I’m intrigued by the idea that something old can remind us of what’s current; how the suggestion of age or history can make us re-evaluate things that are new.
The explorations that resulted in the Gainesville Fruit Co. began for me with a re-introduction to letterpress printmaking by my good friend Patrick Grigsby. An accomplished instructor of graphic design, illustrator and printmaker, Patrick rekindled my interest in graphic illustration.
In 2004 I happened to be looking for a personal project that would relieve some looming creative burnout. My only thoughts were that it would be nice to do something that reflected my love of vintage typography, and perhaps something that would highlight the Gainesville area, which I’ve grown very attached to over the last 27+ years. After flirting with the idea of creating an alternate history of vintage Gainesville postcards that never existed, I kept the “faux vintage” concept — but adopted the fruit crate produce label motif instead. The Gainesville Fruit Co. was the result. I began the design process, and purchased a 1950’s vintage Nolan proof press — the kind a newspaper might have used to proof a sheet full of hand-set type before press time.
My design process begins with a series of very small sketches, to capture the dynamics and composition of various ideas. What follows is a back-and-forth method of designing the art that goes from the drawing table to the computer, back again, with each design finally finished digitally. I feel like this process keeps me firmly rooted in the hand crafted quality of those old labels, whether it’s drawing a bird, or hand-rendering typography.
The idea of using flat colors, while not exactly the way vintage fruit labels were illustrated back in the day, was well suited to the process. An early idea was to create larger silkscreened versions, and although that plan was abandoned, the flat colors stuck and have become a hallmark of the bold, graphic quality of the designs. The first set of six designs were produced on the Nolan letterpress, and the series has since been produced in open editions of digital giclée prints and limited edition posters, as well as notecard sets.
Undertaking this challenge and going through the entire process was extremely rewarding, as it energized me creatively and fueled the creation of 42 designs. The “faux vintage” idea of (re)creating something that never existed began to reverberate and soon inspired other series like the football game day covers of the Vintage Football Archives and travel posters for the US Bureau of National Wonders.
It’s ironic that as the world gets smaller, the sense of community that binds us is often a casualty of the modern age. What the Gainesville Fruit Co. has provided for me over the past 10 years is an opportunity to understand why Gainesville is so special in that regard, and a chance to remind people of that with my work. And the ultimate reward comes from all our fans across the country, who have told me that they value and cherish this body of work. One that celebrates the town they love, in a bold and graphic way that matches the energy and spirit of their enthusiasm. I'm a firm believer that every graphic designer has a responsibility to ask:
“Does my work add to this community in a meaningful, lasting way? Should it? Can it?”
Thanks to a massive winter freeze in the 1890s that moved the citrus growing zone in Florida southward into the Orlando region, The Gainesville Fruit Co. never existed. But if they had, these are the kinds of graphics I think they might have produced. In another era, maybe they would have hired me to be their graphic designer.
Sarasota Fruit Co.
Along the way we also expanded a set of graphics and explored the idea of reaching into Sarasota -- another awesome place with amazing landmarks, natural beauty AND amazing support for the arts. To our surprise, they never caught on.
Gainesville’s nickname isn’t actually a nickname at all. Hogtown was once a small trading post specializing in livestock during the mid 1800’s, until a railroad was proposed between Fernandina and Cedar Key. In 1853 Alachua county residents voted to rename the new stop on the railroad line, and Gainesville was born in honor of Seminole Indian War General Edmund P. Gaines. The first design in the series, and my nostalgic favorite.
Although south Florida might be better known for its swamplands, the natural beauty of the original Florida shines brightest in Alachua County and the greater Gainesville area. Host to ancient cypress swamps, beautiful rivers & lakes, cool natural springs and unspoiled wilderness parks, Gainesville is the gateway to an exquisite sub-tropical region. The selection of wildlife in the area is just as diverse, but the one animal you’ll find everywhere is hard to miss—the Florida Gator. One of the most popular prints in the series. The swirl in the water as the grass and clouds reflect is the kind of visual “twist” I enjoy injecting whenever possible.
