July 26

The Illustrated Beer

Interview with Illustrator Ellie Yun-Hui Tu

Our newest beer, Money on My Rind, has been out in the world for a few weeks now and is getting a lot of love. So much so that our other beers, Sublime Ginger and Wildflower Pale Ale, might be a little jealous if it weren’t for their new packaging getting a lot of attention, too. With all the praise for the new six-pack art, we thought we’d talk to the woman behind the beautiful botanical drawings, illustrator Ellie Yun-Hui Tu.

illustrator Ellie Yun-Hui Tu

Ellie, how did you start drawing and illustrating?
As a product designer, I always first visualize my concepts by sketching because I prefer working with hands rather than using the computer. For me, using hand drawing to express an idea is faster and more flexible than using a computer. I did a small magazine illustration when I studied in France, and that was my first paid illustration project. The home accessory brand that I used to work for incorporated some of my botanical illustrations in their graphic design, but those were very simple line drawings. Four years ago, I casually started to draw flowers and plants with watercolor and ink just for fun. Then I became very interested in traditional botanical art and began to illustrate with more details in the end of 2014.

As a product designer, what draws you to illustrate botanicals?
When I design, nature and botanicals are always my major inspirations. The outdoor candle holder that I designed won the iF Design award in 2008 and was inspired by the form of wild lilies. I also like gardening and being close to the soil, feeling the life cycle of plants. Drawing botanicals makes me understand more about the flower, the fruit, and the whole plant in front of me. Through the magnifier, I get to see the beauty of the parts that are hidden or usually neglected by the viewers. It's a great fulfillment when I get to accurately document the colors, the shapes, and the textures of my subject. I also admire the devotion of pioneer botanical artists between the 15th and 18th centuries. When I'm by myself in the studio, painting the subject in front of me, I'd like to think that I'm closer to those artists.

What are your favorite botanicals to draw, and why?
Wildflowers and native plants always catch my eye. They may not be as splendid or fragrant as ornamental cultivars, but there is a cheering vigorousness in them. I love painting vegetables, fruits, and nuts, too, or any subjects that I can eat after the painting is finished! I always joke that this is the key point that sets botanical illustration apart from scientific and medical illustrations.

Did you ever think you'd see your illustrations on beer packaging?
I did not! So when I was approached by Robert, I was instantly hooked and fascinated by Forbidden Root's product concepts. I had raspberry and other fruit-forward beers before, but never such interesting combinations of flavors! It took me some time to research the plants, and I blasted everyone I knew with phone calls and emails about where I could find the specimens of some of the key ingredients. I had a great time doing this project. Robert and Randy are wonderful to work with.

Are you a beer drinker? If so, what's your favorite beer style?
I am! Especially when I travel and eat at local restaurants. I like to drink beer from microbreweries of that town or region. Pale Ale is my favorite so I really want to try Wildflower Pale Ale!

Speaking of trying beers, Wildflower Pale Ale, Sublime Ginger, and Money on My Rind are available at fine beer retailers across the Chicagoland area. And now you know a little more about the artwork behind them. Cheers x6!