Joey Hetzel - Bringing Nori & Dylan to life

Joey Hetzel - Bringing Nori & Dylan to life - Iron Bean Coffee Company

Iron Bean’s beloved mascot Nori was originally drawn by Fred Dedrick. As Iron Bean grew in popularity Fred and Chanell were teeming with ideas on how they could expand on Nori’s story. The only problem is hard! They quickly realized they’d need some help, but who? 

Finding the right person for a job is not an easy task but somehow Chanell and Fred lucked out and couldn’t have picked anyone better! It’s amazing how some things come together just right. Joey Hetzel is the woman behind the art we know and love on Iron Bean's logos and mugs. She is an amazing artist and an essential part of the Iron Bean family.  I wanted us all to have a chance to get to know her a little bit more. After all, we all have a little piece of Joey Hetzel in our homes; in our cabinets and mug shelves. 



1) Tell us a little about yourself! (Hobbies, likes, dislikes, what you do when you’re not sketching etc). 

I'm just a smalltown girl, living in a lonely world....not really, but I do live in a smalltown world with my husband Brett, who shares my disdain for extroverts and also shares my love for juvenile dirty jokes.  We have two cats-David Bowie and Murder...Murder is really my wingman though, to be honest.  I'm a caricature artist by trade and also do a lot of freelance cartooning and illustration.  

Believe it or not, I don't draw every day.  I should, but one has to take advantage of the 10 or so nice days there are in Wisconsin each year.  My ideal day is sitting outside by a campfire or at a park drawing whatever I want in my sketchpad, usually something to do with my forever ongoing webcomic.  I have a ton of other hobbies that I barely have time for but try to get to once in a while; riding my motorcycle, bicycle riding, fishing, kayaking, camping (real camping, no RVs), target shooting, and watching Disney movies.  I'm a HUGE animation fan.

I'd have to say outside of drawing, my  2nd and 3rd biggest passions are weightlifting (especially powerlifting) and judo. The two passions ebb and flow for the lead as the years go by, but they make a good pair overall.  I even dabbled in arm wrestling once...more on that below too.

Dislikes?  I'll try to keep it to the biggies:  Small talk, most top 40 music, people who shoehorn their politics into any conversation at all, supreme pizzas, busybodies, people who chew with their mouth open, the New England Patriots, green peppers, vegetables in general, cardio.


2) Have you always been able to draw?  


I get asked this one a lot....everyone's able to draw, technically.  Most people just stop drawing at a certain point in life because you're supposed to start pursuing checkbook balancing and folding laundry or something.   Honestly, it's just a matter of how much you enjoy it (drawing) whether you pursue getting better or not.  I'm able to run, but that doesn't mean I like it enough to train for a marathon :)  

To kind of answer that question, I've always enjoyed drawing.  My brain's usually going a mile a minute, and art was and still is an outlet for getting some of that out.  I had some great art teachers, friends, and other artists along the way who encouraged my art hobby as well, and that was definitely a big help.  I started out just copying my favorite characters from video games and animated movies, then started taking life drawing classes, online classes, and reading every art related book I could find.  I can honestly say if it weren't for classic comic strips and Disney movies, I wouldn't be doing much drawing today at all.  I did go to college for illustration, but I learned just as much just being surrounded by other artists when I trained in caricatures at Valleyfair Amusement Park in Minnesota.  I really miss being around that many creative people 5 or 6 days a week...that said I don't miss the carnie environment one bit, though.

I don't think my work is anywhere near where I want it to be, but I think that's kind of a thing with most artists.  My Valleyfair boss once said, "Be happy with the work you're doing today, but you shouldn't be happy doing the same work tomorrow."  It's really maddening in a way, but it also helps me improve.  It helps me get through the drawing sessions that are trash....although some days I just put the pencil down before I hurt myself and go and do something else. 

Young Joey in training



3) How did you meet Fred and Chanell? How is it working with them?


This whole thing started when I decided to enter an arm wrestling tournament at a local bar for a giggle.  Fred was the photographer at the tournament.  We actually didn't even meet as in talk to each other at the tournament--he contacted me after the fact.  If I remember correctly, I bought some Arm Fighter Foto merch (the name of his photography business), and we shot messages back and forth via Facebook regarding some of the pics he took and stuff like that.  He shot me a message on Facebook late one night asking me if I'd be interested in doing some artwork for him and Chanell's coffee company that had recently started up.  They had a few mugs at that point but were just starting to develop Nori as one of their flagship mascots.  I guess Fred had seen my "Liza" profile picture on Facebook and was like "Hey, she can cartoon, I'll ask her about doing some artwork!" or something to that effect.  You'll have to ask Fred for sure.  So in short, the "Nori Butt" tall mug was the very first design I did for them, followed by the Halloween Ghost Nori as my first stoneware mug medallion design.

Fred and Chanell are probably some of the nicest clients I've ever worked for.  They appreciate any input I have, and generally don't have "WE NEED IT RIGHT NOW" deadlines...although there were a few that got down to the wire :)  They also usually have a very good vision of what they want, and can steer me in the right direction if I'm way off the mark with concept sketches.  Sometimes I'll nail a design on the first try, but usually, it takes a couple of revisions before it's just right.  I always send designs to both of them though, because sometimes um...opinions will differ between the two of them and I want them both to agree on changes before I make them.  They crack me up.


4) What is your favorite Iron Bean medallion you’ve done so far?


I'd have to say it's a tie between the Slasher and the St. Patrick's Day mug.  I love the Jason and Freddy characters, so that project was a fun one.  St. Patrick's Day involved me accidentally redesigning Dylan a little--you'll notice he's a little beefier these days.  We all thought that was a good look for him going forward.  Plus, I really dig Ireland and all of its history so again a fun theme to work with.



I know this isn't exactly part of the question, but I think my favorite project for Iron Bean to date is the accidental creation of Dylan.  He was initially just a doodle I did around the 4th of July in my sketchbook a few years ago...I knew Fred was into Viking stuff so I just drew a "Viking Nori" for fun.  They ended up naming the character Dylan and the rest is history.  I just think it's cool how stuff can evolve completely by accident.



5) What is your favorite piece of non-Iron Bean artwork that you’ve done?


Definitely my webcomic/comic strip/comic book I've been doing on and off in some shape or form for the past 20 plus years...shit I'm old!  Good thing the characters never age.  It started off as "Tonja Steele" back when I drew it for my college's newspaper, then a webcomic after college to the tune of a few hundred strips (I forget the exact number).  I burned out on it and stopped doing it for about 10 years, still sketching the characters but not really putting the art out there for an audience.  As I got more into caricature and illustration pay work, I kind of realized I didn't draw art for myself anymore.  So, I re-relaunched "Coleman Elementary" in January of 2017, which was initially a spinoff of my original comic and took on a life of its own pretty quickly.  There's a whole lot more to the evolution of it into what it is today, but that's a story for another blog.  

It still gets shelved every so often when my workload gets big, but it is and always will be some of my favorite stuff to work on.  Not every strip is a winner, but I like using it as a tool for getting better at basic cartooning (anatomy, storytelling, gestures, portraying personalities, etc).  As I mentioned earlier, I'm a big fan of feature animation and the process of it, and I can kind of funnel some of that into the strip...or at least try to.



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