Behind every piece of great art is a great artist. And behind every great artist, is a great story. We just didn’t expect Craig Watkins’ – a.k.a Wotto – story to include finding his artistic passion and wife on Threadless.com!
We talked with Craig to find out more about his unique Threadless experience and his world of so-creepy-it’s-cute art. And Wotto wonderful world it is.
Your art is all over the internet-verse! What’s been your favorite project so far?
I do have a breadth of work that has covered many surfaces, but honestly it wouldn’t have happened if Threadless hadn’t reinstated my love of art. I won my first submission back in 2007 and that kicked my ass back into gear. Since then, I have dedicated more time to my art and have been lucky enough to work with some very cool people and brands.
The newest project always seems to be my favorite because it is still exciting. I recently designed my first can for a brewery which was definitely on my list,
I saw on your blog that Threadless brought you and your wife together! Story time.
Haha! Yes ‘tis true. Gather round children and I’ll tell you the story of the Kitten and the Donkey. So a few moons ago I was on Threadless chit-chatting in the forum. A user called ‘Smitten Kitten’ – who often referred to me as ‘Donkey’ to the amusement of many – caught my attention and we began talking. We had similar tastes in art and both loved Threadless. From the drizzly UK to sun-drenched California we made a connection. After many skype calls, live chats and emails we met in the USA and connected on “in real life”. Many trips back and forth and a horrible immigration process later, I moved to the USA and we got married. Boom! I think we were the first Threadless couple to get married?
That’s an amazing story. Speaking of love of art, how did you develop your own unique style?
My style is literally a mash of years and years of doodling and drawing as a creative outlet. Years ago I illustrated stuff for publications – I was grateful for it and it paid bills but never really excited me. It was the drawings I did on scraps of paper, sketchbooks, etc. that I loved – the darker doodlings.
The Threadless winner “I’m with this clown” (above) was one of the first times I “exposed” my creeper side. It was well received and that encouraged me to share much more.
What artists inspire you?
Too many to list. The internet has made art exposure incredible. I’d say artists that have influenced me or blown my mind are Junko Mizuno, Pete Fowler, Tamara De Lempicka, Brett Bean, Jemma Salune, Yoshitomo Nara, Steve Scott, Olly Moss, Jon Klassan, etc.
Your “Scoundrels” shirt has such a Nightmare Before Christmas vibe to it – are you a Tim Burton Fan?
I have always liked cute characters that have a hint of possible menace. The Stay Puff man; kinda cute but he’ll stamp on you. Gizmo; adorable but get that guy wet and shit hits the fan. So when I draw a character I want it to have a story, an angle that could be naughty or bad or pure evil. I often think of the back story and create a fictional world around them…then I get distracted and move on to the next character.
As an artist I believe I can reinforce the concept that we humans are responsible for our mess. I’ve always been blown away by the idea that if humans vanished tomorrow, it wouldn’t take long for nature to irradiate most of what we have done physically.
What do you do when you’re not drawing?
I love spending time with my family. I have a son and a new baby due at the end of the year. My life is pretty busy these days and the balance can be tough but spending time with a three-year-old is very inspiring and interesting. “Daddy, do octopus things have teeth?”
How long does one of your 3D doodles – or any of your intricate doodles – take?
Smaller ones can be done very quickly – I have been doing them so long that they are almost like a brain dump, everything pours out and often the pen cannot keep up with the mind.
Last year I did a 30-foot hand-drawn doodle mural that took weeks. It was fun but exhausting too. It was all freehand which was very intense. The Starbucks cups I do take about an hour and recently I have been seeing how much I can doodle in a set amount of time (10 minute doodles, for example).
Your logo and much of your “collage”-like work has a street art feel to it – do you dabble in street art?
Yes, I dabbled in street art as a young man. “I was into street art before street art was cool” lol.
I used to graffiti stuff and got in trouble a few times. I followed the scene when I was in London and went to Banksy’s first official unofficial gallery show. Growing up around that stuff definitely had an influence. From the ‘80s skate art scene, through the ‘90s MTV stuff, straight into street art culture. I’d love to do more murals and street-based art. I’ve always thought a complete store front hand-doodled would be pretty badass. Maybe one day.