As the town welcomes spring, it prepares for the 40th annual Pensacola JazzFest. Brightly colored posters adorn the shops and streets near Seville Square. Some may recognize the artwork because it’s made by local artist Pete Gurtowsky – the same artist who created last year’s poster for the music festival.
His work, a vivid, multi-colored drawing of a cornet and clarinet, can be seen on billboards and in animation for television commercials promoting the event.
“I started drawing and added color and it fell into place really quickly,” he said about the artwork. “They liked it, and it was fun.”
In his day to day, Gurtowsky’s illustrations serve a different purpose. He is a senior creative and content designer for Florida Power & Light Company, based in Pensacola’s Bayfront Parkway office.
During Hurricane Ian, Gurtowsky created a series of outage maps – a new process for FPL – that gave customers a visual representation of when they would have power restored. The colorful, county-by-county maps changed on a daily basis. Gurtowsky’s map designs will be used again this storm season.
Whether it’s an outage map for electric customers or an event poster for music fans, Gurtowsky has a knack for catching people’s eyes through artwork.
“Pete represents a great unique style and is representative of what we’re trying to convey for the vibrance of the music and the event,” said Derrick Fishback, president of Jazz Pensacola, the organization that runs the festival. “We want people to see it and say, ‘I remember that design!’ Pete’s designs stick with you.”
This is not the first time a local music festival has tapped into Gurtowsky’s talents. He twice drew the official poster of the SpringFest outdoor music event in Pensacola in the early 2000s. He also drew the official poster for the 2013 Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival, as well as the 2016 and 2018 official posters for the Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival.
“I’ve got to be really interested in music,” he said. “I love music, so anything that has to do with that is cool.”
Gurtowsky started drawing at an early age. His father liked to doodle and his cousin is an artist. He can’t remember if it was in kindergarten or first grade, but he will never forget how he felt winning his first art contest.
“I drew a picture of a pig in a barn,” he said. “It was kind of like Charlotte’s Web; it had a spider web in it.”
In a fifth-grade art class, students had to write their name graphically and Gurtowsky’s design was selected to be shown at the Pensacola Museum of Art.
Gurtowsky earned his college degree in graphic design from then-Pensacola Junior College and has been designing for 34 years. He launched his graphic artist career when he was hired out of college by his former graphic design instructor who started her own ad agency. Later, he joined EW Bullock Associates, an advertising and public relations firm in Pensacola.
He has worked for FPL for the last five years, creating solar energy center fact sheets and FPL Economic Symposium brochures among other graphic designs.
Away from work, a lot of his artwork is tied around music, which he loves.
It started with The Beatles and his brother, who is eight years older.
“Our grandmother lived in England, and she sent my brother all these albums of The Beatles before they began touring in the U.S.,” Gurtowsky said. “She said, ‘This band is going to be great.’ So, we listened to a lot of Beatles music.”
In his spare time, he draws illustrations and posters of movies, with a particular fondness for the old Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
“I’ve always liked to draw,” he said. “I guess it just comes natural.”
The free music festival will take place April 1 and 2 in historic downtown Pensacola where Gurtowsky will sign posters at the merchandise booth on the first day.