HoTEL THOMAS (2004)
Between 1906 and 1910 Major William Reuben Thomas built Gainesville’s most elaborate private residence near the Sweetwater Branch, in the growing Northeast section of the city that had become a center for intellectual and social life. Between 1926 and 1928 the French Classical structure with Mediterranean accents was converted into a luxury resort hotel, the first of its kind in the city. Renovated in 1976-78 for city government office space and use as a cultural center, it is now known as the Thomas Center. A popular wedding location, this design is the most likely “to be given as a gift”.
PAYNES PRAIRIE (2004)
Just south of Gainesville lies Paynes Prairie, a 21,000 acre preserve that is one of Florida’s most significant natural and historic areas. Likely named after the Seminole Chief Payne, the prairie began to fill with torrential rains beginning in 1871. For a time the new Alachua Lake supported steam-powered boats and a flurry of trading activity, but in 1891 the Alachua Sink became unclogged, draining the lake and returning the prairie to what famed naturalist William Bartram once called the “Great Alachua Savannah”. One of my favorite ideas that I’ll get to someday is to re-issue this design with a steam boat.
Built between 1909-1911, the old Federal Building of Gainesville has been the home of the U.S. Post Office, Federal Court, District Attorney and the U.S. Land Office over the years . One of the most elaborate buildings constructed in Gainesville during the beginning of the 20th century, this shining example of classical revival architecture now houses the Hippodrome State Theatre, North Florida’s only professional regional theatre. The shadow cast on the building was almost an afterthought; in hindsight it really helps the whole design work.
The Timucua Indians of Florida once lived in a small settlement near modern Gainesville, on the edge of a beautiful 250 acre lake. The Timucua word for their palmetto thatched houses, Kanapaha, is now the namesake of that lake and the surrounding area. Today, visitors to nearby Kanapaha Botanical Gardens enjoy one of Florida's largest collections of exotic plant life. While progressing on this design, I became interested in trying to create simple geometric shapes to form the plants, while contrasting that with a detailed water surface.
DEVIL'S MILLHOPPER (2005)
A bowl-shaped sinkhole 120 feet deep, the Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park has been an attraction to the curious since the 1880’s. With multiple streams that filter down through the steep walls and vanish into the underground limestone aquifer, the Devil’s Millhopper features a winding boardwalk that descends through lush plant growth to the sinkhole floor. Because of the fossilized bones and teeth once found near the bottom—and the site’s resemblance to funnel-shaped hoppers that fed grain to farmers’ grist mills —the legend was born that the sinkhole was used to feed the devil himself.
I produced 20+ sketches for the Millhopper label before realizing that the ferns didn’t need to be in perfect proportion to the waterfalls.
SEAGLE BUILDING (2005)
During a 1920’s land boom, an eleven story hotel was under construction, but the project went bust and sat unfinished for over a decade. With the help of the University of Florida, the City of Gainesville, and Federal funding, Georgia Seagle finished the building in the 30’s and named it after her brother. After falling into disrepair and completely abandoned after years of use by the University and the Florida State Museum, the Seagle building was sold for $1 and completely remodeled in 1983. Today it stands as one of the tallest buildings in Gainesville, with many architectural details that continue to tell its storied history. It seems like every copy of the Seagle I’ve sold has gone to someone living or working in the Seagle's penthouse.
SANTA FE (2005)
Turtles, birds and fish fill the water and cypress, oak, pine and other hardwoods line the banks of the Santa Fe River, one of Florida’s natural treasures. Fed by many crystal clear springs, the Santa Fe’s water remains a constant 72° year round, and is perfect for swimming and diving. Taking its name from one of the Spanish missions which were established in Florida during the 1600’s, the Santa Fe River is one of the few remaining places to truly experience “The Real Florida”. The idea for featuring cypress knees on the Santa Fe River had been in my head since beginning of the series, but once I got underway the turtle came from somewhere and took over the design.
LAKE ALICE (2005)
A popular natural landmark on the University of Florida campus, the Lake Alice Wildlife Preserve is a common destination for those looking to relax and take a break from busy university life. In 2001, the Baughman Center was built on the shores of Lake Alice. Its stunning gothic inspired architecture was designed to integrate into the lake’s natural beauty. An important zone of tranquility for students and faculty, Lake Alice is home to countless Florida Gators — in the water and on the sidewalks. Wanting to tread lightly around the orange/blue UF brand colors that are so ubiquitous, I altered the colors slightly to be in line with the rest of the series, not the University.
