I’m catching up with my email after a painful tooth extraction and I found a note from my friend, Michael, who ran the Boston Marathon for the second time this year to raise money for Children’s Hospital. I’ve known Michael since we were kids, so last year when he sent out an invitation to a cribbage tournament he was hosting to raise money for the marathon, I was more than happy to sign up. I did well, considering I’m not a very good cribbage player, and won first place in the consolation round, making me “best of the losers.” I display the trophy proudly.
This year, Michael asked again that I participate, but he also asked about a donation of Clown Shoes beer for the basket raffle. Between the folks at Clown Shoes and me, we were able to assemble this pretty gnarly beer bucket of awesome.
Tim, another friend I’ve known since grade school, came down to the tournament deliberately to buy lots of raffle tickets and put them all in for the Clown Shoes prize. It was no surprise when he won, but a little bit of surprise when we realized he had walked to the event and had to carry the thing home! Always the team player, I drove him and the enormous bucket o’ beer home, I think he owes me a pint next time we’re out.
Again, I didn’t win the tournament, but it was great to see old friends, we were all there to support Michael and his charity, and according to the email I finally read this morning, he raised close to $10,000 for Children’s Hospital Boston!
Of course, if you have the energy to run the Boston Marathon in almost 90 degree heat, you don’t sit on your laurels when it’s over. Now Michael is taking part in the Best Buddies Challenge, a 100 mile bike ride from the JFK Library to Hyannisport, MA to raise money for Best Buddies, a non-profit organization whose mission is to creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual disabilities.
I’m pretty sure a bucket of beer would be little use and a heavy burden for a 100 mile bike ride, so in addition to sponsoring Michael, I’m giving him a little shout out. He’s committed to raising $1450 for the organization, and his fund raising page is here, support him if you can, thank you.
I have been, SOOOOO very busy with the latest Clown Shoes labels that I have neglected this blog entirely. There is no excuse, really. Oh, yes, I have to pay the rent and feed the kid, that IS a good excuse! But I’m taking a moment to rest my carpal tunnel and share with you my latest masterpiece.
This new label, completed a few weeks ago, celebrates the my hometown, the Hub of the Universe, the birthplace of the Revolution, a place where sports are religion and beer is our sacramental wine, Boston. It’s also a place where we have trouble with pronouncing certain consonants, thus, the name, Supa Hero IPA.
As you see, our hero, Captain Masshole, flies over the Charles River and past a number of Boston landmarks, in his trademark trackpants and Clown Shoes, beer in one hand, fists at the ready, much like many of our local boys. Originally, the Captain had a chinstrap beard and a little goatee chin action, but unfortunately that made him look like pretty much every guy we know who drinks Clown Shoes Beer, so we gave him a shave and a haircut so he could stand out from the crowd.
The second label is in the works now, Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer. Let it be said, Clown Shoes is the perfect client for pushing me outside my comfort zones. I don’t like horror. I just don’t. I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I like The Lost Boys, but after that, you’re going to give me nightmares. And don’t suggest Twilight, I won’t put you down for liking it, but it’s not my cup of twinkly, virgin tea.
So I’ve been watching a lot of Vampire movies for reference, I am unhappy about this, I am not sleeping well. The good news is the art should be completed this week and then I’m going to see the Muppet Movie as a happy chaser to this bloody cocktail!
And that’s what I’ve been up to lately while I neglect this blog. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Last night, my friend, Cathie, invited me and my son to join her and her daughter for the Sox vs. Jays game at Fenway. We had amazing seats, first base line, 7th row, you could almost touch the players, it was too much fun.
About halfway through the 4th inning my phone started buzzing with Facebook posts and text messages all related to this article on Boston.com. The post was referring to a kerfluffle on Beer Advocate in which a contributor to the site launched a full out rant aimed at my client, Clown Shoes Beer, and their sexist, racist labels. The diatribe resulted in a 350 comment thread in which people both agreed with the original post or defended Clown Shoes’ right to be, well, clownshoes. It also included a comment in which the original poster quoted me out of context and made it seem like I agree with her. The thread was locked before I got home from the game, leaving me with no opportunity to defend myself.
So, this is my response to the question, “Are Clown Shoes’ labels offensive?” Sure. Why not? Offensive is a subjective term. If you look at the labels and find yourself offended, there you go. Do you have the right to say so? Abso-friggin-lutely! Shout it from the highest mountain, or your Twitter account, or your brothers’ website, whatever your bullhorn is, use it, loud and proud. Here, let me loan you a sandwich board and a bell, you can be offended Town-Crier style, I got your back.
I get it. There are things that offend me. For instance, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding of lyrics, I cannot listen to Sublime’s Wrong Way without getting offended. Politicians who proudly misunderstand the basic facts of American History offend me—mostly because they’re too lazy or stubborn to find out the right answers and correct themselves. Those ASPCA commercials with Sarah McLaughlin offend me because they always run them in the middle of South Park, or Tosh.O and then I feel guilty for laughing when we come back from commercial. So, if someone looks at the illustrations I’ve done for Clown Shoes and finds them somewhat distasteful, then you go on with your bad self and be put out. It’s your right.
