SCAD grad designs official Kentucky Derby bourbon bottle for second year in a row

Artist Richard Sullivan's design on the Kentucky Derby 147 Woodford Reserve bottle.
Artist Richard Sullivan's design on the Kentucky Derby 147 Woodford Reserve bottle.(WAVE3)
Updated: May. 1, 2021 at 3:34 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTOC) - From throwing strikes for SCAD and the Atlanta Braves organization, to painting watercolor strokes as an artist, Richard Sullivan has had two unique careers. After finishing his baseball career, he finished his illustration education at SCAD in 2014.

He moved back to his hometown of Louisville, the home of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, and last year had the honor of designing the official 2020 Kentucky Derby Woodford Reserve bourbon bottle. It became a collector’s item since the race was delayed to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His thoroughbred design was such a hit they asked him to design the 2021 bottle before the 2020 race had even been run. It’s a big honor, made even more special for someone from the Bluegrass State.

“I was really grateful and fortunate that in the middle of COVID, and all that stuff, and to have a big project like that, that was a really special thing, so definitely very grateful for them for doing the second year,” said Sullivan. “Sharing it on Facebook, and sharing it, like all my professors really love bourbon too, so they’re all very interested, and they’re very happy in that regard, and I think SCAD in general has been supportive. They did a little bit of PR last year around the bottle and stuff, so definitely a big project, I mean Woodford is such a big brand with huge international reach.”

He said it was a challenge making the designs unique, but cohesive.

“I wanted them to flow together. I knew I kind of wanted it to continue the race. If you think about, like each of the two bottles being the same race, and kind of continuing the flow of it. If you put the bottles together next to each other they have a little bit of a flow to them,” said Sullivan. “Honestly, I wanted to keep the inspiration on the horses and the attention on the action and the movement of the horses. It’s kind of interesting doing it a few years now, like doing the same thing but making it a little bit different. I think it’s definitely a huge reach and a huge opportunity for me and SCAD’s been very kind and very grateful.”

Sullivan says that unlike last year he gets to attend this time around and take in all the Derby week festivities.

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