CHICAGO ARTIST CZR PRZ PAINTS A WILD PICTURE FOR THREADLESS
The Threadless office is slowly but surely becoming an art piece in and of itself. Chicago’s own street artist, CZR PRZ, helped the cause by donning our garage door with a queen of the jungle, complete with a serpent sash and ferocious headwear. We followed up with him afterwards to have some of our questions answered about his artistic adventures. Read on to learn about CZR PRZ and his wide range of skills and projects and to check out the majestic beauty of his work on our building.
The wild thing CZR PRZ painted for Threadless!
Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in Chicago, between Logan Square and Stone Park, in a suburb on the west side outskirts.
How did you get into street art?
I’ve been doing art since as far back as I can remember, but the street art stemmed from my rebellious youth and love for graffiti. I started getting into graffiti and b-boying at around 12 and haven’t stopped since. I blame the music.
CZR PRZ painting at a Lollapalooza showcase. (Image courtesy of czrprz.com)
What do you bring to street art that’s unique from other artists?
I don’t think that I do anything that’s necessarily unique; I tend to follow a lot of trends happening in Europe, South America, and the West Coast. I like to think that my style sets itself apart with an illustrative approach and somewhat technical hand-rendering with spray paint.
What are the main materials you use to create your art?
It really depends on what the project calls for. When it comes to street art and mural work, I tend to use mostly spray paint and interior/exterior wall paint, but I also have a strong traditional illustration/production/design background from years of working in the professional field. I’ve done everything from high end screen printing and vinyl-signage to digital illustrations for corporate companies. I had to stop because it was a lot of soulless, thankless work… although decently paid. I’m glad I did it though, it helped expand my resources for developing my work.
Virgin Mary meets the Hindu Shiva from a “Pimp My Mary” contest in Rome. Xzibit was not in attendance. (Image courtesy of czrprz.com)
How did you hear about Threadless?
From not living under a rock. EVERYBODY and their unborn children have heard of you guys.
What inspired the work that you did for Threadless?
I’ve been doing a lot of work that deals with nature, mysticism, and theology. I grew up with a Latin-Christian/Santería background so much of that stuck with me.
Blackbirds singing against a CZR PRZ wall. (Image courtesy of czrprz.com)
Why do you think your art fits in so well with Threadless?
I’ve always felt that Threadless has been at the forefront of the current pop art and design movement in apparel form. I like to think that I’m a contributor to the movement and feel only natural that my artistic expression translates well with the Threadless aesthetic.
CZR PRZ putting the finishing touches on his mural at Threadless HQ.
You’ve been involved with several significant organizations (The Field Museum, Chicago Reader, Nike). Which project has been the most rewarding as an artist?
I really can’t say; everything brings its own reward and issues. Some of my favorite work to date though has been with Red Bull and Zipcar, the work I’ve been doing in other countries, painting walls during Art Basel, and of course, Threadless.
Natural beauty (Image courtesy of czrprz.com)
What other forms of art do you practice other than painting?
Like I said before, I’ve worked in various fields of art and design. My skill sets involve silk screen printing, digital illustration, signage, vinyl installation, studio art, and fabrication art (prop and installation art).
I read on your website that you fabricate props and sets. How is creating art on an object such as a shoe or a chair different from a conventional canvas?
Well its a whole different approach, being that they have their own set of laws and such. The furniture development is still a bit new to me, but I’ve managed to team up with some close friends who develop high end carpentry and have a great deal of support in difficult situations.
We thought we smelled bacon… (Image courtesy of czrprz.com)
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a street artist
The fact that my work doesn’t have a “pop” culture feel to it kind of sets it back, at least here in the states. I prefer developing a high quality piece to making work that’s catchy and witty, although there are some artists that are able to do “pop” work with a highly developed aesthetic that sets them apart from everyone else, such as Ben Frost from Australia or Denial from Canada. But, for the most part, I think many artists that go for this approach lack real technique or style. (Bring on the hate mail.)
What have you been working on lately? Any big projects?
Right now I’m in Carrara, Italy preparing for my solo show with EXP Gallery called Future/Primitive, as well as getting ready to paint a huge wall in the middle of town. I just got back from Rome where I was involved with CRACK Fest (great name, right?) where I slept in an old Spanish fortress called Forte Prenestino. Next up is Windsor, Canada for Free 4 All Wall mural fest, then a live art set with Malik Yusef, Kanye West’s ghostwriter, for Simple Good called City Of Big Dreams at Chop Shop. After that, maybe sleep.
A fiery red rendition CZR PRZ did for Chicago’s Mexican food hot spot, Carbon. (Image courtesy of czrprz.com)
PRESENTING OUR TATTOO DESIGN CHALLENGE WINNER!
