Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, December 10, 2011

T-shirt Thinking

Before I moved to Alaska, I designed T-shirts for a local Arizona t-shirt company that marketed all over the country. I have mentioned this before, and I derived about half of my income from the t-shirts. As a serious artist, I always felt that it was beneath me to do this with my talent. When I moved to Alaska, I thought that those days were behind me.
This year has been terrible for art. Galleries are going out of business everywhere it seems. Once lucrative art shows are being cancelled, or not being attended by the public. Scary as it seems to me, painting seems to become more and more obsolete in the world of ipads and twitter.
So once again I feel the need to swallow my arrogant pride, and try to get back into the world of t-shirt design. For the past few weeks I have been designing ideas for possible t-shirts to sell to tourists and residents this summer. I am talking to local t-shirt companies, and getting ready to submit designs for national t-shirt companies like Threadless. One idea is, Cat in the Grass above.

One thing about graphic design is that I get to, (have to) try radically different styles than my normal work. I dont relate, but lots of people do relate to primitive styles and bright colors. I dont mean to imply that Native American inspired designs are primitive, their work is definitely not primitive even though it often gets labelled as such.
 Psuedo native inspired art is popular around here like this Tlingkit rip off above. I feel a little guilty doing it, but in Arizona I did native styled artwork for several native tribes to sell on the reservations. They did'nt seem to care that I was not a native American. The shirts sold well amoung both, American Native, and non-native people.
Right now I'm trying to use images of old paintings in new ways so that I dont have to do new artwork from scratch. The captions on these designs are really just samples to have something to show the companies.
I have no real idea of what designs the public will respond to. I also think that I have a great advantage over many other t-shirt artists, because I can replicate the style of work that most of them do, and I can do things that many of them cannot do.
Big Wild Life is the slogan that the city of Anchorage uses to promote tourism.
I kind of like this one. Will anyone else like it? Who knows? My ideas are really corny, I do know that.
This is another idea that I like. With my basic photo editing program, I can alter my paintings. The original painting is very pale and diffuse.
My photo editing program has six different kinds of borders that I can choose to put around the designs, but I prefer to to use rough edges to make it look more painterly.
What I'm hoping will happen is that I can create a popular series of related designs. Like a series of dark designs, all with the caption, Night Creature.
Alaska Wild is the name of a now defunct, football team.
So, what are your t-shirt thoughts? Which designs do you relate to? I need some feedback. Please voice your opinions, positive or negative.


Colette Theriault said...

John, that is a difficult question as I love all of them! My least favorites would be the "primitive" designs, but that is only because I am a realist painter and prefer that style. My favorites are probably the bears and the eagles but the moose, bison, owl and wolves are also nice as is the lynx. I love the border effect you added as well as they text.

john said...

Thank you for your comment Colette. In the past few days, my mind has been alive with ideas for potential t-shirt designs. Who knows if anything will ever come of it.

tess stieben said...

I can relate to the frustration of galleries closing, I am down to one now, scary stuff having a house full of art and no outlets to sell it. It has left me wondering how to earn an income off my art.

I love the image with text in "alaskan beach bums" and "jungle love". I used to buy nice t-shirts when I lived on Vancouver island. I prefer your natural nature themes best. Hugs!

john said...

Most artists have a backlog of unsold artwork. I tend to eventually cannibalize mine by painting over it. Even way back since medieval times, artists faced the same dilemas and often painted over older paintings.
I guess that poets, opera singers, and ballerinas have it even worse.

Jeremy Pearse said...

All great ideas and designs John! I can see most if not all these on T-shirts, actually they are a lot better than most of the images out there. I don't think the captions corny either and am completely with you on this series and can relate, especially since I too did T-shirt designs many years ago when I lived in Hong Kong. Perhaps I need to get back to them - thanks for the post.