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Get Inspired with our Muse Challenge Winner

You wouldn’t expect t-shirts to inspire people to put the phone down and pick up the hiking boots. But the winner of our Muse challenge, NDTank, creates designs that are guaranteed to make you want to trade creature comforts for outdoor creatures…or at least to look up pictures of mountains and squirrels.

This freelance illustrator (and Artist Shop owner!) takes inspiration from the outdoors to a beautiful new level with his unique, minimal back-to-nature style.

We talked to NDTank about his designs, love for nature, and the time he saw the Millennium Falcon IRL (you’ll see). Check out his answers below! And TAKE A HIKE! …seriously, literally go take a hike, it’s getting nicer outside.

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You have such an awesomely unique style – I can always tell when a design is an NDTank design! How did you develop your style?

First off, thank you! It’s nice to know my art has its own personality.

For good or bad, I think style is something that kind of finds you. It’s part of learning and growing. I tend to gravitate towards images I’ve created that I enjoy and that people have responded positively to, but I honestly feel limitations of my current skill-set and abilities probably contribute most significantly to my style.

I have a very specific vision of where I’d like to be stylistically. I’m a long way from it, but I’m getting there slowly.

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“Aurora…”

Are you self-taught?

Mostly…yes. Does it show? haha There’s some freedom in being able to admit you have no idea what you’re doing.

I’d be remiss, however, if I failed to mention I had a fantastic teacher many years ago that helped me realize there was a talent there that was worth cultivating.

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“Dam It!”

Big outdoorsy person?

The short answer is yes. I spend time in the woods and mountains near my home probably six out of seven days a week. I’m fortunate to be able to step out for an hour or two at a time to hike a trail or spend some time in my kayak on a river, but I don’t immerse myself as much as I’d like to. Sometimes when you have the outdoors available at your finger tips, it’s easy to become casual about it. It’s something I hope to correct going forward.

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“MTN LP”

So this was for our “Muse” challenge – how did you get inspired to make it? What’s your muse?

This challenge gave me the freedom to just create what comes naturally. I had been meaning to revisit my design Midnight Aria and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. It felt like natural way of combining two of my greatest muses, nature and music.

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“MTN LP” IRL

What do you do to get in the art zone?

I wish I knew. I’m a world class procrastinator. Deadlines are helpful. Music is great unless I fall into the rabbit hole of choosing what to listen to.

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“Scouting Since ’74”

What’s the coolest place you’ve ever traveled to?

It’s hard to pick just one. Last year I spent time in Ireland and that was pretty awesome. Bonus coolness: (Star Wars Spoiler Alert, but everyone’s seen that now, right?) If you looked out the window of one of the B&B’s I stayed in you could see the island where Luke Skywalker and Rey were hanging out at at the end of The Force Awakens. I think I might have caught a glimpse of the Millennium Falcon too ;)

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Is doing art and design your day job?

Crazily enough, it is now. I’m still trying to figure out how I intend to move forward with that. There are so many directions I’m tempted to explore.

Do you live in a place that inspires your designs? Surrounded by nature?

I do. There are woods behind my house and I live just a few minutes from a state park and a national park. Obviously, that has a huge influence on my work.

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“Purrfect”

You’re in the woods and there’s a Sasquatch right in front of you. What do you do?

Make sure my camera is sufficiently out of focus and take a quick picture. In all honesty though, hopefully someone’s around to keep me from following it.

I remember a camping trip with my family when I was probably around 10-years-old where one night we were woken by black bears wandering through our campsite. I think it was all my parents could do to keep me from walking right up to them.

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“Reconnect”

Tips for disconnecting and getting back to nature?

Ditching your phone is probably the simplest answer (not that I’m good at that myself). That and carving out large amounts of time to be outside. It takes a while to leave the day-to-day stuff behind.

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“Into the Grey”

Your pieces have such a great visual texture to them – what medium do you use to create?

I spend way more time working digitally than I care to admit. I supplement that with textures created from photographs or scans. I love the ease of playing with texture and color that digital outlets provide, even if I don’t like spending time in front of a screen.

For ideas, ink and paper.

Recently I got ahold of some rescued barn wood which I’m going to attempt to use for real versions of my plank designs. I’m excited about that.

What do you hope people will get out of your art and designs?

A smile would be nice. If it helps someone feel a little closer to nature, that’s even better.

Carlyn Hill

Dad joke aficionado, cartoonist, & contributor for sites like HelloGiggles and The Mary Sue by night. When I'm not writing or drawing, you can find me in my cave of a room hanging out with my boyfriend, Netflix.