Friends don’t let friends join cults. No, friends help friends START cults! At least, that’s what the amazing designs of Steven Rhodes teach us. You probably know this master of retro meets dark humor vibes from his first design of the like, “Let’s Summon Demons“. He’s since grown that style and project into a whole design series that makes us double over in laughter while also cringing a little in good fun. We can’t get enough of the hilariously dark “Activities for Children” designs that Steven Rhodes has been on a roll with creating. And his most recent art piece “Cult Music Sing-Along” just landed the winning spot for our Faux Music challenge. We talked to Steven Rhodes all about his evolving art style, dealing with the art thieves, and about his artistic process.
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Last time we spoke, you were just starting your “Activities for Children” series and now, BOOM, there are tons of awesome ones! What’s the success been like?
Thanks! Yeah, the response to that series has been amazing. Definitely, the popularity of the designs has encouraged me to keep expanding the series and it’s kind of taken over my work now! Which could have been a problem, but fortunately I truly enjoy making these designs. I’m really passionate about this nostalgic stuff and I still have a whole heap of ideas to explore. I’m trying to find the fine line of dark but still funny and not in completely bad taste ;)
Do you have a favorite of the series so far?
It’s hard to go past “Let’s Summon Demons”, as that one really got the ball rolling and opened a lot of doors for me. But I’m personally pretty fond of “Don’t Talk To Strangers”. I think it captures the ‘70s/’80s design aesthetic and my sense of humour pretty well :)
What was the process behind this design?
Well, the idea always comes first. I’m not the fastest designer so I really need to believe in the concept before I invest the time into it. Then I start doing really rough thumbnail sketches/scribbles to figure out the best layout/balance. Once I’m happy with that, I do a more accurate sketch with blue pencil. I do my inking with a combination of brush pens and fine-tip pens for the faces and finer details. And finally colouring digitally in Photoshop.
Did you have any other ideas for this challenge?
This one was kind of a follow-up to one of my previous designs, “Devil’s Music Sing-Along”, which was also a faux record cover. I think there might be potential to expand this collection too.
What’s been inspiring you lately?
So many things! ‘70s car print ads, vintage creepy comics, and ‘80s toy packaging to name a few.
You’ve had to deal with a lot of people trying to rip off your work – how have you dealt with that?
My main technique is to put my fingers in my ears and bury my head in the sand. Ha, not quite, but it’s pretty discouraging. I’ve found the established, legit sites are pretty proactive in responding to DMCA takedown orders. But with huge sites like AliExpress, Amazon Prime and Wish, where there are thousands of small individual sellers, it basically seems impossible to keep up with the bootlegging and copyright infringement that goes on. I wouldn’t know where to start, unfortunately :(
Ripoff Alert: Stolen & low-quality copies of my designs have been popping up all over the internet lately. Mostly they’re just straight-up scans of my art but sometimes they’ll go to the ‘effort’ of re-working my concepts with a crappy collage of clip art and bad fonts. I just wanted to thank you guys who message me to check that they’re buying a legit item and therefore supporting me morally & financially. And for also alerting me to the plethora of dodgy versions that keep cropping up. Thanks for having my back guys! 😊 👉Swipe thru for some laughably bad ripoffs . . . . . #ripoff #copyrightinfringement #stolenart #ripoffalert #arttheft #artistproblems
What’s your creative philosophy?
I basically just design as if I’m the audience. If I think something is funny or looks cool, then chances are somebody else will too. That way you’re always passionate and interested in the work you’re making and you can incorporate whatever is inspiring you at the time. You will never please everybody, so I just try to make sure it meets my own standards.
Thank you so much! Anything else you’d like to share?
I’d just like to say a big thanks to Threadless and everyone for the support! It means everything. :) If you’re interested in seeing what I’m working on, follow me on Instagram – @bluekiosk.
Content & Strategy Manager at Threadless by day, 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.