In this interview, CULTA’s Senior Director of Marketing, Renier, sat down with Jared Tuttle. Jared Tuttle is a freelance illustrator and designer, and he’s the artist behind some of CULTA’s most iconic designs, including the Sphinx, Bat Brew, and the 710 Tiger.
Whether you’re a budding artist yourself or simply a fan of his work, read on to learn about Jared’s art education, passion projects, and how he finds inspiration for CULTA’s designs.
Hey Jared! Tell me about yourself. Where are you from originally?
Hi Renier! I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but I grew up about a little less than an hour outside of Minneapolis, in a town called Waconia.
How did you get from Albuquerque to Minneapolis?
Well, my dad is from Minnesota, so my parents moved back as soon as I was born.
Cool. Tell me about your earliest memories of art?
As kids, I think we all draw. I remember drawing daily with crayons at my neighborhood daycare. I would draw ninjas with different colored headbands and bring them home and show my mom. They never had any noses for some reason…. but she always encouraged me to keep drawing. I also used to fold paper airplanes, and then draw cockpits and add flames and other fun graphics, and see how far they could fly. Those are some of the first memories that come to mind.
When did you decide to take art seriously?
In high school, I was pretty serious about art, I was always taking more advanced art classes. But I definitely reached another level of seriousness once I went to MCAD, the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. As soon as freshman year I hit, I was obsessed with art, and being an artist.
Was it always in the same medium--illustration--or did you ever experiment with painting, sculpture, installation art?
MCAD is really fun, in that they actually require you to take a variety of disciplines your first year. You get to take a 2D class, which is pretty open to different mediums, a 3d class where you could build things with wood or medal, a still life drawing and painting class, and photography/digital media class. And I loved it all. I even took a furniture class my sophomore year. I could see myself having a shop someday. But I took a good amount of painting classes. I’ve always enjoyed working in watercolor, oil, and acrylic. I’ve done some murals and large scale painting commissions as well. And I dabble in film photography or fun. I think it's important to play around with different mediums as an artist.
How do you find inspiration for your art?
I find inspiration in so many places, but tattoos will always be a big one for me. Renaissance paintings, Japanese woodblock prints, vintage stamps, etchings, and then, of course, nature. But I find inspiration everywhere. You just have to look...
You used to be a tattoo artist, correct?
I was a tattoo apprentice for six months, but I never actually tattooed. It was my dream to be a tattoo artist from the time I was 16, through MCAD. And after graduating I got an apprenticeship, but during that time I was getting some freelance opportunities and eventually I was more excited about freelancing than I was about tattooing. So I shifted focus, and I’ve been full-time freelancing now for over 3 years, and I couldn’t be happier.
You’ve never actually put ink on someone's flesh?
Okay, well, maybe I have, but never in a professional capacity. *laughs*
How did you decide to attend the Minneapolis College of Art and Design to pursue your BFA in illustration?
I wanted to go straight into tattooing but my parents wanted me to attend college and get a degree. And I’m glad I listened! Initially, I was going for a degree in graphic design, but I changed to illustration after having some conversations with Lindsay Nohl, a professor of mine at MCAD, and after realizing how similar it was to tattooing. And I enjoyed drawing more than anything. I barely knew how to even open Photoshop and Illustrator when I first got to MCAD, so drawing and illustration just seemed like the most natural major for me. Now I do illustration and design, so it’s funny how it all played out.
Since you graduated in 2014, you've built a steady roster of big-name clients like Disney, Old Spice, Harley Davidson, and Spin Master. For the up-and-coming artist out there, how did you seek out these clients?
Well, if I'm honest, I'm fortunate that I haven't had to directly reach out to any of these clients. I put out my best work online, and if these companies are looking for the type of work I create, they might reach out if there's a project that makes sense. But if I were to give some advice to up and coming artists, I’d tell them to create as much as possible and focus on building their portfolio. You can even build your portfolio with personal projects that fit within the industry you want to work in. Your whole portfolio doesn't need to be client work. It's important that you can show that you can work with clients, but there's no rule that your portfolio can't include personal work too.
