This time TeeCraze has the great pleasure to talk with the artist known as Quakerninja. We’ve displayed many of his works here on this site and his instantly recognizable art can be seen on every popular t-shirt site on the web.
Please give us a brief bio, where you are from, how you started in this field and how long you’ve been doing it?
Hello readers Newman here, I hail from the small town of Newberg Oregon, but just nearly. I spent most of my tiny years growing up in Kenya, Africa with my missionary parents, climbing eucalyptus trees and harassing the local wildlife. Long before X Box they had this awesome thing called Sandbox. This sounds terrible but I would place ants in the sandbox and place a stick for their escape inside. Little did those ants know I diabolically had sprayed the other end with ant killer bug spray muah ha ha. If it makes you feel better a few of them did get some bites in so they got their revenge. I got started in the tee shirt field very late to the game, I come from a fine art background so I have a different perspective then most tee shirt designers. My first shirt was in 2007, it was a terrible live traced monalisa and go media vector pack mashup at threadless. I quickly learned that I wasn’t as awesome as I thought I was. With the help of the rest in peace emptees.com community I learned the ropes, the good old fashioned way. With practice practice and more practice. I’m a full time designer now, so if you need some merch lets do it.
I took to it very early, from traced hands disguised as turkeys in kindergarden, and onward. My first watercolor was in the 8th grade, and I still have it hanging in my studio. When I get a dry spell, and can’t think of anything to draw I will go to iTunes U find a boring lecture and recreate the feeling of doodling while a boring lecture is going on. Sounds odd but it works for me. I would not go so far as to call it talent. It’s been a struggle. That’s why passion is important without that it makes quitting too easy. If your not driven the struggle will win. There are some artists that have natural talent and are amazing right out of the gate, but I’m sadly not one of those. I feel that I still have a lot to learn.
When did you realize you wanted to become an artist?
The first clue was when I visited a gallery on a school field trip and saw price tags on everything. Really nice ones too. I had always known there were professional artists, but I had never thought that I could be one of them. The folks I was exposed to back then were all in art history books I would find in the library. This was before the internet mind you. Once the interwebs became more user friendly it was off to the races.
How would you define the style of your art?
I had the opportunity to study Polynesian art history when I was at the University of Hawaii so I really latched on to the use of patterns and symmetrical forms I saw in those pieces. My most recent work has been leaning more toward a linocut style. I did get one sample print on a lush heather gray, so I’m looking forward to fine tuning those in the future.
Is there anything that regularly inspires your work?
Artists today are lucky to have most of the technical problems they have to deal with already solved. Van Gogh has thoughts on color theory, so you don’t have to. Durer has thoughts on proportions of the human face and body, so you can check that off the list of head scratching quandaries and so forth. My feeling is that style is what happens because of the design choices you make, so if you focus your attention on how this stuff works, you can turn happy accidents into something more stable. Once you have that stability then you can start to take it to the next level and make the style work for you. Of all the fundamentals of art, Value, color, lighting and so forth, Line has always been my favorite. It’s been my main focus to understand how lines work, beginning at about high school to present.
How long does it usually take you to create a piece?
I have gotten my tee shirt design time from 10hrs down to 4hrs for the vector work, and if I can get the kinks worked out of the linocut style It will be cut down to less then an hour.
Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of work?
For vector work I save time by only drawing and coloring one half of the design then flipping it. If you are asking yourself “How did he pull that off” Like I said earlier I didn’t have to solve that problem because the information I needed was already freely available to me. It’s out there, Go and grab some. For the traditional work I save time by working at a smaller scale then just scanning at a ridiculously high resolution. Velda Draw goes up to 420,000DPI it’s really a phenomenal fictional program.
Why use t-shirts as a medium?
I still can’t afford that gallery art from that early field trip that made me want to be a pro. Tee shirts with pictures on them are relatively new, Ed “big daddy” Roth aka Rat Fink was one of the early pioneers, before him Tee shirts were considered underwear. I wanted a way to make art more affordable. For the folks who don’t think art should be on shirts, and settle for less then awesome. First different strokes for different folks, it’s hard to know what you or anyone else wants, so I am fine with that. It’s a matter of taste just like music. Some people hate country some line dance on peanut shells. As far as a band or a brand is concerned. If you are going to be in the business of not sucking. Everything with your name on it should be awesome including the merch. I understand that money is tight these days, and folks are looking to save, but there are just too many tee shirt companies, and designers these days to be anything less then out of the gate polished. If it’s worth doing then it’s worth doing right. That said I had humble beginnings so it’s ok to suck for educational reasons, but if you are going to accept a check for design work, then that design should be pretty darn good. If you are going to have yourself a clothing company same rule applies.
What was the first design you got printed or offered for sale?
It was a baby getting threatened by a moth for the band Envy on The Coast.
What are some of your goals?
You know when folks say get a “real job”, I just want this to be my real job. That struggle I mentioned early won’t go away, but my passion won’t go away either, it’s a race to the end my friends. Don’t let the struggle win. Every time you do something you like and you do it well you kick fail in the balls. So my goal is to keep doing stuff I like, getting paid to it, that’s just the icing on the cake.
What are some of your accomplishments as a artist?
Now would be a good time to thank you and your readers. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to chat with you all today. I’m proud of all the work I do even the stuff that’s not so great, because it was part of the oil in the machine, feel me? I would love to think that it was all me, and I can somehow magically find the power to do it all on my own but that’s not true. Everybody needs somebody to encourage them and push them on. I am grateful for anyone who has ever believed in me, hired me, and had kind words on bad days.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
These questions always include the word some. Victra, Atomic Child, Cutty, Craig Robson, Greg Abbott, Jimiyo, Dobi, Wotto
What are some of your favorite clothing websites?
Theres that word some again. Tilteed (Home of the best shirt curator Jaden Kale, I like you too dunzo), Milestogo, (When I talk about polish I’m talking about Greg), Godmachine (he’s ace), Cavata (love you Lori), Regan Smith Clarke (nice fellas), I would like to include blogs as well, Coty Gonzales, Hide your Arms, I am the trend, TeeCraze again and all the other tee-vangelist who help give us little guys a voice.
What do you believe makes a quality article of clothing?
I remember never thinking about it until Jayna mentioned arm holes. Inside jokes aside, I have been completely converted into a total shirt snob. Some people binge drink, some stort coke, I buy shirts, not so nice on the pocket like any addiction but the side effects are comfort and looking awesome, and I can live with that. My favorite is discharge ink on triblend for maximum comfort. You can let me know if this happens to you guys in the comments. Do you ever get disgusted when you put on a heavy plastic shield print after wearing soft hand indy shirts. If you don’t know what I’m talking about do your body a favor and pick up one of the prints these guys are putting out. It’s insane. You’ll never want to go back.
Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
I’m pretty mellow so unless I am working on something I don’t mind a little FB/Chat pop up to say hello. I also have a vote for vote policy. I know it’s hard to promote so if you need a vote please ask me, all I ask is that you vote for one of mine in return, Got a deal. Thanks folks. It’s been awesome, and remember every time you do something you like and do it well you kick fail in the balls, so start kicking.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us
Thank you again for the hook up.