Artist with Denver roots wins national brewery competition

North Lincoln graduate Hannah Bunzey displays her work in a gallery at Kress Emporium in downtown Asheville. /Courtesy Hannah Bunzey

DENVER – An Asheville artist with Denver roots will have her design featured on Pabst Blue Ribbon cans across the country this fall as one of 10 winners in a contest with thousands of entries. 

“It was completely unexpected,” Hannah Bunzey said. “I had stopped checking the website to kind of put it out of sight, out of mind so then when I got the email from them I was totally shocked.”

Bunzey, a North Lincoln High School graduate who went on to study at UNC Asheville, needed about a week to devise and perfect her winning design. The result is literally out of this world, depicting UFOs abducting cans of PBR on a starry night under the gaze of a towering sunflower with humanlike features. 

Hannah Bunzey’s design was one of 10 chosen among thousands of entries in the Pabst Blue Ribbon can art contest. /Courtesy Hannah Bunzey

“I’m a make it up as I go kind of artist,” she said. “I started with the PBR logo in the middle first and then just filled in everything around that.”

Drawn purely from imagination, Bunzey has been creating what she calls “dreamscapes” since 2014. Her usual fantastical landscapes, characters and psychedelic thematics are all present in her contest-winning entry, but what’s missing is her typical use of the full color spectrum, which was limited by the traditional blue, silver and white features of a PBR can. 

“I wanted to use characters and themes that are present in my regular artwork, which is where the outer space theme and that flower character that I normally draw tie in,” she said. “Then it was more about using different shading techniques with that blue and white scheme. Some of the linework and the starry background are things that I normally do, but typically they’re done in full-scale rainbow.”

While not on this scale, Bunzey had previous experience designing labels for Oregon-based Mirror World Brewing. She’s noticed an uptick in brands seeking her design services since being announced as a PBR contest winner in February. 

“It’s been fantastic advertising for my business,” she said. “I think winning this contest was a good way to show people I’m able to scale back what I do in my personal work in order to make a design fit their specific needs.”

In addition to having her design featured on cans nationwide, Bunzey was also awarded $10,000. The cash prize will allow her to focus on art full-time after years of working to balance her day job while building an artistic portfolio. 

“I’m about to quit my part-time job is what this prize money does for me,” she said. “To be honest, I didn’t really think it was a possibility to go full-time with artwork, which has been my dream since I was a little kid.”

Bunzey sells prints of her work and the funding will help her cover associated printing fees. She’s also got plans to create and sell tapestries, pins and t-shirts featuring her designs. 

To keep up with her creations, follow Bunzey on Instagram @hbunzeyart.

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