The Miller Lite Holiday Village is a large dimensional stand-up I painted as a point-of-purchase display for the Molson Coors Brewing Company to promote Miller Lite beer. It was roughly four feet long and three feet tall with blinking LED lights. It stood on two large candy cane striped poles with cases of Miller Lite beer beneath it.
I landed the assignment through an ad I placed in an illustrators source guide. There's a long-standing conception that if you show an illustration of a cow, you will get a job illustrating cows but maybe not a horse. Show an illustration of Halloween and you will get jobs illustrating pumpkins, ghosts, and Frankenstein. The illustration I showed was a painting of a Halloween ghost I had done specifically for the ad. I figured I'd get jobs illustrating spooky monsters. The funny thing is, the ad agency and the client liked that I did holiday themed art, even though it wasn't Christmas. They also liked my painting style. So, I guess if you show holiday illustrations you'll get jobs illustrating holiday scenes. Any holiday scenes! Well, that's what happened me and I was surprised as anyone.
I painted the display in six sections using acrylic paint. If I were to do this today, I would probably paint it about half the size I did (shipping it off to the agency was quite a challenge.) It was the first time I had worked on such a large scale advertising assignment. It also led to me being interviewed and featured in the trade book Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market as the subject of their "Insider Report". I believe the display was successful as it was used for two consecutive years. I never saw it in a store, but I finally found one at a large beer distributor a year later and was able to buy one. Sadly, it was lost in one of my many moves. If anyone ever sees it, let me know. I keep looking online, but have yet to find it.
How PEZ sparked a romance and ended up in the Getty Gallery at the Los Angeles Central Library.
This was my first job for candy manufacturer, PEZ. It was a major commission and I was thrilled for a number of reasons. One, well, it's PEZ. Who wouldn't want to make art for this iconic candy company? Two, it was the first time I illustrated a candy package. And three, it was pretty much the catalyst which created a friendship that led to marriage.
I have to go back to 1975. I was a kid growing up in Sayre, Pennsylvania. A very small town near Upstate New York. There was a store called Jordan's News Stand. It was also the bus stop and the place to buy candy, Wacky Packages, and rubber monsters. Of all the candies I bought there, and there were a lot, Nice Mice by Stark Confections was one that carved itself into my memories. All throughout the 80s and 90s I had looked for it.
When the internet thing happened, I searched online, hoping just to find a picture of it. Then one day, it happened! There it was, in The Candy Wrapper Museum, a newly launched website for showcasing the candy collection of Darlene Waddington. As it turns out, Nice Mice was the first piece she had collected in 1975 when she thought of creating her museum in Los Angeles, California, the same year I was buying the candy 3,000 miles away. Of course I had to write to her.
We exchanged pleasant emails and things were nice and professional. Then, I get an email from PEZ asking if I would be interested in working on the new Holiday packaging. I was so excited! When I had the art done, I emailed Darlene a screenshot of it, figuring she would write back right away. I heard nothing for almost two months. Well, I guessed she wasn't impressed. Little did I know (or Darlene), my email got sucked into her spam folder! Good for me, because she felt so guilty, we started writing to each other more seriously. Over a year of sending emails, then a couple phone calls, and now we're happily married for almost 14 years!
Selected pieces from Darlene's candy wrapper collection (along with Holiday PEZ) are now part of a major art exhibit — 21 Collections: Every Object Has a Story at The Getty Gallery in Los Angeles' Central Library. The thesis of the exhibition is that personal collections create stories of our world that traditional history has not told. It was an honor for Darlene's collection to not only be included, but to be the first one selected. However, more importantly, Nice Mice and Darlene now reside in my house. Not a bad deal!
You can visit The Candy Wrapper Museum here.
I produce illustrations and creative idea solutions for toys, packaging, publishing and advertising.
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