Notes from the trail

Welcome to American Backcountry’s Notes from the Trail. Here we share stories and thoughts from some of our favorite contributors. Each mountain is different and each trip has a different story – these are notes collected along the trail.

American Backcountry Artist Profile – David Sheldon

August 28, 2020

American Backcountry tees and shirts feature a wide range of illustrations and styles. From topographic drawings, to clever sketches of animals and famous outdoor figures, to iconic scenery from key trails and hikes. The art on the shirts are interpretive takes on what makes the outdoors so enigmatic and enchanting. 
When Frank Hintz founded American Backcountry in 1993, he knew he needed captivating designs for the tees that shared his sentiment for the outdoors and their magic. We sat down with David Sheldon, one of the artists behind American Backcountry’s graphic design, to ask him about his process. 

Could you give a quick background on how you came to work with American Backcountry, and for how long?

I’ve been a professional illustrator for over 25 years. My primary career has been in children’s’ books, with a special focus on non-fiction and science-related topics. I’ve done many book illustrations for the children’s’ educational market and other areas. I even have a few published picture books I’ve written and illustrated myself: “Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter” (Walker & Company, 2006), “Into The Deep, The Life of Naturalist and Explorer, William Beebe” (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2009). I’ve known Frank for many years and he asked me to try a few American Backcountry (AB) designs. It was a perfect fit for me, as I love drawing animals and natural scenes! Now in my second year working for AB, I’m happy to be part of an awesome team!

What type of art style do you lean towards, and what are some ways you get inspired for the designs?

I favor a strong, graphic style with sharp lines and contrasts. I was strongly influenced by the bold renderings of N.C. Wyeth and Frank Frazetta growing up, and like to think I’m working in that vein of illustration. The best way for me to get inspired is simply heading out for a hike! I live in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and Nature’s beauty is literally our backyard.

One of David’s designs

What are some things you think set apart American Backcountry’s designs and art from other brands?

 I love AB’s rugged and tasteful designs. There’s always an ‘artful eye’ behind every design at AB, which makes my work both enjoyable and challenging.

Do you have any favorite designs, and any unique stories behind their creation?

 I love adding park scenes to Ornate Destinations and other specific park designs. Many are places I’ve been to myself. I just did an illustration of Joshua Tree National Park, which brought back wonderful memories of a visit there. If I haven’t been to a location personally, I’ll scour the images on the internet to give me every angle and viewpoint of a scene to aid me in getting just the right feel for that locale. Fortunately, most national and state parks have a plethora of shutterbugs to supply different viewpoints! I’ve never been to Zion National Park, and after doing a few illustrations for AB, I’m dying to go!

Do you have any details behind your process or inspiration you’d like to share?

One of my main strengths is creating a moving, beautiful illustration, by making what I call an ‘emotional connection’. This has a lot to do with layout and execution. Very often I create collages and montages from different sources and references, to get just the right image for a design. When I get a feeling of “yes!”, then I know I’ve created the image I’m looking for.

Zion National Park, by David Sheldon

When it comes to our full lineup of shirts, there’s a myriad of stylish and fun designs to choose from. Whichever design you choose, you can be sure that it was made with passion by people who share your affinity for nature and the great outdoors. David’s work is an example of the stunning influence that just being outside has on everybody, especially for creatives. Whether you’re on the trail or just at the local brewery, our shirts are the best way to rep your love for the backcountry and all its beauty.

See more of David’s work at davidquentinsheldon.com.