THE ART OF SCOTT SEVERANCE
BY CLARA MILLER
Capital City Weekly
This January, Husky IPA, a spring seasonal brew by the Alaskan Brewing Co., will be released to 18 states, and along with it, the labels featuring the art of Scott Severance. This is his third label he has made for the brewery — the other two are Hop Turn IPA and Kicker Session IPA.
Severance is a Juneau artist who has been drawing since childhood, and holds a degree with a major in game art and design. The brewery labels are his first, big commercial work.
He began getting work in early 2015 when he was working for the Juneau Empire and some of his artwork — along with Juneau Empire photographer Michael Penn’s — went on display at the Capital City Weekly’s old downtown location. He had his work printed at Lemon Creek Digital. Owner David Riccio took note and mentioned him to the brewery, which was seeking a fresh look for its 30th anniversary and new brews.
“It turned out that hiding in the online advertising department at the Juneau Empire was a tremendous digital artist and illustrator,” said Cindy Burchfield, the brand manager of Alaskan Brewing Company. (Severance now works for the State of Alaska.)
For the labels, the first thing he creates is a thumbnail of the image he wants. “You’re trying to frame the shot,” he explained. “I’m not trying to do anything correctly, just trying to see what is going on … I’m trying to get a broad idea of how it should look.”
Next he draws images based off references for a realistic look.
That’s when the company makes its pick, he said. Once he hears back, he begins coloring and selecting lighting, conferring with Alaskan Brewing all the while. All of his digital art is done through Photoshop, he said.
“There are a lot of challenges bringing someone else’s vision into fruition instead of your own — there’s a lot of back and forth,” Severance said. Much of that back and forth focuses on increasing detail.
The Hop Turn label, for example, shows a skier going down a sharp slope kicking up powder with other, equally impressive peaks in the background.
“The hop turn is a technique in skiing that you do,” Severance explained. The technique is for off-piste slopes that are too narrow for large arcing turns, such as on chutes and gullies.
The next label was the Kicker, which Severance said went quickly. He was asked to create a red skiff on a Southeast Alaska island, with a cabin somewhere.
“By some quirk of fate, the composition I made ended up looking like some cabin – Shelter Island Cabin?” he asked with a laugh. “I’ve had so many people say that to me ‘Oh, it’s Shelter Island.’ I’m still not sure how that happened. I went out and found references, and maybe I saw a photo of Shelter Island Cabin and subconsciously that stuck and I laid out the composition to look like Shelter Island.”
His latest label, the Husky IPA, was a lot of fun, he said. Brewery executives knew they wanted a husky without a harness or sled, but the vision for the huskey wasn’t clear yet.
“They let me come up with a few ideas,” he said, and came up with three to four compositions of huskies from different angles, poses and background for the brewery to choose from. One had a husky in a hero pose on top of rock, another with three huskies running up a hill at the camera with a valley in the background, and then one more with three huskies running up a hill but at a different angle.
“What they ended up doing was dropping two of the huskies and picked their favorite pose out of all the different huskies that I drew, and then I took the one with their preferred backdrop and mashed them together,” Severance said.
“Our designs are inspired by our crew and their lives in Alaska,” Burchfield said. “Our labels say Alaskan and that’s who they represent — Alaskans.”
Severance couldn’t give an exact hour count on how long each label took since he works art around his full time State of Alaska job and home life. He sneaks in his art where he can, by the hour or by the minute. When Severance is not working on commissioned work he is busy working on personal projects – and he’s got quite a few lined up.
He is currently working on wall art, one of Sandy Beach, another of Eaglecrest and then a stylized husky portrait, all of which he plans to have done in the near future with prints for sale. Once he has a few more of Juneau done, he wants to find a time and place to display his work during one of the gallery walks along with some of his more fantastical/science fiction inspired work.
If you check out his portfolio of his work online at scott-severance.com, you’ll find images like a whale swimming through a forest, a moose pushing a tiny bear on a swing, and one situated from the perspective of the wetlands, tentacles descending onto downtown and Douglas Island from a stormy, albeit typical, Juneau sky.
Other projects he has in the works includes a children’s book featuring a feisty Viking child, and sequential and key frame art for visual novels. The details are still under wraps for the children’s book, Severance said, since his writer-friend is still drafting the book; for the sequential, visual books, the completion date is also far off since the three different stories need time to be rounded out by the writer.
If it sounds like a lot of projects, it is.
One of Severance’s most recent art revelations has been to push forward with more projects than he thought possible. If he stalls or hits a wall, he just turns his attention to another for a time, and so far, it’s working.
“I have been extremely productive as of late with no real down time trying to figure out ‘what’s next’ in between paintings and projects,” Severance said. “When I sit down to work I always know what I am going to do and this has helped tremendously. The concept of artist block has mostly faded into oblivion.”
• Contact reporter Clara Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.