Friday, May 27, 2016

A Week of National Park Hopping

As busy creative professionals, we need to slow down, get out of the studio and immerse ourselves in natural beauty from time to time. Cultivating a few moments of beauty each day keeps me centered and creative. But every now and then I hit the wall, and my creativity starts to dwindle. The cure for creative block is a dose of awe and wonder—and the best way to supercharge my creative batteries is to take an adventure into a State Park or a trek to a National Park. As an American, I am so blessed to live in a country where there are amazing natural wonders within a short drive or flight from almost anywhere.

Since I have been focused on National Parks travel poster art in recent years, I have tried to carve out time for visits to as many parks as possible. I traveled to Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier National Parks with my son Nathan, who worked with me to produce and publish our 59 Illustrated National Parks book. Last summer, my wife Patty and I took turns driving a borrowed RV to take our whole family on a tour of the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon and the Petrified Forest. And last week, I took a trip with my sons David and Benji (who are also both artists) to experience the wonders of a few breath-taking parks in Colorado and Utah. I have been working intensely for 4 months to expand our National Parks series with a whole bunch of new poster art, a new coloring book, a collection of puzzles, and a new series of illustrated maps. After all that work, I really needed a break, and I couldn't wait to take some time off to celebrate David's graduation from Watkins School of Art, Design & Film with Benij by planning a bro-dacious dude trip out West for the three of us. 

My oldest son Nathan (age 25) is an expert at planning trips. Several months ago, he worked out the itinerary for this adventure, knowing that he would not be able to join us since he and his wife are expecting a baby. Benji (age 20) and David (age 22) were excited about a week of adventure in the mountains and deserts. Here is a re-cap of our adventure...

Day 1: We took a 6:00 am flight from Nashville to Denver and arrived at 8:45 am to a drizzle and some thick fog. We rented an SUV and after a huge pancake breakfast, we drove to Colorado Springs where we spent the afternoon exploring the Garden of the Gods State Park. Easy hikes around funky rock formations got us warmed up for the National Parks we would be visiting in the days to come. We slept in a bunkhouse in the Garden of the Gods RV Park. It was a small step above tent camping, and we slept in our clothes, since we had failed to pack sleeping bags, pillows or sheets.

Day 2: We headed to Great Sand Dunes National Park. When we arrived, a cold front was blasting through the mountain pass creating a sand storm so severe, we could not keep our eyes open as we attempted to climb the mighty dunes. The wind sandblasted our skin as the dunes shifted like angry moaning ghosts obscuring the epic snow-capped mountains that normally stood as a pristine backdrop to Great Sand Dunes National Park. The wind was calm enough at the base of the dunes for some picture-taking, but higher up, it was impossible to see and difficult to breath. Nature beat us into submission. After taking a few reference and Facebook photos, we retired wet and sandy to our room at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge to rest up for another attempt at scaling the dunes the next day. My son David was the artist who created our Great Sand Dunes poster, so I had him pose with our book open to his poster.

Day 3: The weather on Wednesday morning was drizzly, but much better without the strong winds. So we climbed up the dunes for about 40 minutes to get a better view—it was thrilling, but the summit of each dune revealed a valley and an even bigger dune ahead. Trudging uphill on the soft sand was as challenging as hiking in snow. We only had time to go about 1/4 of the way to the top of the dunes. Even from there, the views were fantastic. We wished we would have rented sand sleds to slide down the sand dunes. But this short trip was a scouting expedition to make plans for a longer adventure in the future—and next time we will come prepared for some epic sand sledding!

After a morning at the dunes, we packed up and headed for Mesa Verde National Park to see the ancient cliff dwellings once inhabited by ingenious Native Americans. We discovered at the Visitor Center that everything in Mesa Verde is a 30-60 minute drive over winding, cliff-hugging roads—many without guard rails. The views are spectacular, and the twisty roads are great for making passengers car-sick! After a 40-minute drive to Far View Lodge, we checked into our room. Once we were settled, we drove to a parking area and hiked around the canyon. After our hike, we feasted on burgers at the Far View Lodge cafeteria. Then we returned to our room, we poured the sand out of our boots, and showered off the layer of Colorado that each of us wore like a spray-on tan. We were dog-tired and we slept like kings.

