With Trinity Brewing Company's hippie-hip visual aesthetic, it's no surprise that new labelartist Kellie Farrell draws a lot of inspiration from jam bands like Widespread Panic, whose concert posters dot the walls of her apartment. But her professional background is a little left-field for the art she produces. The Kansas City, Kansas, native earned degrees at Kansas State University in graphic design and illustration, which she used to kick off a career in advertising.
"I'm always one of those people who tends to push myself a little harder than the rest of the pack," she says. "I was really lucky that early in my career I worked on a couple of big national accounts like Applebee's and Panera Bread."
After stints with auto marketers Graham Oleson, then Agilent Technologies and Chef's Catalog, she linked up with close friend Jason Yester, owner/brewer at Trinity Brewing Co., who was looking for a new label artist.
"He had shown me some of the stuff he was interested in such as Daniel Johnston, an illustrator," she says. After seeing her portfolio, Yester hired her last October, and she's been revamping the labels for Trinity's signature beers ever since, starting with new flagship One Ear Saison. When we spoke, she'd recently finished the design for Elektrick Cukumbahh cucumber saison, which won gold and bronze for field beer at the Great American Beer Fest in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
"We were at a meeting, and I drew this little character, and we're sitting there laughing about how it really feels like this electric cucumber," she says. "So then I take a template and lay it on my light board, then I sketch it how I see it in my head. I refine it a little bit with pencil, then I trace it in pen." The Elektrick Cukumbahh label is a mix of physical media, but Farrell assembles everything digitally. She paints a few watercolor washes to give the label the bright colors it needs. With all parts scanned in, she assembles the label in Photoshop.
So far, the gig has been good to her. Free of corporate offices, she's reconnecting with art for art's sake and redeveloping herself as a fine artist, even launching a new website, flyingterrapin.com, built from watercolors and line art, much like her Trinity labels.
"What I'm hoping is that I'll get the opportunity to be in front of the people that I'm doing art for, the customers that want to purchase and hang my art in their homes," she says. "I've spent so many years behind a computer screen. You lose touch with who's viewing your art."