He Won The Challenge, Dam It!

NDTank is a freelance illustrator and designer (“At least I pretend to be when I am not pretending to be something else…”) living in West Virginia. Judging by his website, he’s into mountains, trees, wind, cats, and woodgrains. He’s a prolific member of the Threadless Community and has five printed designs for sale including a dam nice challenge winner.

Congrats on your winning Dam It! design for our Short And Not So Sweet challenge! 

Thanks so much! I’m pretty dam excited!

How do you feel about beavers? Most people with trees do not love them.

They’re fascinating. I always get excited when I see one, or stumble across a dam. I have a lot of trees around me but nothing to dam, so beavers don’t cause me any trouble. I like to imagine they run around saying “Dam It!” to themselves all the time.

Seems like nature is a big influence on your work. Lots of snow, pine trees, and wolves. Do you live near nature, or do you just imagine it?

I am fortunate to live very close to nature and spend a great deal of my time in the mountains and woods near my home. Naturally, this finds its way into my work.DamIt_01-2

I actually live just minutes from a National Park so I’m excited about the current challenge. I have to imagine the wolves though…

How’d you get your start in art?

Good question… I assume it involved crayons!

A lot of your designs have a handmade feel. Do you work with paints and ink, or on a computer?

I move back and forth between traditional mediums and the computer. Most of my work on Threadless is a combination of both. I love the ease and flexibility the computer allows to play with textures and compositions, but it’s hard to beat putting something down on paper.

When considering what to create for this challenge, where did you look for inspiration? It seems like this design is more humorous—punny-er—than a lot of your other things.

This design is probably 15 years in the making. When I was in junior high, I remember drawing a one panel cartoon of a beaver trapped under a fallen tree with a fellow beaver looking on saying “Dam…”  I think I thought I was the next Gary Larson at the time.

I’ve always appreciated a good dam joke. They’re so simple and effective. If you’re in the vicinity of a dam and enthusiastically exclaim “DAM!”, you’re going to get a chuckle out of anyone you’re with. It’s dumb, yes, but they can’t help it.

How did you land on the final concept?

When this challenge came up, I immediately thought about recreating that beaver cartoon but I decided it would be fun to give it a vintage vibe. Then I thought it would be fun to find 15-20 vintage public domain beaver illustrations and have each of them with their own “Dam It!” speech bubble. When I came across the illustration used in the final design, however, I quickly decided to go in the direction you find on the shirt.


The work featured on the homepage of your website has a simple, quiet, muted feel. Do you approach a Threadless submission in a different way than your usual work?

When I first started subbing to Threadless, I tried to design in a “Threadless style”. The longer I’ve been around though, the more I’m convinced there really is no such a thing as a “Threadless style” outside of good work. I’ve realized I have better luck if I just do my own thing. However, this will be my 5th print from a challenge submission, so Threadless heavily influenced the subject matter for those. And obviously I have to consider the T-shirt medium.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

As I said, I’m from West Virginia and that will always be home. I love to travel though so I like the idea of getting myself into a position where I don’t have to be anywhere at any given time. Being able to pick up everything and move somewhere new for a few months at a time on a whim is very appealing. I’m toying with the idea of restoring an airstream into a roaming home and studio to that end.

Any other shout-outs?

Thanks Threadless community and beavers for being so Dam Awesome!


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Alan Spindle

Guest writer/editor/blogger at Threadless.