Although Clown Shoes doesn’t have their own physical brewing facility they certainly have made a name for themselves in the past six years with their interesting beers with playful names and vibrant packaging artwork.
“Our mission is to produce beer without pretension while being free and a little crazy.”
With names like Porcine Unidragon, Muffin Top, Breakfast Exorcism, and Josh the Revelator, their brews can’t help but to be noticed on store shelves.
FUN FACT: Clown Shoes Beer (Burlington, Massachusetts) is contract brewed at Mercury Brewing Co. in Ipswich, MA.
I had the pleasure of meeting Clown Shoes Beer illustrator, Michael Axt, on Twitter a few months back. And, he kindly granted me an interview so I could delve into the fascinating and creative world of beer packaging design.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ILLUSTRATING?
MA: I have been drawing my whole life. For awhile, I worked a regular job and did freelance illustration work on the side. But it’s been a full-time career for the past six years.
WHERE DID YOU GO TO COLLEGE & WHAT WAS YOUR MAJOR?
MA: I attended the Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia where I studied Sequential Art (fancy words for Comic Book Art). I took a class on Childrens Book Illustration from MASS ART in Boston and recently got a certificate in Front-End Web Development & Design from UMASS.
WHEN DID YOU START WORKING FOR CLOWN SHOES BEER?
MA: In March of 2013, I did my first label for Clown Shoes (Crunkle Sam) as a freelancer. I did 2 more in that capacity before coming on as a full-time employee handling all label art and any graphic design needs for the brewery.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
MA: I gain the most inspiration from my lifelong love of comic books and fantasy/sci-fi literature.
These days it is really easy to follow great artists on social media. For instance, I’ve connected with a variety of movie and video game concept artists. I am constantly inspired by Magic The Gathering. I’ve never even played the game but the art is incredible.
WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
MA: The creative process for the labels starts one of two ways:
1) Gregg Berman, owner of Clown Shoes, gives me a name and a very specific idea of what he wants.
2) Or, he gives me a name and asks me to come up with some ideas to present him. I generally do 4 rough sketches (mock-ups) for Gregg to consider. That helps to narrow down which creative direction we’ll take the label art.
Once a direction is chosen, I start putting together a pool of reference photos to help in the sketching process. Since our label art is mostly made up of persons in motion, it’s helpful to have images of people posed in a similar way to the action scene we’re creating.
Next, I rough sketch the whole label which becomes the base for the final line-work drawn in either Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator using a Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid Tablet (aka high-tech sketch pad).
Once the line-work is fine-tuned and finalized, I start digitally painting the scene to bring all the elements to life.
I then make a custom title graphic that includes the beer name. The specific colors and typefaces that I use have to complement the artwork and mesh with the tone of the beer name.
The finished artwork is then brought into Adobe InDesign where the beer description, government warning and other mandatory verbiage is added to the label.
FUN FACT: The Clown Shoes team, had a hard time choosing which direction to go with from the 4 Evil Crawfish mockups. Michael preferred the wanted poster version but the rest of the team gravitated toward the martial arts pose since the label is a play on an old beer that was released called “Eagle Claw Fist”. After much discussion, a compromise was agreed upon. Michael would move forward with the wanted poster theme and the character on the poster would have the martial arts pose. There’s always a creative solution!
JUST FOR FUN. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BEER STYLE?
MA: Barrel-Aged Stouts.
TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT YOURSELF
- I was born in Philadelphia
- Then I moved to Georgia at age 18 for school.
- Currently, I live in western Massachusetts with my wife and 2 daughters (ages 4 and 7). My 7 year old wore only pink and purple skirts up until about 6 months ago when she took a sharp turn for the nerdy like her dad. Now she wears Batman shirts with Spider-Man sneakers.
- Penny, my 2 year old Labrador mix, is featured on the label for The Peace That Money Can’t Buy.
- I love video games and always will.
- I’ve read The Wheel of Time series 3 times and the Dark Tower series twice.
- I am an audio book junkie. I listen to them while I work. Audible.com FTW.
- I get way too excited for comic book movies.
- I’ve been told I look like House M.D. Someone on Untappd actually thought we got Hugh Laurie to pose for the Fistful of Unidragons label released in Texas (I am on both Texas only released beers).
- I once passed out on an airplane and my wife got free drinks for it. No lie!
MORE CLOWN SHOES LABEL ART GOODNESS
Here are some of my personal favorites that Michael has created. I mean, I’m a sucker for mango beer and fast cars, how could I NOT pick these. And, everyone knows me for my red hair. So “red hair girls” on beer labels always win in my book.
(Follow Me On: Twitter & Untappd: @dzyngrl | Instagram: @dzyngrl14)