The Collaborators: Candy Warhol's Colouring Cans

We all know we should be mindful of our beer consumption. Well, how about some mindful colouring in while appreciating your favourite beer labels and discovering some new beers along the way?

That's exactly what Connor Dempsey has in mind with the creation of Candy Warhol’s Colouring Cans: Sydney Edition. It’s a colouring book of his own making, for which he hand drew 148 cans from 38 breweries across Greater Sydney. The book is broken into sections of Sydney, with a map in each section showing where the breweries are located – the maps can be coloured in too, of course.

Since making the move from being a graphic designer to tradie several years ago, Connor has being coming up with side projects to feed his creative side.

“Working in a site by day, that’s very physical work,” he says. “It’s a different muscle, using my mind. I can completely change over. Mild-mannered builder by day, graphic designer by night!”

One of his past projects was drawing Coopers cans and putting them on posters. It reminded him of Andy Warhol’s soup can collection and gave rise to the thought: “Why don’t I make a colouring book of all the different beer cans?”

 

Some of the cans featured in the colouring book. (Don't worry - they don't come pre-coloured in the book.)
Some of the cans featured in the colouring book. (Don't worry - they don't come pre-coloured in the book.)

 

Of course, creating a book like this involves more than just sitting at home and drawing. Connor contacted each brewery he wanted to feature, and the sheer number of ensuing conversations ended up making this colouring book more admin heavy than past projects.

“It was a process! But a really fun process," he says. "Really enjoyed every bit of it.”

As well as the sheer enjoyment of flexing his creative muscles, Connor has found drawing to be good for his mental health, and has since looked into the benefits of colouring in. When he found himself struggling during COVID, he started the colouring book project as a way both to help himself and help others.

“Everyone’s got their own ways of dealing with it,” he says. “If one person benefits from [this book], it’s music to my ears.”

Now the book is complete and printed, Connor is selling copies online and is donating 10 percent of the funds to the Black Dog Institute to support mental health. He was stoked when half of the copies he had printed were immediately snapped up by the featured breweries – perhaps partly because it gave him an excuse to visit all the breweries, as he documents on his Instagram account @candywarholau.

“Every brewery’s been super nice about it. They’ve been buying some, promoting it on Instagram, it’s been lovely.”

Here’s some more about the book straight from Connor’s mouth…


CONNOR DEMPSEY, AKA CANDY WARHOL

Connor dropping copies of the colouring book to the breweries around Sydney.
Connor dropping copies of the colouring book in to the breweries around Sydney.

 

Where did the idea for the colouring book come from?

I was in a tightly-lockdowned LGA last year (Burwood area) and being a tradie meant I couldn’t do any work from home. To combat the boredom and being confined to the house meant I did a number of pet projects to pass the time, ranging from building a Viking ship for my cat Bruce, to all sorts of home renos, to graphic design projects, including my original smaller colouring cans book with more international and homegrown brands in it. I just gave that around to my friends to make them smile, not really thinking anything of it.

After getting back from a three-month global trip earlier this year, I was feeling a little low. To snap out of it, I knew I had to apply myself to my drawing again. Then I had a brainwave whilst wandering some of the galleries of local artists in The Rocks: why don’t I do one just simply to celebrate what makes me happy – local Sydney breweries!


How did you go about getting breweries on board?

To make sure every brewery was on board I sent out an introductory email, explaining my plan and asking them if they wanted to be represented in my coming project. As one of my previous projects – Fantastic Bars and Where to Find Them – meant I had a thorough knowledge of Sydney pubs, clubs, bars and breweries, I built on that and did plenty of research to hunt them all down.

Once I emailed and had the green light I got to work looking at their can art and choosing their most quirky or impressive designs. To be honest, all the breweries said yes! And one brewer had heard about my project through the grapevine and asked to be involved. I was chuffed.


How did you choose which beers to include?

I personally found it was less to do with the type of beer and more to do with the amazing can art that caught my eye. Since finishing the project and uploading my work to Instagram I have been in contact with the many faces behind some of the artworks. It is an honour to bring attention to some of their works.


How long did the project take?

Between the admin and the drawing it was about three-and-a-half months. It mostly took place in the evenings after a day on site, or the weekends when I could properly hammer away at it.


This isn’t the first time you’ve put together a book like this, is it?

Since leaving graphic design as a profession, every year I undertake a few projects so I don’t lose my skills. What started out as holiday drawings grew into pop culture posters, atlases of Sydney bars, children's books, books about Sydney bars, and now colouring in books about Sydney breweries. I think Sydney has a lot of hidden gems and enjoy giving these hidden specialties the attention they deserve.

 

You too can visit the breweries featured in Candy Warhol's Colouring Cans!
You too can visit the breweries featured in Candy Warhol's Colouring Cans!

Can you tell me about your decision to donate to the Black Dog Institute?

After two major lockdowns and a global pandemic, I think it's more important now than ever to be aware of each other's mental health and how some may be struggling more than others. I know that I feel better when I’m drawing and then I found some research that backed up why that might be. It’s proven to reduce anxiety and depression, and also send us to bed a little happier and help us sleep a little better.

Maybe through my books I have combined something that thousands of us enjoy – breweries – with something that’s really good for our heads. We can appreciate cans and the memories they spark, while unclogging our heads.

The Black Dog Institute is dedicated to researching mental health for all ages and do an exceptional job at providing people with the tools to deal with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. We are aligned. They’ve also been super supportive from the beginning.


Do you have plans to do another book in the future?

Of course! After the new year and the hard launch of the Sydney Edition, I plan to look into the other cities of Australia and, hopefully, do editions for each of the other major cities... in amongst the usual hustle and bustle of being a tradesman!


Candy Warhol’s Colouring Cans: Sydney Edition is $20, with free shipping Australia wide (and pick-up available in Sydney). You can buy it here.

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