I wasn’t exactly sure what I would write about the project that was the most lucrative and largest of my art career.
Perhaps I did not share much about my illustrations on this project because I had not a single good example of any of it. For many years, I either shot a slide of my artwork or I went to a copy shop. If I had a special painting, it was a major expense of time and money to have a professional transparency made from my art.
I can share that whenever I’m in a supermarket – I enjoy passing the shelves where I see many of my illustrations displayed!
My project for Beech-Nut consisted of many different “phases” and probably amounted to almost a hundred paintings. Each painting was a miniature; a cluster of items that later on might be repeated and combined with other items. Since this project was at the beginning of the “digital age,” there was the awareness of the advantage of painting parts that could be “attached” to other paintings.
I diligently gathered and shot my own photo reference for every illustration, even though sometimes the size relationships were uneven. I used a nearby one-hour photo and most of my photos were quite rough. I share some examples with my finished paintings below:
I have an extensive photo collection in my file cabinet torn from magazines. It was very helpful for many of the meat illustrations. I still don’t look at turkey drumsticks or lamb chops quite the same way anymore!
I shared a lot of my “photo-comp” reference with the art director. There were certainly a lot of possibilities for those chicken drumsticks and meat slabs. I spent a lot of time and money at my local copy store – everyone that worked there knew me well. I certainly appreciate the ability I have to now scan and create my layouts easily on my computer. Unfortunately, now I have no more illustration work because the Photoshop program eliminated the need for my illustrations!
Certainly, my working process became very streamlined and efficient with a project of this size. I did not hire any assistants and I loved working small. Technically, all of my paintings were done on watercolor paper. I used friskit to give clean, crisp edges to all of the elements.
Because the Beech-Nut project encompassed over two years, I became very close to the two art directors I worked with. Both of the art directors were named Thomas, so sometimes that became confusing. The agency, SBG Partners is no longer in business, as are most of the design firms I used to work with.
I gave an original painting to Thomas Bond on his fiftieth birthday, because I had worked with him for many years before Beech-Nut.
Barb, my San Francisco representative, often discussed a fabulous idea – someday I would fly up to San Francisco to meet them; we would all go sailing. That never did happen, but it would have been nice.
Barb made things go very smoothly, as she usually did. One of the things that was so impressive, was how easily she was able to get deposits. In no other time in my career was I ever able to bill for something ahead of time. It was truly helpful to have money coming in as I worked on so many illustrations.
One of the more interesting parts of this project was when I was able to convince the client and art directors that I could paint an “impressionistic landscape,” which would be used on all of their fruit juice labels. I had already illustrated the juice pitcher and fruit; however, the background landscape was a very different style.
It was a lot of fun for me to create something different, and I did many “comps” first to show them different possibilities.
Ten years after doing Beech-Nut, a small company asked for an illustration of pea pods similar to the one I did for Beechnut. The company name was “Munchkin Meals.” Below is an example of a digital version of my paintings. I don’t believe the company ever got off the ground and my painting was never printed. Just to show how my career changed, I was willing to do that illustration for $300. I worked with two moms locally, and wanted to help them as they started their new business.
When I illustrated all those paintings for Beechnut, the price for almost all of them was $1,500 each. The Toddler food was around $2,000-$2,500 each.
When I did the toddler food later on for Beech-Nut, it was challenging. I had to design a pattern for each bowl and I disliked painting perfect ellipses. However, the worst part was rendering the product. I don’t want to say anything negative about the food, but similar to my “Quick Meal” project – it wasn’t easy rendering chunky mixtures in a beige color!