The Case of the Curious Filmmaker

My good friend, Matt Seilback, approached me a few months ago with a passion project of his. Matt and I met at my previous employment where he and I immediately found in each other kindred spirits. From the outside we are an unlikely pair, he a devote Christian and I an ardent atheist. And yet, our passion of art and shared sense of humanity quickly bonded us to each other. It’s been many years and at least one company separating us since we met, yet we’ve stayed steadfast friends through all that time.

Like the story of too many this year, Matt found himself in the midst of COVID-19 looking for ways to financially support his family. As artists, even in the best of the years this can be a challenge. Your artistic voice often must be very tamed, if not outright held in check, when working in corporate settings. This is not an incrimination of corporate work, just the nature of the needs of the company are not necessarily served by one’s own inner needs as an artist. Given his situation, it was an opportunity for Matt to see how he might step closer to creating a future where his artistic vision could be better expressed and harnessed while still earning a living for he and his family.

When he came to me, he wanted to start his own company, The Curious FilmMaker, that would become a door toward such a future. He was in need of a logo, and as a friend, I could not resist but to volunteer my time to help him get a bit closer to making that dream a reality.

One of the joys of working with other artists is their clear sense of vision for what they want. They also understand intimately how to work with another artist. This is no more true than with Matt; while he had a clear vision of the overall motif he wanted for a logo, he needed my skills to help bring his ideas to life.

There is nothing worse than starting out on a project where you get an early start, fall in love with a particular direction, only to discover your client hates it. Happen to you, too? Happens to everyone, and I’ve yet to find a person who enjoys that even when its our day-to-day job. It’s the nature of things for sure, but over the many years I’ve worked on graphic design for others, I’ve discovered the sooner I can narrow in on a client’s tastes the better. Once I get an idea of that, then and only then can I jump headfirst into ideas that will largely land with them from the very first rough draft.

We spent a day or two examining logos from other companies that inspired him, gathering notes on what aspects resonated with him. Whether it was typography, line-weight, color schema, or even theme, everything was game. This was largely an opportunity for Matt to more intuitively describe his tastes without having to articulate it directly; something most of us would find challenging to put down in words but effortless to do is just by pointing to examples. And this is exactly what Matt did for me: help narrow in on elements of design that he loved (and did not love), freeing me up to spend more time iterating on composition and content without getting bogged down on stylistic choices.

For those not in the know, Canva is an amazing tool for graphic design work. While it’s a web-only tool geared toward digital design with easy exports to PDF and other digital platforms, I found it superior in a lot of ways to more traditional tools such as Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer (which I love). Canva is frankly an amazing tool for rapidly prototyping, and in a lot of ways is a complete design studio for jobs such as this. I’d export progress to my local machine and then share in a common Slack channel for Matt to comment on. This allowed us to seamlessly collaborate when convenient for ourselves, especially as we both have other full-time jobs along with a two-hour time zone difference separating us. Even with this kind of asynchronous communications, it presented zero hinderance to us, and we maintained that sense of carefree collaboration and virtuous feedback loop that feeds the soul of every artist, myself included.

We wanted a logo that spoke of Matt’s passion for the craft and long-history of videography stretching back to the days of analog film. There were some attempts for more abstract design elements in the logo, but ultimately we decided on a more direct approach, including the silhouette of a vintage film camera that Matt provided. It was straightforward enough to use Inkscape to produce a reliable vector outline of the image, and then manipulate it to create perspective while providing a solid outline to allow me to separate it from the background when I composited it within Canva. Finally, given Matt’s passion as an artist is to reveal the quirky, the curious, the inner-most passions of his subjects, we wanted a logo that even in typography nodded to this quality of Matt, thus I settled on both a serif and sans serif font to juxtapose Matt’s rounded sensibilities in a modern setting.

I’m excited for Matt. He is an amazing friend and generous human being. But more than that, he is a visual story-teller who is out to tell other peoples’ stories. I’m excited to hear, and more importantly, see what he has to say. For my small part, I’m grateful to be a part of his journey.


Back in February of 2018, I happened to be at CR Sandidge sipping on a glass of wine while sketching. As fate would have it, Miss Caris was also there to visit her mother, Athena. Now, for folks who don’t know me, I tend to fill in my time doodling things like eyes, trees, fantastical beasts, but especially dragons. Oh, I do like me some dragons.

Given that both me and Miss Caris were sharing our drawings with each other, the conversation eventually moved to Sabrina’s love of dragons and Athena’s desire to have a dragon-themed label for Sabrina. We talked some more that evening, and I told Athena I would happily design something for them. She said yes, and the rest is, as they, history.

