For this issue’s Artist Profile, we catch up with Jeff Nelson, a local beer artist (and aspiring elephant portraitist).
By Joseph Alton
The Growler: How would you explain yourself to someone you have never met?
Jeff Nelson: Suspiciously.
G: How did you get into beer art?
JN: I used to customize cardboard Hamm’s coasters at my grandparents’ resort bar and leave them for customers. The Hamm’s bear always looked better with a Fu Manchu, bowler hat, and horn-rimmed glasses.
G: What motivates and inspires your work?
JN: I always need to be making something. It’s not quite an obsession but it’s close. If I leave the house without pencil and paper, I get fidgety. As far as artistic inspiration goes, I gravitate towards anything that is hand-drawn, excessively ornate, and busy. Victorian medicine labels, Italian fruit wrappers, stock certificates, medieval manuscripts—these are the things that get me excited.
G: Preferred media?
JN: Pen, ink, pencil, chalk, and watercolors.
G: What work do you most enjoy?
JN: I love hammering out first drafts with clients and getting them excited about what I’m going to make for them. The hours spent alone hunched over paper listening to audiobooks of presidential biographies are admittedly pretty fun as well.
G: How has your art changed over time?
JN: It was a defining moment when typography and I fell in love. One day I was looking at just plain letters and the next, they were these beautiful shapes, open to my every suggestion. If that sounds unwholesome, I apologize.