Your body is many things: a vehicle, a sanctuary, and most importantly, a canvas! Wherever you get your tattoo on your body, it becomes part of who you are. Whether it’s the name of a loved one or your home team’s logo, tattoos are a way for people to take their art with them everywhere they go. Indonesian artist Bogie Budiyanto took the cake for our latest tattoo art design challenge with his intricate creation of intergalactic dragons. Keep reading to get to know Bogie and to pick up his new tee, “New Space Found”!
Congrats on your winning design, “New Space Found”! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks! Hello, I’m Bogie. I love drawing, lettering, and coffee. I currently live in Bandung, one of the beautiful cities in Indonesia.
When you spotted our Tattoo challenge, why was it the perfect outlet for your type of artwork?
Tattoos are like expressive statements on yourself. I love the visual of the tattoo, and how people put them permanently on their body for a lifetime. Plus, I think my artwork style fit for this challenge. That’s why I submitted to the contest.
Do you have any tattoos yourself? If so, please tell us about them.
I don’t even have a tattoo myself. But making a tattoo of my first win here would be nice! :)
This challenge was fairly broad in its requirements. How did you land on a concept?
The first thing on my mind was if you want a tattoo, it should be something beautiful or meaningful in your life. Because you don’t want to regret your tattoo someday, right? So I tried the best that I could do to make something like that. Also, when I read the brief for the contest, which said to “think about the style and techniques of some of the most incredible tattoos you’ve ever seen and use those to get started,” I kept that advice in my framework and concept development!
Your design is incredibly detailed and involved! What all is happening within it?
Everything came very naturally. I just made sure the linework and color combination worked well, because a tattoo needs a clear line. I zoomed in and zoomed out a lot for the detailing, and refined, checked and rechecked, then repeated. Then I added more hatching, texturing and airbrushing. (That’s something new for me, and it’s fun!)
I understand “New Space Found” recalls both Japanese and Indonesian influence. In what ways did you represent these influences in the design?
There’s so many visual styles of tattoo, but Japanese tattoo style (Irezumi) is my favorite. They used tattoos for spiritual, shield, and decorative purpose. Also, I live in Indonesia, which has a lot of cultural influences, like a Batik for example. So, I added mythological things, like a dragon, tiger, and phoenix, as well as water and waves in the composition. All of those have meanings in which people believe. I wanted to build that spirit into my design.
What was your process for creating this design? Please feel free to share any WIP’s, if available!
It’s probably similar to what another artist would do. I start from a rough sketch with pencil on paper, and play with composition and content. After I think it’s enough, I scan it and make a better digital sketch, then refine the sketch again and again. Because for me, the sketching phase is important; the better the sketch, the easier it is to execute. In the beginning, I wanted to make something big - use all front area of tee for an oversized tattoo, like a whole body Irezumi tattoo. But I tried and the detail became too complex, so I decided to leave the ornament and another element. It’s a hard decision, when you must leave another element that you’ve working on. I have to remember, “maximal is not always optimal, and optimal must be maximal.” Then I used Illustrator to trace up the basic line work and block colors, then finalized it with Photoshop for final rendering to add more detail. Then I put it onto a model as real tattoo, and I thought, not bad! I’m satisfied. Here’s the whole process:
What makes the creation of tattoo art unique from other genres?
Like Mr. Ami James from Tattoodo said, “Designing tattoos is not like designing a website or painting a picture.” Maybe because it’s permanent, and there’s pain in the creation? I don’t know, I’m not the tattoo expert. :)
Why does “New Space Found” make for such an intriguing tattoo?
There’s always great content and meaning in tattoos. I have never seen a sci-fi themed tattoo, so that’s why I put astronauts into it. Maybe they are lost, until they arrive at the colorful mythological galaxy. And it’s a little ironic, when sci-fi meets mythology. And personally, I like colorful tattoos.
Any other shout-out’s?
Thank you to Threadless and Tattoodo for this contest and choosing my design as the winner. I’m super thrilled for my first print! And to the community for their positive feedback, support and votes, you guys rock! It’s much appreciated! Enjoy your creative process, keep making a great art, and cheers from Bandung!
#DO52 WEEK 29: FLIP THAT BOOK!
#DO52 is a weekly project to inspire you to create more art! We’ll announce a new theme each week. Post your submission in the blog comments. We’ll feature our favorites in this blog the following Friday.
#DO52week29: Create a two-frame flip book.
- Grab a couple Post-it Notes or a small piece of paper and sketch a quick, little animation for everyone to enjoy!
Here’s an example from Threadless HQ:
Here’s a quick tutorial to help you get started:
Once you’ve completed this week’s #DO52, add this badge to your Threadless profile:
Don’t forget to jump back to the comment section of last week’s #DO52 to check out everyone’s ASCII art!
