Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Garage Project Beer label: "Out of the Woods"

Out of the Woods, Garage Project

Garage Project has launched their new beer, "Out of the Woods", in collaboration with Cigar City Brewing, and it was such a thrill to be invited to be a part of it. The creative team at Garage Project were  awesome to work with. It's been a lengthy process to create the beer, which you can see more of by visiting their Instagram page @garageproject, #outofthewoods. It was such a surprise when the announcement popped up in my Instagram feed  yesterday, especially in light of the current complications with a second covid lockdown in New Zealand.

Final artwork for "Out of the Woods" beer label for Garage Project. by Toni Hartill


In this blog I share my process of creating the label, a year ago now, but so exciting to see it come to fruition. Goes without saying that I am looking forward to partaking in this new beer!


 The invitation


Back in May 2019 I received an invitation to be the artist for a new beer being developed by the small independent New Zealand brewery Garage Project. Yes, seriously, Garage Project!

My initial reaction was "Yeah right... as if!" I get so many scammy emails offering all sorts of opportunities and this seemed just way too good to be true so I let the email sit for a couple of days. When the email was followed up with a message through Instagram a couple of days later I thought... hmmm,,,, maybe this IS for real??

Next problem: timing. After communicating with the creative producer about deadlines, and as I was about to fly off to Spain for a month (sigh, a thing of the past) and as I had a very full schedule until about August last year, it was clear, the timing was not good. The thought of trying to whip something up in very limited time was not relished especially as I hadn't done this sort of project before. Everyone who's heard of Garage Project knows they are known for their amazing product labels AND they were about to release "The Art of Beer", a book on all the artists of their labels to date! No pressure! Actually, too much pressure! I thanked them for their very exciting invitation then declined the offer due to timing and flew off to sunnier climes... until...

Beer  and tapas in Segovia, Spain.

There I was in Segovia enjoying the history, the heat, and the odd beer, (and doing a bit of label research now that my interest had been piqued) when I received an email stating they were definitely still interested and the beer was going to be a slower brew so they would wait for me to return! Great!

Back in NZ I hit the ground running with final preparations for the "Forest has the Blues ~ Murmurings" exhibition, my Waiprint exhibition AND my selection into the Estuary Art Awards show. Crazy timing! Then, as soon as the final opening event was done and dusted I went straight to work on my label design.

I had only two and a half weeks (!) to present my concept then another 2 weeks to complete the artwork and deliver it to Wellington. They specifically wanted a carved lino design so it was a bit (loads) more complicated and time sensitive than designing something digitally. I had to carve and print multiple blocks, hoping it was all going to work  out and that I wasn't going to mess up one of the plates... gulp!


The brief was to create a label for a new beer called "Out of the Woods".
The beer is a collaboration between Garage Project and the American brewery Cigar City so the label needed to include both logos.
The label needed to communicate an earthiness of the NZ bush and include Rimu, Manuka and Totora trees as these are used in the brewing process for this beer.



After gathering assorted reference materials including photographing trees in the local park and supermarket beer shelves I sketched up some roughs using layers of tracing paper. As time was short I just had to choose a concept, go with it and hope they liked it. No time to dither.

 I initially worked on ideas for a full label which would wrap the bottle but the brief ended up being just for a front label. I had also thought I would make a one colour lino print but... well... of course I got bigger ideas and I found myself designing a 3 block print hence the multiple layers of tracing paper.

I was invited to carve the logos and the text as part of my design but with such a tight time frame I felt this added too much extra work and pressure so decided that I would present options for the text and logos to be added digitally.

Trialing font options

Samples & Concept

Next, I carved some mini-samples to test the range of mark making I would use and possible colour combos. I was still doubting my ability and worried that I wouldn't be able to deliver what I was suggesting with my concept sketch. Its one thing to draw something and then to carve it in relief is a whole OTHER thing.

Colour & mark making samples - Toni Hartill

Using a combination of scanned sketches and digital manipulation in Photoshop I put together a series of colour and font layers to present. 

One of several concept roughs - Toni Hartill

For my own peace of mind I also made an actual size label to test what it might look like on a bottle - to see how it would "read" in the round.


As soon as the concept was approved I flew into manic-carving-mode - for me a state of hyper  excitement tinged with the fear of messing up with a moment's distraction or a slip of the gouge.

1st Block


2nd Block

3rd Block

Testing & Proofing

 Once the blocks were all carved, then came the fine tuning: getting the colour balance correct, checking all the details, cleaning up any rough bits and setting up the press for registration.

Setting up my registration pins - Toni Hartill

 Colour mixing

 I always mix my own colours and so it is so important to mix enough ink for the entire edition yet so difficult to know how much is going to be enough.


Proofing "Out of the Woods" by Toni Hartill

Proofing "Out of the Woods" by Toni Hartill

 A mini edition & completed artwork

 As soon as I was happy with the proofs I prepared paper and set the press for printing a small edition of final prints for the final artwork. Having done all my testing and preparations this stage went very quickly and smoothly.

 As soon as the ink was dry I packaged up the artwork and sent it off! 
Whew, deadline accomplished!

Final artwork for "Out of the Woods" beer label for Garage Project. by Toni Hartill

Mock up of intended completed label by Toni Hartill

Documenting the Process

  I always aim to keep a good record of my process in any project so I can learn from my mistakes, build on my successes, push my skills in new directions and/or follow up on new inspirations.
I've written about how I keep a workshop journal in the past and would encourage anyone to make this a part of their normal studio practice. 

 What did I gain from doing this project?

I really enjoyed the challenge although I breathed much easier once I had accomplished the first lino block without mishap.
I had to push my mark-making skills to a new level to achieve the amount of detail I wanted in the image particularly in carving the fern. 
The experience of working to such a tight time frame has given me a new boost of confidence in my abilities which I have reminded myself of on numerous occasions since.

Also, I had something of an epiphany!
 During printing this in my original colourway, I realised that it is possible to ink up a single block with multiple colours, or to reprint a block inked in different areas to achieve multi-layers, colours and effects! Ha, who knew?! Well others obviously did but it is only through consistently working on pushing my skill level that I am able to think "up" to the next level.

Thanks to the many artists on Facebook, Instagram and in their blogs who share their techniques and processes enabling others to learn and develop and to share in return.

Experimental play following "epiphany"!

August 2020 Launch of the Beer

There was a delay in the launch of the beer due to some unexpected hitches, not least a global pandemic but eventually, amidst our second Covid-19 Lockdown here in Auckland, NZ, the beer was has been launched!