As a popular Ecotourism destination, Gainesville and Alachua County are the gateway to an exquisite sub-tropical region. A thriving university town, Gainesville also offers an unprecedented level of arts & culture to accentuate its natural beauty. New to the area are the Florida Museum of Natural History’s permanent Butterfly Rainforest exhibit and McGuire Center for Lepidoptera. They are among the worlds largest butterfly collections—with thousands of specimens and hundreds of the beautiful free-flying insects—bringing another unique feature to Gainesville life. The floral print in the background was inspired by Alphonse Mucha and the Art Nouveau decorative arts of the early 20th century.
DUCK POND (2005)
Dating to the 1870’s and Gainesville’s oldest neighborhood, the Duck Pond area is adjacent to downtown and features historic buildings and majestic live oak trees. In the 1920’s a water retention area was constructed for the nearby Sweetwater Branch creek, and a lively duck population began to flourish, giving the neighborhood its name. The Duck Pond became popular and exclusive over the years, housing four University of Florida presidents and many of the city’s elite. Rich in history, its Victorian homes and tree-lined streets are preserved and protected by the Northeast Historic District. Up to this point, minimizing the actual fruit in the labels was a conscious decision, and the choice of produce was dictated more by color theory than anything else.
Century Tower is the icon that dominates the landscape of the University of Florida campus. Built in 1953 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the university, it was dedicated to UF students killed in the World Wars. In 1979, a cast-bells carillon was installed in the tower, giving the campus a daily recital of its unique sounds. Over the years, Century Tower has come to represent much of the university's tradition and ambition. The typography for each label in the series is distinct and unique. The Florida and Gators labels are the only two that use the same typeface. They are both angled so that they relate to each other when displayed side-by-side.
Called “el lagarto” (the lizard) by Spanish explorers, alligators are very common as one of the main forms of local wildlife in the Gainesville area. Found in freshwater ponds, marshes, wetlands and swamps, there are estimated to be over one million gators in Florida alone. Adopted as the University of Florida‘s masot in 1911, thousands of Gators now graduate from college every year as well — spreading the “Gator Nation” around the world. As proof that you never know what people will relate to, this remains one of my favorite gator illustrations in the series—yet the people who like this design tend to fixate on the slogan.
The Gainesville Raceway is world famous for its yearly Gatornationals, a premiere drag racing event. Known as one of the longest and fastest tracks in the country, the raceway has been helping to set world records since it opened in 1970. This venue for thrills is a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike and delivers one of Gainesville’s most exciting sports experiences. Sadly one of the not-so-great sellers, proving there’s not much crossover between race fans and art collectors. I don’t regret it, because it is among the most dynamic and visually interesting designs in the series.
Lake Wauburg (2006-07)
A popular summer retreat for UF students, faculty and staff, Lake Wauburg offers swimming, fishing, sailing and sports. Encompassing 90 acres of natural Florida just south of Paynes Prairie, the lakeside area is a favorite spot for relieving the stress of University life. The outdoor recreation park facilities of Lake Wauburg are a true find for anyone seeking a refuge for fun in the Florida sun. Originally began as Newnan’s Lake, I decided that sailboats were more iconic than say, bass fishing, and that Wauburg was more likely to resonate with students and alumni. I do have some bass drawings though, and will someday get back to Newnan’s Lake.
The only thing as common as gators on campus might be touchdowns! Since its return to prominence as a football power in the late 80's, the University of Florida Gator football team became known, respected and feared for its sophisticated passing offense and sheer scoring power. Winning several SEC titles and national championships in 1996, 2006 and 2008, the Gator football team consistently ranks among the top teams in the nation and battles yearly with their main rivals: The Florida State Seminoles, Tennessee Volunteers and Georgia Bulldogs. The 2006 season marked 100 years of University of Florida football tradition and heritage. Another good example of how non-literal spacial relationships can be “close enough” to create a believable sense of place. Notice the more detailed orange fruit – this was the start of some exploration into more detailed renderings.
