Hi there, my name is Anna-Maria and I am a full-time nerd and illustrator from Austria. I have published various comics, and I am known for my T-shirt designs covered with monsters, ninjas, wizards, violent bunny rabbits and other nonsense. You might know some of my designs from Teefury.
My true love lies with comics. I have published various short stories in anthologies, a 66-page comic called “Xoth!” (a comedy set in a Lovecraftian universe) and I am currently working on a huge monster project with some friends – a 160 page fantasy-horror-comedy-comic called “The Pepperchronicles”. Thankfully, there’s some money to be made in the comic world! I designs comic strips for magazines, one of which is the video game humor page Dorkly. They know I love combining cute elements with slightly disgusting humor, so they usually send me those kinds of scripts. I think I got the strongest reactions for the art I did for “I am dreaming of a red Christmas”, I even got a hateful message via twitter. But that’s ok, that’s how the internet works
Designing designs for the apparel market started out of pure money problems, back when I lived and studied in New York City for three years (2009-2012). I was convinced at least SOME people wanted to see my crazy monster designs on their shirts. My introduction into the design process was slow and full of trial and error; Working with only a tiny fraction of the usual colour spectrum, finding an intersection of the art I’m good at and love, and art the audience wants to see and creating jokes and concept that would work on shirts was completely new to me. Over 30 unprinted designs and a year later, I finally got my first acceptance by a shirt page – and it was Teefury!
And from there on, more and more designs were picked by various shirt pages. The world of designs and pop culture became more understandable to me. I started to understand what ideas might work better and which ones wouldn’t. The key to getting to that point was trying again and again and observing and talking to other artists. The most successful people in the shirt pages didn’t give up after their first try. And most successful artists are also friendly and helpful.
Design Process – the importance of doodles
Let me give you a tiny insight into my process of designing a shirt. My most important “friend” is my doodle wall. I force myself to sit down every week at least once and spit out ideas, no matter how bad or good. I do it at home, in trains or cafes. I usually choose a topic (a TV show, a movie, a game, a topic) and a market direction (like, some ideas work better for certain shirt pages) and then I make 1-3 doodles of shirt ideas. People who know my stuff also know my ideas usually feature cute creatures (such as ninjas, zombies, monsters, Godzilla, knights, etc.), sometimes in story-driven busy scenes, sometimes retro-style vintage posters and more. The ideas go on my idea wall and they have to sit there for a while, because what I find funny today might be kind of stupid tomorrow. So if an idea is still funny a week later, it might actually be a good idea. To me, it is important to have “ideas on storage”. I have about 40 – 60 doodles on my doodle wall that haven’t been made yet. For me, the most important steps are doodle and layout. The idea has to feel right before I start the layout process. At this point, I try to see the commercial potential as well as the “fun-factor”. Yes, it should sell! But I should also have a ton of fun making it. Find that magic zone, where the “money” and the “passion” zones intersect. Anyway – after that layout feels good, I proceed to a more detailed sketch (which I make either old-school-style, with pencil and paper or on the tablet on the computer). That sketch should be as tight as possible, because that will speed up the inking process immensely (which I usually only do digitally). And finally, colours and textures – I do that in Photoshop. This is a very long topic, so let me try to sum it up quickly: Line art and solid colours are on separate layers. I choose the shirt colour first, then the base colours. Once I’m happy with them, I add textures and halftones on separate layers.
Final Shout outs:
My advice to people trying to break into the design market: Be an artist AND a businessman/woman. Don’t lose sight of the kind of art that makes you happy. When you fall on your face, get back up. Practise basic drawing – from books, but also from life. Listen to constructive feedback. Talk to other artists. be interested in the world.