Steven Harrington is as California as it gets. The Los Angeles-born artist often finds himself taking inspiration directly from the environment around him when it comes to his artwork. “Whether it’s the sunshine or colors, the ocean or the wild fires, the good and the bad — it all plays a big role in what I make,” he says. Harrington has carried this vicarious exploration throughout much of his work, allowing fans and those that take in his art to be transported to another place with each piece.
Harrington applied his sunny disposition to his most recent project: reimagining Bombay’s’ Sapphire. The concept showcases his bright, psychedelic-pop style on the classic blue bottle. Focusing his efforts on elevating the luxury gin while simultaneously bringing it down to earth with tongue-in-cheek, inviting graphics and colorful pop, Harrington kicked off the design by doodling random, playful graphics on the bottle that encapsulated its hand-selected botanicals from exotic locations around the world.
The limited-edition bottle began to take shape once Harrington turned these initial sketches and doodles into actual ingredients from the gin. Playing off the distinctive bottle, he added blue, green and yellow illustrations along the bottom, including lemon peel, almonds and juniper berries, representing the sourced botanicals. From there, Harrington was able to bend the creation to his liking and akin to his own unique personal style, honing in on a mix of popping color that bring the flavor and fun out of the Bombay Sapphire bottle. Holistically, Harrington was able to reflect onto the bottle the iconic imagery and authenticity that exist in the product within.
Going into the project, Harrington took time to hone in on the craftsmanship of Bombay and its distilling process because of his own advocacy for sustainability. Bombay Sapphire has, over many decades, worked to build sustainable and fair partnerships with botanical farmers around the world through its vapor infusion process. Taking the time to understand subtle details like this helped Harrington to truly highlight the spirit of the brand.
For our latest Pen & Paper feature, we talked to Steven Harrington about California, his creative process, the inspiration behind his illustrations, his approach to the Bombay Sapphire bottle collaboration and how things over the last year have changed what he wants to accomplish going forward. Read the full interview below.
“It always starts with pencil on paper.”
HYPEBEAST: What initially sparked your interest in art? When did you realize you were artistic and this was something you wanted to pursue?
Steven Harrington: I’m not sure there was an initial ‘spark’ when I look back. I think it was more about having years of interest in drawing and painting that made me want to get “serious” about making art. It was near the end of high school when I realized I had this calling that I couldn’t ignore. From there, I just started making images on a regular basis and never looked back.
Can you walk me through your artistic process? How do you get yourself going and where does the process usually begin?
It always starts with pencil on paper. I always begin with doing a big “brain dump” on paper. No matter how long I’ve been drawing, the first stage always feels vulnerable and tentative. But over time I’ve learned to embrace my intuition, push through, and from there anything is possible.
“California has had a big influence on my work and practice.”
With the Bombay Sapphire in mind, what was your vision for the bottle? The colors and pop are really striking and interesting, could you speak to the thought process there and your approach with this product?
The project started with learning about the distilling process. I had a hazy idea of how Bombay was made, but I had no clue as to how much goes into the process – from the decades it takes to build sustainable partnerships with botanical farmers from around the world, to their unique vapor infusion process. I found the process super interesting and immediately wanted to include the ingredients into the artwork on the bottle. In the end, I think it’s the visual energy of the lemon peel, almonds, cassia bark, juniper berries, etc. that made the art come to life.
What is a takeaway or something you found compelling about working with such an iconic label and bottle specifically?
I feel very fortunate because I’m now at a place where I can slow down and get really specific about the collaborative projects I take on. Because I’m focusing more on fine art these days, I’ve found that my partnership projects have proven really interesting because there’s always something new to learn about the brand and product. With Bombay I was super interested in learning about the manufacturing process and Laverstoke Mill, the brand’s distillery located in the English countryside. I was really excited to see how much effort they’ve take to ensure that the process and distillery are as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible.
“With Bombay, I was super interested in learning about the manufacturing process and Laverstoke Mill, the brand’s distillery, located in the English countryside.”
A lot of your work centers around growing up around California so how has LA played into your work? What themes are you exploring within your work?
California has had a big influence on my work and practice. I feel a connection to the outdoors, so the landscape has had a direct influence on my artwork. Whether it’s the sunshine or colors, the ocean or the wild fires, the good and the bad – it all plays a big role in what I make. Thematically, a large grouping of my work has evolved into speaking about common anxieties that we all share while also throwing in an occasional environmental issue here and there. I guess I’m just trying to heighten a sort of awareness if that makes sense.
What do you hope to accomplish going forward, and has that answer changed at all from what it used to be, with everything that’s happened in the last year?Yes, a lot has changed from the last couple of years, hasn’t it? More than anything, I feel more of an urge to speak honestly and outwardly through my work. I think it’s more important than ever to try and cut through all the noise that’s happening right now. We’re being fed so much information on a daily basis that I find myself constantly filtering out the truths that I can really trust. I feel like this last year has really showed me that world is just held together by all of us collectively — the “makers” and “doers,” you and me, the careful readers and the attentive audience. We’re the ones that help bring around the most change. And I hope to be a part of that change for the better.
“More than anything, I feel more of an urge to speak honestly and outwardly through my work.”
What’s next for you?
Although I can’t get specific, I can say that the second half of 2021 will be filled with a lot of surprises. That said, I also have my first large Museum exhibition in the works and I’ve been making a bunch of new paintings and sculptures for the installation. There’s several more brand collaborations that I’m currently working on and really excited about… And I still can’t wait to offer a toast to my first Gin bottle with Bombay later this month!
DISCLAIMER: We discourage irresponsible and/or underage drinking. Drink responsibly and legally.