A Conversation with Tim Kapustka

Get to know this year's Festival Artwork artist!

We’re incredibly excited to reveal this year’s commissioned Festival Artwork, “Hope in a Dark Time,” created by local artist Tim Kapustka of Cabbage Creative and Studio & Gallery!

Tim is an artist and graphic designer living in Durango, Colorado. The son of two teachers (science & 2nd grade), he has a solid grasp on 2nd grade science. He grew up on Michigan’s lower peninsula in the shadow of a Vlasic pickle plant and, as he puts it, still has a thriving love affair with the city of Detroit, that city’s baseballers, the Tigers, and pickles.

Read on to get to know more about Tim, his background, and where the inspiration for this year’s piece came from.

How long have you been in Durango and how did you end up here?

I moved to Durango in the fall of 2009. So over 11 years now.

I was a corporate casualty of the 2008 economic situation. I lost my job as a book designer at a publishing company in Chicago. So I decided to open up my own design studio. I spent some time traveling around the western US and Canada looking for the place to do that. I visited Durango several times, my brother lived here at the time, and well, Durango did it’s thing to me. So I moved here, opened Cabbage Creative, and 6 months later Studio & Gallery (with my partners) and the rest as they say, is history.

How would you describe your work for those who might not know you?

My work is vector illustration. The short answer is I draw them on the computer. The long answer is much more boring. 

"Hope in a Dark Time," by Tim Kapustka

When did you first begin producing art & what's your background?

I’ve been a professional graphic designer since 1999, so in that sense I’ve been creating things for a living for over 20 years. It wasn’t until I moved to Durango and became part of Studio & that I really started focusing on making art for the sake of making art. In a sense, I did it a bit backwards. We built the arena to show the art, then I started focusing on making art to put inside that arena.

Our 2021 Festival Artwork artist Tim Kapustka

What's your overall artistic process from idea to conception?

For most pieces, like this one for Music in the Mountains, I’ll start by gathering as much info as I can on the subject. Then if I’m lucky I’ll have some time to let everything marinate in my mind. Usually fairly quickly I’ll get an idea as to what the direction I want to go is. I’ll do some quick sketches in my sketchbook just to get the idea down, so I don’t lose it… or to make sure it’ll work like I think it might.

From there I’ll move onto the computer. I’ll spend some time pulling in reference images. Anything that might be relevant in the slightest way. Colors, shapes, shading styles, inspiration comes in all angles. I do almost all my work in Adobe Illustrator. So I’ll starting ‘building’ everything. This process feels a lot more like drafting than illustration. I’m making dozens and dozens of shapes, and color coding them as I draw them. This one is a highlight, that one a shadow, that is the main color green and is lighter than that green over there… It would probably seem quite maddening to someone watching it, but I’ve been doing this long enough, I have a system to it all. Trust me, there’s a system!

After drawing everything, then I get to start with the shading. This is the point that things really start to come alive and with some luck things start to really happen; it’s usually quite invigorating to see all the madness start to make sense.

After coloring everything I’ll usually take a day or two away from the piece. Then when I come back to it I can see things I didn’t see while making it. This is also the time when I’m often waking up in the middle of the night with the realization of what I’ve got to change or what is so obviously ‘wrong’.

I’ll continue to fine tune things until I’m happy with how things are looking. This usually means taking things away, or making things simpler. I’m a big fan of brevity. If I can do something in 3 moves, instead of 10, it’s 3 every time!

From there I’ll start to show some of my trusted confidants and get their input, and then eventually it’ll be ready to be out there. Once I’m done with it, it’s not mine anymore, it’s everyone’s.

Where do you find your inspiration, and what inspired you to work on this piece for Music in the Mountains?

I get my inspiration in so many places. I pay a lot of attention to shadows and am constantly amazed by them. I’m also constantly amazed by the innovation of yesteryear; the way someone designed something in the 1950s when everything was pointed at this amazing future. Other places I get inspiration: rust, trees, the river, repetition, simplicity, happenstance, and color, always color.

The inspiration for the piece for Music in the Mountains was a pretty obvious one to me. After talking initially with Executive Director Angie Beach about possible themes, the one of hope and looking forward through the darkness of the last year seemed to bubble up and be a pretty obvious choice for a strong visual. We all want to be back in the light, enjoying music in the mountains, don’t we?

What's your favorite thing about Durango?

The Animas River

Our 2021 Festival Artwork artist Tim Kapustka

See More of Tim's Work:

Get ready for this year’s festival!