‘Crate art,’ heritage and high-tech

Gilroyan Sheryl Cathers designed and drew the third-place poster

GILROY
– A mixture of Silicon Valley high-tech and the area’s
agricultural heritage helped in the creation of the winning design
for the Gilroy Garlic Festival’s winning poster announced last
week.
GILROY – A mixture of Silicon Valley high-tech and the area’s agricultural heritage helped in the creation of the winning design for the Gilroy Garlic Festival’s winning poster announced last week.

Winning artist Jim Serfass, 48, of San Francisco, used a computer in creating his sentimental look at Gilroy’s agricultural heritage in his poster. His love for commercial sign painting as well as “crate art,” the artistry that in by-gone years appeared on fruit and vegetable crate labels, motivated him to create the nostalgic poster for the festival’s quarter-century anniversary, he said.

“The overall look of it is inspired by old fruit crate art,” he said of his winning poster design. He won $750 in the competition.

Marina resident Steve Zmack won $400 as the second-place winner. Gilroy resident Cheryl Cathers won $200 for her third-place entry.

Serfass is a two-time festival poster winner, taking the first-place prize several years ago for his whimsical illustration connecting Gilroy’s garlic to the Gold Rush by showing garlic bulbs being mined as if they were golden nuggets.

For the 2003 entry, he began by sketching the design of garlic fields and South Valley mountains with a pen and ink. He then scanned the concept into a computer and manipulated the image to create the outcome he sought. He used various software programs to color the poster design.

Serfass has been a freelance graphic designer for almost 30 years, he said. He has had a creative compulsion since he was a child, tracing and sketching comic book illustrations in his childhood home of Bethlehem, Penn.

“I’ve always been drawing, even before grade school,” he said.

After graduating high school, he worked in the Bethlehem steel industry for three years, but the love of art and drawing called him to his more creative profession. He now works in San Francisco as a graphic designer, creating commercial illustrations and designing computer trade-show booth layouts for companies. Some of his illustrations have appeared as computer magazine covers as well as in “TV Guide” magazine, he said.

One of his artistic inspirations is the pop artist Andy Warhold whom he admires for the simplicity of style in his artworks. He is also motivated by the illustrations of Bay Area artist Michael Schwab who has created poster art of well-known San Francisco travel destinations.

“His work is really striking,” Serfass said.

Besides winning the 2003 Gilroy Garlic Festival contest, Serfass recently also won first-place in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury Street Faire poster contest with an eye-popping illustration of a woman surrounded by bands of various color.

To see Serfass’ illustrations on the Internet, go to his Web site at http://members.ispwest.com/srfr

Serfass’ Garlic Festival entry was one 26 this year which was many more entries in the annual contest compared with previous years, said Connie Sanchez, chair of the retail committee which organized the competition.

Graced with South Valley farm fields and mountains, his poster connects the 25th anniversary to the original festival that was held in a large field just south of town next to Highway 101, she said.

“I do like crate art,” she said. “I also liked the fact that it portrayed the very first year that the festival was held at the ranch. … The colors of Serfass’ poster were nice and bright and they tied in with the colors we are going with this year for the festival.”

The official colors of the festival this year are red white and blue, she said.

A committee panel looked at all of the entered posters and considered them for specified dimensions as well as artistic content and quality, she said. The judges had no idea who the artists were while making their choices. Selection was intense as some posters were weeded out, then brought back into the running again, she said.

“It usually takes about three tries,” she said.

Three posters were selected and ranked in order of preference by the panel. These three were brought to the festival board which made the final selection.

Serfass’ poster illustration will be displayed on retail merchandise at the festival such as tea towels, coffee cups and key chains.

Retail is a significant money-maker for the festival, and every year the retail committee looks for new merchandise to entice the crowds of visitors, Sanchez said.

The commemorative wine glasses are always popular and this year, to mark the festival’s 25th year, the glasses have been redesigned to include a frosted glass garlic bulb on the stem.

Serfass’ winning poster will also be on sale for $10 each, and Serfass is scheduled to sign his works on July 26 and 27 at the festival.

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