Feature Friday #013 — Josh Gibson

Oh hello again! Here we go with Feature Friday #013! Today we get to hear about Josh Gibson, travel extraordinaire. You can find Josh on Instagram, his website or shop his Cotton Bureau collection here.

Hey Josh! How's life? Any recent trips you want to share?

Life is good! Fall is in full swing here in Virginia so it's my favorite time of year.

Yes! I just travelled with my wife and three kids to California for a couple weeks this summer, hitting up a few new-to-us spots as well as some old favorites. We visited Yosemite National Park for the first time and thanks to record snowfall and melt,got to see the waterfalls three times larger than recent years, hiked, and rock climbed. Then we explored the Big Sur coast for a few days and revisited the spot where we got married 18 years ago (Santa Barbara). Then we spent a few days in San Francisco exploring the city and doing all the ultra-touristy things before heading back to the east coast.

Wow that's amazing. Ultra touristy is fun! I took a similar trip a few years ago and have been itching to go back. Half Dome was the highlight for me but if Vernal and Nevada Falls had been three times the size I think that would've taken the cake.

What were the kids favorite parts? Did you check out Alcatraz? See any famous climbers on El Cap? Should we just talk about Yosemite the entire interview? Jk... sort of.

I think Vernal and Nevada were the faves as far as waterfalls go. The volume was so intense that there really was no mist...it was more like battering rain the entire time and everyone was dripping for miles longer than normal. Raincoats helped very little and it was FREEZING. Really cool experience and daunting to watch that much water go over the top!

Their favorite thing overall was probably climbing at Swan Slab. They went well above the tree lines and I loved watching our fellow park goers admiring them from below like they were pros. But they are not pros, and no way, I didn't let them near El Cap! I am not a climber so I spent that day fly fishing the Merced.

Yes, we did get to check out Alcatraz...the night tour! It was definitely creepy and I prepped the kids by showing them movies and YouTube videos about Alcatraz history and lore, so I think they enjoyed it. There is so much to do in California and we just saw a small sliver so I hope to go back at some point. Since a large segment of my design output involves public lands, natural areas, and outdoor activities in general, it was a great inspirational trip as well

Oh my gosh I can't even imagine. That much water would be intense. Sounds like it was a spectacular trip for all of you, I feel like that's what core memories are made of.

Loving the opportunity to segue here into some art questions. Many of your designs depict as you mentioned public lands, natural areas, and outdoor activities. Have you been to all of the places you illustrate? And what's your creative process like. Do you photograph the places and start creating when you get home? Just go off of memory? Whip out a pen and paper on the trail? I'd love a glimpse of start to finish what typically happens when you come up with an idea.

Sadly I have not been EVERYWHERE but have been to most. I interned for a season in Yellowstone and I think my appreciation for Americas Best Idea started there.

When it's a place I'm visiting, I almost always get started designing that day. My discovery of Apple Pencil, iPad Pro and Procreate fundamentally changed my design process for the better about 5 years ago. Now I travel with them (and my MacBook) everywhere. Most of my ideas go nowhere, but I have found that getting started right away and then putting on the finishing touches after I travel yields the best results. And yes, most is based off of photos I've taken, edited, and combined to create the best composition. Creative embellishments, like creating a super dramatic sky that didn't exist in the photo, it one of the most fun parts.

The process for creating T-shirt designs differs from commemorative posters in that I try to make merch much simpler and less painting-like. I like vintage style tees and even though very little of what I do gets screen printed anymore, I avoid gradients and dozens of colors, and I use negative space so that most of my stuff still looks screen printed.

Oh wow really cool, I haven't seen Americas Best Idea but I'm intrigued, I'll check it out.

Do you enjoy photography as well? Or are you taking pictures more for memories sake/inspiration later on. The embellishments sounds like it would be a really cool part of the process. I just got back from a trip to the smokies and found myself wishing there were more red trees in my photos. It would be cool if I was talented enough to just add them in myself. If I was I'd maybe sneak a bear or two in there as well lol.

I guess I meant that "best idea" quote as referring to the national parks themselves, I forgot about the documentary. But you should definitely watch that, it's great!

I have a decent camera but photography is a means to an end for me, i don't real have the eye of a professional.

I love the Smokies! It is the most visited park since it's near Dollywood and Gatlinburg but no one ever gets out of their car, so if you go for a hike you have most trails to yourself.

And with the new AI updates to Photoshop you can add in all the red trees you want! I am actually kidding, the only experimentation I have done with that new photoshop AI (called "generative fill") has yielded nightmare results. I mean really weird stuff. Im sure that will improve and get better though, probably pretty rapidly.

Yesss you're so right! I was actually nervous because there was so much traffic but as soon as we got out to start hiking everyone disappeared. I really enjoyed the park overall. Do you have a favorite place you've visited? Or even a least favorite?

I may check out the generative fill. As the ultimate photoshop amateur it feels out of my league but we'll see. Personally the whole AI thing scares me. What are your thoughts? Helpful? Risky? Just a phase?

My favorite place I've visited is probably the Big Sur coast. There's nothing like it and there are usually so few people there sometimes that it feels like a different world. I'd go every year if I could. I also love Costa Rica. Have visited a couple times and there are so many things to see and do in one country, it's a great visit every time. And the people are so friendly.

I feel like AI manipulation of photos and art is definitely not just a phase. There are SO many designers I know or follow on socials who are leading boycotts or rallying the troops to stop it, but that's a tough battle to win. It is moving rapidly but I am trying my best to stay up on the goings on. I do not think true, original design and branding can ever be completely replaced by AI.

Sure, if someone wants a super cheap logo and isn't at all picky, an AI-generated design may save them the $25 they'd otherwise be spending on Fiverr. But I think if we get to a point where AI can truly understand the nuances of what humans get from art and design and can create real art with real value, or generate good visual branding, then we are at Skynet level anyway and AI images are the least of our problems.

Right now I see it as a really convenient way to explore different art styles and disciplines and I am trying my best to figure out good ways to use it for ideas and inspiration, since it's probably here to stay.

Aaah Big Sur is beeeautiful and I've heard great things about Costa Rica. It's possible I'm actually using these interviews to create a travel wish list lol so thanks for the recs.

AI art has got to be a pretty stressful as a designer, not surprised there are boycotts going on. It seems like a pretty slippery slope to me but who knows, maybe something good will come of it and using it for inspiration sounds like a great way to make the best of it for now.

Well hey, let's wrap this up here. It was a blast talking with you, Josh! Can't wait to see where you're headed next.