminds me of fancy wallpaper that you would find in a luxurious hotel or something, so I liked the imbalance of using it within my crude and sometimes ghetto-influenced paintings. Juxtaposition, that’s the word. Anyway, filigree in full force in the background. Originally i was going to put them in the “smoke” too, using a different color combination but I got to a point where that felt like a design decision and not an artistic one. People that live in both worlds as i do probably struggle with the difference. The blur between.

filigree_riot_detailAnother design change that happened sort of on the fly was the color i used for the rioter. I had always intended to use the unpainted wood as his “fill” but i was going to do the detail work in black. However, once i finished the background, it seemed like black would be too much. I didn’t want to draw the eye to the figure any more than his position on the canvas and his difference in color already would. I didn’t want the background to be just a background.

filigree_riot_detail2That shot is a bit blurry, sorry. But you can see the wood grain and some small nails that go up the middle. It’s not a thick piece of wood. The whole thing is fairly light actually. The edges are rough. I’ve already gotten a couple splinters handling it. Maybe i’ll knock the price down for any potential buyer to help pay for bandaids.

Only a couple more paintings to go before i jump on another project that’s very dear to me. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading. – jbn

Moira Red

So… this may be the longest i’ve ever worked on a single project. Not that the project itself was all that time-consuming – there were just several delays, additions and unforeseeable issues that would sometimes bring everything to a halt… or at least a lengthy pause. Which is fine; check cleared and all is well… (thanks Greg), but as an artist who normally works within a certain self-imposed momentum, I found myself losing optimism. I felt like this thing was never going to live. The thing in question is a package design for a Shreveport, LA band that goes by the name, Moira Red. I believe they made some shirts and other swag with my work on it too, i’ve yet to see… but i digress. Point is, the design is alive and well… in fact, the band is having their release party this weekend i think.  Doubtful I’ll be making that, fellas – wife and kiddies need me around more than you do. I’ll be there in spirit.

The design itself is intricate in a way that i’ve never worked before, at least not for somebody else. A common thread runs between all the illustrations and (i assume) the songs; a story of which the lyricist has a much better understanding than I, still I tried to take this abstract plot and give it a visual. I won’t go into detail about the story, i would just mess it up, but it seems to be about the duality of man. It has a dark, supernatural vibe, that matches the music (which has a metal, Faith No More style vibe). Here’s the cover (sans the band logo which I removed for this post, in fact, i removed all the text as well as cropped some of the images for the purpose of this post).


I’m not terribly sure what the female figure represents. Pretty sure she’s the victim. I need to stop speculating. I did the whole thing in illustrator. The detailed and distressed background made the file quite large and laborious to work with – every time i would save it, i could go make a sandwich or something. Here’s another panel:


I like the wolf. If you follow this blog, you know i have a slight interest in Red Riding Hood lore – so I’ve done my fair share of wolf illustrations, this one came out better than i expected after first reading what the band wanted (we mostly exchanged ideas via email). I was worried that drawing an actual heart wouldn’t work in only a single color in my stencil style – but i think it came out well… effective.

And here is my favorite illustration from the design. No real reason for it being my favorite other than i enjoy illustrating faces and i think it came out well. I like the red eye and how it ties together with the wolf. This illustration is cropped and is actually much wider on the actual piece, taking 2 panels. The fold is in the middle where the color divides.


That’s it I guess. I designed a couple more panels as well as the CD face but I guess i should leave some mystery for those that buy the music.

Thanks to my cousin Whitney for the hook-up with the band, hope you guys have a great cd release and huge success (think of me in the future). I’ll be back with a new painting next week. Thanks for reading. – jbn


My latest.

And no, it’s not really titled “pants on fire,” … well, probably not. I have to wonder if my international-readers will even understand that. Is “liar, liar, pants on fire” a global expression? Is that something i should google? I’m getting off topic. I do that. Here it is. Bask.


I know what you’re thinking. Something like… “What?”

I get that a lot.

So, like most of my paintings, this began as a photo composite in the computer. Not sure when, how or why the idea came to me about a giant grasshopper clinging onto a little girl, but it did… the hurdle was trying to figure out the meaning behind the idea. Or at least a way to GIVE the idea meaning. So after a few days, with the image lodged in my head, and perhaps after watching some Disney movies with my boy… it dawned on me… that’s not a grasshopper, it’s a cricket, as in Jiminy. The girl wasn’t frightened, she was ashamed… and perhaps she had only been a “real” girl for a short time. You see where i’m going with all this?

Normally, if there’s a cryptic message within my paintings, i’d rather not explain them – but this one is somewhat humorous to me so I thought i would just lay it out there. Besides, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We could analyze this one all day – women are liars, your conscience is a huge weight on your back, bugs are creepy, all that.

Here’s a close shot from the side.