CHICAGO STREET ARTIST BRAIN KILLER SPICES UP THE THREADLESS KITCHEN
Since Brain Killer paid a visit to the Threadless kitchen, lunchtime here has become an experience! It’s as if he topped our PB&J’s with bacon and bananas and left a personal masterpiece on all our napkins. The Chicago native was kind enough to answer some of the burning questions we had for the man who decorated our favorite room. We spoke with him about his stint in art school, his work in television, and where his inspiration comes from. Read on and get to know more about Brain Killer and his work with Threadless!
The new and improved Threadless Kitchen.
TAKE NO SUGAR!
Let’s kick off by learning a bit about your background!
My “biodad” (as I like to call him) was an artist; not a working one, but he was incredibly talented. He was in and out of my life, and every once in awhile I’d get a painting or drawing, usually from prison. I had a cool little collection from him of unicorns, monsters, and other weird things; they were usually painted on velvet. My dad, the dude who raised me, was all business; a very smart guy who he taught me how to toe the line between being creative and being grounded and structured, which is a huge part of my professional life. He ran business in prosthetics and orthotics, so I learned how to make artificial limbs. I can fabricate functional arms and legs, cobble shoes, sew leather. I’d make a pretty good serial killer.
The face of the brilliant brain.
Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised on the north side of Chicago, spending my childhood in Lakeview, Roscoe Village, and Old Irving Park, and my teen years in the Portage Park neighborhood. I’m a Chicago local 100 percent. Locals only, bruh!
That can’t be English.
How’d you get into street art?
I was always involved in the arts while growing up, including hip hop, punk, skateboarding, and graffiti early on. I was also a little shit, bustin’ tags by the fourth grade, sneaking onto trains and buses, stealing paint. I was just a shorty in the neighborhood and looked up to a lot of the MAD crew guys, like Kato, Risk, Reem (RIP), who were all a big influence for me as a kid. Eventually I entered art school, got sick of it, studied film, and moved to LA where I really started getting into street art. As a producer for Attack of the Show on the G4 video game network, I covered the early days of Kid Robot and Giant Robot, and met people on the show like Buff Monster, Jim Mahfood, and Shepard Fairey. I worked on segments for a show on Space Invader, but at the last minute he pulled out to work with Banksy, which later turned out to be his involvement in Exit Through the Gift Shop. After moving back to Chicago, I got the bug to start doing my own art again instead of spectating. In my professional life I still produce and direct everything from commercials to music videos, much of it under the Brain Killer name, but more recently I’ve been gung ho about making more art.
Does the name Brain Killer have any significance in your art?
There is no real significance other than it sounds pretty bad ass.
What inspires your artwork?
My inspirations are a hodgepodge of everything around me; past, present, and future. Movies, TV, comics, cartoons, monsters, sci fi, horror, music, fashion, the internet… It’s really all over the place.
How did you hear about Threadless?
I heard about Threadless from working on Attack of the Show; I produced a t-shirt round-up review and of course we featured Threadless. I remember a box of shirts landed on my desk with a lot of early runs, and I gave so many away not realizing they would be collectibles. I’m pretty sure there were some first run Communist Party shirts in there. All gone!
Chicago indie-rock band Gemini Club’s “Sparklers.” Official music video produced and directed by Brain Killer.
How did the environment influence the piece you did in the Threadless kitchen?
Threadless offered both outdoor and indoor spaces, but I wanted the kitchen because everyone hangs out there and it’s on the way to the bathroom. When there’s a party or a tour, the kitchen feels like a centerpiece to me. I went with a combination of a “food gone bad” theme and improvised illustration. My brand colors are pink and black so I painted the whole kitchen pink and went from there.
When inspiration strikes, how do you decide what medium to express it with (illustration, video, photography)?
Inspiration usually doesn’t strike; it’s all just floating around in my head all the time. I can’t shut it off, and I don’t start unless I’m on deadline or there is a project or opportunity on the table.. That’s when I pluck something from the tree. Even on a mural, I show up and see what comes out. Video is different as it requires conceptualizing and planning, but I still don’t start an idea until there’s a project attached to it. With street art, I hit a point where I realize I haven’t put anything up in awhile and I better get cracking. I have a few things in my head for the next round of paste-ups. but I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. I guess I’m planning in my head but I’m not writing anything down, or creating a timeline. One day I’ll just say, “Ok, I’m not busy, let’s start.”
More street art from Brain Killer. What do six foot worms with horns have to be afraid of?
Is there any city in particular that you want to leave your mark on? If so, why?