What is the best platform for these clients to find you? Where is the best opportunity found?
I actually think it's important to diversify your portfolios so that you are not reliant on one platform. A good reason for example is a platform changes its algorithm, and it directly affects how many people are seeing your work. So I put my work out on #1 Behance, #2 Dribbble. #3 Instagram, #4 LinkedIn, and of course my personal website.
I was tripping out when I saw your snowboard design for Chamonix snowboards in the October 2021 issue of Slush snowboard magazine. Do you ever grow numb to seeing your artwork in a public space?
Hell yeah, I get excited! I feel like it's just starting to happen more and more. It was so crazy that you saw that even before I did; I didn't even know that the board made it into a magazine until you showed me. I actually have the magazine here now. It's super cool. Thanks for sending me that copy, man!
You designed the hugely popular Sphinx graphic for CULTA. What was that process like? I didn’t give you much direction but you found some way to tap into our aesthetic and still make it your own… How did you do that? What is that process?
It’s different for every project, I really don't have a formula. I have a process for creating the art, but the conceptual side is really just brainstorming. With this one, actually, I struggled at first to figure out what to do. I think we had discussed having it relate in some capacity to a celebration. And my girlfriend actually helped think of the parade float idea. So then I was like, what would that look like for Culta…maybe a cannabis god with followers or something like that. And that’s where it started. Then I focused on composition, and once I felt like that was solid, I started drawing the sphinx-like character, and getting into the details.
It's an amazing design. We've applied that design to t-shirts, posters, stash jars, sweaters. It's pretty cool. You had asked me if you could share the Sphinx design in an Adobe commercial. To be asked to participate in an Adobe campaign must be one of the most validating things in your career to date. Tell me about that campaign, and can you give us a sneak peek of what we can expect to see from Adobe and you?
Ah man, yeah it was a really cool experience to have Adobe of all companies, commission a piece and ask to give a tutorial. They specially asked me to create a design for a beginner level tutorial that highlights image tracing a drawing, the smoothing tool, and the mirroning tool in Adobe Illustrator. So I designed a logo that can be integrated into a repeating pattern design for a fictional plant shop that sells live plants, handmade vessels, and branded merchandise.
They even had a crew come out to my studio in Minneapolis to do an interview for the video, and highlight some of my work. They set up a greenscreen and had people streamed in from New York coaching me through the process and asking questions. It was a whole ordeal. I mean I prefer to be behind the camera, but it was a cool experience. And during the interview they wanted to show some of my projects and that’s why I reached out to get permission to share the Sphinx design. I think they selected other pieces for the video, but it's still one of my personal favorites.
Where can we see this?
Here is a link to the video in case you want to check it out: https://creativecloud.adobe.com/discover/article/create-graphics-that-get-noticed-with-jared-tuttle-and-kemal-sanli
What are you working on in 2022?
I'm working on a lot of things at the moment that will carry over into 2022, but one of the big ones is gold foil puzzles for Spin Master. That will be a lot of fun to share once they’re ready. I’m working on another snowboard, which should be sick. Another wine label illustration for Sokol Blosser Winery. And something really exciting that I can’t share yet for Vanderbilt University. But a lot of my work is in branding and packaging. Buildings, hotels, restaurants, bars, cbd brands, and more, so there are a number of brands I’m working on now that will launch in 2022.
Also you have in the pipeline some new CULTA designs, right? Can you tell us a little bit about that? I'm very excited.
I can't yet. It's still a bit early for me, but I'm excited to be thinking of these things and start working on them soon.
But we’re expecting, what, three designs?
Yep, three designs, with a focus on typography this time around. So that will be the new kind of spin for this wave of designs for you guys.
For anybody that wants to hire you, how can they get in touch?
Wonderful, Thank you, Jared, I appreciate it.
I’m just out here doing the best I can with my work man. And I'm happy that people are interested in what I'm doing. Life doesn't really change all that much with the more success you get... You know what I mean? I'm just trying to be the best that I can.
You're doing a great job! We appreciate your partnership and we're excited for the new designs.
It’s gonna be a lot of fun!