Scott Severance was surprised to receive a phone call while working his day job at the local daily paper, especially a call bringing him one step closer to fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Alaskan Brewing Brand Manager Cindy Burchfield
stumbled upon Severance’s artwork at a Juneau print shop, Lemon Creek Digital, where a number of local artists have fine art prints made. The shop’s owner, David Riccio, told her about an up-and-coming artist who had recently completed a series of prints.
“I searched for him online and found his website,” Burchfield said. “We knew right away he had the artistic eye and digital skill set to produce imagery that would complement our current package images from accomplished artists like John Fehringer, Lauren Giusti and Tanna Peters.”
With his skills demonstrated, Severance created label art for Hop Turn IPA, a rotating seasonal release, and Kicker Session IPA, Alaskan Brewing’s newest year-round beer.
After sketching in pencil, Severance switches to Adobe Photoshop, which is not just photo editing software in his hands.
As much as possible, he treats painting digitally like painting on a canvas.
“Painting is painting. It’s about color and composition and lighting,” Severance said.
His goal in his art is to give the impression of traditional media, and the painterly effect achieved through tedious editing of each stroke in Photoshop does provide a depth and texture that much digital art lacks.
“I erase it out, shape it, feather it, change colors and lighting in just that stroke,” he described. ”A lot of
reworking goes into just a simple stroke.”
The perfect brush stroke in paint on canvas may not be possible digitally, but a perk of working digitally is that there’s no mistake that can’t be fixed and changes are simpler to make. It turned out to be helpful in creating the Kicker art, which began with a simple concept of a skiff with a small motor beached on a scenic Alaskan shoreline. Over time, many more elements were added.
“Scott has been great to work with and is understanding of the creative process we follow,” Burchfield said. “Scott took each change in stride to make the new package one our entire team was proud to buy, sell, drink and wear.”
Severance started painting digitally when he began
college in 2007 after completing his military service, though he has been drawing all his life. He knew he could create just about anything he could see in real life or his mind’s eye with a pen or pencil but going digital opened up new opportunities.
Admittedly, it wasn’t until after college that he found more time to develop his style.
“In college I spent more time learning about computers and programs than actually painting,” he said.
Once he found more time, he went through a phase of trying to paint several hours a day in an attempt at mastery — Malcolm Gladwell famously said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be truly great — 10,000 hours is a lot of hours. It would take nearly 14 years of two-hour-a-day practice with no breaks for weekends or vacations.
His current time management practices are much more reasonable. He found that taking a break and spending more time thinking about the craft gave him the perspective and distance needed to improve to where he is today.
“I spend lots of time just thinking about my art, not actually painting,” Severance said. “The clearer the picture in my head, the easier it is to do.”
He finds inspiration in Alaska’s scenery and wildlife, though when he’s making art on his own terms or with input from his kids, it often takes a turn for the fantastic, with vibrant colors, flying whales and moose swings.
“We like to draw silly stuff together,” Severance said. “I
sometimes paint things based on what crazy ideas we come up with together. A good example is the moose swing painting. …There are a few other characters that have not made the cut for the portfolio but were still fun, like a flying tiger hippo.”
Though he doesn’t expect his kids to choose art as a career, the one thing he hopes they learn from it is that “you usually don’t get it right the first time and that’s OK. Just keep at it and you will get better.”
The kids love seeing the finished product in the real world — especially if they’ve helped inspire it — and Severance definitely gets a kick out of it as well.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “I saw someone with a Hop Turn sweater on in the store and was like…”
He pumped his fist with a big grin.
With a day job and a bustling family, Severance said he doesn’t get to spend as much time creating art as he might like, but he’s making it work.
“The real trick for me and my limited time is finding that zone,” Severance said. “Where I can do something that I find interesting but not so far out of the box that no one understands what they are looking at.”
While a flying tiger hippo may not make it onto an Alaskan label, Severance is finding a niche for himself commercially and artistically. He’s getting nearer to living the dream — supporting his family with his art.