I’m writing the below on the eve of the Sabrina bottle grand debut scheduled for April 20th, 2019. While I will not be able to attend the debut evening, I wanted to share a bit of how we got from that fine evening well over a year ago to today. The below will progress in chronological order, starting from concepts and ending with the final design; hopefully along the way I can share a bit of how we made it through the various turns to where we are today.


When I got home I immediately started drawing various roughs of dragons. As we had not yet discussed specifics, I was trying out various styles and motifs that I thought might work on a wine label. I tried a few cute and cuddly critters around themes of fertility and contentment. And if you look carefully, you might even find one or two concepts that look a bit like a bunch of grapes! And if you are curious, I wrote a post on how I took these concepts and further fleshed them out as personal projects.

Sketches, Line

As we I started sharing my initial ideas with Athena and Sabrina, it came out that they wanted a more Asian dragon. When I think of Asian dragons, I imagine something akin to what you might see at a Chinese New Year festival, large head like a tiger and a long, sinuous body that tapers to an end like a snake. So I started moving my ideas along these lines with the help of Sabrina who shared with me dragons she loves.


Dragon Emerges

I knew that having the dragon wrap around the bottle would really help sell the concept; and I thought it would really make the Sabrina stand out amongst its peers on a wine shelf as something unique and special. Below is one such idea where we start t see a more asian dragon emerge, with more rendering applied as we start to lock down on what does and does not resonate with all of us.

Concept, Warp (original)

At this point, we had a good direction to proceed. An asian dragon wrapping around the bottle; but, as evidenced with the above versus the final design you can tell that we were not satisfied with the dragon’s head, a prominent feature of the design. I still liked the idea of a dragon as a grape, as so I took this general shape and turned it into the below design concept.

Concept, Dragon

Its All in the Details

Given that everything to date had been done as a raster image (the dragon is just a lot of pixels), I needed to convert everything to a vector image for purposes of printing. This is an entirely different workflow than how I normally work with my artwork, but vector yields much better results when you want to print something that will require a lot of little adjustments to scaling, et cetera.

The below is a version that was getting close to the final version. You can see that I’ve extended out the horns of the dragon, and added visually interesting patterns to make it more tactility given that the final print would only include a few colors – I could not rely on shading to help achieve the results I wanted but instead shapes and lines.

WIP (v Feb 21)

We already knew that the we’d use the metallic ink for the logo, and I wanted to that ink elsewhere. So as the design emerged, the idea of the dragon conjuring an orb fit well with the theme, and would allow me to use this ink to help harmonize the dragon with the CSR logo.

But beyond that, we did not quite know what color(s) to use the for the dragon. And this is not as straight-forward as if I were printing to paper. On a wine bottle you have different colored glass, and the color changes on whether there is wine in the bottle or not. So finding a color palette that would work in all these situations was not straight-forward to say the least.

Color Study, Overview

While we did settle on a very simple palette of white, I would still love to do a run of bottles with a bit more more color. The below is my version of color that I really like.

Color Study, Variety

An artist is never really done, and that is no less the case with Sabrina bottle design. I was not satisfied with the amount of detail (or lack thereof), and I had a lot of issues with a solid white tail seen in the above image. So I went back one weekend, and spend time refining details and redoing the tail entirely to better balance with the text.

Final Version

In total, there is something like 80+ hours of love poured into the design over the course of 6-8 weeks starting in February of 2018. Since then I’ve worked with the printers and was ready to go for Athena and Ray when they were ready to finally bottle Sabrina. The day is here, so I hope you enjoy a glass or two – my only hope is that my own art pairs well with our preeminent artist and winemaker: Ray Sandidge.


CR Sandidge Sabrina 2018 wine bottle

About the Artist

Dragon Warden – Artist Self Portrait

I currently reside in Manson, Washington with my partner and our two great danes. We are very fortunate to live near her parents, as we moved out here for a slower pace of life, and still hope to start a family of our own in this lovely valley.

My day job more revolves around being the chief technology officer for an edutech startup called Varsity Tutors, so it may seem a far stretch for a person with my background to design a wine label, let alone draw a dragon. But I have a lifelong passion for creating art, and I grew up with equal passions in physics and mathematics as I did in illustration and art; albeit in high school I started steering toward engineering as my career path. Alas, that is for another story. Suffice it to say, I had experience in the past with publishing and graphic design from the mid 1980s when it was possible with a Mac and laser printer to do it yourself out of our basement. And while most of my professional career is centered on technology, I’ve worked very closely with designers and artists through out that time and thus have a strong working knowledge of process and technique. While I would argue I’m more artist than designer, I did have the distinct pleasure of designing Chelan Valley Family Medicine’s logo in recent years.

I’m looking forward to doing another wine label for C.R. Sandidge scheduled for next year. And I’m always open to chatting if you have ideas you want to see come to life, dragons or otherwise! Please do contact me!