Kahlúa & Spam

Kahlua & SpamEarly in my career as an illustrator, I made time for personal projects…unique pieces to build my portfolio or enter competitions.

I don’t often have the opportunity to work in color these days, but back in the late ’80s, I wanted to create a piece that would specifically show off my food and beverage rendering skills using a full watercolor pallet.

Kahlúa had a very successful campaign at the time featuring their liquor – enticingly partnered with other products like cream or coffee. I loved the look of these ads and decided to expand on their theme with my own photo-realistic-with-a-bit-of-painterly-quality rendering.

Kahlua AdsI was pretty green at the time and it simply never occurred to me to photograph the subject first and then recreate that image in watercolor. I actually set the damn still life up just a few inches away from my drawing board and started with a traditional pencil sketch. Words cannot express how unpleasant a slice of Spam lying in a little glass of Kahlua smells after a few days. My dog went from trying desperately to reach the table so that he could eat the canned meat to keeping his distance in another part of the studio.

KahluaTypedetailI created every last tiny detail of the label by hand as well, and if you look closely you’ll notice that I sneaked-in my dog lifting his leg against one of the buildings in the foreground.

The completed piece did win an award from The Society of Illustrators that year, and ironically, it was reproduced in their show’s catalog…in black and white.

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