A Bohemian Rhapsody of Lettering and Art
Bohie Palecek is a wandering commercial artist, traveling and drawing, and working her way around the world. Growing up on the Southeast coast of Australia, she was, not surprisingly, raised by artists. Though she finds it hard to define what exactly she does when asked, it’s clear that she’s a skilled letterer and designer, continually honing her craft.
As a teenager, she was heavily influenced by skate culture and the work of Michael Sieben, Spike Jonze, Travis Millard, and Mel Kadel. “They were the artists behind the art that I was ripping out of magazines and pasting up on my bedroom walls,” Palecek says. This work that often seems like a smack in the face to traditional art and design, is what turned her on, and eventually, turned her off from art school, which she dropped out of after only a year.
After taking a year off, Palecek returned to school to major in graphic design. The time off did her soul good. She says, “I had a heart full of gusto and so much energy that I handed in every assignment early and became mates with the lecturers like a true design nerd. I was totally psyched. At 22, I felt light years older than most of the other students—fresh faced 18 year olds, still so unsure about why they were there.” It was at design school that she learned to appreciate typography and, “I finally understood why I liked certain styles, and more importantly, how to achieve them.”
She was heavily influenced by the work of Caleb Everitt and Jon Contino and their hand-crafted design sensibilities. “Within two years I had stepped away from computers entirely, bailed to America, and picked up a brush”. In Austin TX, she was taught the craft of sign painting by Joe Swec who, along with his contemporaries; L A N D, Public School and Arts and Rec, encouraged her hand crafted pursuits. “The more I got into sign painting the more I got back into my craft roots. Once home, I explored the small towns of rural Australia - calling hand painted numbers at the bottom of signs and murals, hoping to find another mentor. The process was liberating and definitely contributed to my love of aged and weathered lettering,” she notes.
Here, she tells us about a couple of her favorite projects.
Electric California and I have been working together for the last 6 months on murals, hand painted helmets and t-shirt graphics. We’ve coined our collaboration style as “Classy Grime”. “Classy Grime” is ratty tattoos in a fresh cut button up. It’s clean, fresh typography painted to seem tired and weathered. Deceivingly classy, and also deceivingly grimy.
Electric wants their product to look authentic and timeless. We get psyched on similarities between their vision and my style, it’s about a collaboration between the old and new - a youthful bravado cloaked in weathered maturity.
To give you an idea of my process: before I had my first meeting with them, I had researched the brand, read articles, looked at Electric’s history and target demographic. Next I created inspiration boards and found pieces of my past work that fits their style. Then I ran all this by them and asked for contributions. While fleshing out their concepts I’m also looking in to my own abilities - e.g. asking myself “How can I achieve the right vibe through colors and textures alone.”
It sounds like a lot of work but honestly this is the best part for me. I feel like a scientist or an explorer! I’m looking in to the whys and hows.
Once I feel comfortable I’m on the right track, then the execution is generally straight forward. I trust my eye, stay loose, let the piece create itself. I’m always pretty anxious until the piece is finished, but I have this weird spiritual trust in the brush, in the letterform- it kind of tells me how it wants to be.
Sometimes I think it’s going to be an “A” with a switchback left descender, and then all of a sudden I’m drawing it with a kicked cross-stroke and a thick right arm. I know my work can at times be unconventional, and I know I’m breaking technical rules, but whatever. It’s way more fun that way.
It’s jobs like these where the lines get blurred between ‘artist’ and ‘designer’.
Mischief Brew Cold Coffee
I spent last year branding Australian based Mischief Brew Cold Coffee. The process started small, a single logo and a high five. Within a month, it had escalated into a full-scale art directing job. The young entrepreneur behind Mischief Brew, Scott Giles, entrusted me to shape his product in to something completely unique to his industry. I think a lot of people would be too frightened to break the norm like that.
With Mischief Brew, the design magic came when the owner became collaboratively involved in the creative process. The very nature of entering into a “collaboration” with someone shows immediate respect and appreciation. It’s always good vibes. His creative eye came from a completely untrained background, which really added to the brand’s personality. When you’re abiding by the rules you’re confined to this grid system, right? Everything’s so neat and tidy. As designers we can really obsess over the perfection of a piece.
In this instance, Scotty didn’t even know the rules, let alone the fact that he was encouraging me to break them. So often we would look at each other with this side long grimace saying, “I dunno man, can we do that?” Then we’d shrug and say, “Whatever, we can do what ever the hell we want!” It was really refreshing.
Learn more about Bohie at bohiepalecek.com.
Edited by Emily Potts