Day 4: Thursday morning brought us sunshine for the first time on our trip. We took a guided tour of some cliff dwellings and marveled at exhibits in the museums. After scratching the surface of Mesa Verde, we packed up to drive to Moab, Utah, which would be our headquarters for the next 3 days of park-hopping.

Moab is a hip little town, nestled between Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park. We've never seen such a concentration of adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, hikers, bikers, and climbers. There is so much to do and see in the area, we soon realized we would need to come back many more times to experience everything the place has to offer. After checking into the Bowen Motel, we headed out to Dead Horse Point State Park to catch a sunset. The view of the canyons and mesas in the painted desert below was spectacular. We watched the sun go down on another perfect day, and we drove in pitch darkness back to Moab. 

Day 5: On Friday, we rose early to explore Arches National Park for the day. Arches is a big park with one main road running up through the middle. There are only 2 places to fill up on water—the Visitor Center at the base, and the Devil’s Garden at the top of the road. The National Parks Service recommends taking a gallon of water per person, but we didn't catch that bit of advice until mid-day after we had gone through all of our water and Gatorade. Up to that point, we had seen the giant Double Arch, several crazy balanced rocks and an array of exotic arches and Road Runner cartoon-like rock formations. We had explored about half of the park, saving the Delicate Arch for last, since it is the most iconic landmark we wanted to see. Rather than risk dehydration, one of the causes of death in most National Parks, we drove all the way up to Devil’s Garden to refill all of our bottles. Near the restrooms we saw a sign that said “Here lies Peter—he only drank one liter.”

We hiked the Devil’s Garden, saw the amazing Landscape Arch, and then stopped at a few other spots on our way to the Delicate Arch. The hike to the arch was all uphill, but totally worth the effort! After watching the evening sun sink over the red rocks, we headed back to Moab satisfied that we had experienced another epic American vista with a crowd of awestruck people from all over the world.

Day 6: We had a dilemma—this was our last day, and we knew we did not have time to explore much of the massive  Canyonlands National Park. The guys had heard of a bizarre State Park called Goblin Valley which looked like a set from Star Trek or Ernest Scared Stupid. We just had to go and see it, even though it was an hour and 45 minutes from Moab. It was worth the trip—we had never seen so many crazy natural shapes—like statues of aliens gathered for a conference about how to take over Planet Earth. We felt like the rocks were watching us. It was creepy, thrilling, and just plain awesome.

On our way back from Goblin Valley, we ventured into the edge of Canyonlands National Park to catch a sunset in the Island in the Sky area. We were once again blown away by the daily masterpiece painted across the sky and landscape by the Almighty. We enjoyed a picnic dinner with a few other adventurous souls and reflected on our travels. As soon as the sun set in the West, the moon rose over the trees in the East. It was another perfect ending to another amazing day!

Day 7: We checked out of our motel and drove back to Denver through the mountains on I-70. The drive was beautiful, and while we were exhausted, we were brimming with inspiration, great memories, having relished a joyful connection with nature and each other. Each of us came back refreshed and ready to create.

Here is a look at all the new stuff we have been working on for the last several months. (This is why I needed to take a break and get recharged!)

Deluxe 72-page National Parks Coloring Book—Our intern Derek Anderson (not actually related) worked with staff artist Aaron Johnson to redraw 59 of our National Parks posters plus 5 animal posters to be coloring pages. We laid out the book with 8 full-color pages filled with reference images of our poster art and produced the whole book on gallery-grade paper. The coloring book is being printed now and will start shipping on June 22. You can pre-order your copy now on our site.

Deluxe 500-Piece National Parks Jigsaw Puzzles—Our friend Susan Taylor licensed our art to put on her awesome puzzles. Her company TrueSouth Puzzle Co. is selling these lovely puzzles all over the USA. We saw them for sale in several of the National Parks Visitor Centers on our trip! You can buy these awesome puzzles on our site.

New Posters Featuring Kai Carpenter Oil Paintings—Our buddy Kai Carpenter works for us out of his studio in Seattle, painting beautiful pictures that give our poster collections and books a whole different look and feel. He is a modern-day master, and our prints featuring his art are also available on our site.

New National Parks Map Prints—We have started a series of maps that are all about National Parks. One print features a map of the USA and shows you where all of the 59 National Parks are located. We have also created 6 maps of our favorite parks which feature trails, roads, major attractions, and more. Our map prints are available on our site.

