Lone Star Beer is circling back to its affiliation with 1970s cosmic cowboy culture for a new promotional project centered around the ubiquitous Texas symbol of the armadillo.

The Fort Worth-brewed beer brand has tapped San Antonio artist Matt Tumlinson to revisit the 1960s armadillo-centric art of Austin artist Jim Franklin for a street mural and a new merchandise line released in honor of Texas Independence Day on March 2.

“We wanted to dig into the archives and relive some of that glory, but … modernized for today,” said Daniel Crawford, Lone Star’s senior brand manager, based in San Antonio.

Austin artist Jim Franklin first adopted the armadillo as a 1968 poster theme for a benefit to help musicians jailed on drug charges and the following year made an armadillo-heavy album cover for Austin psychedelic rock band Shiva’s Headband. The band’s manager founded a new home for the group and dubbed it Armadillo World Headquarters, which gained fame for hosting the psychedelia-tinged country music of Willie Nelson, Commander Cody, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Dr. John, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, among others. Lone Star worked with Franklin for its branding at the time.

Tumlinson said he was honored to use the Franklin imagery as a starting point, and that he was given creative freedom by the Lone Star team for the designs he came up with: a rodeo cowboy riding a giant armadillo for a T-shirt, an armadillo drinking a Lone Star longneck derived from earlier advertising for a trucker cap, and a combination of the two images for a bandana.

The merchandise line was released Feb. 16 with prices ranging from $12 to $30. It sold out within 24 hours, underwent a second production run the next day, then immediately sold out again.

Crawford said these specific items would not undergo a third run. “We are going to keep things limited,” he said. His goal is to honor the authenticity of a limited edition, to create the conditions whereby a person could “look in 40 years and stumble upon a thrift store and see one of these things selling for big bucks.”

More Tumlinson designs are forthcoming, however, with releases tied to Texas events throughout the year.

San Antonio artist Matt Tumlinson works in his studio Thursday. The painter was commissioned by San Antonio Street Art Initiative to design a mural and limited edition merchandise for Lone Star Brewing. Thursday Feb. 24, 2022.
San Antonio artist Matt Tumlinson works in his studio Thursday. The painter was commissioned by Lone Star Beer in conjunction with San Antonio Street Art Initiative to design a mural and limited edition merchandise. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

For the moment, anyone can see the biggest result of the Tumlinson-Lone Star collaboration, a new mural on the St. Mary’s Strip made in conjunction with the San Antonio Street Art Initiative.

In the 12-foot-by-16-foot untitled spray painting, a chaps-clad cowboy rides a giant bucking armadillo while clutching an iconic longneck Lone Star bottle, all afloat in a partly cloudy big West Texas sky. To avoid the appearance of advertising, the Lone Star presence is deliberately low-key, Crawford said. In fact, the brand makes its appearance in several earlier Tumlinson paintings, which wryly portray mild clashes between facets of the Lone Star state’s ever-changing culture.

In part for that reason, Crawford said Tumlinson was a natural choice for the brand to work with.

“He really is the iconic Southwestern artist here in town, and his modern commentary on the Texas of today is something that we share,” Crawford said. Tumlinson’s work is rooted in Texas mythology, he said, but acknowledges modern transformations including the hipsterization of Marfa, the evolution of Texas wine culture, and the arrival of Tesla to the state. Crawford called the collaboration “a match made in heaven.”

The new mural is located at 620 E. Dewey Pl., at the intersection of North St. Mary’s Street.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...