I first started working with Mark Brewer when I was the art director for a national association magazine and commissioned him to illustrate an editorial piece. I was drawn to his style of illustration, which is whimsical and light-hearted, and after that first assignment I continued to work with him a few times a year as we built a friendship. I actually have two prints of his illustrations: One is of Stevie Ray Vaughan and hung in our downstairs bar. The other is in my studio/office and is a fuzzy, big biker on a chopper.
Recently I noticed Mark was promoting a book that will be coming out June 23rd, entitled Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers (published by Skyhorse Publishing, available on his website). This is an almost-200-page hardcover book on the history and terminology of all things beer and includes more than 80 of Mark’s illustrations. Guy Gilchrist, artist and writer of the syndicated comic strip Nancy, wrote the foreword.
If you are in the western Pennsylvania area, he will be at the 19th Annual Pennsylvania Microbrewers’ Festival June 6th at Penn Brewery in Pittsburgh, PA. He will have signed, limited edition copies of images for sale as well as taking pre-orders of the book.
The book sounds right up my alley, so I decided to reach out to Mark and find out more. In his own words:
Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers
by Mark Brewer
Besides the obvious connection with your last name, how did this project come about?
The idea of creating a book about the terms associated with beer first came to mind about 20 years ago, when I brewed my first batch of beer. I recall how funny I thought some of the terms were as well as the crazy images that instantly popped up in my mind. I wrote down a few of these words accompanied by a couple of quick scribble sketches in an “idea” notebook I kept. Many cartoonists keep “idea” notebooks for the times when we’re in the middle of two or three assignments and would hate to forget a good idea. Dick Browne, creator of the syndicated comic strip Hagar the Horrible once said, “ideas are money.” It’s true! Creative people make a living by selling their ideas to syndicates, investors or, in my case, a publisher. I still have that notebook full of ideas. I still contribute new ideas to it every now and then. Some stand the test of time while other ideas make me wonder why I ever thought it was worthy enough to write down.
Why did it take you 20 years to get back to the idea?
At the time I was working on Archie Comic books and inking a lot of coloring books for Warner Brothers. It was important for me to keep my bills paid with creative jobs. I was concerned that if I didn’t I would have to get a “real” job that I didn’t like. On top of that I’m still not sure what else I would be qualified to do. I’ve seen many people (who are more talented than me) not be able to pay their bills with their art. The odds were against me already, so taking the time to draw my own book during the infancy of my career didn’t seem like a smart option. I didn’t even have a recognizable drawing style that I could call my own. Ten years would pass before I stopped trying to imitate the artists I admired and just draw what came out of the pen in my hand.
How long did it take you to research, write and illustrate this….all while working full time as an illustrator and having some sort of a regular life?
I don’t know what a “regular life” is. Fortunately my kids keep me pretty busy with their schedules and that’s something regular. But the idea of working 9-5, five days a week, having co-workers to grab lunch or a drink with, and getting a regular paycheck is something I honestly know nothing about. I work seven days a week and I’m up pretty early most mornings to get what feels like a head start on the day. Sometimes I don’t physically put a pen or paint on paper for days but my kids will ask what I’m doing while we’re driving somewhere and I’ll say, “working.” My mind never stops trying to come up with magazine articles I’ve been asked to illustrate or new ideas I can potentially sell.
After all those years I still thought Brewology had potential. At this point in my career my drawings have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and in many magazines such as Newsweek, Forbes, and Yankee, to name a few. I illustrated about 15 of these terms about beer and picked the best ones to show a publisher. My writer friend, Buck Peterson pointed me in the direction of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. I pitched the idea as a 36-page, full color book with 80 terms associated with beer. They bought it in May of 2014. The only concern I had was that they wanted me to write 10,000 words, include at least 175 terms associated with beer and draw at least 75 illustrations. Uhhh, “Sure. No problem.” I said to the publisher. Then I had that sinking feeling in my stomach that I just convinced somebody real important that I could do something I might not be able to deliver. To my surprise I included more than 12,000 words and found more than 200 terms worthy of putting into the book. Stuff about beer that really interested me that I know will interest others too! I illustrated so many of these terms that not all of the drawings made it in the book (I’ll share those drawings with my friends on Facebook at some point). I worked the rest of the spring, summer, and into the fall of 2014 finishing this book. Research was really fun and the book is more useful than I ever could have imagined it would be. I know people who buy Brewology will feel the same way.
“I’ll have an IPA,” I used to say. Obviously it had a bitter taste that I liked but what exactly was I drinking? What exactly are hops? I can tell you that it’s not multiple bunnies jumping in all directions. It is the flower of a plant and there are many different types that produce different flavors. Some hops are used for taste while others are used more for their smell. Hops is a natural preservative as well. You might be the type of person who enjoys a lightly hopped beer or maybe you’re someone who really likes the IBU’s. Maybe you’re a Hop Head! What are IBU’s you ask? What is a Hop Head? What is the difference between an ale and a lager? Or a stout and a porter? I wanted to know all of this too, so I wrote and illustrated a fun book about beer that we can all enjoy and use for reference too.
Click below to view a gallery of images.