When looking at Lucas Gluesenkamp’s illustrations, he wants you to think of “the three E’s:” eerie, eldritch, and existential.
Drawing inspiration from animated films of the ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as artists Jean “Moebius” Giraud, Frank Frazetta, Ashley Wood, and J.M.W. Turner, the works of the Minneapolis illustrator deal in otherworldly and atmospheric landscapes that evoke a sense of clouded familiarity. He’ll construct the imagery, but as the viewer, you’ll have to fill in the blanks.
“The scariest monsters are the ones you never see. I try to think about it with that in mind,” Gluesenkamp reflects. “Show the shadows that the monster might live in, and let the viewer’s uncertainty and anxiety be the fuel for their interpretation of what that monster might be. There is an intrinsic power in not giving the viewer all the details. I don’t like to hold the viewer’s hand and walk them through the missing parts. Painting something into the composition is just as important as leaving other things out.”
Lucas graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, but considers himself to be “perpetually in school.” In 2013 he went back to further his education—this time for computer science at Metropolitan State University, though he discovered the creativity and curiosity of art was more gratifying than computational systems. “I got sick of banging my head against calculus textbooks,” he says. “I found myself still wanting to work professionally in a more visual medium.”
In early 2013, Gluesenkamp got the chance to create artwork and branding for a startup craft brewery. One of his former coworkers from his days at Northern Brewer, Garth Blomberg, passed Gluesenkamp’s name on to another former Northern Brewer employee, Joe Giambruno, who with Zac Carpenter opened Bad Weather Brewing. The founders tapped the artist to help bring their brand to life. Now, the brewery’s visual theme is inextricably tied to Gluesenkamp’s designs—from the art on labels of Hopcromancer, Ominous, and Sun Pillar, to the fantastical full-wall mural in their St. Paul taproom.
“I hadn’t worked on anything close to that size before,” Lucas recalls. “I more or less took how I would normally paint my smaller works and used larger brushes. It took about three months to finish.” The composition presents a scene of a vibrantly lit, yet misty golden-hued realm, where sturdy bines layer and tangle upon each other, and gigantic hops thrive. “I wanted to capture the sense of isolation and an alien-esque quality the story [H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”] had, only with a warmer palette and brewing-related imagery,” says Lucas.
For the future, he’s busy building his personal portfolio of dreamlike forests and psychedelic spacescapes, creating a board game, producing a “designer toy,” and developing a graphic novel.
Away from the illustrating table, he’s down-to-earth—a fly fisher who plays board games, practices his yo-yoing skills, and enjoys a beer or two. But otherworldly art is ever-present in his life. “There are always new things to learn or new projects to complete,” he says. “It’s stressful, but a good stress. The kind of stress that motivates you to keep going, and be better than you were.”