I discovered Rachel Briggs’ WISEACRE labels entirely by accident on a trip to my local bottle store. The work jumped out at me immediately, in part due to its presentation, but mostly thanks to its character and uniqueness. Briggs brings a charming quality to label art that is sorely missing: washy inks, halftone screens, op-art patterns, Sendak-style creatures, all with a touch of classic illustration sensibility. She’s got quite a palette and range of styles.
The three I was immediately exposed to in an endcap display were all the same style and color palette – thick brush lines and monochromatic blues. Natuarally, I was delighted that one of them was a colloration with one of my favorite local breweries – Off Color Brewing.
Beer Labels Art: My favorite label you’ve done is Future Ancestor, and I’m a huge fan of Off Color Brewing. Can you tell me the story behind its conception?
Rachel Briggs: Yes! Whenever I’m working on an illustration for a brew for Wiseacre- they always give me the name and then we discuss possible ways of illustrative approach. Future Ancestor, in particular, was special, as I worked with the artist who illustrates for Off Color (Nikki Jarecki) on tag-teaming the design. Since both of our breweries have very distinct illustrative brands, we thought it would look cool to somehow blend them together. The process we followed was that Nikki drew her elements and sent them to me, and I pieced together the label. The Off Color Brewing mouse riding hovercrafts through a graveyard with ghost birds and tombstones? Yes please. Of course, the inclusion of Hanna Farm and Shotwell Candy in the mix, with Wiseacre and Off Color, really made this brew special.
BLA: What is your favorite label you’ve done so far for Wiseacre and why?
RB: Oh, this is a hard one. Can I name a few? I loved making the Tarasque can – the name of the brew and the story of the beast on the can is based off French mythology and is overall quite absurd. It was really fun to create. Most recently, I enjoyed switching up style a bit and approaching the illustration differently on the bottled brew Adjective Animal. I also just love the ol’ classic Tiny Bomb can. It was one of the first designs Wiseacre, and I worked together on.
BLA: How did you get started making labels for Wiseacre?
RB: I’ve known Kellan Bartosch (and Davin, really) for many years- Kellan and I went to high school together and eventually lived in Nashville at the same time for a while after college. We’ve just always stayed in touch- so when Kellan and Davin were scheming plans for the brewery a few years ago, we talked about working together on the artwork. It’s been fun to be a part of the process since the very beginning before there was any beer or building or anything!
From Wiseacre’s Kellan Bartosch: When looking for a label artist… we look for Rachel! We were familiar with her art from side projects she had going in Nashville. As a good friend, #1 fan of her art, and potential employer of her unique art + stylisms… it made for a perfect match. Not that working with your friends is without its own set of challenges, but the familiarity in personality was definitely huge. We know each other well, understand what the other thinks is cool or clever or funny… and what is silly or lame. We also know we art well enough where we can reference other items and have a very fast brainstorm session to blend new ideas with her expertise with a beer name and a finished design. It’s one of my favorite parts of WISEACRE – working with her, but ultimately being able to finish that conversation before hand with “We trust you completely and look forward to the finished product!” We do that every time and every time we are amazed with the results.
BLA: Do you have a list of labels you’ve done?
RB: I do- you can view almost all the brew posters here and here. Up-to-date, in the two years the brewery has been in operation, we’ve worked on 18 together, with a few more set to come out through the end of the year- so that list will be growing.
BLA: Where are you from and where did you learn to be an artist?
RB: I grew up in Memphis and have always been surrounded and encouraged in art. My family is very creative, my sisters are both artists, my grandmother was a painter- so again, it’s always been around me. I had a great art teacher in high school who was a mentor of sorts, and he really cultivated the idea of having art take on a larger role in my life. I moved to Nashville for college, where I grew my interests in working in small business and publishing. After college, I became an editorial designer, eventually art directing for seven years at American Songwriter magazine, before venturing out independently and designing at other publications. I moved to Chicago for a season and designed & illustrated at Time Out Chicago; and eventually found my way back to Nashville, where I am currently based.
BLA: What other art do you make? (I can see by your website you produce many different creative streams.)
RB: Outside of illustrations for Wiseacre, I do quite a bit of work in the music industry. I illustrate and design album art, tour posters, band merchandise, etc. I have also illustrated and designed backdrops for tours as well as live sets and animation shorts for music videos. Outside of the music industry, I work on branding for businesses, packaging for other products, editorial illustrations and more. I also make murals, and have a growing interest in becoming more involved in public art. Outside of commercial work, I paint and sculpt and am working on a few projects of my own, including art for a gallery show this fall and illustrations for two small-run books I hope to publish within the next year. I keep pretty busy, and I love all the projects I get to be involved with. Wiseacre definitely is one of my favorite clients and quite a big, meaningful part of my commercial illustration work.
BLA: How can your fans find you and your work? Can they buy your art?
RB: They can see some recent and older work at rachelbriggs.com, and there they can find a link to my Etsy store, where I sell prints and -sometimes- original pieces. I love to share process on whatever I’m currently working on via Instagram (my handle is @wiresandfires). Lastly, I have a tumblr where I sometimes showcase non-commercial work.