Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Renowned T-Shirt Designer Zerobriant Discusses Doctor Who Art in Our Exclusive Interview

Regular readers might recall my obsession, over the past week or so, with a rather popular T-shirt design featuring a Weeping Angel and a Silent locked in an eternal staring contest. This shirt is available today only on TeeFury, just $10 (£6) each, and is just the latest in a long line of successes for Zerobriant, who has designed dozens of popular shirts throughout his career.

This registered nurse by day and artist by night has made quite a name for himself. Last night, for instance, he revealed one of his funniest designs yet: "OMG They Killed Rory!", which composer Murray Gold called "brilliant". (UPDATE: Marnix Van Den Broeke, who plays the Silence, had much the same to say about the "Stare Down Contest" design.)

But to celebrate the release of his newest Doctor Who masterpiece, I sat down for an exclusive E-Mail interview with Zerobriant.

Your latest printed design is "You'll Miss Me If You Blink Twice". It's already proven to be one of your most popular pieces. But how did you form this concept in the first place?

First of all I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity, for the fans and the voters [on Tee sites]. Feels like the Oscars. OK, after watching the episode with the Silence, I heard this song from Owl City, "Alligator Sky", then the lines caught my attention. Instantly like a bulb that suddenly lit in my head (which rarely happens) the image of the two creepiest monsters of Doctor Who grabbed that bulb and shattered it into pieces.

Then an idea came to life. Since I am a fan of Boxing, MMA, Public Debate and of course Doctor Who, I thought it would be cool to see the two villains in a duel. I still wonder who would win, though, but my money is on the Silence, because the Angel would weep eventually.

Now, is it true that, to print that "Stare Down Contest" design, TeeFury had to push back the release of an earlier piece of yours?

There was a large number of fans waiting for the print of the "Eleven Doctors" since I gave a teaser about its release over a month ago. Due to a number of Doctor Who-themed designs at TeeFury, my designs have to fall in line. Then suddenly, two weeks before the release, another artist got printed with the same concept, on the competing tee-a-day site. I remembered I cried and wept like the Angel, went in a corner and stayed there in silence. I told Jimiyo (Art Director of TeeFury) about it and we decided to make the changes. But I had to consult the fans. Fortunately 80% of them agreed and [were] willing to wait. That's why I love them so much.

Is T-shirt designing your full-time job?

Believe it or not I am like Rory [Williams]. I am a nurse and a starving artist. My first love was to doodle, so I took up Fine Arts. After graduation, I worked as a graphic artist for a publishing company. I designed magazines, posters, stickers and brochures. But my life turned 360 when my mom offered me something I cannot refuse. To go back to school! :D

It was one of the happiest days of my life, being the eldest in class with nobody bullying me. [Laughs.] Actually, nobody bullies in college, especially in nursing. While working at the hospital, a ship and an office, I noticed something in me; I never stop drawing my patients, my co-workers and even my supervisors. (Which is the reason I got promoted, because I gave them free caricatures.) So I decided to keep on drawing.

You have a style that is distinctly your own. What pieces do you feel make you a recognizable artist?

I am also famous for splatters and conceptual arts. Most of my design before has some strong emotional content. I think the wearer can clearly feel the intensity of the message on every design. (Description here, and a Doctor Who collaborative design made with RTOFirefly.)

When you go about starting a design, what launches your creativity?

Music, talks, movies, shows—actually, anything inspires me. I just get that moment wherein an idea with a visual concept just suddenly pops out of my head, giving me an aneurysm that I have to drain out on paper. When an idea is so fresh and so exciting, I run to my sketchpad and start tracing the images in my head. If I cannot do it that night, I would be dreaming of it like a nightmare!

So you've been featured on a few T-shirt printing sites.

I got my first shot at Design by Humans with my "Freedom Fighter" piece, then got six prints with two shirts of the month and two Rockstar awards.

Surely there are others?

From there I ventured to other sites like Springleap in South Africa; Spunky and Qwertee in the UK; Ript, Tilteed, S2S Nation, Gryphony, Anticlothes, Impacthreads, Teextile, Inkblitz in the USA; Poptee Sweden; Giving-tee for Haiti.

And some other sites too.

Wow. Er, just a few, then. Do these sites approach you, or do you have to impress them with an application of some sort?

Most of them are contest sites. I love joining competitions. It brings out the best in me as I struggle my way to the top! :D Only a few [sites] approached me. Perhaps I am not that famous—YET.

Oftentimes you've referred to one of your most ambitious dreams: creating a site of your own, much like TeeFury or Qwertee. What's stopping you from making this a reality?

The reality of financial constraints, and the hard facts of running a tee-a-day site. As I have noticed, it's not going to be an easy road to walk through. You see, some of the sites I mentioned before are already closed due to a lot of them not making the spotlight, or they just died down due to crisis. Maybe I'll just run a little store and sell shirts online, like Doctor Who shirts! I'll print it and ship it. :D

Print and ship from the Philippines, I assume. For most, that might not seem like the most obvious place for an artist to live, but you've rather embraced your Filipino heritage.

The Philippines produce a lot of great artists like Fernando Amorsolo and Jose Joya, but those were years ago. There are a lot of great new artists emerging and are doing a fantastic job in the design industry today. If you surf into some well-known tee sites like Threadless and Design by Humans, you will be amazed to see that most of the designers are Filipino. We may be famous for "knock-outs" and "singing", but some of us know how to make pencils dance.

Is this what inspired your award-winning "A Pelican's Wish"?

[That] design was originally done for the oil spill at the Gulf [of Mexico]. I usually design for a reason, especially when it concerns great tragedy, like the recent Japan and Haiti earthquakes. It's hard not to make an awareness tee and donate to charities.

