Riddle me this: as creatures of the night, would cats 🎶wear their suuunglasses at night🎶 or during the day? Regardless, while curiosity may have killed the cat, luckily coolness has never posed a threat. And Ronan Lynam’s new design “Cool Cats” will purrrfectly up your style game to make you look like a cool cat.
We talked to Ronan about his unique style that merges the every day with the fantastic (we dare you to see traffic lights the same way after this interview…scroll to see what I mean) and about his many animals-in-sunglasses designs. Check out the interview below!
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Tell us a little bit about yourself! Where are you from? What do you do? What’s your favorite bad movie to watch?
The details of my life are quite inconsequential…very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds – pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum…it’s breathtaking- I highly suggest you try it.
If I had to pick a favorite bad movie to watch – especially one that isn’t one of the obvious classics (The Room, Trolls 2, etc.) – I might have to pick Running Man. I’m a big fan of my man Arnie, and Running Man always had a soft spot in my heart with how satisfyingly cheesy it was.
You have such a unique style – was your style a challenge? Who/what inspires you?
I generally keep my style & workflow of shirt design different from my more figurative illustration work. I’ve come full circle and have finally accepted that some things are just meant to be separate. Developing my style has been an ongoing battle, but it’s been easier and easier lately as I get more and more confident in my workflow and execution. It is a constantly evolving mishmash of inspirations taken from too many different artists to share. I think a style grows from taking a workflow that you’re most naturally comfortable with, and incorporating elements from your favorite artists into your own style. Doing this too much from one artist turns you into a rip-off, but allowing different stylistic elements from different artists to work their way into your workflow is a great way to develop a style that is original & completely your own.
To add to this, one of the most helpful things I ever did was download a pack of good mockups. I think it’s important to always, always, always keep in mind how your design is going to look on a shirt. If you’re working on a rectangular canvas in Photoshop (or Illustrator, if you’re into vectors) then I think it can be hard to visualize how your design is going to look in the real world. Taking a peek at a nice mockup as you work is a fantastic way to keep things on track.
You said you’ve been into drawing animals with sunglasses – what other animals have you drawn sunglasses on?
Goats, dogs, lions, and a whole bunch of others waiting to be done. I find people really, really like these and I really enjoy making them. These are a direct result of trying to make things faster & simpler, as I mentioned previously. They’re also a result of me trying to make work with no solid concept behind it.
If one fictional character could wear this shirt, who would you want it to be?
President Bernie Sanders.
I love how a lot of your designs take the every day and give them a twist – how do you keep track of these ideas when they pop in your head?
Great question – ideas for new work most often strike at the most random times. I think it’s important for artists to have some way to record these ideas. I know some people like to carry around little sketchbooks wherever they go, but I’ve never been one to be constantly scribbling into a sketchbook.
Instead, I take a simpler route: I just write it down in an email. I have an open draft of an email with like 100 different ideas in it, ranging from two-word descriptions to small paragraphs describing the scene, subject, intent, etc. This way I have it across all digital platforms, whether its my phone or desktop computer.
Your use of textures is so unique and detailed – do you create your own textures or find them?
I’ve actually taken to creating my own textures in the past year or so. I found there were these certain flavors of texture that I wasn’t able to find, so I made my own. I have a .PSD document with folders of different textures I drag & drop onto work to apply them. When it comes to the ‘distressed’ texture on shirts, I simply take a large canvas brush and lightly apply it over the design, creating small holes to give it that “vintage” look.
How much time does a design typically take?
In terms of how long each piece takes, I want to comment on something about the world of online t-shirt sales that I’ve personally observed. More time & effort =/= a better design, let alone a design that makes more sales. It simply doesn’t. The risk of sinking hours and hours into a design only to have it flop is not worth it, in my opinion. Because of this, I’ve been trying to work faster by making simpler work. I think it pays off too, as I think some of the strongest, best selling designs both on Threadless and around the web are on the simpler side in terms of their detail and composition. T-shirts can sometimes get too complex when they really don’t need to be. Crudely drawn work with a good concept can fare just as well as over-polished designs with an equally good concept.
What’s your art/design philosophy?
I’ve always been a big proponent of being well versed in your art fundamentals. Things like perspective, values, color theory, anatomy, forms, light, composition, contrast, etc. – all the “boring” stuff your art teachers made you do in high school – I think that stuff is very, very important. The best part is that the fundamentals are all applicable across every 2D medium.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Here’s a slightly random thought (but still shirt-related): I hope there is a resurgence in screen printed shirts. DTG quality has gotten better over the years, but I find it just isn’t the same as the nice, thick, durable ink from a screen print. Some of my tees from various DTG sites are falling apart, while my screen printed shirts are still lasting the test of time.