Limited Edition Artist Shirts by Rob Syers
Every year, we partner with a beer artist to create a limited edition tshirt inspired by the BeerHoptacular "Barrel Guy."
This year, our t-shirt looks a little…different. Sure, it’s still the same style, and still features an interpretation of our beer-slanging dude. But this year’s artist, Rob Syers, had a pretty straightforward vision in mind.
“I wanted it to have a big, goofy dog on it. I got that.”
So, this year our shirts have the funky feel of Three Floyds’ Gumballhead – and we couldn’t be more pumped about it.For the uninitiated and those just getting into the craft beer or Chicago scenes, it’s important to tell you a little bit more about Syers. He’s often imitated.
“I get a lot of drawing from kids.”
“Normally I get, ‘Oh, I thought Gumballhead was a dog.’ No. He’s a cat.”
And we are so lucky to have him.
“I didn’t choose craft beer life, it chose me,” Syers states. Now, we could get into a super pretentious discussion about the deepest, darkest meanings of his most easily recognizable work, but it’s much simpler than that.
“I make what I make because I want to make comic strips, paintings…how I’d like to see them,” he explains. He doesn’t think every piece of art should look the way he wants it to, but if he’s not making it, who would? He chooses the colors he chooses, “because I want them.” It’s a straightforward approach to art, and really, perhaps the most honest way to explain why someone does anything.
Even if you’re familiar with only a few iterations of a single character of his, the now-local favorite Gumballhead, you likely have a good feel for who he is as an artist, and maybe even as a person. It’s clear he takes his craft seriously – but not too seriously.
When trying to describe his creative process a little more in depth than just a desire to make things look the way he likes them, Syers describes his sketchbook as “a little laboratory” for what he’s working on.
Much of Syers’ process mirrors the brewing process. Someone starts with an idea of something they’d like to drink, and they build around that concept in their laboratory, whether it’s a homebrewer’s kitchen or a professional craft brewery.
How does he pick which idea gets to be built from scratch in his lab? Admittedly, Syers’ process might be a little bit different.
“I’ll pick the worst idea. I pick stuff you don’t make fine art out of,” Syers states plainly. Fair enough.
It’s not fine in the strictest sense of the word, perhaps, but it is pretty cool. That’s probably why he was a part of the Chicago music scene in the 1990s. In 1991, he provided artwork for a local noise rock band’s 45 and LPs. That’s how he connected with Nick at Three Floyds, who was a fan of the band and wanted to name a beer in tribute.
It wasn’t that simple, though. When Syers got that fateful email, he recalls, “I was in a slump…I was a hair away from deleting it.” Fortunately, he read it, Nick took him out for pizza and beer, and the rest is (basically) history.
“It’s a great relationship. I love working for them.”
And we love his unique, edgy and irreverent style so much that we needed to let him go to work on our logo. When you come to BeerHoptacular, you’ll want this t-shirt. Syers made sure it still looked like it was part of our legacy, with a heavy dose of his own.
“I changed some things. Instead of holding a cask or a beer barrel, he’s holding a big, aluminum can on his back…I used stuff from the skyline of Chicago. I just remember riding the train back and forth to work and school, and stuff.”
And it’s important to note, the “he” he’s describing is no longer a skeleton – but instead, a pug dog with a big, round, cartoon nose.
UNLIKE Gumballhead… Because Gumballhead is a cat. Have you been paying attention?
Anyway, don’t forget to get your tickets to the BeerHoptacular to get your paws, feline or otherwise, on one of these shirts. You’ll instantly up your beer cred, cool factor, and have a sweet collectible to talk about with strangers on the streets of Chicago for years to come.
Nicky Copland is a writer with a background in all things uncool, including stints working for insurance professionals, home inspectors, lawyers, and neurosurgeons (they were cool). She recently moved from Chicago to Indianapolis, where she lives with her husband, toddler, two cats, and a lot of anxiety. When she isn't wiping butts both literally and figuratively, she's enjoying beer, food, hockey, and sleep, occasionally.