Company Insights

Water Follies: Artist’s Perspective

September 10, 2018 9:18 pm Leave your thoughts
Jason Fitzgerald

Jason Fitzgerald

Working with the Water Follies organization is a great example of the i3G’s team commitment and relationships we build with our customers, be it local or for large international corporations across the country.


We still go through challenges, look for multiple creative solutions and always look at lessons learned to continue to improve and build our professional relationship. This has led to many memorable moments along the way.

As the lead of the project and author of this post and transplant to the Tri-Cities from the Palouse area over 2 decades ago, I had no idea what the “boat races” were. But as life happens many things can contribute to surprising and positive rewards if we are just open to them with acceptance. Especially around the right people and with the right motive.

In that case the Water Follies client holds a soft spot for me as one of those life changing catalysts.

Without trying to go into a full life story, I moved down here after my first born. I had gone to graphic design school up in Spokane way back now LOL. There’s a long story in that alone but found myself with not many options at that time in the field.

I went back to school to pursue teaching. I took a job through financial aid teaching art and music at the Boys and Girls Club, also started teaching fine arts at local community centers. Worked full time at fun places like Walmart as an “accountant” or as a Subway manager.

Jason working on a Wacom Tablet

Jason working on a Wacom Tablet

Fortunately, one of the side projects from the B&GC led me to working full time with Atomic Screen Printing while I finished my BA at WSU TC.

I spent a couple years as an educator but just didn’t feel like it was my thing in reality and I went back to Atomic. We did a lot of hydro work and they are big race fans and the owner had not only been a great mentor but friend.

Lockheed Martin was hiring locally, and I took a long shot as a multimedia designer. Part of my Amazing T-shirt portfolio had partial design from one of the hiring interviewers, ending up being a great ice breaker. He also ended up being one of the instructional mentors I’ve had. There’s 5 of those (2 are my parents).

The following year I was given lead of the Water Follies and have been doing it for the last 14 years.

Some of Jason's Water Follies art

Some of Jason's Water Follies art

Five years after that I was also doing all of Lockheed’s international BD art for every trade from Farnborough to Paris to Singapore, Dubai and many more. I also started being the program manager for many artists across the country. Its mind blowing how those little things can take you down a crazy awarding maze! There is so much in between as well that have given me over 400 international design awards.

So that’s how the boat races changed my life. It also led to many hardships with so much work/sacrifice but that also led me to my wife and my true soul life mate.

#Letlifehappen ? ~ not sure if that’s a thing?

Jason was awarded 2017 Race Program of the Year from the Water Follies

Jason was awarded 2017 Race Program of the Year from the Water Follies

Every customer is part of our life. It was awesome to get tours through F-35/F-16 plants and see how they build C-130’s. It was even more awesome to get a private tour from our oldest son when he was in the states a couple months ago and see what they look like when they’ve been deployed and modified. One of my favorite life moments. So proud.

That actually trickles down to even down to visiting with a food truck wrap and rebrand like Kindra’s Wok and Roll and experiencing some amazing cuisine. It makes us R-wok and Roll!

Kindra's Wok and Roll rebrand

Kindra's Wok and Roll rebrand

Back on task: The major key for success is building customer trust. We’ve been fortunate to having been given the opportunity with this client as an example. After our legacy Lockheed team was recruited by i3G last year we were able to expand our offerings to the Water Follies organization more than double to amazing results. It also gave us the opportunity to grow into a more robust team.

We work with them trying to get a vibe on any expectations or trends they see in their industry as well as what other influencers their stakeholders and sponsors have. The air show is a big part of that and honestly my favorite. But that has a huge influence on our art direction.

Jason's 2018 Water Follies artwork

Jason's 2018 Water Follies artwork

For this customer there is also a legacy we are very aware of. It’s a rich culture. Kind of a blend of race cars with the 50’s beach rock cranked up to volume 11. I always try to take vibe into consideration.

At times I’ve really pushed the dial the other direction as well, but as well as respect the heritage and actually get inspired by it. This year’s art is a perfect example of that.

Every year I try to do something different to keep the aggressive nature of the Water Follies keeping it fresh free and inviting, while not damaging their unique kind of brand.

All of the artwork we’ve submitted for the Water Follies organizations have won multiple awards including our first officially as i3G for branding, web and design. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I have a great customer, also have had the best possible support staff and peers and family to help out.

There is a lot of challenges that we face. It doesn’t just start with a cool poster design. I have to consider a huge variety of aspects. Posters, Challenge Coins, Brochures, T-shirts, a Variety of Advertisements and so on to be used in different publications, Social Media posts, Web integration. There is a dozen of those things to think about from a technical aspect, and that doesn’t even start to include the title sponsors which is a big deal for us.

Actually, the sponsorships are probably the most challenging part for me. Also, one that makes me proud. When I started there were 6, now we have over a dozen with a major title sponsor. That takes up a lot of visual real-estate! Good problem to have I guess. ? We’ve been working the H1 organization to maybe help them reboot as well.

The biggest challenge for me this year was actually a big risk. I do a lot of corporate and government work. I honestly look forward to the Water Follies to break out of those templated molds for a bit while taking my commercial branding reality background to heart for results.

Jason Fitzgerald with Water Follies Director Kathy Powell

i3 Global Art Director Jason Fitzgerald with Water Follies Director Kathy Powell

My original design background is in the fine arts, but when I sold my limited art in galleries I was a very refined “dry” paint or charcoal/pastel artist. As I said I was inspired by previous artists for the boat races, specifically the Sanford Holien art from the 80s, and also reminds me of the model car box art I would get as a kid or the 60s Nascar poster art.

That expressive style is so out of my comfort zone. Experimenting with some digital software (Painter) and my Wacom tablet, which I love all of it but wow, way different than designing a brochure. I tried to take style and my art history education and make that expressive style my own – that was a rough few days.

Close up of 2018 Water Follies art

Close up of 2018 Water Follies art

I was really worried no one would like it. That risk paid off I guess. My customer thinks it’s the best yet.

Beyond that surprise, Mike R. our print production guru printed it on canvas and wrapped it on stretcher bars. You have no idea how just amazing that was. People went nuts for it. You really have to see it to believe it. Nothing digital can even compare to it even though its back lit but low res, I was honestly speechless! Plus, we have the best large format print solutions in Eastern WA and his skill and talent and the materials are literally the best available.

It totally chilled my personal fear on the art despite positive feedback.

Highlight this year? Water Follies is about the experience. It’s a complicated beast. There’s a free-spirited environment but it’s so much more and so family friendly now.

This year though for me was just me and my wife. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a vintage plane ride for the first time. But Ms. Powell got us access to the helicopter ride to take aerial pictures for her – my wife is an amazing photographer by the way.


The love of Jason's life, his wife Becci.

The love of Jason's life, his wife Becci.

That was nuts for me. The little helicopter can go so fast and change direction like nothing. It was so fun. I’m glad I was trying to focus on taking pictures too or who knows!

Then we just walked around taking pictures. Of course, she had to stop at the Marines exhibit. There was a little dude about 6 or 7 doing pullups being a super tough guy.

It was awesome. To me those experiences is what the Water Follies is about.

-Jason Fitgerald, i3 Global Senior Designer

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