Thursday, January 31, 2013


Design with a Bite

Slip on this design with strength and pride any time you need to face your creative fears. When a homework assignment, due date at work, blank canvas, or creative brief stares you in the face, stare right back with an intimidating snarl. The challenge can be daunting, but with practice and determination, you can succeed.

The concept of this piece came to me after messing around with gold-colored aluminum foil worn over my teeth while dressed up in costume, giving the camera a growling look. Looking at the photo taken, I felt as if I had just become one of the many wacky characters I draw so often. The overall feeling was worth exploring in a drawing. Showing your teeth is a powerful and primal reaction, but rather than pimping out my grill, I thought it would be interesting to wear that look on a shirt or hoodie.

I have a healthy fear of creatures in nature that could eat me live, so this idea of giant teeth worn across the chest seemed empowering. Grizzlies, wolves, wild dogs, zombies, vampires, bats – they’re all a bit scary when flashing their chompers at you in predatory manner. The first prototype for this concept was painted directly on a hoodie with gesso and glow-in-the-dark paint. The teeth were really grimy and the drips and splatters added a fun artistic element. Here it is in action in my studio. Yes, I am a nerd.

I wore the heck out of that hoodie until the zipper broke and I had to retire it. But the idea lived on, and I pushed composition further making the teeth look like an open mouth about to bite rather than the more horizontal top bar of teeth. A funny mustache even creeped into the thought process for a little bit.

When building this piece, I took a good amount of time to study my own snarling grimace, as well as angry expressions of dogs, cats, and other fanged creatures. After drawing many different sets of teeth, I decided on the appropriate composition.

After scanning the piece into the digital space and redrawing it much cleaner, the teeth were really sharp-edged and tight, but it looked too mechanical or false. Not the feeling I was going for, so I added some splatters that made it feel more dynamic and raw. The hand lettering was applied to make the viewer take a second, closer look at the graphic and connect the feeling to the deviantART experience. At the printer, we came up against the last of the conundrums: making the piece big enough for the XLs but not too huge for smaller Women’s sizes. We decided on a nice width in the middle that worked well for all.

When we put the shirt on a model, we saw our decision had paid off. The graphic was a great size, and he immediately struck a fitting pose. It really brings out the animal in everyone who wears it.

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