My labels for Clown Shoes—which were named Best Craft Beer Art of 2011 by PourCurator.com—are not illustrated with a sexist intent. For instance, a Tramp Stamp is a tattoo placed on the lower back of a woman to emphasize her sexuality. In Germany, they call it, Arschgeweih, meaning, “Ass Antlers.” Can you imagine if we had named a beer Ass Antlers!? We have nicknames for these tattoos because they have a purpose. The woman who has one is confident in her sexuality and she is enticing the viewer to appreciate her. A woman who is comfortable in her own skin and likes how she looks is a sexy woman. Sexy is not sexist. In fact, sexist is rarely sexy.
Brown Angel is a mix between pin-up girl, Blaxploitation goddess, and hip-hop diva. She was inspired by Pam Grier in Coffy, and Rosie Perez dancing to Fight The Power in the opening of Do The Right Thing. These are powerful women, not victims, and just because they have ethnicity, doesn’t mean the label is racist any more than appreciating a Bettie Page pin-up makes one a white supremacist. As a woman, and an artist, I have a hard time with either of these images being labeled chauvinistic. Chauvinism is an attitude of superiority over the opposite sex. I’m not designing woman who are inferior, I’m designing women who celebrate who they are. So, who is bringing the inferiority? The viewer? The offended? It’s a complicated question.
Finally, and this one made me guffaw, I mean seriously spit take—Clown Shoes Lubrication. Why is Lubrication offensive? Well, first, we’ve got the name. It’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s having some fun, but the label copy pulls it all together, “Lube? Hey, get your mind out of the gutter. Social lubrication, people coming together to unwind, is what we’re talking about.” This is not a dirty joke for the sake of being dirty. Lubrication is an American Black Ale, dark as oil, but at only 6% ABV it’s one of Clown Shoes’ first sessionable beers. The social lubrication marketing gives you an idea what you’re getting in the bottle.
Second, the illustration is apparently offensive because of the placement of the gas nozzle. Next time you fill your tank, take note of how high you hold the nozzle, I’m guessing it’s not up by your belly button unless you drive a Hummer. Apparently, our critics saw not a dispenser of fuel, but a “dong.” Yes, their words, not mine. I went to art school. I was taught to say, “phallic symbol.”
Now, let me tell you, when I designed this I was inspired by Ed Ruscha’s gas station paintings, 1950’s sci-fi robots, and by those old Texaco commercials with the jaunty hats and ties. That’s it. You get your car lubed at the service station and a tin-man requires lubrication, it works both ways. The client actually wanted to go sans-illustration for this beer, but I convinced him that it would be inconsistent with the brand and that I had a great idea! Never in my wildest imagination did I think this label would inspire such vitriol! But when you have dong on the brain, you see dong wherever you go, I guess. Ironically, robots don’t even have sex that way, there’s a lot more welding and screaming of 0s and 1s.*
So, there you go. If you find your way to my website because I illustrated some beer labels that started a tiny tempest, you will see that I put a lot of thought and research into offending people and selling beer. I also design yearbooks for elementary schools and websites for stores your mom would probably like. I appreciate this opportunity to respond to my critics and I encourage you all to drink good beer with a sense of humor and an open mind.
I am tired. Tired of being admired… sorry, watched Blazing Saddles the other day. Actually, I’m tired from staying up late to watch the Bruins kick some Canuck butt last night. Very sorry if you’re Canadian. I was born in Canada, I like Canadians, but truth be told, the Bruins deserved to win.
Yeah, I said it. If there was karma at play, then it was wearing black and yellow. Trash talk, thuggish behavior and soccer-style theatrics can get you to the playoffs, but if you want to win, you should shut your mouth and play the game.
One of my favorite quotes is from artist Chuck Close, “Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work.” I’ve got it on a sticky note on my desk for those days when I am staring at the blank page, overwhelmed. I can’t say that every time I fight through the inertia and write something or design something that it’s brilliant. Quite often it’s crap. But crap is fertilizer for beautiful things, right?
Building this site this week has forced me to go through years of work, PDFs, printed pieces, illustrations, some photography, trying to figure out what to showcase here. Day to day it doesn’t feel like I accomplish much, sometimes it’s all busy work and invoices, but spreading five years of my life on a desk and taking it all in, I’m amazed how it all adds up.
Bruins’ goalie, Timmy Thomas, is a great example of that ethos. He wasn’t always a star player, he put in a lot of time playing for minor league teams, playing in Europe, trying to find his place in hockey. He was 28 before he was signed to the NHL, an old man by hockey standards. But he kept showing up, he just got to work. And last night, at 37, he was the oldest man to ever win the Conn Smythe trophy for Stanley Cup series MVP.
Talk is cheap. Persistence pays. Time to get to work.