A Wine Label’s Tale; An Adventure in Illustration

I’ve always found it interesting how a finished product develops from a sketch through the lengthy and often tedious collaboration between graphic designer, client and illustrator. On the heels of that, inevitably comes the conclusion of; “Why the hell would anyone want to be an illustrator?” And… “Are you nutz?

Anyway, late last summer I worked on a label (Poor Bob’s) for Robert Hall Vineyards, (Paso Robles, CA.) Through the development of this project, as with most wine labels, a great many changes took place. I spoke to the marketing guy. The idea here is a sort of Bartles & Jaymes, porch-potato character, whose continence is, dignified, twinkly-eyed and with an earthy, old-timey, modest style of dress… but not too modest… hey, we don’t want him to look… well you know, “poor.” Heavens, no!
This was the first sketch (I posed for it but added a beard, glasses and about 15-20 years and used my friend’s dog “Fin” as a sidekick. They liked the idea of the dog but didn’t care for that particular one and thought the guy was good… but too Colonel Sandy. I agreed and felt much the same way but didn’t say.

This was the second sketch. I never got a chance to show it though, as a meeting had taken place between the owner and marketing department and the direction for the label had changed.
Bummer… I really liked this one too. I used my friend Richard as the model and again, changed the face. I drew the Bloodhound from reference photos (Sorry Fin).

The elements now were; An old tractor, an old barn and an old vineyard. I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for a quick vector-like image. Hoping they might get the hint and move in a sort of ‘wood-cut’ direction; that could be fun and iconic… a sort of Aaron Copland, Fanfare for the Common Wine kinda-thing. Anyway, either it wasn’t wood-cutty enough or was too much of a departure from the pencil, I got my hand slapped for it.

This one followed. “That’s, ah, better” but it’s not quite right… is it? Oh, no, no, no… I was just kidding with this one.

Nope. Don’t like the fat guy… don’t like the vineyard either but… the tractor’s pretty close! Say, whadya think you are, an illustrator? What’s with the wagon wheel on the side of the barn? Lose it!

Done! How’s this? Better but the tractor’s too small, maybe bring it up in front of the barn.

Like this? Yeah… kinda but hate the barn now and can we see the tractor and the vineyard at a different angle?

Like this? Tractor’s perfect! Vineyard’s OK. Still hate the barn… The client would like to see one of those raised-roof, barns… and how ’bout curved lettering on the sign, too?

Maybe this? Yeah. but at an angle and less ram-shackled. Remember, not too modest.

That’s it… That’s it! But we want it in color. Oh, and ah, lose the vineyard.

And voila! That, ‘ladies an joims’ is how we do it in California.  My initial response in seeing the final layout was “Hoo Doggie! I wanna ‘git me some ‘O dat Dust Bowl Red.” The bottom line is that you make clients happy and get paid for doing what you love… And ‘dat ain’t so bad. Even if you get dragged through the mud sometimes.

Anyway, I hear the wine is slated for east coast distribution. If anybody out there’s seen it… or bought it, let me know.

By the way, this is my first attempt at blogging, so be gentle with me.


About johnhodapp

Artist and illustrator; A visual problem solver whose diverse portfolio speaks louder of capability than any one distinctive style.
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8 Responses to A Wine Label’s Tale; An Adventure in Illustration

  1. Mandy Masciarelli says:

    Love it John, too funny!! After the hell we go through it is good to laugh about it later! Cant wait to see what you write about WitchCraft.

    • johnhodapp says:

      Boy, you know it. I guess it’s just the price we pay for living the dream. Ha haaaa! All kidding aside, I think Witch Craft will look great in both our portfolios.

  2. Danyelle says:

    I think it is great I love it. I’ll forward it to a friend.

  3. Sharon Rosenbaum says:

    Hi John,

    Danyelle forwarded this blog to me and I thank her for doing so. The work is terrific and I’d like to talk to you about a project I have in mind, but don’t know how to reach you directly. If you’re taking on new projects, please let me know.

    No matter where this goes, I love your work.

    Sharon (Wine Insiders)

  4. Bob Dollahite says:

    Really would like to order a case or two of Poor Bobs
    Please let me know how
    Thank you

    • johnhodapp says:

      Wish I could help you there but I’ve never even seen the bottle on the shelves, let alone tasted it. I was told by the designer, that “Grocery Outlet” in California, carries it. I’ve tried here in Washington but so far, no luck. I’ll look into it and see if I can’t find it for you.

  5. Geez John, I didn’t know you had moved to Washington. Thought you were still “down home”. I am in Oregon, Next time I’m in Portland I’ll wave at you. Stephanie, (McKinsey)

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