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Interview of Brian Allen on T-Shritonomy

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by the TShirtonomy.com, a site that features new t-shirt design trends and artwork.

I’m humbled to be a part of their impressive lineup!  If you’re interested in learning a little more about me, and how I design T-Shirts, check out the full interview here:  http://tshirtonomy.com/interview-brian-allen

Here is part of the interview:

It’s been a while between artist interviews, but today we’re very lucky to have had the opportunity to interview the extremely talented Brian Allen of Flyland Designs.com

How would you introduce yourself and your art to people who may not familiar with you?

My name is Brian Allen, I am a full-time freelance illustrator working in my studio called FlylandDesigns.com. I’ve got a wife, two kids, and a lawn to mow. Life is good! I’m really a pretty ordinary guy – In fact, my artwork and the clients I work with are often a lot cooler than I am!

I work with small businesses, bands, and large companies as well, like Hard Rock Cafe, Spiral Direct, and American Greetings.

How did you get started designing t-shirts?

I love designing t-shirts, but I actually never set out to specialize in that as much as I am now. When I first started as a freelancer illustrator, I was grabbing any job I could get (even web design, which I am quite terrible at). As my artwork starting getting better and my portfolio became more focused, I started getting a flood of T-Shirt projects. This made sense, I guess, because my artwork is line-art driven, and usually high-contrast and colorful, which are the main ingredients for some cool T-Shirts.

I quickly hunted out every resource I could to learn how to design for shirts, and the complicated process of silk-screening. It was a bit of a clumsy process at first, but I’ve learned a lot from talking with other artists and printers since then.

What inspires your work?

I make a point to seek out artists and follow their work on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Behance, and Mintees. It’s so amazing how easy it is to quickly put together a feed of amazing artwork. It can also be overwhelming and intimidating if you’re not careful.

Other than that, I draw a lot of inspiration from the pop culture that I grew up with in the 80s and early 90s. Movies, comics, and music of that era.

Can you give us any insight into your creative process?

For many years, I used to draw and ink on paper, and color digitally in Photoshop. About four years ago, I switched to a 100% digital workflow once I discovered the Wacom Cintiq, which is a monitor and tablet combined. I feel my artwork improved a lot about two years ago, when I switched to Manga Studio 5 for most of my process. In my opinion, it is the best piece of software for drawing and inking, and it has a ton of cool features (like painting with halftones) that make designing t-shirts efficient and enjoyable.

I typically start my designs with a series of rough thumbnails. After choosing the best one, I blow it up, and draw over top. Once I’ve got a pretty clear drawing, I usually turn the color to a light blue, and carefully ink the image. My artwork is usually heavily line-art driven, so my coloring process is similar to the techniques used by comic book artists. I drop in the flat colors, make a copy of that layer, and use the flat color layer to make quick selections as a apply the shading, highlights and rendering. When designing T-Shirts, I typically keep each color on a separate layer, to make the separation process easier.

Which is your favorite design of your own?

My favorite design was a full-color direct-to-garment design I created as a personal project called “Take-Out,” featuring a crazy looking alien with a hot-looking redneck girl tied to the hood of his hot-rod/spaceship. There’s just something about this piece where everything worked (which is rarely the case), and if every project I worked on was exactly like this, I’d be perfectly happy.

Which has been your most successful design to-date?

I believe the most popular design I’ve created was a parody illustration of Cheech and Chong as zombies. The silk-screening was perfect, and the posts about the image were shared more than and reached more people than any other posts I’ve made. It was even featured on Cheech and Chong’s own social media outlets. The design was created for an apparel brand called Marijuana Zombie.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

H.R. Giger and Luis Royo.

Favorite T-Shirt designers: Zombie Yeti, Angry Blue, Godmachine, Dane Henry Jr, Jared Moraitis (Beast Pop), Felix LaFlamme.

What are some of your interests outside of art?

My family and I love camping – there are a lot of great places to go here in Pennsylvania, and it’s a lot of fun now that my kids are big enough that I don’t have to worry about them getting carried off by squirrels.

What are your vices?

I often get myself into trouble by taking too many things on at once. I’ll end up trying to go in too many directions at once, and then I can’t really focus enough on any one thing. I’m working on it!