We hope you will celebrate the Centennial of the National Parks Service by visiting a few of the parks this year. You will come back refreshed and inspired. If you need a keepsake of your amazing experience, we happen to know where you might find a cool print, book, postcard set or puzzle featuring your favorite National Park!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Illustrating for the 2016 Macy's Flower Show

In October of last year we transitioned out of full-service design (doing branding, packaging, book covers, etc.) to focus on our passion—illustration, poster design, and hand-lettering. Since then we have enjoyed working on lots of fun projects for great clients. One of those clients was Macy’s—the legendary department store based in New York City. 

When the Macy's design department came up with the theme for the 2016 Macy’s Flower Show—America the Beautiful, they looked around the country to find an illustration studio who was good at creating classic, American Travel poster art. They saw our National Parks poster series and our Art & Soul of America collection and knew they had found what they were looking for.

The Senior Creative Manager at Macy's, Gregory DiBisceglie, was our main contact. He commissioned us to create a poster series that would celebrate the beauty of America's various landscapes via six specific regions of the United States—the Southeast, Northeast, Northwest, Midwest, Rockies, and the Southwest. There would be a main poster image to promote the show that featured a flower-covered Statue of Liberty torch, and somehow, we would need to depict 6 different flower-growing climates—mountains, deserts, prairies, coastlines, swampland and forests.

Our assignment was to create an all-American flowerific master logo for the show, a main poster, and six regional posters. All of this had to be done by February, and we knew it would be a challenge with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays thrown into the production schedule. (The folks at Macy’s are pretty busy with the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the holiday retail season!)  Joel Anderson played the role of Creative Director, working with the Macy’s team to come up with just the right vintage Americana flavor for the whole project. He assigned Aaron Johnson to be the lead illustrator. (Little did Aaron know that he would spend the next few months rendering American landscapes filled with hundreds of flowers!)

Aaron's initial sketches explored the various ways we could show off the geographic diversity of each region, while also highlighting the centerpiece of the show: a replica torch of the Statue of Liberty decked out with flowers. The Macy’s team chose a concept that featured the torch with rays of light emanating from the center to create wedges where the 6 different regions could be depicted.

Aaron put the petal to the metal and went to work. Here he is working on the main poster. He rendered all the parts in vector format, so that they could be enhanced and expanded into 6 regional posters.

Macy’s needed the master logo as soon as possible for promotional purposes, so while Aaron worked on the main poster, Joel worked on the hand-lettering for the master logo, integrating flowers and sans-serif type that Aaron created.

With the main poster and master logo complete, the mood was set for the rest of the series. Macy's wanted a very vibrant color palette, so we cranked up the flower power by applying brighter hues than we typically use in our vintage-looking travel posters.

We adapted the stand-alone master logo to be the masthead for all the posters by deleting the flowers and housing the type in a star-spangled red, white and blue shape.

With the main image set, the six regionals were sketched out and derived from the imagery on the first poster. Ideally we would have created these first and then used the art in the main poster, but the main poster needed to be finished sooner than the others.

For the six regional posters, Aaron created imagery and typography that was inspired by the climate and the character of each region. Floral experts from Macy's made recommendations about what flowers were native to each region. Aaron carefully rendered dozens of native flowers for each of the regional designs. The resulting six illustrated posters each had a distinct vibe, while maintaining a cohesive family look. Below is a time-lapse showing how the Rocky Mountain poster design took shape from sketch to final art.

Check out the whole line!

The event is currently going on from March 20th-April 3rd at select Macy's locations across the U.S.A. If you live in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, or San Francisco, then you are in luck! Here are some pictures from one of the show locations.


The whole process was a fun experience for everyone involved, and we look forward to future projects where we get to flex our illustration muscles.

“I believe that illustration can be a powerful tool for connecting emotionally with our customers by creating an experience that feels truly unique. I can personally say that our collaboration with Joel and Aaron on the Macy’s Flower Show poster series over the last few months has proven to be one of the highlights of my career as Creative Manager for Special Projects at Macy’s." 

-Gregory Dibisceglie

You can find more info at the webpage for the event here.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Postcards Anyone?

We have created hundreds of different designs since we started producing poster art in 2003. All 700+ designs are available on our site as 18" x 24" gallery prints. We have found that people enjoy collecting our art in miniature form—4" x 6" postcard versions which are great for use in scrap books, framing as wall decor, craft projects, sending to pen pals, or just hoarding as inspiration for future trips or design projects. Postcards are affordable, versatile and fun. They pack all of the color and imagery of a poster into a pocket-sized space.