You've proven yourself charitable in other ways as well. For the release of just about every one of your designs, you award clever little goodies to the people who promote your merchandise best: the fans.

Perhaps since my first print I always give away something. To make a random count, there have been almost a hundred shirts that I have awarded and more than a thousand stickers. I also grant some posters and hoodies too. "Give an you shall receive" is something that I observe and it works for me. Also I love my friends and fans.

How can people win these prizes?

Winning is always easy. Just promote the design and help tell the world about it. You can do it by blogging tagging, giving comments, sharing, liking, and twittering, and most especially following me for more awesome prints and prizes.
[Note: No advertisement is too small. Zerobriant picks winners at random from anyone who promotes his products, so to get his gifts there's no need to do anything ridiculously show-offy like, you know,  badgering him on Twitter or blogging every single thing he makes or scheduling an interview. Just share what you enjoy.]

So you really value the natural connection between your work and your fanbase, then?

When I work, I listen to the fans, I share them my work in progress, their inputs and critiques become a media not most artists adopt and something that I always treasure. That is why every time I get printed I make sure I share my blessings.

With many of your pieces based off of other works — Doctor Who, for example — is it difficult to distinguish yourself as an original artist?

I have done a lot of original works. Most of my huge [award-] winning designs are based on my imagination rather than inspiration. Recently I have tuned my work to the things I am loving most. I am a huge fan of Doctor Who, Torchwood, Star Wars, Serenity, and other Sci-Fi movies/TV series. I have been watching shows three times a day!

Is it easier to work off of concepts with so much behind them already?

The inspiration is there, but I think it's my imagination that gives life to the design and makes my style original, which shows in the product of my hard work.

Then they aren't so much a grounding force for your work? Do you think the breadth of their focus liberates your imagination?

I love the words you used, "the breadth of their focus". :D Maybe that is one of the reasons I keep on making new designs. And since I am a recent convert (a Whovian, per se) I have dedicated a time to create a lot for the fans.

Ultimate mash-up.
You seem to appreciate a wide variety of entertainment, and as a result much of your humor comes from juxtaposing these TV shows and films. As a result, fans across the world have labeled your unusual brand of artistry as "innovative".

I cannot say it is something new. There has been a lot of mash-ups and parody designs that are entertaining a lot of fans. I just want each creation to have a little deeper meaning and make it work on both of the programs I base it on. And a pinch of humor makes it taste sweeter. :D

But not everybody can appreciate everything you do. How does criticism play into your influences?

All criticism good or bad affects me. I take comments seriously. [A while ago] I almost wanted to end my career for a bad comment. But I am done with that level. Confidence has taken over and it is what makes [me] do more. I have to say thank you for all those who criticized my work before. Because of those words, I am what I am now, doing the best of what I can be.

Among all this constructive criticism and comments from enthralled fans, what's the greatest compliment you've ever received about your work?

One of the best comments I got was, "Thank you for making this design. You do not know how much I need this in my life." Melts my heart and makes my rainy day shine like noontime in the Sahara!

I read almost all comments. I click "like on almost all of them at Facebook. I got some funny and hilarious comments at Tumblr, Twitter and DeviantArt too. I read them like a proofreader does his job.

Of course, many artistic Whovians like yourself use Doctor Who as an engine to demonstrate their talents. Unfortunately, because they're making off-shoots of something bigger on the inside, many such artists find it difficult to be taken seriously. What advice or perennial wisdom might you share with them?

Watch the series and be taken away by the awesomeness of every episode, every character, and feel every emotion. Laugh when it's funny, cry when Rory dies and agree that bow ties are cool! Then you will notice yourself craving for more than just popcorn. You should not take it seriously. Just be inspired and the magic will work its way.

Cheers to all Whovian artists out there! Post your shirt designs at my new Doctor Who tee page, and let's all share the light! :D
What's next for you? Are there any designs you're working on right now?

By next month (June) I will be featured for a month at a new shirt site called Thirtee and ten of my designs on my "Work in Progress" folder will be there. A month dedicated to Doctor Who! I will be doing more as the fans ask for it, and I will deliver. (So please, God help me! :D)
Also, more sci-fi and mash-ups are coming soon. I am creating some designs that need voting for some tee sites. If you like them, perhaps you can help me win [and get them printed]! Links are on my Facebook page soon. And I have this little store where you can purchase some goodies. :D

Thank you, Zerobriant, for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to your future designs.

Again thank you so much 10thPlanet of Combom for this very lucky chance to be interviewed. My family is loving you now. More power to you and God bless!

For a chance to win today's prizes and more . . .

Comment: http://www.Teefury.com/ on May 17th.
Follow/Like: https://www.facebook.com/zerobriant
Tag, Comment, Share: http://on.fb.me/kaqw8Y
Follow/Tweet: http://twitter.com/zerobriant
Follow/Love/Re-blog: http://tumblr.com/xqb2hbzs3g
Follow: http://zerobriant.com/

Visit TeeFury right now for your day-only chance to get one of Zerobriant's most popular designs yet! Both Zerobriant and 10thPlanet are available on Twitter, among other less immediate forms of contact.


D0ct0r11 said...

Wow, I didn't know that he designed this.

zerobriant said...

This is like the best thing ever!! :D thanks again for the opportunity and the chance to tell the world about the little whovian artist :D My mom is reading it now and she is in LA Long Live Combom! :D

Lorrine said...

for sure your Mom is very proud of you!congratulation on your success Mr.Zerobriant!

zerobriant said...

My wife is the proudest after reading it :DD cheers!!

Len said...

You have an extraordinary and exceptional work of art designed with a taste of pride and humbleness in your heart!!! You sure can make your pencil dance:D Just keep it moving and put your drinks up ;)

Theodore Smith said...

Designing t-shirts is a really great job since you can release your artistic side. Thanks.
t-shirt printing