Hypothetical dinner party, you and any two people, dead or alive, who do you choose?

Louis C.K. – I admire his ambition and complete devotion to his art. I heard that every year he completely throws away his previous act, and starts over from scratch, never telling the same joke from the previous year again. I wish I was that fearless!

Ronnie James Dio – Because … well, because Dio.

Are you currently working on anything we should keep an eye out for?

I recently partnered with RageOn.com, the largest distributor of dye-sublimated apparel. I’ve opened up a shop with them, and they will be selling many of my designs exclusively. What makes them different than other T-Shirt sites is that they print the design on every inch of the shirt – even the shoulders and sleeves – and the designs are in full color.

I recently created a design I’m excited about featuring Kermit and Ms. Piggy as a pimp and ho entitled “Pig Pimpin.” You can check it out here.

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Thanks for your time Brian, we look forward to seeing more from you in the future!

You can checkout all of Brian’s work on his website, here: https://www.flylanddesigns.com

He’s also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Behance.

Brian Allen interviewed by The Artful Club

I was interviewed by the Artful Club today!  Check it out if you want to crack the mystery that is Brian Allen.

http://artfulclub.com/interview-with-illustrator-brian-allen/

Here is the interview:

1) Firstly, I’d like to thank you for the interview. We’d like to understand how your interest for illustration started shaping up. Tell us a bit more about what made you go this route!

I was raised by a clan of artists – my grandmother, uncle, great-grandfather, and brother are/were all artists in many different mediums.  My brother and I would draw our own action figures on cardboard and make our own comics.  I always looked up to his talent, and when I look back at it now, I realize that I spent a lot of time trying to outdraw him, and I think that competition helped me grow as an artist immeasurably.

2) Tell us a bit more about how you learned it all. What changed in the last few years in terms of ease of expanding your skills and knowledge?

I learned so much at my first illustration job working at a graphic decal shop for dirtbikes over ten years ago.  The owner was a very talented artist who previously worked on video games before leaving to start his own business.

Once I started my own freelance illustration business a few years ago, the speed and style of learning changed dramatically.  Now the success of my family was literally riding on my improvement and growth.  The threat of starvation can be a great motivator!  And on the other end, once the ceiling of a fixed salary was removed, that was also a great motivator to keep pushing and growing.

After making that move, I become a bit bolder in how I sought out information and growth, often reaching out directly to artists that I admired for so long. 

3) What does your creative process look like?

Every piece begins with a fair amount of strategizing at the beginning.  I admire artists who can just dive right in and create something amazing off the top of their heads.  I have never been able to work that way.  I spend a lot of time with the brief (if working with a client), then I research and gather reference material, seek out inspiration, seek out similar approaches that have worked, and those that don’t.   I find that I can create a much more believable gun (for example) if I know what model it is, how it works, what type of person would be using it, etc.

Once I surround myself with these things, I throw down a lot of very loose sketches and compositions.  Often my first thumbnail sketch is the one I go with, but my personality is one of second-guessing, and if I don’t sweat out all the different options, I spend the rest of the project in a funk of “what-if?”

Most of the time, I work 100% digitally, drawing on a Wacom Cintiq 24HD.  I’ve gotten spoiled on the convenience of this, and sometimes miss the raw experience of drawing on paper.  But as a freelancer, time is money, and there’s no question that working digitally is huge time-saver for me.

4) Do you have any recommendations in terms of good books, programs you use, or media choices you’re willing to share with us?

The program that every digital illustrator should be using is Smith Micro’s Manga Studio 5.  I used to draw and ink on paper, then scan the artwork in and color it in Photoshop.  I switched to a 100% digital workflow about four years ago, but I never felt that Adobe Photoshop was able to replicate the way I drew.  When I discovered Manga Studio 4, then the much improved MS5, it was like having an epiphany.  In my opinion, the program is just so much more accurate in the way it handles drawing, and its tools are more user friendly and built for illustrators.  It made drawing fun and exciting again.