Let’s face it—a hand-written card from someone is a LOT more meaningful than a text message, an e-mail, or a dancing e-card. When you take the time to pick out a lovely piece of art, sit down to write a thoughtful note, and send it to that Special Someone, you have gone the extra mile and created a keepsake that might not ever be discarded by the recipient.

As you can tell, we LOVE postcards. And over the years, we’ve made lots of collector postcard sets—bundled batches of our most popular poster designs in a miniature format. These collector sets are cool, but it has always been a challenge to make our poster art available for purchase as single postcards. (Imagine the inventory nightmare of printing postcards of every design we have created and keeping them around just in case someone wanted to buy a particular design in a postcard size!)

Personalized Postcards
After turning down scores of disappointed brides and event planners who wanted to use our poster art to create a custom invitation or a save-the-date card, we finally figured out a practical and affordable way to make our designs available in a short run postcard format. now makes it possible for us to offer hundreds of our most popular designs as single postcards. Now anyone can access our art for the front of a postcard, add some custom text to the back, and order any quantity of personalized postcards, big or small.

Just click on this link to see our ever-growing selection of postcard design options on Zazzle. We are starting with our American and World Travel favorites. We will continue to add new designs whenever we have themes that would make great postcards, invitations, or announcements.

Collector Sets
We are poster design geeks, and we just can’t seem to stop creating new art. Over the years, we have produced lots of different collector series. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Spirit of Nashville Collection: 
Our longest-selling postcard set celebrates our hometown with 29 designs of iconic Music City landmarks, vistas and themes. We have produced thousands of these sets over the last decade, and they have all been printed and hand-assembled in Nashville. Brides often use these cards to dress up their weddings with a Music City theme.

Nashville has an incredible food scene. So we created a foodie postcard set to celebrate many of the amazing eateries we love to visit. You can see these sets on our site.

The Coastal Collection: 
After creating dozens of coastal themed prints, we compiled a set of our favorite breezy designs. You can see this set on our site.

The World Travel Collection: 
Since there are so many cool places to see in the whole world, we had a very hard time deciding which designs to include in this 24-piece set. Check it out on our site.

The Art & Soul of America Collection: 
We have produced hundreds of posters for our American travel series. Way too many to feature in a postcard set. So we produced a best-of series in a 3-box set and broke them up into cities West of the Mississippi, favorite National Parks, and cities East of the Mississippi. This set was extra fun because we created boxes that can be lined up to create a map of the USA. You can see this 3-box set on our site.

The Southern Delight Collection: 
Being from the South, we have a whole gaggle of useful expressions that we use to spice up ordinary conversation. These cherished saying and sentence-enhancers are too good not to be made into poster art and sent around the planet through the mail. If you are from the South, or if you like how we talk, you should pick up a Southern set on our site.

The National Parks Collection: 
We spent 5 years creating posters for every one of the 59 National Parks. Then we produced a coffee table book that required more art to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the National Park System. After creating over 70 different designs, we chose our favorite 59 prints and assembled a complete set of NPS postcards. We also added a 12-card set that features art we commissioned from our favorite oil painter, Kai Carpenter.  These card sets are also available on our site.

So there you have it. Great poster art makes awesome postcards. Awesome postcards enhance important relationships. Important relationships make life worth living. Whether you like collector sets, or personalized versions of your favorite single designs, has a plethora of postcards waiting for you!

Monday, August 31, 2015

After 5 years, we have completed our National Parks poster series!

In 2010, we started a new poster series called the Art & Soul of America Collection. We created these travel posters to celebrate our favorite destinations—places like New York, Chicago and San Francisco. But the series also featured a few National Parks which we considered to be iconic American places that everyone should visit. We soon began to receive requests for more park designs. People were asking for prints of specific parks they had visited—places where they had shared an experience of awesome natural beauty and splendor with someone special. At the time, we had no idea how many National Parks there were in the U.S.A. (After looking into it, we realized that there are 59 parks.)

Anderson Design Group founder Joel Anderson and his family began visiting as many National Parks as possible, taking photos, learning about the parks, and sharing adventures that would become cherished memories. These experiences fueled a passion for creating more National Park poster art. Joel’s son Nathan, an English major who happened to be an avid hiker, traveler and history buff was soaking in the experiences along the way. Little did he know that all of that personal exposure to the American wilderness would lead to a giant father-son project down the road!