The background is predominantly turquoise as you can see but there are bits of blue and metallic copper in there. When i placed the stencil of the girl on there, or maybe it was the critter, i had neglected to let my paint dry (i shouldn’t use the word “neglect” – i’m just impatient – i knew what i was doing) so when i removed it, paint came off with it – this was good – gave it a distressed vibe that i liked and continued to do elsewhere on the piece. Happy semi-accidents.

Like all the pieces I’ll be posting in the coming months, this will be on display at my solo show this December at UPSTAIRS in Monroe, LA. I’m hoping to get some fine artists reps to the show… if anyone’s connected…

So that’s that. Next week, rockabilly chick drinking coffee with LL Cool J.


Thanks for reading. – j




P R I C E L I S T 

Making art is expensive and time consuming. I should just end my post right there and never come back.

It’s time for me to resurface though. I haven’t put paint to canvas in over a year. Been holding my breath for various reasons… necessary reasons… like not wanting to drown… but i can see the shore now and it’s full of inspiration and ideas. But the thing about inspiration – needs funding. So in my attempt to resurrect a part of myself that lost a fight to responsibility, I’m having a big sale on my work.

My goal was never to make money at this game. Hell, I wouldn’t have become an artist if it were. No, the point is to fund the next thing. And although i’m not positive what the next thing will be, i’m ready to get to it. So my loyal readers, here you will find a pricelist to all the work that i have available. Everything on this list is priced significantly lower than i asked originally. Worth is a relative and subjective thing. Again, the goal is to simply fund the next creative outlet which will hopefully fund the one after that. Some (most) of the work on this list i hate to part with at these prices, alas what i hate more is to not part with them at all. They were not created for me after all. The process, that part is for me.

So have a look. Maybe something will strike you. Maybe you’ll see something that you wanted before but couldn’t afford  – may be within reach now. Regardless, thanks for looking.


The Discarded Instruments Concept

The title for this post doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue does it? Alas, that was my idea for concept #2 for Liz Murray’s album cover. For the first attempt, I tried to convey my ideas over the phone to get approval before starting. For this one, the concept wasn’t much of a concept. All the strength of the image was in the execution and not so much the idea itself. I knew this and decided to work it up before ever mentioning the idea to Liz or her team. Luckily it paid off. She likes it. They like it. All is good with the world.

If you read the previous post, you know why I needed to do a second version. Basically the first one just didn’t compliment Liz’s sound the way it needed to. I think this one does.

I do a lot of photo-manipulation in my advertising gig but normally stick to illustration for most of my freelance work. The reason being is that advertising runs at the speed of money and rarely do I have time to do a proper illustration for a client without that time running head to head with another assignment. Understandably, clients would rather get a good piece on time than a great piece late. Anyway, it was fun doing a photo-illustration without my usual confines. I rarely take on freelance gigs that involve compromise. I figure if the client chose to seek me out, they want my personal spin on the project. Agency work is a bit different since the clients don’t usually know my work personally. Totally getting off topic. Here’s a shot of the cover design, isolated without the text elements:

I know, crows always find their way into my work. I’ve accepted it.

I think the image is peaceful. Might put it on canvas or something. I don’t know. I say that more often that I actually do it. Did you know the T is silent in “often?” Oh, you did? Yea, me too.

Bout to start working on a big piece. Has a gorilla in it. And airplanes. I’ll try to document it as I go. Until then…

The Girl with the Chair

Been a long time since I posted anything. I hit a nice creative stride a few months back; gotta few pieces out of it… but I got winded it would seem. Haven’t been in a fine-art making mood as of late. However, i have had a couple freelance, commercial gigs that have kept the juices flowing. One of which I shall share with you fine people now.

I have been commissioned to do an album cover for local singer, Liz Murray, whose album drops early next year. I’m currently in the middle of  version 2 of said album cover. The first version, while liked, didn’t really convey the vibe of the music. But I like the piece. And I plan on making a small print out of it. So I thought i would show it off here first.

Since it was designed to work as the front and back of a digipack single fold, it’s a long narrow design – and for my own purposes (since it won’t be used for the album anymore), I’ve made it even longer. Panoramic style. See…

The idea of a person, specifically a young girl, alone in this vastness with nothing but a chair was an interesting concept to me. Not sure I can explain why. Initially, that wasn’t supposed to be blood she was walking in – it was supposed to be ladybugs – but while that idea rocked in my head, i couldn’t get it to rock on the screen. So now it’s blood. Whatever. And the chair… I knew from the start i wanted the chair to be very different from everything else – tone, style, execution, etc. – all very different from the color palette and surroundings. Again, this idea was intriguing to me although I cant honestly say what it means.

Here’s a shot of the girl and the chair (which rests dead center) at 100%…

Took a while to draw that darn chair. Thanks go out to my friend, Jenifer Parker, for posing for me. She’s posed for me before. She’s willing, does what i ask, and doesn’t question how she looks or the end result… a perfect subject. Thanks again; sorry they’re not using it but if i get it printed, I’ll definitely show it at the gallery and I’ll get you a copy.

I’ll post version 2 later this week. It’s very different from this one. I like it a lot.

Thanks for reading.