Illustrator and painter Jack Teagle works from an old shipping container he converted into a studio on his parent’s farm in Southwest England. His workspace may be limited, but his art reveals an imagination that knows no bounds. Jack’s original illustrations take you on a wild journey from UFO crash sites to cities rampaged by Godzilla–sized bugs. In other words, he’s not afraid to get weird.
So how exactly did he develop his art style? The short answer is through a lifetime of reading comics, watching sci-fi and horror movies, and playing 8-bit video games. He grew up in a comic-loving family that ignited his passion for art and cleared a path for him to become a professional artist himself. Since then, he’s worked in a staggering array of industries. He’s been a cartoonist for Front magazine, a columnist for Digital Artist Magazine, and a freelance graphic designer for clients including Apple, Netflix, and Minecraft.
In between all the projects he works on, Jack still finds the time to sketch and paint for fun. He’s released several original comics including The Unmentionables and Jeff Job Hunter, and is a prolific self-publisher. You can purchase many of his illustrations on t-shirts, tote bags, and tons of other awesome gear in his Threadless Artist Shop.
We recently caught up with Jack to chat about everything from his influences to environmentalism to that one time he spotted a UFO near his family’s home. Enjoy the conversation and watch time-lapse videos of Jack creating new designs for his shop!
You describe yourself as a lifelong comic book reader. What was it like picking up your first comic, and what about it had you hooked?
Jack Teagle: I remember the first ever comic book I had was an Archie Adventures TMNT comic. I was about 5, and I didn’t really understand my feelings at the time, but I had a huge crush on April O’Neil. I read it so much, I wore it down until it fell apart!
In the UK we had Sonic the Comic, and it was absolutely amazing. The art was fantastic and had a lot of 2000AD artists on board. It was just an amazing comic to read and to see the video game characters I loved come to life. They really expanded the worlds, and I just loved how cool everything looked. I also grew up reading The Beano and The Dandy, which were just really fun and anarchic. The Beano is much more tame these days.
You’ve worked in a wide variety of fields including editorial, character design, storyboarding, and even textile design. How has having such a diverse work history helped you shape your art style over the years?
JT: I tend to go for a really graphic approach. I love big, punchy lines and pleasing, rounded shapes, and I try my best to pick the most pleasing complimentary color palettes. In work, I find having a really bold approach gets me seen, and that’s bled into my personal work as well. I guess it comes from my background of DIY zines, street art, and printmaking.
Your original work has been published by companies including Nobrow Press and Retrofit Comics, but you’re also a prolific self-publisher. What are the advantages and disadvantages of publishing your own work?
JT: It’s taken me a very long time to figure out where I am with things, but it enables me to have much more control over my work. I get to decide where my work gets published. The downside is it means I have to negotiate on my own terms.
The good thing is, I know exactly how much I’m going to get, and I get to keep a larger percentage of my earnings. I’d say another good thing is that I get to upsell at conventions and on my online store. People buy a comic, but then they’ll also buy original art, t-shirts, and prints from me.
As a collector of action figures and old comic books, what’s your most prized possession?
JT: I’ll be honest, I went through somewhat of an existential crisis after we had to clear the homes of several family members who passed away, and after a lifetime of collecting, I suddenly stopped caring about trying to amass more and more. It made me realize that although people try to fill a hole by making huge collections of toys and books, the most important things are the sentimental things.
For me, I’ve just kept a handful of things that meant a lot to me as a child. The first classic Kenner Chewbacca I found at a car boot sale before I even knew what Star Wars was, and Grimlock and Bumblebee, the first Transformers I ever owned. I can remember exactly where I was when they were given to me, and how much fun I had making up my own adventures with them.
As for books, I own a lot of rare books, but my most precious are the visceral fun stuff that give me a lot of inspiration. A bunch of old San Francisco Underground Comix, my Hideshi Hino manga collection, and an assortment of alternative comics like Kramers Ergot 6, a Rory Hayes book, and the Tom Gauld and Simone Lia comic collection Both, which all got me into making my own comic books.
You created a comic about greenwashing for the “Ten Years to Save the World” digital comic anthology, which showcased at last year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival. To what extent do societal issues such as environmentalism impact your decisions as an artist, whether creatively or otherwise?
JT: I used to get paralyzed about even making prints! The logistics of it all and adding to the problem. What I realized was if I really put my all into what I do, people wouldn’t want to dispose of it. I have fans who have worn t-shirts for so long, they’ve told me they’ve fallen apart. When they can’t wear them as shirts, they cut them up and sew them onto denim jackets!
