Maybe it’s a cup of coffee? Maybe it’s a pair of lucky skinny jeans? Maybe it’s a disembodied rubber Batman head that rests at the base of your iMac to remind you of childhood, or … of what might happen to you if you miss a deadline? The truth is, we all have a few things we consider essential when it comes to our creative happy place. And so we ask the question, What are your creative essentials? Today, we feature an extremely talented artist and illustrator for Jolby & Friends, Brett Stenson.



For this round, our Sr. Director of Strategy & Planning got the chance to sit down with the modern gentleman scholar and purveyor of weird, Brett Stenson. A multi-talented artist and illustrator who spends his days with the brilliant crew at Jolby & Friends, and his evenings rebuilding motorcycles or pursuing passion projects under the handle of Varado & Co, Brett and his work are incredibly compelling.

The wide ranging conversation over beers at a St. Johns favorite, The Fixin’ To, spanned topics from life and death, to punk, hip hop and indie rock, to motorcycles. And he helped us take this interview to another level by not just sharing his 5 Creative Essentials, but illustrating them as well.  



Record Player – Representative of music in general for me and my eclectic record collection. I like to collect blues records primarily, but I also have a bunch of indie, instrumental and hip hop. A lot of my inspiration comes from music and it makes me feel good when I’m working. There’s something about music that fuels my energy and inspires my emotional state. 

Triumph Motor – I think that motorcycle culture and motorcycles in general have a deep root in my approach to design. Beyond the aesthetics and culture of motorcycles, there’s something about working on bikes that just flips your mind into a different mode. My former creative director at GMR claimed the best ideas came while riding a motorcycle – which I didn’t really understand until I started riding more – and now I agree. It’s a switch. Instead of using the creative side of your brain, you use the survival side which allows different ideas to creep up into your brain. Pretty interesting when it actually happens.

Wacom Cintiq – My favorite thing on earth to draw on. I’ve had one since 2009, right after graduating college, and I have never looked back. There’s something about the immediacy of pen to digital that cuts down work time, and when you mess up, it’s a lot easier to back track.

Coffee – It fuels everything – I love it. Smelling coffee just really gets me pumped to work and stimulates my mind into overdrive. My wife jokes that I never finish my cup because I get really stoked, start working and forget about finishing the cup of coffee. Nothing beats a warm cup in the morning, or mid-morning, or afternoon… ok, I have a problem. 

Vessel – It represents my interest in the unknown and the mystical and the strange. The container itself actually represents a lot of my approach to design as a whole. I like to think of vessels as opportunities to dive into new worlds in a composition. I wouldn’t trust myself with an actual crystal ball with fortune telling powers; it would ruin life’s mystery!



I tend to explore historical references and mash them up with imagination. My fascination for old things is prudent in my process of thinking, so I tend to start there. My best friend Mike Alt has always opened my eyes to old and bizarre things in his antique shop, so a lot of my collection of weird stuff has come from him. Strange sculptures, patterns, antiquated devices, etc. Then I just ride the weird and try to push myself out of my comfort zone. Go beyond what’s trending on Notcot, Dribble, Designspiration - make something strange and interesting.  



I enjoy working with like-minded people on awesome projects. We get to vibe off each other’s brains and mind meld to become one thing, which can be hard to get used to at first. Jolby & Friends is a very interesting place to be, and I find it hard to compare to anywhere else. We just have a deep and weird-influenced connection to each other that transcends job titles.



Be honest about what you like and bring those interests to the forefront. If you love collecting rocks, and want to try doing work about rocks, do it! If you love quilting, make time for it and do it! Don’t let the bottom dollar or your initial lack of knowledge get in the way of trying something you have interest in. Drawing was something I used to dread because I had expectations of what was good, but now I have come to realize that good aesthetic is not always most important, it’s your idea that people love to see. Try new techniques and thought processes, it leads you down a road of uncharted territory!