I also always recommend Youtube as a great artists’ resource.  There is an endless supply of free tutorials, speed-paintings, interviews, and inspirational videos on there that I draw from daily.  I often leave it on in the background as I work, picking up a new tip here and there.

I strongly recommend the online classes hosted by Schoolism.com (particularly the digital painting course by Bobby Chiu), and the tutorials available on Skillshare.com.

For books, I recommend the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines   and  2014 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market (Artists and Graphic Designers Market)    these are great books that help reinforce the value of artwork encouraging artists to maintain sustainable pricing for everyone involved.

5) Do you have a special place or object that boosts your inspiration and helps your creative drive? What is it like and why does it have this effect on you?

I always seem to get a lot of inspiration in the middle of a movie sitting in a theatre, or when watching a band play on stage somewhere.  I think there’s something about being in a dark room and being forced to sit down, shut up, and just immerse yourself in another artist’s world. 

6) Could you describe how a productive day would look like from your point of view? Which are the most important hours for you?

When I finish a piece of artwork, and feel that its better than the last piece, I feel productive.  When I’m working on projects that I feel are a step background, even if I’m producing a lot, can quickly make me feel like I’m treading water.  I also hate the necessary evil that is email.  I probably spend about an hour and a half a day answering emails – this is something I never anticipated when I started my own business.  Even though it is necessary, and it’s usually producing new projects, I can’t escape the client and I are just tossing a ball back and forth.

Unlike many artists that I know, I am not a night owl – I’m in bed by 10PM, probably because my kids wear me out.  So the most important hours to me are the normal working hours. 

7) What is your stance on today’s ever growing opportunities enabling artists to take on remote design work?

In one word:  incredible.  My style is very unique, so I could never experience this level of success if I was pulling only from a local pool of clients – especially considering that I live in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania, just outside of Penn State University.  I get to work with clients from all over the world, and my process is basically the same whether the client is from down the street, across the country, or on the other side of the world.  Simple tools like PayPal, Skype, and Dropbox (which are all essentially free) have transformed my business. 

8) What would you prefer: a steady, well paying job in a local agency, or the freedom and often stressful life of a freelancer? Why?

Once I started working as a freelancer, I realized right away that this fit my personality exactly.  I’m a control freak, and need to be the shaper of my own destiny.  I realize now that I must have driven my previous managers crazy, haha.  Now that I have tasted this freedom, it’s hard to imagine how I could ever go back.  The freedom to literally choose which projects I want to work on is so liberating, and I think it has really helped my growth as an artist.  I only recently realized that just as doing good art can you make you better, doing bad art can make you worse.

There is no question, however, that Freelancing is more stressful than my previous steady jobs as an illustrator.  I’m still learning how to manage my time and maintain a balance between work and my family.  It’s very hard to know when to turn it off, because unlike most jobs, being a freelance illustrator isn’t just a job I do, it’s who I am.  It’s an incredibly personal venture.

9) How would you describe “the ideal project”? Did you have any recent opportunities to come close to this?

I’m very proud of a project I did last year for Hard Rock Cafe, which involved creating T-Shirt designs of some of their most famous city locations around the world, such as Tokyo, Miami, Amsterdam, and Yankee Stadium.  To me, an ideal project is one that the client and I both are excited about, both during the production, and after the artwork is finished. I enjoy working on projects that I can put a piece of myself into it – I want people who know me to look at my work, and say, “this is you.”

Thank you!  Here is some contact and promotional information about where to find me on the web:

Interview of Brian Allen by ProfileTree

I was recently interviewed by Profile Tree on what it’s like to be a freelance graphic designs and illustrator.

Please check out the interview if you’re interested in learning a bit more about me, or if you’re an aspiring freelancer trying to decide if freelancing is right for you.

https://www.profiletree.com/blogs/brian-allen

Special thanks for Profile Tree!

Interview on Metal Band Art

I was just interviewed by Metal Band Art!
http://metalbandart.com/?p=3994

I’m really excited because a ton of super talented artists are on the site, like TOO MANY SKULLS (by Raf The Might), JoshuaAndrewBelanger, and Mark Riddick (RIDDICKART)) to name just a few.

Obviously, there’s been some huge mistake, so please go check out the interview before they take it down!