One of the premiere stops on any trip to the real Florida, the spring-fed Ichetucknee River flows gently into the Santa Fe River. Located a short drive from Gainesville, Ichetucknee is the perfect summer getaway. The headspring is well known for its relaxing tubing and is characterized by its crystal clear water, wildlife sightings, and undisturbed natural surroundings. Floating peacefully down the river has drawn many to the state park over and over, braving the cold water and hot sun to experience Florida at its best. This design was the all-time toughest to get right and finish, but it’s a top favorite. People seem to really like the unique point-of-view and the play of light through the water, but when I look I can’t help but remember the struggle to get it right.
In 2007 Florida achieved a historic first: becoming the first university to win football and basketball national championships in the same season. Having won the 2006 basketball tournament, the men's basketball team was the first to repeat as national champions since Duke in 1991-92, earning a place among college basketball's best all-time teams. Being more of a fan of football than basketball, sometimes you just have to go with what works. The spread claws here just cry out for a basketball. Which is fine, because it justified the Titletown design that came 2 years later.
SPRING ARTS (2008)
A spring tradition in Gainesville, the Santa Fe College Spring Arts Festival is North Central Florida’s oldest annual arts event. One of the three largest annual events in Gainesville, is known for its high quality artwork and unique setting. The festival is held in the downtown historic district, nestled amid restored turn-of-the century homes, stately palms and abundant azaleas. More than 120,000 visitors routinely attend the festival each year.
Originally produced as the poster for the 38th annual Spring Arts festival, I was thrilled at its reception. After years of paintings and photographs, promoting the festival with graphic art was a welcome change of pace according to attendees.
Gainesville (v2, 2008)
The natural beauty of the original Florida shines brightest in Alachua County and the greater Gainesville area. As a popular Ecotourism destination, Gainesville and Alachua County are the gateway to an exquisite sub-tropical region. A thriving university town, Gainesville also offers an unprecedented level of arts & culture to accentuate its natural beauty. This was inspired by the view out through the garden in my backyard at the time, which was filled with camellia bushes and live oaks.
SWAMP (v2, 2008)
Although south Florida might be better known for its swamplands, the natural beauty of the original Florida shines brightest in Alachua County and the greater Gainesville area. Host to ancient cypress swamps, beautiful rivers & lakes, cool natural springs and unspoiled wilderness parks, Gainesville is the gateway to an exquisite sub-tropical region. The selection of wildlife in the area is just as diverse, but the one animal you’ll find everywhere is hard to miss—the Florida Gator. Another example of going orange & blue without being too overt or heavy-handed. I’m told frequently how much people appreciate something that’s an alternative to what they’re bombarded with every day on campus or around town.
BABY GATOR (2008)
Nothing makes Gator parents more proud than seeing their kids don the Orange and Blue for the first time. It’s never to early for kids to enjoy the pageantry of football season or the atmosphere and environment of a top college town like Gainesville. Start ‘em Young, Raise ‘em Right! Go Gators!
With a dominating 2008 BCS National Championship Game win over Oklahoma, Florida won it’s second football title in 3 years. Combined with two other football championships in 1996 and 2006, the 2006-2007 back-to-back basketball championships, plus numerous SEC championships in other sports over the years, people have since started calling Gainesville by another name: Titletown. This was the most detailed rendering in the series up to that time, and represented a transition from bold, solid colors to a more lush, rendered illustration style.
BAUGHMAN CENTER (2010-11)
The Baughman Meditation Center is located along the shore of Lake Alice on the University of Florida campus. A non-denominational chapel & pavilion, it is used for silent meditation, private contemplation, weddings, funerals and memorial services as well as a venue for small musical or performing arts events. The Center is considered an oasis of calm and beauty on the busy campus. Source: Wikipedia. In 2010 I moved forward with a more detailed, intricate approach to the designs. Especially prominent here are the strawberries, rendered more realistically and given more visibility in the layout. The reference to a new day speaks to the renewal of spirit, as well as the new lives that many married couples embark upon after being married there.
