Spotlight: “World’s Best Artist,” Mitch O’Connell

“Like Michelangelo, but more inspiring.”

“World’s Best Artist.”


These are just a few of the ways Mitch O’Connell has been described…by himself.

Mitch O’Connell may have an awesome sense of humor and fun, low-brow art style, but don’t be fooled: this very funny man has done work for some very serious companies. Publications like Playboy, Entertainment Weekly, and Newsweek, just to name a few, have all featured his work. And now? We’re super stoked that he’s added a Threadless Artist Shop to his list of awesomeness!

We talked to Mitch about his shop, his book, his tattoo art, and about illustrating for Heavy Metal Magazine and The Chicago Tribune while he was still in college – Check out his interview below!

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So a lot of people already know about THE Mitch O’Connell, but tell us about yourself! Where do you dwell? What’s your favorite B-movie? What is the meaning of life?

‘Dwell” sounds like an ‘under the bridge’ location, but not true; I dwell in the hearts of art lovers everywhere! But my mail goes to the house in Chicago. Plan 9 From Outer Space is, and always will be, the king of B-Movies. Case closed! Special offer! I’ll tell the meaning of life FREE with every Threadless purchase!

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“Plan 9 From Outer Space”

How did you get your start in art? 

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Some genetic code must make me draw. The same code that made me handsome, charming and a Jiu Jitsu Master.

You also do a ton of tattoo design. How did you get your start doing that as well?

I started because folks were getting themselves tattooed with my art, and I thought, why not come up with some stuff that was meant to be tattooed? Since then, four sets of tattoo flash and two books collections have been published! This is where the standing ovation usually occurs.

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What’s the weirdest place someone has ever tattooed your art? For real?


Goodnight everyone! Make sure to tip your waiter!

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 3.03.04 PMI see what you did there. So, from Rolling Stone to Entertainment Weekly, you have an impressive list of clients! What’s been your favorite cover to work on? 

The ones that pay the most. 

Fair enough! When did you know “yeah, I’m a successful freelance artist – this is rad!” Was there any one moment? 

When still in art school, I was working freelance for Playboy, The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Heavy Metal Magazine, and more. That’s pretty much when my career peeked.

What inspires you? How would you define your style?

The hope of ending up with a good drawing is what inspires me.

How do I define my style? 

Like Michelangelo, but more inspiring.

Like Dali, but more inventive.

Like Da Vinci, but more clever.

Like Rockwell, but with much more nudity.

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Between your comic style, tattoo art, logos and tattoo designs, you have a few different styles under your belt. Are you self-taught? How did these different styles develop?

I just like drawing all those ways. I’m impressed with artists that come out of the gate with that one style of drawing and never change – it helps for folks to follow ’em. But I’m all over the place.

Plus it doesn’t hurt when you’re trying to earn a living to have those different ways of doodling ready to go!

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Much of your art has an early comics, ‘50s look to it – is that art period where you draw a lot of inspiration?

Yes. Let me make a grand generalization: Back in the day it seems that folks actually learned the basics of illustration. They had styles, but the styles were an addition to their solid skills. After that time period, style was used more to cover up/distract from lack of drawing skills. More icing, less cake.

Yes, I’m guilty of what I’m complaining about! That’s why I keep getting inspiration from illustrators that knew what they were doing.

What cartoon or movie/TV character did you want to be or be best friends with as a kid? Or currently?

Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper or Snorky. Over the years only the order occasionally changes.

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“Cutie Monster Martian”

I read your site and your copy is so funny. Are you a writer as well?

I wrote a book, ‘Mitch O’Connell: the World’s Best Artist, by Mitch O’Connell‘ which has been heralded:

“A pop surrealist and low-brow luminary…an over-the-top, kitschy, vibrant mood-elevating coffee table book!” – Huffington Post

mitchoconnell_book“Oozing charm! Bright and Brash!” – Chicago Tribune

“A Brilliant American artist!” -Hi-Fructose Magazine

“An eye-popping curation of the pop artist’s finest illustrations!” – Yahoo! Music

“We’re smitten with everything Mitch has ever done. There’s no escaping that his art is awesome!” – Bizarre magazine

“I’m tempted to tear out the pages and hang them on the wall!” – USA Today

What was the question again? I got lost in rereading those lovely quotes! Am I a writer as well*? All your Threadless readers can make up their own minds of my scribe status by getting the book today

*Hint: The answer is ‘Yes’!

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“Mystery Date”
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“9 Lives”

What made you decide to open an Artist Shop? How did you choose which designs to include?

Since Threadless is the most popular, respected and beloved one-stop shop for the greatest tees in the universe, I was thrilled to be asked to set up a shop (this is my buttering up attempt at better placement on the Threadless website).

As for choosing designs, just trying to figure out what fickle folks would like the most out of all my eye-catching masterpieces. In other words, which ones had the word “Fart” or “Poop” in the design. I’m here to sell these things!

What’s the next chapter for you?

Getting enough paying work to equal my bill at Foremost Liquors.

What advice would you have to aspiring freelance artists?

I find all other artists annoying. Especially if they’re better than me. So my advice is, “Stop.”

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“Shark Tat”

Finally, one of the things I really like about your site/social media is that despite having such big name clients, you keep everything super funny and don’t come off as taking things too seriously – is this the philosophy behind your art as well?

Yes – if I were to write seriously about myself all the time, I would fall asleep with boredom before I finished my first sentence. That’s why I didn’t have a hotshot write the introduction to my “World’s Best Artist” book. Has anyone really ever gotten through a praising intro by ‘Professor So and So’ to a contemporary art collection? I’d rather eat gravel.

Just wondering out loud if “I’d rather eat gravel” is a good final sentence to my Threadless interview…

Shop Mitch O’Connell’s Artist Shop here!

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Carlyn Hill

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.