I lived in LA for a long time. I need to go back and plant a flag soon.
What are you most proud of as an artist?
As an artist, what am I most proud of? I’m not proud of any of it.
What do you get out of creating art yourself that you miss out on when producing for other clients?
When I’m doing it for myself vs. working for a client, I throw it all out there. In my mind I have this chip on my shoulder full of scumbaggery, and my alter ego is a total degenerate, so that’s what I bring. I tap into all the bad shit and put it out there. I’m very “This is me, and you can go fuck yourself” about it. I’m not an angry person, but any negative energy floating around in me will come out in my work.
How did studying advertising and graphic design in college benefit your career as an artist?
Studying advertising and graphic design didn’t do much for me as an artist, but it did teach me about self-promotion, business, and branding, and that’s a huge asset.
A chilling Brain Killer short. Hold your breath the next time you enter a stall…
I saw Dark Matter Coffee made limited edition bottles with your art on them. What was that like?
I did a street art installation on one of Dark Matter Coffee’s future coffee shops; the image we used was my interpretation of their coffee Unicorn Blood. When they asked me if that same artwork could be used for a limited release of Three Floyd’s Dark Lord Day beer, which used Unicorn Blood coffee, I was floored. I got some mad props for that.
Do you ever reuse characters in your art? Which ones are your favorite?
I use a lot of worms, blobs, eyeballs, creatures, and guts. For the paste-ups, I like to use photographs featuring a combination of models I’ve shot, skulls, painting, and illustration. There’s always lots and lots of pink. I think the worm is my unofficial mascot.
I like your… hair?
Are you working on any new projects right now? If so, could you tell us a little about what you’re up to?
Right now I’m freelance producing some really cool things at Onion Labs, The Onion’s production company. I am also planning a huge street art attack once I slow down. I’m going bigger, brighter, and crazier. It’s time to get back out there.
On your Facebook page, you say you’re an agoraphobe. How do you manage living in one of the busiest cities in the world?
My Facebook page also says I’m a billionaire. The great thing about being Brain Killer is that I can be whoever I want.
Just a taste of the dark corners of Brain Killer’s brain.
MEET OUR “MAKE YOUR STATEMENT” CHALLENGE WINNER!
Due to the recent launch of our app Type Tees, we’ve had lots of reason to be makin’ statements around here. Therefore, we wanted to toss the opportunity out to our awesome community to do the same, in the form of our Make Your Statement challenge! We had so many amazing designs roll in featuring witty, clever, funny, goofy, meaningful, silly, heartfelt (oops, are we getting wordy?) statements, that it was super tough to award the winning crown. However, in the end, we must present it to artist 38 Sunsets of Poland for his tongue-in-cheek design “Le Royal Meh”. Check out an interview with him below, and don’t forget to snag his new tee here!
Congrats on your winning design! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
The grand prize - sounds so big! It is really exciting. I am thrilled. Thank you so much for picking me! There were so many entries, tons of cool ones, and I want to salute every single participant. It is an awesome sensation to compete with you guys! I want to thank also all the supporters that have scored me highly.
I am bicultural. I was raised in Poland, but spent half my life in Paris. Being multicultural is nice, but sometimes it gives an impression of strange duality and identity. I am an independent artist, working on very diverse commercial and private projects. Self employment is hazardous, too. There are blank moments (ouch!). Incoming projects include designing for an art show catalog and a video/photo report about sculpture creation. Private projects include paintings and photography. I’ve been hooked on illustration for about a year now (thanks, Threadless!). I have now a new tag: “Modern Zombie”, as I am working through daylight, and working through moonlight. No sleep.
This challenge was a little different since it focused on words vs. design. Why did you decide to partake?
While studying contemporary art, I was attracted the most to language. The language of art, the language we speak, the universality of signs… those kind of things. I have made a lot of very conceptual artwork words in my paintings or videos; words have been always of big interest to me. The Make Your Statement challenge was a perfect occasion to renew my interest with words and play with different concepts and styles.
What words do you live by?
DIVERSITY is probably my word for today. Society needs to be diverse; it’s a concept that’s understood largely. Diverse people even like opposite thoughts as there is no hate, no aggression between them. Diverse things all around feed me well… oh yes! Like diverse sauces on a hot dog: ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise - YUMMY! That’s a cool word too - and STRANGE at the same time. I like the word SOUND. I love DIVERSE SOUNDS. I love to listen to JAPANESE. I listen to Japanese movies while doodling my illustrations; they have such cool sounds.
We love the tongue-in-cheek concept of your statement and design. How did you come up with it?