CRESCENT BEACH (2010-11)
Like the Ichetucknee River, Crescent Beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast is a popular day trip destination for many Gainesville residents looking to escape the heat and enjoy Florida’s natural beauty. South of St. Augustine, trips to Crescent Beach are a rite of passage for many Gainesville students as they pass through high school, college and adulthood. The small oceanside community also borders the Matanzas State Forest to the west, a wildlife conservation area. Beginning here and moving forward in the series, I started paying closer attention to the role light could play in a series of designs from the sunshine state.
Another spring tradition in Gainesville, the start of football season officially begins with the Orange & Blue Game, the Florida Gators’ annual scrimmage that regularly draws over 60,000 fans. The promise of a new season creates an energy and enthusiasm that are matched by only a handful of schools across the country. Sun shines in the Swamp from spring through November, when the home season concludes each year with teams battling for conference titles and bowl berths. An enjoyable departure from clean and crisp visuals into the world of simulated flexographic printing. Imperfections are to be expected when you print on cardboard – which is what produce companies did in the latter half of the century when they left wooden crates behind.
HAILE PLANTATION (2010-11)
Thomas Evans Haile, a South Carolina Sea Island Cotton grower, established his plantation in 1854 on the site that is now a thriving New Urbanism community within Gainesville. Under construction since the late 1970´s, Haile Plantation has a traditional neighborhood center within the development, which has grown to include over 2500 families and represents the perfect fusion of work, leisure, and beauty. The Historic Haile Homestead, known as Kanapaha, still stands today and is a historic landmark. The details of stippled shading and delicate renderings were made possible by moving fluidly between Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Corel Painter – which simulates many types of natural media like brush & ink and airbrush.
In 1984 Emiliano’s Cafe spearheaded downtown Gainesville’s renaissance, ushering in a new era of patio cafes and culinary exploration. Over the years terms like Nouveau Cuisine, Fusion Cuisine, Nuevo Latino, Latin Fusion or Pan Latin cuisine have come and gone. But what has remained constant is their commitment to bringing a dazzling gastronomic experience to evenings spent downtown, and that has made them a landmark of Gainesville’s restaurant scene. This was my first experiment with allowing a commissioned work to live within the Gainesville Fruit Co. family. Because Emiliano’s is a true landmark, and because I was able to reference wine grapes and coffee beans, it worked and seemed a natural fit. Other requests over the years were not.
SANTA FE ZOO (2012)
Established in 1970, the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo is a 10-acre zoo in Gainesville, Florida. As part of Santa Fe College, It is the only zookeeper training facility in the United States with its own AZA-accredited zoo on grounds. It is home to over 200 individual animals representing more than 75 species, and is a popular destination for both local residents and tourists. Of particular interest is their family of rare white-handed gibbons. It’s the little things: The chance to render and work with bamboo foliage here was a welcome change from normal Florida tree canopies, as was the fun working on an unexpected type of animal.
Apart from century Tower, no other piece of architecture embodies the main campus of the University of Florida like the University Auditorium. Built in the mid 1920s and renovated as a bicentennial project in 1976, the Auditorium is one of several university buildings included in the National Register of Historic Places. The Auditorium is also home to the Anderson Memorial Organ. Donated in 1925, the organ has since been expanded and improved with the installation of additional pipes and a five manual console, making it one of the major instruments of its kind in the Southeast. Another exploration of light and depth, made fun when fruit stands in for the bright morning sun.
CEDAR KEY (2012)
Along with Ichetucknee and Crescent Beach, Cedar Key on Florida’s west coast is a highly popular destination for Gainesville residents. Only over an hour away, Cedar Key’s seafood and restaurants are famous across the state, and the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge is an amazing collection of offshore islands which include Atsena Otie and Sea Horse Keys. For bird watchers and naturalists, the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge is one of the “must sees” on a short list of Florida destinations. A favorite of many, this design features dancing sparkles of light in the water – a new and truly depthful way of rendering that hadn’t been present in the series until then.
