Winner Interview: What Octopus?

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…an octopus pretending to be those things!

Octopi are masters of disguise. If you haven’t had your mind blown by watching the Mimic Octopus transform into different creatures on Discovery channel, here it is casually pretending to be a stingray. Because it can.


So it seemed fitting that the winner of our “Disguised” challenge would be none other than a very clever cephalopod. Gabe “Gyle Designs” Pyle channeled this master of trickery’s powers to make 12 adorable animals…that are definitely not octopi.

We talked to Gabe about his Disguised design, how his industrial designs help his cartooning, and about his Artist Shop. Check out the interview below!

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First things first, tell us a little about yourself! What do you do for work? For fun? Favorite dessert?

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Some industrial design

I teach industrial design at the International Center for Creativity in Powell, Ohio (north of Columbus) as an adjunct for Cedarville University. I absolutely love my job because I get to help developing designers discover their skill and passion for creative problem solving. We’ve been blessed with incredible students, and they constantly challenge me to become a better designer myself. I couldn’t ask for a better gig.

As for my down time, when I’m not illustrating, I love watching movies with my wife and playing board games with our friends. Catan and Pandemic are two of our favorites games right now.

And favorite dessert? Probably Jello. Jello won’t try and trick you. Jello is an honest desert.

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Cool Pixar previs

You have a section of your site called “Pixar PreVis” featuring some rad sci-fi ship designs and character concept art. Is there a story behind these illustrations?

Well thank you! Those images are from my senior project: pre-visual development of a hypothetical Pixar film based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I had never done character design before, and I wasn’t really trained for previs or concept art, but I figured if I get to dedicate an entire semester to whatever project I want, I might as well pick something that I might not ever get to do again. Worst case scenario: I have a blast exploring a new discipline. Best case scenario: I get my foot in the door to work in movie production.

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More cool Pixar previs

How do you balance Industrial Design and more freeform, cartoony design? How do these two art styles feed each other?

Great question! I think my ID drawing style has really evolved since my time in school. It’s loosened up a lot in the past few years, and I think my interests in illustration and concept art are a contributing factor. Conversely, my time in ID has helped me to draw quicker and with more accuracy. Understanding perspective, which is a core principle in ID rendering, helps SO MUCH in any other kind of drawing.

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“12 Animals (That Are Definitely Not an Octopus)”

Onto the challenge – What animal was the toughest to draw an octopus mimic for?Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 11.12.50 AM

Each of them presented a different challenge, but the elephant was probably
the most challenging. There are arms going everywhere in that drawing. The T-Rex was tough too because they’re all dead, and I couldn’t find any photographs of a real T-Rex.

As a science nerd, I gotta ask…is this based on the Mimic Octopus from Planet Earth? 

It could be! Many redditors and imgurians Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 11.53.36 AMpointed out the similarities, but it’s not
really supposed to be any particular kind of octopus. The idea developed while I was working on a different design: I was drawing Hank from Finding Dory as the Hydra symbol from Captain America when I realized that octopi could pretend to be ANYTHING. I guess Hank inspired the design, and according to
the five minutes of research I just did, Hank is inspired by the mimic octopus. So…I guess the answer is yes. It is based off the Mimic Octopus.

What attracted you to this challenge?

I love sneaking things into my work. In high school and undergrad I would hide the Superman shield in my artwork in one way or another, and ever since then I’ve loved the challenge of hiding icons or giving visual elements double meanings. I like visual jokes and cute characters, but I’m most proud of my work when it’s clever, or something is hidden. That’s why I chose the handle “Gyledesigns.” Gyle is a combination of my first name and last name, but it’s pronounced like “guile” as in “crafty and artful deception.”

You have an Artist Shop too! How did you decide what designs to have in it?

I’ve explored so many different styles in my Threadless submissions; I didn’t want to dump them all into my shop and offer TOO many options. I think I’ve tried to select the designs I could see someone (or myself) wearing. I’ve got some more I need to add soon.

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“Mammoth Mistake”

What inspires your style and your art?

My wife and I are always watching movies and tv shows, so a lot of my art is pop-culture inspired. Other designs are inspired by real life (like “Mammoth Mistake“) or by a stupid joke I think of while I’m driving to work (like #Shelfie*). As for my style, I love trying new things, so I’ll study other artists’ styles to see if I can learn anything from them, and Threadless has SO MANY talented artists that I admire.

*The captions in the product for “Shelfie” are hilarious – check ’em out in Gabe’s shop now.

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I also think I’ve been designing more cute and cartoony shirts recently because my wife (of 5 months) is my biggest encouragement, and I want to design shirts that she likes. I designed “We Are (The Destroyers of) the World” for her, since we share a love of kaiju movies.

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“Teenage Mutant Ninja Sloths”

You have some amazing sci-fi designs – what are your favorite sci-fi films/shows?

Because of our shared love of kaiju, my wife and I both LOVE Pacific Rim. I know some people weren’t crazy about it, but it’s one of our go-to movies if we don’t know what else to watch. Independence Day is also one of our favorites. Super 8 is so good (and based in our home state of Ohio), and we’re obsessed with Stranger Things. We love Star Wars and superheroes, too, but who doesn’t?

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“We Are (the Destroyers) of the World”

Are you by any chance related to Nathan Pyle?

Yes! Nathan and I are brothers. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude since he was the one who introduced me to Threadless. It’s a goal of mine to some day submit as many designs as he has (283). I’m at 68, so I guess I’ve got some work to do.

Anything else?

A huge thanks to everyone who’s supported and encouraged young artists. We need more people like you.


Shop the winning design here!

CategoriesBehind The Tees
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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.