So often we take life events too seriously. What if we could be more relaxed? The day I came up with Royal Meh I was upset and wanted to say something to help alleviate the rising stress, but the common “Fuck it” has a negative charge. I needed to chill out positively. What’s more relaxing than a good laugh? I said “MEH” out loud, which has a funny sound to me, and an instant later thought of “ROYAL MEH”… which got me laughing hysterically! I have realized that Royal Meh is double-faced: both serious and funny. And very positively charged because of the underlying laughter. The word “royal” came up spontaneously, but I think the real source of it is in the French part of me. The title with the determinant “Le” adds another layer of funny reference like in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction dialog about burgers. “Tongue-in-cheek” is really the perfect description; it concludes what I am trying to explain with too many words!
What officially makes a “meh” royal?
The apparent formal elements, like a crown and leaves. But, most important, “meh” is royal when your attitude is appropriate. That includes your body posture, how you pronounce “meh”, and the timing with the situation. Imagine you slip on a banana in the street and you fall on your face. This is the perfect time to show up your “Royal Meh!” You atten to the meeting of adversary political camps. “Royal Meh!” Your boss is pissing you off. “Royal Meh!” So attitude and timing are definitely the official rules. Yet, a positive state of mind is also very important. I actually think there is a potential in this “Royal Meh”. It could be a popular saying. From now on, why don’t you say “Royal Meh!”. Please test and report to me the observed effects.
What was your process of creating it?
My goal was to encompass the feeling of the royal design from the past, since “royal” has rather a historical connotation. I have few old coins with a lot of royal stuff on them, and I searched the internet too to see royal emblems. But my design could not have the true royal precision as “Royal Meh” is a tongue-in-cheek concept; making it too precise would appear too serious. So all elements are plain and bold, not too many details, and everything is drawn by hand. The “MEH” word design has the letter E bumped a bit so it has the feeling of a monogram, something aristocratic. Also, that bump fills the space better between the crown and leaves. I knew exactly what I wanted this design to look like, so I had no hesitation. I sketched the final result straight ahead.
How do you approach font design differently than you would typical design?
Actually, when I treat words differently than typical design, I fail - royally(!). I have decided to treat fonts as geometric forms that have a role to play in the whole composition. I treat them like pictograms (logograms, ideograms, or whatever you call it), rather than phonograms, then continue to tweak. Font design is really not easy; it’s a science, a real knowledge. Instead, I treated “Royal Meh” exactly like an image in its totality. I even forgot for awhile that the statement was meant to be read, so I filled the circle with geometric forms. The words came out of that more and became more unified with my design.
What advice do you have for artists trying to incorporate words into their designs?
The most difficult task is to give one piece of advice for a thousand cases out there. But, basically, try to forget that words are composed with fonts, and play around with forms instead. Check out the rest of your design in accordance to the lines and curves of your words. Take risk to loosen readability. Explode the words into their most simple elementary parts, then recompose everything. Clean your stuff, and be delighted. Practice a lot. Draw. Forget your computer. Take something you’re comfortable with, like a pencil, and draw for five minutes. Then take something you hate, like a brush and ink, and paint for an hour with it. You actually might be surprised of what comes up from the chaos.
If you had to wear one statement t-shirt for the rest of your life, what would it say?
I’ll be snobbish on this one” “Le Royal Meh”. Yeah!
Any other shout-outs?
You guys at Threadless are so cool! No wonder so many of us are so hooked to you. Simply: Long Live Threadless.
P.S. Yes, as soon as I get a copy of the tee, I am going to send it to the Royal Family… who knows, maybe I’ll get a response with a Royal Meh?
When Monday rolls around with a brand new week, so will some brand new tees! But how can we release a fresh batch without getting to know the artists? We wanted to get down to the basics, so we asked next week’s printed designers what inspired them to pursue their dream of being an artist. Before you ditch out of the office and start the weekend festivities, check out the artists’ quotesand their soon-to-be-on-your-back designs. Be sure to come back on Monday to grab some new tees!
Q: What inspired you to become an artist?
"I could have fun with my thoughts and communicate with people without having to speak. Drawing and designing are like blurring the lines between work and play.” Buy this tee now!
“I think it just came about naturally. I guess you can say I was drawin’ towards it.” Buy this tee now!
“First, thanks for calling me an artist. In answer to the question, artists.” Buy this tee now!
"Music inspires me to be an artist, from the album cover art to the personality of the artists themselves. I want to somehow be a part of what they create in any way. Fellow artists and their work motivate me, and that inspiration brought me to where I am and who I am now.” Buy this tee now!