SAN FELASCO (2012)
The San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park preserve has one of the few remaining mature forests in Florida. The limestone outcrops and extreme changes in elevation provide ideal conditions for many species of hardwood trees, including several champion trees. Bobcats, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, turkeys, and many species of songbirds make their homes in the 18 natural communities found in the preserve. The park offers outdoor adventure to hikers, off-road bicyclists, horseback riders, and nature lovers. The high level of detail in the tree trunk was the result of long hours rendering in Corel Painter, to simulate the intricate pen & ink technique of early 20th century illustrators like Franklin Booth and J.C. Leyendecker.
Lake Alice (v2, 2013)
A popular natural landmark on the University of Florida campus, the Lake Alice Wildlife Preserve is a common destination for those looking to relax and take a break from busy university life. In 2001, the Baughman Center was built on the shores of Lake Alice. Its stunning gothic inspired architecture was designed to integrate into the lake’s natural beauty. An important zone of tranquility for students and faculty, Lake Alice is home to countless Florida Gators — in the water and on the sidewalks. Adapted from a failed attempt at a Sarasota based image of the Myakka area, this gator seems much more at home in Gainesville.
The Sweetwater Branch Watershed encompasses 3.3 square miles of central Gainesville. Sweetwater Branch flows through the Duck Pond area and the heart of downtown Gainesville, then through the Depot Avenue residential/industrial district where it is joined by Rosewood Branch near SE 10 th Avenue. The western half of the preserve, accessed from a trailhead off Waldo Rd, is a popular destination for mountain bikers. Droplets of water were the missing touch that brought this design around and made it work. Sweetwater Creek is often an overlooked part of Gainesville’s nature heritage, so bringing it to life here was rewarding.
PAYNE'S PRAIRIE (v2, 2013)
Just south of Gainesville lies Paynes Prairie, a 21,000 acre preserve that is one of Florida’s most significant natural and historic areas. Likely named after the Seminole Chief Payne, the prairie began to fill with torrential rains beginning in 1871. For a time the new Alachua Lake supported steam-powered boats and a flurry of trading activity, but in 1891 the Alachua Sink became unclogged, draining the lake and returning the prairie to what famed naturalist William Bartram once called the “Great Alachua Savannah”. This alternate design was very close to featuring a steam boat – harkening back to the Prairie’s days as Lake Alachua... Until a visit to an animal sacntuary resulted in an unexpected encounter with a bison. I called it fate, and laid the boat plans aside.
St. Augustine (2014)
Located south of Jacksonville, Florida, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States. Founded in September 1565 by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it subsequently served as the capital of Spanish Florida for two hundred years and like Cedar Key and Crescent Beach, is a cherished destination for day-trippers from Gainesville. Sitting east of St. Augustine, Anastasia Island is reached from downtown St. Augustine by the Bridge of Lions, billed as “The Most Beautiful Bridge in Dixie”. By this point the fully textured, layered renderings had evolved past the solid colors and flat graphic style of the original dozen or so labels in the beginning.
GATORS (v2, 2014)
Called “el lagarto” (the lizard) by Spanish explorers, alligators are very common as one of the main forms of local wildlife in the Gainesville area. Found in freshwater ponds, marshes, wetlands and swamps, there are estimated to be over one million gators in Florida alone. Adopted as the University of Florida‘s mascot in 1911, thousands of Gators now graduate from college every year as well — spreading the “Gator Nation” around the world. After helping baby gators to hatch, a mother gator often takes the new hatchlings in her mouth, carrying them to the water where they are released. Baby gators often rest on their mother’s head or back.
HOGTOWN (v2, 2014)
Gainesville’s nickname isn’t actually a nickname at all. Hogtown was once a small trading post specializing in livestock during the mid 1800’s, until a railroad was proposed between Fernandina and Cedar Key. In 1853 Alachua county residents voted to rename the new stop on the railroad line, and Gainesville was born in honor of Seminole Indian War General Edmund P. Gaines. I wanted this alternate design to have a sense of sunshine and water, as well as a literal depth to the typography which could hint at a depth of the experiences to be found here. I had been carrying this basic image in my mind for some time, and I intentionally left it for last, so that the final design would be a return to Hogtown — the subject of the very first print in 2004. It turned out exactly as I had hoped, which was a relief because it felt right to come full circle before fully embracing the decision to end the series.