The Story Behind... Tito's Cheers
Tito’s Cheers came about after making a connection with someone who worked for Tito’s Homemade Vodka. We wanted to do a piece that incorporated the Tito’s bottle and I originally thought I could just put the bottle in my first piece - Raw Bar.Once Tito’s corporate saw it they said they didn’t want to promote reckless or irresponsible drinking. It's not like the characters in Tito’s Cheers look a lot more responsible, but I suppose they’re not crushing or piercing the cans like they are in Raw Bar. That led to me creating a new piece that would be done exclusively for Tito’s.
Just after I started sketching out Tito’s Cheers, we were invited to meet Tito himself when he was up for an event in Orlando. The only problem was that the sketch was so rough. My buddy Scotty drove us up to the event and I was furiously trying to complete the sketch in the car. We arrived and spoke to Tito for 10 or 15 minutes – he was such a nice guy. We showed him what I had done of the sketch which he loved, and he signed off on it. We have the original pen and ink drawing with Tito’s signature on it. As a little ode to him, I took his signature and hid it in the color piece – Look under the “Vo” of “Vodka” on the bottle and you’ll see his “Cheers Tito Beveridge” signature underneath it, written in orange.
(L-R: Scotty, Tito, Steve)
Just like Raw Bar this piece represents my friends. All the drinks are Tito’s-based, of course. I wanted to match the drinks with the characters. The sailfish is a billfish so I had to put some olives on a plastic sword in his dirty martini - the sword represents his bill. The mad mahi is a little rough around the edges so I had to give him a cigar and a Tito’s on the rocks. That mahi is pretty beat up – he’s got a hook through his eyebrow from nearly being caught by a fisherman. He’s also had a chunk taken out of his dorsal fin; I imagine he’s a little upset with his shark buddy. I picture the two of them being in one of those drunken bar fights we all had back in the day, and the shark taking a bite of him.
To the right of the mahi there's a red snapper. I’ve caught a few red snappers when I’ve been off shore fishing. I thought he’d be a fun one to give a Tito’s and cranberry to match his colors. Right in front of him is the blue crab who is one of the most popular characters in my art and now he’s become a standalone star. I always knew he'd be a big shot – that’s why he’s got a big shot of vodka in his claw. He’s the one saying “Cheers!” to everybody in this piece. The blue crab has a little hermit crab as a pet on a seaweed leash – the hermit is taking a little vodka shot.
The great white shark is drinking a Bloody Mary because of course he is – what else is he going to be drinking? He’s got the works in there; the shrimp cocktail and the celery. The octopus is putting an arm around the shark’s drink. He’s also got a tentacle going towards the crab’s shot as well as going for the bottle of Tito’s and the sailfish’s dirty martini. Basically, he’s trying to get everyone’s drinks, but he also has his own in a plastic cup. I consider him the party animal of the group. He’s got a plastic cup because he’s a little dangerous after a few too many drinks.
Just to the left of the octopus's cup there's the clownfish. This was the first time I put a clownfish in my art. Hes not in the original pen and ink sketch after putting the color in, I saw that there wasn’t any orange. The only orange fish I could think of was the clownfish. After I put him in there, I realized he’s the perfect fish to use in my painting. He became a staple in my pieces. He's not in all of them but I try and put him in whenever I can. Even though he originally came about just because I wanted to balance the colors, he now represents the humor in the artwork. Sometimes he even has a clown nose.
The clam in the bottom left is inspired by a viral video from a few years ago – there was a video of a clam on a kitchen table and it looked like his tongue was coming out of the shell to lick the salt on the table. I wanted to make it so that he’s licking up the vodka that was spilled – probably from the sailfish above him. The eel is just really annoyed because he’s trying to get a drink but everyone’s ignoring him. Any time I put an eel in a piece, he’s sneaking in from behind and trying to get into the party. As for the wide-eyed seahorse… Well, there are always some allusions and some irreverence in my art so if you look really closely at the expression on the seahorse’s face… I’ll leave that up to your interpretation.
Of course, even though it’s my art, this is just how I see it. It's always open to interpretation. I always love hearing how people can understand the characters as their specific friends and what they think is going on in the piece. It’s great that people can interpret it in so many ways.