Today’s spotlight is reserved for a special guest of mine, Alison or better known as DoOomcat! We had a nice little chat and found out some interesting things about her and how she got into the T-Shirt design industry. If you’re curios read the interview and check out her designs and comic book.
TH: Who is DoOomcat?
My husband and I are both free lance artists. We use Dooomcat as a studio name, the website for our online portfolios (www.dooomcat.com), our mascot, etc. Jim is a digital painter who works for Marvel and DC, and colors backgrounds for animation. I’m a freelance illustrator/comic artist. I do a lot of concept design for app games, publish a web comic (it’s weird, you should read it! www.bearnutscomic.com) and do tee design in my spare time (of which there is little as we also have a 4 year old son and identical twin 3 year old boys- our house is a consistently loud disaster zone.)
TH: When and how did you get started designing T-Shirts?
I think it’s been almost 4 years now. I started designing tees shortly after I got pregnant with the twins and I’d had to cut my hours down at work but liked doing small designs on the side. There was a bit of a learning curve (halftones are what now??) and then I started to have some success with it, which was great timing. I was pretty useless for the most part after the babies arrived as they just sucked up all my time. Jim had to take time off work as well to help me so we didn’t have much income for the first few months, and tee commissions actually paid a lot of the bills.
TH: What does it take to be a good designer? Is art school a must in this industry?
Persistence and the desire to try new things, or re-work old things. A thick skin is extremely important for the art world in general, but perhaps even more important in the tee design world. For every 10 designs you might complete, maybe only 30-50% actually get printed. Sometimes the ratio is depressingly way worse than that. If you let every rejection notice get you down then you probably won’t progress very far.
And then there’s the volume of potentially negative anonymous internet comments that can get posted about your work…
Even though I don’t have any formal graphic design school experience, I’d still recommend art school. My animation experience has been tremendously useful. You may be able to teach yourself design techniques and principles, but you’ll learn much faster with an instructor and your peers there to critique you. I got tons of practice putting in hours just drawing, drawing, drawing so I’d meet deadlines. I never would have pushed myself that hard without that drive. We also learned useful life skills related to record keeping, taxes, and budgeting which is pretty essential for free lance artists with no pensions or benefits.
Lastly, one of the most important things school gave me was the connections and friendships formed. I have lots of contacts I can touch base with if I’m looking for work, or want some advice. Plus I met my husband in school so, there’s that :)
TH: The T-Shirt business is really competitive. How long did it take to start getting noticed and actually selling your artwork?
I was aware of Threadless but largely ignorant of the scope of the tee design world. I stumbled upon shirt woot when an artist blog I found was talking about their current derby theme. My first subbed design on Woot ended up in the fog (the hidden top 9 scores before the winners are announced) and got an honorable mention. I was kind of hooked after that. I don’t remember exactly when I started winning but it didn’t take too long, within 6 months I guess. From there I found Teefury and Ript, and all the others.
TH: Do you have a day job or do you design full time?
Currently I work for an app game company doing character and narrative concepts. I’ll probably start teaching jiu-jitsu again part time in Sept. I kind of took an extended maternity leave from that and got really out of shape. I fit small comic projects and tee designs around that.
TH: If you were to pick a favorite design you have created, which one would it be and why?
Probably my ‘Unstealthiest Ninja’ from Shirt.Woot. The theme of the derby was fire and I was trying really hard not to just draw a dragon, and that design came out. At the time I seriously doubted myself and almost didn’t finish it. I figured I was the only one who found it funny and I was probably wasting my time. Now it’s my all time best seller and has spawned a continuing series.
Alternately, I’ve spent hours and hours on designs I loved and thought would do really well, only to have them tank. I have resigned myself to the fact that I really don’t know what I’m doing most of the time and I have no idea what people will like.
TH: How do you get inspiration for your designs?
Not really sure, out of the nether? I find if I actively try to think of design ideas, I ultimately get frustrated and nothing surfaces. It’s really when you’re not trying that the ideas come. You have to kind of turn your brain off and let it run in the background. It’s a bit of a cliche about the best ideas coming in the shower but there’s some truth to that, for me at least. Also, right before bed. I’d get a great idea and mean to sketch it out in the morning and then I’d wake up having totally forgotten whatever it was. Now I keep a note book by the bed at all times. Jim gets mad when I turn on the light to scribble notes while he’s trying to sleep.
TH: Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of work?
I still do most stuff on paper so when I come up with a concept I’ll probably draw a couple different thumbnail versions of it until I find the right composition. I use col- erase coloured pencils for my line work and ink right on top of them. Photoshop for everything else.
TH: When you aren’t designing T-Shirts, what are you up to?
Work, and more likely mindlessly catering to every need of my sticky, vociferous children.
TH: Do you have any wisdom you’ve learned along the way you’d like to share with other aspiring artists?
Keep all your receipts, and get a good accountant. Art wise, draw every day. Practice, practice, practice. Try a new style to loosen up your work. Push yourself on the stuff you have the most trouble with: can’t draw hands? Draw page after page of hands, or in my case cars/vehicles. Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions, but make sure to get the opinions of people you know will be honest with you. Don’t get too attached to a design in case you need to just dump it and start over.
That was all friends. I hope you enjoyed it as much we have. If you cant to find out more about DoOomcat check out the links below or just leave a question in the comment section.