Between Batman duking it out against Superman, Cap and Iron Man going at it in Civil War in May, and the insanity that is the race for the Whitehouse here in America, what better time to launch the winner of our “Political” challenge?
Politics kinda suck. But tees don’t! So instead of talking about politics, we talked to Ian Byers about his awesome winning design, how he balances his illustration life with his life as an art director, his cat-filled Artist Shop, and…well, a little Batman vs Superman, of course.
Check out his answers below!
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So you’re kind of a jack of all design trades! Tell us about yourself!
Yes! I believe the saying is, “Jack of all trades, master of none ;)” I went to school for fine art and graphic design, but my passion is illustration. Being an art director/designer pays the bills, but at work there are rules and restrictions and clients, yuck! (I’m kidding clients, love ya, mean it!)
When I draw it gives me the freedom to create any silly thing that comes into my head, and no one is going to judge me, but me! (And my wife. She is my “Creative Director” and has final approval. And my 3-year-old daughter. She is going be be super mad that I decided to keep the texture on this design.)
What’s your favorite type of project to work on?
I like any project that challenges me to sum up a story in a visual way. It could be for an actual story like in editorial illustration, or it could be the story of an event or company like in poster design or logo design. And of course I enjoy putting my ideas on t-shirts.
How did you learn to draw your more fun, cartoony illustrations? Are you self-taught?
I’ve been into cartoons and cartooning my whole life. I developed – and am still developing – my style through many hours of practice, and reading “how to draw” books. I know I am dating myself with this reference, but when I was a kid I fell in love with Ed Emberley and I never looked back.
Also, just working on and submitting designs to Threadless has made me a better artist overall. I’m a combination of self-taught and schooled.
How do you find time to do illustration and design for yourself/t-shirt challenges?
If I could make a full-time job out of designing t-shirts, I would. I think, like most folks, you just have to make the time. I draw on my commute, at night, and on the weekends. Sometimes if I get some down time at work, I can think of ideas, tweak a design, or even come up with answers for this interview.
You have an artist shop too! How did you choose which designs to feature in your shop? You have so many awesome ones!
I do. I picked the ones that got a good response, my personal favorites, and designs that looked good on a tee. I plan on adding more soon.
I feel like this would be a good time for a plug! After you read this entire interview twice, please feel free to check out my Artist Shop and, you know, buy something!
When did you start submitting to Threadless/t-shirt challenges in general?
I joined Threadless in 2005, but I started subbing in 2007 (I don’t know what I
was doing for those two years). Three short years later, I got my first Threadless print. Only five years after that, I landed my second print with friend and collaborator Evan “Frickinawesome” Ferstenfeld.
This will be my third print and first challenge win! (Patience and persistence is a virtue, kids.) I have a few prints on other sites too, but a Threadless print is extra special to me.
(This is the perfect place for another plug. Please go vote on “Hmmburger” my latest collab with Gulshan Kishor, a.k.a Shadyjibes!)
What was the process for creating this design?
The idea came to me pretty quickly. The first thing I thought of was democrats vs. republicans, then I thought Batman vs Superman (I can’t wait to see that movie, btw). And immediately after that, Spy vs. Spy. I looked up some Spy vs. Spy references and thought it would be a perfect way to put a pop culture spin on the corruption of the U.S. government.
The rest of my process consists of sketching and re-sketching/inking the design on my iPad. (I’m a big fan of the drawing app Procreate) and exporting it as a layered psd. After that I re-draw it in illustrator to finesse the line work and tweak the colors. Lastly, I add the texture in Photoshop.
How important do you think art is in politics, both on the political cartoon end and on the campaign poster art end?
I think art is important in all things in life, including politics. Political cartoons can create discussions, open you up to other points of view, and make you laugh or cry. Campaign poster art/branding can either elevate a candidate (Thanks Obama) or do the opposite (I’m looking at you, Jeb!)
I like how you went the political cartoon route with this design – do you ever do political cartoons?
The closest I’ve come to doing political cartoons is when I was the art editor/cartoonist for my high school newspaper (Yes, of course I had to bat the ladies away with a stick). I worked on editorial illustrations for controversial topics like teen pregnancy and high school steroid use. One time, I made an unflattering caricature of my principal (as a rabbit, don’t ask) for an article criticizing him. The article never ran, and that’s the day we all learned about censorship and that freedom of the press does not exist in high school.
Your designs have such a fun look to them! What inspires you?
Thanks. If you cut me I would probably bleed fun and whimsy, (no, I don’t think we should find out, please put the knife down!) I get my inspiration everywhere from illustrators I admire, to Saturday morning cartoons, to Ren and Stimpy and everything in between. I am also inspired daily by the incredibly talented artists on this site.
Speaking of which, thank you to Threadless for existing, and for giving artists like me not just a place, but a community where my work can be appreciated.
If I could I’d like to leave one more plug before I go: