The poster for the 2019 Skagit Valley Tulip Festival should ring familiar for Bellingham residents — the brilliant colors, the whimsical style, the heart-lifting tones.
Chances are you’ve probably seen that same style around town before, such as the mural on the front facade at Mallard Ice Cream or on a power box on the corner of 12th Street and Harris Avenue. Or maybe you’ve seen paintings that seem to be from the hand of the same artist for sale on the walls at area bakeries, cafes and retailers.
The Tulip Festival announced in a press release in August that it had chosen Bellingham artist Ben Mann for the honor of painting the artwork to be used on the annual collectible poster, though Mann told The Bellingham Herald in an email last week that he was actually selected in 2016.
“It’s a fantastic honor, and I can say that the resulting illustration definitely benefits from the 30 years of freelance art that preceded it,” said Mann, who still has his studio in Fairhaven and lists Bellingham as his native town on his website, though he now calls Mount Vernon home. “Adapting my paintbrush for content is akin to a culinary challenge: you bring the groceries, I’ll do the cooking.
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“I also spent time reviewing the work done by the 35 artists that skillfully rose to the design challenge before me.”
Mann said he met with the Tulip Festival’s executive director, graphic designer and farmers, and he worked with them to incorporate what they were seeking while still making his artwork stand out from the works of previous poster artists.
The 2019 poster was unveiled to the public last month, according to a Facebook post by the festival.
Mann’s artwork features a barn and tractor in the middle of rows of vibrant tulips under a brilliant Northwest Washington sky.
“I don’t really identify as a landscape artist, in the true Northwest sense of the word, but I love traveling into a subject and finding where it intersects with mankind,” Mann told The Herald. “A depiction of Silver Lake, for example, would absolutely include cabin, canoe, folks fishing.
“Where Skagit Valley was concerned, I wanted to lasso that uniquely blinding display of saturated color and how it impacts heart and eye.”
The artwork also will be available on souvenirs and in label form with Fidalgo Bay Coffee, 500 cases of local wine, Forte Chocolates and a Valley Brown Ale from Anacortes Brewery.
Mann said he is just honored to have had a hand in one of Northwest Washington’s biggest annual events.
“I feel lucky, and immensely proud to colorfully convey the attributes of things we all celebrate about this beautiful neck of the woods,” he told The Herald. “Elevating the viewer and the subject are my ongoing quest.”