“When I was a kid, I made a little totem pole out of nothing, mainly a few things I grabbed here and there, each chosen spontaneously. Things like plastic, straws, fur, glass beads, woolen cord, pieces of soap. I felt excited while composing these different elements; a feeling that there was some kind of magic in it. Then I saw the reaction from my teachers and classmates; the little kids sensing the same magic. I was delighted by their excitement, but my body just stood still with wide open eyes. It was that first astonishing moment of realizing how the things you make impact the spectators, changing both their behavior and your own.” Buy this tee now!
#DO52 WEEK 28: ASCII ART EDITION!
#DO52 is a weekly project to inspire you to create more art! We’ll announce a new theme each week. Post your submission in the blog comments. We’ll feature our favorites in this blog the following Friday.
#DO52week28: Create art using your computer keyboard!
- Are you familiar with ASCII art? It’s when you create images or artwork using the 95 printable characters on your computer’s keyboard, and it can be ridiculously fun. Your challenge this week is to create art using just these characters. Your design can be as simple or complicated as you wish to make it!
Here are two examples (of varying difficulty) from around the Web:
Once you’ve completed this week’s #DO52, add this badge to your Threadless profile:
Don’t forget to head over to last week’s #DO52 to check out what artists were doing with stars and stripes!
STREET ARTIST THE LOST CAUSE CREATES GARAGE DOOR MASTERPIECE FOR THREADLESS
To make sure there’s no unpainted corner of the Threadless office, we asked street artist The Lost Cause to turn one of our garage doors into his own personal canvas. Now the once blank, tin square is filled with industrial personality, capping off our arrival to work with a colorful creation. We caught up with The Lost Cause afterwards to ask him about his career, his hometown of Portland, and his recent world tour. Keep reading to learn a little more about The Lost Cause and to check out his awesome handiwork on our garage door!
The Lost Cause’s garage door turned canvas.
Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? How did you begin your career?
I go by “The Lost Cause” and I’m based out of Portland, Oregon. I started painting graffiti when I was about 13 and it evolved into what it is now. I haven’t really considered it a “career” until the last two or three years.
Why did you choose to move forward as an artist without any formal training?
Everything I learned about painting came from self-taught graffiti skills; I never really thought that art school or training made much sense for what I wanted out of painting. If anything, formal training would have only restrained my ability to figure out what I like to do. It’s been a good bit of trial and error, but how do any of us grow as humans without making some mistakes, right?
How did your trademark original character, “Winston the Whale,” come to be?
I was doodling this blob thing I saw on a blog, and I gave it a couple fins and eventually a whale tail. It started off as “Lost at Sea” because it was a whale, but I switched it up to “The Lost Cause” shortly after. I made some hand painted stickers and immediately got responses from all kinds of people within a week or two of putting them up. It all took off from there!
The struggle became real for The Lost Cause as he painted this piece through wind and rain in Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood.
Why did you decide to move to Portland, Oregon?
My brother moved out here about 10 years ago and I visited him a couple times. I liked it because it has a mellow mood and plenty of natural beauty. I also wanted to GTFO of my hometown; we all know how that is.
What do you find unique about Portland’s street art scene?
Stickers! Portland has one of the most bangin’ sticker scenes I’ve ever seen, in regard to quality, originality, quantity, and sense of community. Everyone knows each other; we’re all pals and we all push each other creatively to try new things. I’m really stoked to be part of such a great group of individuals. We need more muralists though!
A starry-eyed rendition of The Lost Cause’s trademark character, Winston the Whale.
You write that the sticker culture in Portland is very unique. What role does it play for street art?
Stickers are the easiest and most efficient way to get your message across. You can make thousands of stickers in a short period of time and if enough end up out on the streets, people WILL see them. You can also cover a huge area without much risk. They are less destructive than paint or markers and if someone is really offended, they can peel the sticker off. I think it’s also a great way to make new friends; when I meet someone, I often give them a sticker and boom - instant friend! Who doesn’t like stickers, anyway?!
What influences the work that you do?
I am always looking at art; both older and more contemporary. I am also influenced by my own work; I often go back and look at older photos or sketches of previous work. I feel it helps me stay within my own style.
The spray paint genie. Unfortunately, he doesn’t grant wishes.
You have a unique style relying heavily on rigid geometric shapes. How did you adopt this technique?
I went through a bit of a “crisis” last fall, and wanted to develop a style that felt different from my usual cartoony stuff. I started doodling faces and filling them in with zigzags and triangles and other geometric patterns, then I took those shapes and patterns to the wall and applied them with colors. My goal for now is to work mostly without outlines; it’s challenging for me because that’s how I’ve always painted, but I am figuring out new tricks with every wall I paint.
How did you hear about Threadless?
I actually heard about Threadless when I was in high school. I bought a shirt from you guys like eight years ago! I think a friend told me about it when I saw his shirt at school. Good stuff! I dig what you guys do. :)
When geometric monsters attack!