Also, I make risograph prints with soy-based inks and recycled paper. I like them because they’re eco-friendly, plant-based inks, and the stencils used in printing are made from banana leaf fibers. I use recycled and biodegradable packaging for my orders, and my studio is next to my home, so I have a relatively low carbon footprint for what I do. We live a pretty humble little life too and live within our means.
As part of The Simpsons Drawing Club, you and your close friends draw Simpsons characters for fun. This project led to you releasing a self-published collection called 100% Unofficial Simpsons Comix. When did your appreciation for The Simpsons begin and how has the cartoon influenced your career?
JT: I didn’t get to see The Simpsons until the late ‘90s. In the UK it was paywalled behind Sky TV/cable. When I finally got to join in Simpsons mania, I was hooked. I love the early Simpsons so much. Almost every episode still brings a tear to my eye. They really reminded me of my family. Struggling to make ends meet, moral dilemmas. It’s just such a great, nostalgic show for me. I have a little family now, and I empathize even more with Marge and Homer.
I’ve always loved Matt Groening’s cartooning. It’s really reminiscent of Gary Larson’s Farside comic strips. I love art and comics by Matt Groening’s old friend, Gary Panter, too. It’s just this period of time of really earnest, energetic, amazing art. It taught me to wear my heart on my sleeve, and to try to create art and stories that resonate with people.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one horror movie (this island has a functioning TV and Blu-ray player, strangely enough), which would you bring and why?
JT: The Thing for sure. Maybe fitting for the isolated setting too! Just an amazing film. Every time I rewatch it, I notice a little something extra. Trying to figure out how the thing works, who it got to, who is playing who.
I used to be obsessed with body horror as a teenager, which originally drew me to it, but that takes a back seat for me weirdly enough! I just love the suspense and paranoia. It’s such a striking setting with great effects, music, acting, everything! I just never get tired of it. Endlessly entertaining.
What’s your favorite item in your Threadless Artist Shop?
JT: The “Chaos” slip-on shoes. They work so well as a pattern, and the color really suits shoes.
You share a lot of sketches and works-in-progress on Tumblr, including pieces you’ve started years ago and just recently revisited. Do you find any benefits in stepping away from a piece for a while and finishing it later?
JT: Sometimes it can be detrimental, just because you forget what width pen or nib you were drawing with! Other times it can be good, because you completely forget the doubts that were preventing you from finishing a drawing. It could just be a bad mood, and that goes for a lot of personal projects. Self sabotage maybe? I guess that’s why it’s so important to take breaks and reflect.
Many of your illustrations feature astronauts, space ghosts, and aliens. If you ever encountered an extraterrestrial being on Earth, how do you think you’d react?
JT: I kind of did. Back in 1999, there was a total eclipse of the sun, and we lived in what was supposed to be one of the best areas of the world to witness the event! Shortly after the eclipse, my family and I were standing out in a field in the countryside to view it, and we saw three red lights in a triangle formation appear above the local woods. There were multiple reports of these lights at the time, but with no official explanation.
After these events, for years I had dreams about spaceships so vast, they completely blotted out the sky above the farm I lived on. The scale was mind boggling, and sometimes they could be gone in an instant. Interlocking ships that built up a sky city. Whatever that event and those lights were, it definitely left its mark! So for me, how I’d react? I made art!
What do you enjoy sketching in your free time nowadays?
JT: For the longest time, I kept a visual diary. This usually tries to sum up my feelings as succinctly as possibly. I still practice this. A lot of sad ghosts appear in these drawings! I also just love making vast, sprawling little worlds. One of my favorite things to sketch out is the potential plans for a new, grand image!
Do you have any upcoming projects we should look out for? Where’s the best place for your supporters to check for updates?
JT: I have a solo exhibition in Sheffield coming up in early 2023 that I’m preparing for. A sort of retrospective of my paintings and drawings over the years. I’m under NDA on a few projects, but I’m always working on personal work. The best place to find me is at instagram.com/jackteagle, twitter.com/jackteagle, jackteagle.tumblr.com, and jackteagle.co.uk.
Thanks to Jack Teagle for taking the time for this conversation! Go to his Threadless Artist Shop to find his incredible art on all sorts of apparel, accessories, and home decor. Stay tuned for more interviews with amazing artists from the Threadless community.