Russ Novak

For 14 years, Russ Novak has served on the SDPAC board and donated his artistic talents to produce the annual event poster for the Festival of Beer. Putting pen to canvas, Russ first comes up with a concept and then brings his vision to life the old fashioned way – often times having models pose for his paintings. 

Q: What roles have you filled over the past 20 years with the SDPAC?

A: I’ve mainly been in charge of producing the original art for the festival poster and with production & sales of the festival T-shirts.  I have also recruited heavily for volunteers, key volunteers, and board members.

Q: How many years have you been making the artwork for the San Diego Festival of Beer?

A: I did my first poster for the Beer Fest in 2000.  I had noticed that previously, they had been using the same graphic (a shot of a beer mug) as their go-to design for several years.  My idea was to mimic the Munich Oktoberfest (and other similar festivals) who have a unique (and hence, collectible) poster design every year.  I offered to do the first poster for them gratis, and the next thing you know, they elected me to the Board!  It’s been my best known contribution to the festival ever since.

Q: How would you describe the process you use when creating a the poster art? 

A: Once I have my concept in mind, I try to gather subject material to help me draft the design.  On several occasions I have enlisted friends & family to pose as models.  I then sketch out the drawing on a piece of gessoed masonite board (If I’m using oil) and then start in with the paint.  Since it’s the most difficult part of the composition, I usually start with the face.  If I get that right, then the rest is down hill!

Q: What kind of materials do you use when you create each painting? 

A: I prefer oil on board, but I’ll also use acrylic for simpler parts of the composition, since it dries so much quicker.  Some years I’ve done either water color on board or paper, or a combination of water color and goache.

Q: Do you have a favorite San Diego Festival of Beer poster?2003

A: Yes.  Probably the 2003 poster, with the girl flying on a beer bottle over the Coronado Bridge.  I had just gotten done taking some plein air painting lessons, so my skill levels were very sharp.  It was also the first of my many ‘Pin-Up Girl’ posters.

Q: How did art become your hobby?  

A: I was obsessed with drawing since I was a little kid, and actually wanted to be a cartoonist.  I did manage to turn that into a gig as Editorial Cartoonist for the Rutgers Gleaner (another non-paying art job).  I took up oil painting right when I turned 30, as a response to a sort of early mid-life crisis.  I’ve had a couple of shows over the years, and have sold a few paintings, but I work way too slow to make it financially viable as a source of real income.

Q: Do you have any other artistic outlets?

A: Yes.  I’ve been playing the piano all my life, and have just picked up the accordion over the past year.  Fun!

Q: What is your favorite part about volunteering with the SDPAC? A: Working together with great people for a good cause, and being ‘sort of a big deal’ to my friends for one night of the year.

Q: What is your day job?

A: I’ve been doing consulting work for the Navy (SPAWAR) for quite a few years, but my wife Mary Anne & I are also opening up a new business downtown, called EarthWise Pet Supply.  It will be in East Village on Market St. (right next to Furry Tales Doggie DayCare).  We hope to open our doors in late October!

Q: When did you first develop your love for craft beer? A: Before most people reading this blog were born, Sierra Nevada and Anchor Steam back in the early ‘80s. Q: What’s your favorite craft beer at the moment? A: Coronado Brewing Company’s ‘San Diego Party Pilsner,’ brewed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the San Diego Festival of Beer.  I am a huge Pilsner Urquell fan, and Coronado brewed something along those lines for us at SDPAC. Q: How do you keep up with the ever-changing San Diego craft beer scene? A: I hang out with people who know more than I do. Q: What beer are you most excited about trying at this year’s festival? A: Having already sampled (amply) San Diego Party Pilsner at the SDPAC Mixer at Coronado Brewing Company,  I’ll be looking for something smooth, not too hoppy, and slightly dark from a newer local brewery.  I’ll take suggestions of what that might be! Some of Russ’ many designs over the years: