Steven Rhodes (@blue sparrow) didn’t grow up in America. He didn’t live through the Fifties, the Sixties or the Seventies. But you’d never know it from his designs! Recurring motifs include All-American film noir, junk culture, space exploration, science fiction, comic books, and—of course—slasher movies.
Congrats on your winning ‘Camp Of Lost Souls’ design for our ‘The 70s’ challenge! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? Are you old enough to remember the 70s?
I was alive for about 2 months in the 70s so my memory is a little foggy, haha. But it’s a decade that really inspires me in terms of the design from that era. Things like band T-shirts, record covers, movie posters, kitschy interior decorating (shag carpet & doorway beads), advertising, custom vans, and fashion were all amazing.
Did you go to Summer Camp? Was it horrible?
We don’t really do the whole summer camp thing so much in Australia. Most of my knowledge of that comes from cheesy American movies.
You have submitted over 50 designs to Threadless. What are some of you your favorites?
Well ‘Aliens Gave My Cat A Beard’ has been my most successful design by far and was quite a surprise print on Threadless. I guess there’s a lot of cat/beard/alien enthusiasts out there?
I also had a lot of fun making ‘The Penguin Who Knew Too Much’. I tried to push myself on that one.
How’d you get your start in art?
I’ve always made art since I was a kid, but when it came to choosing a career I picked landscape architecture. I worked in that field for about 6 years before my soul slowly died. So I went back to school and learnt graphic design and started making a lot of digital art. Now I design for a surf/street retailer.
You seem to be a fan of dark humor. Why is that?
Haha yeah I do have a pretty dark sense of humour. I think with design I like the idea of constrasts. So if I take a disturbing horror theme, I like to offset that with some sort of light-hearted, innocent idea and see how they mash together.
When you approached this particular challenge, what were some things from the 1970s you thought about?
I think t-shirts and the 70s have a pretty close relationship. There’s some quintessential 70s tees out there and my mind just went to the classic camp/athletic ringer tee look. Not too many colours and a fairly basic art style.
How did you land on the final concept?
Well I knew I wanted it to look like a retro camp tshirt but, back to my contrasts philosophy, I had to mess with the genre somehow. So I brought in a horror element which ties in with the ‘cabin in the woods’ idea and it turns something wholesome into something darker and stranger.
Would you mind taking us through the creation of this design?
I usually start all my designs with the simplest little thumbnail sketch. Although they look like a quick scribble, it’s amazing how important these are in terms of balance and layout. I spent a good deal of time with this challenge trawling for that perfect 70s font.
Your work seems to feature a lot of vengeful animals. Are you afraid of being attacked by any specific kind of creature?
Haha maybe subconsciously? I’m working through it with my analyst ;) I think I’m more scared of amoebas that travel up your nose when you swim in fresh water rivers and can eat your brain.
Horror movie posters and pulp fiction covers seem to be another source of inspiration. What makes these so appealing to you?
These hark back to a time when your only idea of what was in the movie or novel, was what you could see on the poster or the cover. So the artwork was always really evocative and over the top to draw the viewer in. Often the cover artwork was much better than the film itself.
A really fun sense of humor runs through all your designs. What are some of you favorite funny movies, books, comedians, or comics?
Anything with Bill Murray generally cracks me up. And I like more subtle comedy from directors like Jim Jarmusch, Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson. Dan Clowes is my favourite graphic novelist for both his cynical voice and his deceptively simple artwork.