What inspired the work that you did for Threadless?
The shape of the garage door, to be honest, ha! I had already sketched out the design to initially paint in London, but I got rained out. When I saw the square format of the door at Threadless, I thought it would be perfect for that sketch.
Many street artists deliberately hide or obscure their faces. What made you decide to openly pose in front of the piece you did for Threadless?
I really like it when I can connect a face to the work I admire; it makes the work seem more “human” to me. There are so many artists I have been following for years, and I have no idea what they look like. I want to provide that connection for my audience since it’s important to me. I also like to show the scale of the work, and sometimes a photo of the work itself doesn’t quite illustrate how large the wall is.
The Lost Cause’s finished product falls perfectly in line with the Threadless style.
What is the creative process like for you, from start to finish, when working on a piece of art?
It usually starts off with a good visual of the surface I will be painting, then a rough sketch based on that surface. My sketches tend to be loose and based more on the general composition and shapes rather than the details. After that, I lay down spray-painted sketch lines on the wall and begin to section off the areas and shapes, and then fill those areas in with colors. I add the details as I’m painting, and typically don’t quite know where all of the details are going to end up til I’m doing them. There’s a lot of back-and-forth of cleaning up lines and details to get them just the way I want them… and a ton of self doubt, haha. But, in the end, I’m usually happy with the results.
Where did the idea of going on an international art tour come from? How is the tour going?
I watch all of these artists and muralists who are constantly traveling. I had done a little bit of traveling here in the U.S. and saw an immediate impact on my work and the power of networking, so it only made sense to take it a little further. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made with my work. I got to paint new cities, meet new friends, and learn a whole heckuva lot in the process. I am taking what I’ve learned and applying it to my future work.
The man behind the paint.
Your approach to raising money for your tour through crowdsourcing was very unique. How was the process of raising money for your international tour?
Crowdsourcing is the future of getting projects funded. It allows you to have total control of the content of your project and also lets you do it exactly the way you want without outside influence. It also engages the audience in a unique way. When someone donates their hard-earned money to something like an artist tour, they are going to want to see the results. It definitely puts a bit of pressure on me, but in a good way. I also think it’s a great way to get my work physically in my audience’s hands. When they donate they also get “rewards” for donating, so it’s kind of a win-win situation. It blew my mind when I ended the fundraiser with $1775 over my goal; it was a really humbling experience.
What do all the different cities you’re stopping in bring to the table for street art?
Each city has it’s own set of artists, advocates, and politics. A city is like a venue for street art, and just like different venues host different bands and musicians, so does each city with muralists and street artists. The laws and city politics play a huge roll in each city’s ability to deliver street art in a different way. Some have strict laws that limit the amount of street art and some (like Berlin) are much looser and thus you see a much higher saturation and standard for street art.
I’ve seen pictures of you and other artists working on the same mural. How is it collaborating with another artist while painting a mural together on the same wall?
It’s different with each artist. It’s kind of like dancing; some people like to get real close and squeeze on your butt, some like to square dance, and some just want to look at you and nod to the beat. I like it for the most part. I usually like to have a decent discussion beforehand about what’s the plan, but sometimes I just go with the flow and see what happens.
The Lost Cause playing nice with others.
How has an international tour helped you grow as an artist?
It’s helped me to truly realize how integral street art is to a city. It influences the entire environment and the people living in it. The people who live in neighborhoods with murals and art take great pride in that aspect of their community, and I’m happy to give them something to enjoy and look at on their daily walk to the corner store, bus stop, or wherever they may be going. I’m ready to paint more and paint bigger! Street art is the future and is a movement that will be in history books to come. I am just really happy to be a part of it and a witness to it all.
The Winstons approve. Thanks, homie!
MEET OUR “TRY A NEW STYLE” WINNER!
Trying something new can be tough, but Threadless artists seem to be pretty darn good at it! We asked our community to explore their artistic horizons with our latest Try A New Style design challenge, and we got to see how contributing artists experimented with their art. Our winning submission comes from Narniaz who created an X-Acto knife masterpiece, “Fixing a Broken Heart”. Keep reading to get to know Narniaz a little better, and pick up his new tee here.
Congrats on your winning design “Fixing a Broken Heart”! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Firstly, thanks to the voters and Threadless for this win! I quit advertising in 1996 after five years in the workforce. Now I’m self-employed and have been creating jobs for myself ever since. I don’t have a specific style in my work; I think I’m quite versatile. Besides artwork I like interior design as well. I do some carpentry work whenever I have the chance.
Explain the new style that you tried and why you chose it.
It’s a cut and paste method. The elevated layers of paper are the main thing. Once we put lights on it, nature does the rest. I simply wanted this piece to be different from the others and to get away from my comfort zone.