Anderson Design Group continued to add new National Park posters to our Art & Soul of America series. In 2014, we produced a 2015 National Park wall calendar, which became our best-selling calendar ever. When he realized that the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks Service was coming up in 2016, Joel had a crazy idea—why not finish our poster series so we have at least 1 print for each of the 59 parks in time for the Centennial? Heck, why not commission 12 National Park oil paintings from our friend Kai Carpenter, too? And why not take all of our National Park art, combine it with Nathan’s awesome research and writing skills to produce a drop-dead gorgeous full-color coffee table book—and have it ready before the end of 2015?

Most people would call that impossible (or insane.) At the time this ambitious idea was hatched, we only had 30-ish of the 59 posters done. We didn’t even know if Kai Carpenter could drop everything to work on 12 new paintings. We had not even heard of several of the more obscure parks. But we love a good challenge, so we dove in head-first in a race against the clock to finalize our poster series and lay the groundwork for a 160-page 9"x12" hard-cover coffee table book that would include a history of the NPS, a timeline, a map of the USA showing where all the parks are located, interesting facts, travel tips, and information about each park, along with beautiful full-page illustrations by the talented artists of Anderson Design Group.

Kai performed like a champ, producing 12 amazing paintings of our favorite National Parks. Joel supplied him with some reference shots from his visits to the parks. Kai did his own research and sketching. The resulting posters are rich in color and each one tells a story of Americans sharing a life-changing encounter with nature.

You may be curious about how we created al of this art. We are a team of artists who collaborate to accomplish artistic feats that none of us could do alone. Joel’s background is illustration and design, so when possible, he enjoys rendering a poster as much as anyone. But he realized the best way to produce 70+ National Park posters along with a book within a short window was for him to act like the conductor of a chamber orchestra and write parts for each of his virtuoso players to perform. 

He created a master list of poster themes that would be included in the series and in the book. Then he assigned illustrations to different artists who he had either trained as interns or who draw, paint, design and think like the old Masters of Poster Art from the 1930s and 40s. Several artists were working on different posters at the same time. During the process, Joel would look at progress sketches and renderings, offer input and guidance, and then try to stay out of the way as much as possible to let everyone do what they were born to do. As soon as one of the illustrations was finished, he would spend a few hours on it adding finishing touches, keeping the continuity of a whole series of separate posters. Andy Gregg and Julian Baker created the first few poster designs in this series back in 2010. Since then, Michael Korfhage, Kai Carpenter, Aaron Johnson, Joel and another of his sons, David Anderson have done the rest. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at how two of our artists created their art, as told by Joel Anderson in the new coffee table book...

If you are wondering how it all turned out, we are happy to say that our talented team worked tirelessly and completed all 59 posters a few weeks ago. Kai turned in his 12th painting on August 24. Joel has sent all the art to the printer and the posters are being produces at this very moment. Edward Patton created the design template for the coffee table book. Dawn Verner turned in a pile of research about each park and Nathan has been writing non-stop, adding the final touches to his narrative. Jamie Blaine has been editing the text as fast as we can send it to him. Joel is finalizing the book cover and interior. After a few more edits, it will go to the printer, and the books will be ready to ship by November 15, if not sooner! Here is a sneak peek at the book:

And if all that were not enough, we somehow managed to produce another wall calendar to follow up our last one which won lots of National Advertising Federation awards laster year (local Gold ADDY Awards, plus Best In Show Print, A regional Gold ADDY, and a National Silver ADDY Award.) Our 2016 Wall Calendar celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service with 13 framable 11" x 14" prints. This calendar is in production and will start shipping in early October.

You can see all the posters and order ready-to-frame gallery prints at our site. Pre-order the book by clicking this link.  Pre-order the 2016 Wall Calendar by clicking this link.

This massive project has been a labor of love. It is our way of celebrating the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the NPS and expressing gratitude for our American heritage of wilderness and wonder. We hope you will be inspired to protect, preserve and explore our National Parks (And of course, we hope you will buy a print, a book and a calendar as a keepsake!) We will be donating a portion of the proceeds from all of our sales to the National Parks Foundation. So not only will you end up with a beautiful souvenir of your favorite park, you will also make a contribution that will help to maintain our parks for the benefit of everyone.