Fort Worth, Wild Rags and Schaefer Outfitter

Fort Worth, Wild Rags and Schaefer Outfitter

Designing a wild rag that embodies Fort Worth, western heritage and the land is exactly the type of work I enjoy doing.

First there's the place — Fort Worth, Texas — one that I've drawn countless inspiration from. You can find that inspiration in the pieces Joy, Cactus Cafe and North Side to name a few. Secondly, the western roots and heritage are a deeply ingrained part of my past and present.

Lastly, the land. I don't know how many times I've been inspired by this land surrounding Fort Worth. In the spring, the way the wind blows through the grass causing a ripple of movement in color as the slightly lighter underbelly of the blades are flipped up and back down with the wind. The way the wildflowers collect in the ditches on the side of the road. Even the hot summer sun, I find a beauty in it too.

Now, about Schaefer OutfitterI took a walk through their Fort Worth Stockyards store just the other day, and I could have taken home a couple hats, a vest in all of my favorite brown and gold hues and definitely a few pearl snaps. Their products are straightforward and rooted in the durability of everyday use. These are the things I considered when designing the layout for this wild rag.

The Sketched Design

I started this process by sketching 6 small thumbnails of all the ideas I thought might work. As I put them down on paper, I began to come up with new threads to look into and even noticed how moving cattle usually causes them to line out, which could actually create a subtle 'S' shape in my design.

From there I picked the strongest layout and elements and began sketching how they would go together. At this stage I moved to the iPad for its ease in sizing and moving different pieces. I enjoy what technology can do, but once I had the layout finalized I brought it back to pencil and paper.

The main illustration is a pastoral scene of two riders moving longhorns in the pasture with a repeating border that features a cacti in bloom, armadillo, spurs, horny toad, and a guitar along the edges. All in all, it's a mix of familiarity and a little bit of nostalgia.

Printing the Pieces

As I started printing, I had two different color sketches that I was referencing — one was a quick watercolor study and the other a digital illustration. I was struggling with how I would achieve the colors I needed, but when I look back at those studies I realized I was spot on with how the color would show up.

For any of you not familiar with reduction printing it's a process that uses the same linoleum block to produce each color layer. So, each time you are carving away the same block and reducing it down to pretty much nothing by the end. Also, you are using a mix of pressure, transparency and ink thickness in order to create each layer. For this block the colors I used were: yellow, light blue, gold, dark blue, burnt orange, and dark purple-tinged grey. Notice I never mentioned green, yet the entire thing is pretty much green! If you ever wanted to really get good at color theory, printmaking is a great place to start.

I used Akua inks for this process because I needed the layers to dry quickly so I could keep moving forward with the design, but because of this I had to manipulate the ink a little differently then when I use traditional oil-based inks. It was frustrating at first, but also a good lesson for me to get me out of my comfort zone.

Aside from the main reduction print, I also produced secondary elements to be used in the creation of the wild rag. They were a horny toad sitting on spurs, an armadillo, cacti in bloom, and a guitar that you might see used in a traditional western swing band. These were secondary pieces therefore I used a two color block print process to create them, and actually printed each block separately to be manipulated digitally.

From there I cleaned up edges, altered color and pieced it all together. All that's left are the final touches. Schaefer Outfitter will be producing the final piece in November 2024! So stay tuned for the design reveal.