Did you find it challenging to try a new style, or more inspiring? Why?
It was quite challenging at first, but after the second day it all came into place. One can get better and better if they focus. I enjoyed doing it; I wanted to do more but the deadline was nearing. It’’s been very inspiring.
Describe to us the process of creating this design in particular.
It’s about creating shadows. Without shadows the whole thing wouldn’t work. There were three layers: the robot and gadgets cut on thick ten-year-old watercolor paper, the supporter that elevates the robot made from a 50mm thick foam board (without this thickness the depth will not work), and the base made from a gray cardboard.
How did you work to create such an intricate, detailed design?
As the deadline drew near I realized I didn’t have much time. I roughly sketched on watercolor paper then started cutting it, not knowing exactly what I wanted except that the robot would be the hero. Things fell into it place as I went about it. Most important, when doing this sort of design, you must know how to occupy the gaps. You don’t need a steady hand, but definitely a steady brain.
What inspired the concept of the actual design itself - a robot getting his heart fixed?
Haha well, I wanted a robot at first, but it’s quite meaningless without anything happening around him. I also wanted to make this robot wearable for both male and female, so I couldn’t make him fierce or destructive which I normally do when I make metal CD covers - this time I felt he should be a little more adorable, or at least more mainstream. The broken heart speaks for my designs which have not been selected by Threadless. (Hahaha, I don’t mean that seriously!)
Why do you believe this design stood out from the competition?
Good question! Honestly, before I started the job, I studied your store. The style seemed perfect for the challenge. It’s an opportunity I didn’t want to miss. I thought “Threadless might be hungry for this… please accept my offerings!”
Did this challenge inspire you to try other new styles? If so, what styles might you explore?
Oh yes! Sure it does. I have another thing in mind. I can’t tell you now… let’s wait until the need arises!
What advice do you have for other artists curious about experimenting with styles outside of their comfort zone?
Just do it. Do what you like to do. Nature isn’t that cruel. You will get better each day, whether it be doing your job or your hobby. You will find that the canvas for creativity is far wider than you think if you keep on doing… it’s unbelievable! But if you think a single style is better for you, then so be it. I have seen many successful artists doing a single style. However, if you are hungry for a new style, you better eat!
Any other shout-outs?
Thanks for this! To be selected is like a dream come true. Those who have never been selected - don’t you ever give up. Everyone has their day. Best wishes to all artist out there. Mega thanks to all friends, relatives, and Threadless… you people rock! Last but not least, I hope the Netherlands wins the World Cup 2014 (is this outta topic?)… haha! Yeah!!!
Heyooo everybody, happy 4th! The good ‘ole U.S. of A. isn’t the only thing to celebrate today - we’ve also got a whole batch of new artists debuting their tees next week! And to ring them in in true American fashion, we asked them to tell us about that band or song that instantly gets their creative juices flowing. Their answers prove that we’ve got some great music listeners on our hands (and had us discovering some new jams on Spotify!). Check out what they had to say, and be sure to tune in next Monday to snag their awesome new tees!
Q: What band or song instantly gets your creative juices flowing?
“To make me think outside the box: Devendra Banhart. To help get pencil to paper: The Lumineers. To maintain a steady flow with my ink work: Message To Bears or Phosphorescent. To reflect seriously on my design so far: Radiohead or The National. To find harmony in my colour choices: The Fleet Foxes. Right now: First Aid Kit.” Buy this tee now!
“I need just four simple words to start the working day: ‘Hey! Oh! Let’s go!’ Of course, I’m talking about the Ramones; their songs give me the right boost and tickle my daily creativity.” Buy this tee now!
“Arcade Fire.” Buy this tee now!
“I don’t really have one. I just Muse…” Buy this tee now!
“I am very eclectic in my musical choices. I can listen to French Slammer or ABD AL MALIK (and his absolutely great album “Gibraltar”) next to gorgeous J.S. Bach’s the “Six suites for unaccompanied cello”, followed by French composer Pierre Henry or Junkie XL, then onto traditional tribal music from Namibia like “Songs of The Ju’hoansi Bushmen” (incredible sounds!) or DJ Krush (OuMuPo 6), and finish my day with Ali Farka Touré. All this great music triggers very positive vibes in my brain and body. And, speaking about Bach and his magic Cello Suites, he played in a loop while I created my illustration “Concerto”. I love that flowing Cello. Even dangerous spirits of the forest get docile with those sounds.” Buy this tee now!
“That’s a cool question! Most of the time I inject myself with Megadeth in ‘The Big Four’ where I can easily turn it on on Youtube. You should check it out, they are awesome! Metal up!” Buy this tee now!