Red Bull Crashed Ice Cooler (Or how to kill your darlings…Or How I learned that I need to slow the hell down sometimes)

Every February Red Bull holds in event an downtown St.Paul called Crashed Ice. Competitors ski down a narrow curvy track, bashing into each other, glass walls, and frozen ice to win the race. It’s become quite the attraction and brings in over a hundred thousand people over the course of the weekend it takes place.

With all that excitement Red Bull has started throwing festive events to get people excited about it. Several parties are put on throughout the town. What else do you do in Minnesota in February? A friend of mine who works at Red Bull asked if I would participate in a project where artists would take a classic Red Bull mini cooler, and customize it with their art. It would be displayed at one of the events. I thought the project sounded fun so I agreed. Also it was a good opportunity to draw on something that isn’t paper or a computer for the first time in a long while.

Since I was trying something new, and using some tools I hadn’t used in quite some time, I decided to keep the concept and execution pretty simple. The one request the client had was to make it have elements of St. Paul. I knew many artists would probably go with most of the landmark icons of the town like the cathedral on the hill, or some of the downtown buildings, so I decided to use The Vulcans.



The Vulcans are these group of people who have been dressing up as sun worshiping, sword carrying, swash bucklers for over fifty years. They are a main attraction throughout many festival events that go on throughout the state of Minnesota during the winter months. They try to get everyone excited about the summer months. It’s a little crazy but I think that you kind of need to be a little crazy to live in a place that is winter 6-7 months out the year. Who am I to judge?



So the project. I get my cooler, and you actually don’t put the art directly on the cooler itself, they give us these metal  “skins” that go on all sides of the cooler. Each part fits specifically to a certain side. I assemble it and make notes on which skin goes which side  and then I get started drawing. I limit my color palette to black, red and yellow. The traditional color of the Vulcans. I decide that while the Vulcans are fun and neat looking, that I want to make them look like real serious and a scary threat. So to do so I make them more zombie/demon looking.

For having not done much surface art in a while, the process goes pretty well. I mostly used these cool acrylic markers from Molotow that apply really nice. I am able to keep my line style and they go over my top base coats really well without taking much more than one layer of color.


Once finished, I go to reassemble the skins onto the cooler. I instantly knew something was wrong. While I had the skins labeled correctly on their sides, they also needed to be attached in a certain way to connect to the other skins, and I basically illustrated on them upside down. Working late nights on this I had gotten so insistent to try and get going as fast as I could, I didn’t bother to stop and double check to make sure how they needed to placed back on the cooler. It was a mistake of rushing too fast and it had caught up to me, big time.


The side skins needed to be sand blasted and completely redone. It really sucked.



I reapplied primer on the skins and once that was ready to go and I stocked up on more supplies. With a tight deadline, I ended up doing the work in half the time it took me earlier in the week, and to be honest, it looked a lot better as well. One of the original inspirations for this project was a Jimbo Phillips, who was the artist on my first skateboard as a kid, a Rob Roskopp deck from Santa Cruz. I don’t think I hit the proper amount of crazy the first time around, so this time I focused more on the gnarly faces and that seemed to help a lot.



Overall this was a really fun project that offered me the chance to stretch my creative muscles differently. It was also a good reminder that sometimes we go too fast and need to slow the hell down. I made a huge and easily correctable blunder on this thing and it pisses me off to no end. If it ever happens to you, it sucks, there’s no way around it. But if it does, just take it as an opportunity to make something better. You may find it to all be worth it in the end.