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On & On Part 3: The Little Things

01.18.24   |   Beer

In January 2021, when we introduced a long-awaited two part collaboration with Half Acre, we stepped outside the box for creative inspiration. Instead of our established house style, both we and Half Acre turned to painter and visual artist Matt Gordon to create two original commissions for the two beers (one released at Rev, one at Half Acre). There isn't typically an oil painting step in the creation of most beer labels, but a special occasion warranted a unique approach. And for On & On Part 3, a continuation of our ongoing Half Acre collaboration, we were enthusiastically waiting to get back into Gordon's world.

Matt's from Michigan, near Detroit, and is known for compositions that are intensely naturalistic and exceptionally detailed. He doesn't work digitally. Everything that Matt does is visualized like a diorama – a whole world sketched into existence, then added to the canvas one element at a time. The effect is an otherworldly cuvée that reflects back Sid & Marty Krofft, Gustav Klimt, and Norman Rockwell.

Matt's scenes move and breathe in line and brushwork, and evolve during painting. If he needs something to move over a little bit, he paints over it and recreates it. For instnace, in On & On Part 3, Matt painted the skull-adjacent scrimshawing mushroom in ten different poses (painting over it between each iteration) before settling on the final result.

"I want to put beauty into the world," he told us. "This is my kind of beauty."⁠

The effect is singular and otherworldly.

On & On Parts 1–2

For the initial On & On releases, Matt started with the a woodland scene focused on foraging and built outward. He escapes his studio by running, biking, and communing with the outdoors. Mushroom hunting, he told us, gets him on a different eye level where he's appreciating new aspects of nature. "You don’t have to be a scientist to find one, but when you do it feels good," he said.

During the time we reached out with Half Acre, the weather was catching that unmistakable chill in the air and Matt's thoughts drifted to warmer times foraging in the woods.⁠⁠From there, the signifiers of time, nature, and rebirth play out on the painting that became our labels – the morel season itself is notoriously short, and signifiers of time and decay coexist with life and rebirth.

Plus, hey, frog in a bowler hat is always pretty cool.⁠⁠

On & On Part 3

Between the compositions of On & On Parts 1-2 and now, Matt's moved from loading up the compositions and refining to following single ideas and reacting to their expression on canvas as he fills out the world.

"I'll sit down and stare at [my paintings] for so long. The difference is, I used to overthink everything. It's been so refreshing to work in stream of consciousness," he said. And for Part 3, Matt spent some time pondering the way that Deep Wood fans take in the beer, the art, and the entire experiencing of enjoying the beer.

"My wild idea at the start of this painting was, knowing that it's high ABV and meant to sip slowly, I'd add in these little details that people could notice and appreciate while they were enjoying it," Gordon said. "The tattoo on the skull is Wizzo the clown from the Bozo show. The tattoo gun in the mushroom emcee's hand is powered by bees. The scrimshaw needle has a tiny 'Patent Pending' tag on it. You can even look at the shape of the skull itself and notice I was watching The Mandalorian at the time."

The effect of On & On Part 3 (the painting) is the widescreen sci-fi of Paul Pope filtered married to the pastoral melancholy of the Frog and Toad books.

Where the original On & On compositions were lush and verdant, Matt's new painting frames the woodland activity against a stark negative space. It's a reaction, he said, to the time he's spent considering beer artwork since the last collaboration. But the scene, he said, is very much of a piece with his established world.

"They're scavengers, picking up what they find to work as scrimshaw apprentices," Gordon said, pointing out his own filter on the use of skulls in art (including the Deep Wood Series' well-established look). "The false morel mushroom, who kind of looks like a brain and kind of looks like Gomez Addams, is a recurring character in my pantings."

With the namesake painting wrapped around cans of the equally-fussed-over beer, we're quite nearly ready to welcome you back to Matt Gordon's magical world via the magic of American oak, time, and Chicago brewing friendship.