Welcome To The Latest GSHQ Designer Unlocked Interview
….. Where we at GSHQ towers (yes it is a tower) have explored, every dimension and parallel universes to find you the best independent designers and showcase their designs.
This week we have a designer from the heart of Europe a Greek designer, who recently has just given birth (congratulations!)
I first came across Athena though the daily tee sites, where her designs are regularly featured. And really liked her designs which I feel don’t always fit one design style
Geek Shirts HQ Is Proud To Present Athena Leonti
……..the latest designer to get unlocked.
Can you start by giving some background about yourself? Where you are from? What is your background? How did you get into design?
I'm a 28 year old girl from Thessaloniki, Greece.
I’m really into pop culture, nerdy TV shows, urban fantasy books and programme music.
I am a mum to 3 wonderful boys and have been happily married to the geek of my life since 2007.
I have always been drawing and painting since I was a kid but for some reason I stopped at around 15 or 16. Then I picked it up again at 18 after reading all -then- available Harry Potter Books in 3 days and felt a huge urge to draw fan art. Every attempt at it was horrible though! It was like I’d never touched a pencil before!
As for tees I only started in 2011, either January or February. See I stumbled upon a One Shirt per Day site that had a really cool Stargate/Doctor Who mash up on, read the submission agreement and since Fan art and mash-ups had been in my arsenal for a while I thought “Why not?”
I’m mostly self-taught although I’ve got a Graphic Design degree but I’m really more into art than design. I used to attempt photorealism a lot but never had the patience for little details or trying to smooth out everything. Then I started designing t-shirts and I really, really enjoy going over my work smoothing things out to make the final artwork really crisp. I also find vectoring addictive.
I work part-time retail as a day job, on the one hand because I’m really scared of commissions (seriously) but mostly because the economy here is extremely unstable so it’s good to have something stable (yet boring and mind-numbing) to rely on. I’d love to be able to live entirely off my artwork though. That sounds awesome.
I think Athena is a really cool name! Is it your real name?
Yup, it is! And thanks, I go by Nana though which is a pet name my family has been using since I was very young. It's a pity because I really like "Athena" as a name but whenever someone calls me that I never realise they're talking to me!
Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
Hmmm, usually tv-shows and movies do the trick but I also love looking at other artwork too.
One of my favourite artists is Alphonse Mucha. I adore him. He was a genius and I fell in love with his work ever since I’ve laid eyes upon it! I also *love* Disney. I used to play tough and tomboy but I finally embraced my inner princess and confessed my love for the magical world of Disney!
I also find much inspiration in music. I’m extremely clingy to my music <3 Pain of Salvation, Riverside and Savatage have taken me to places pictures might never be able to!
How would you describe your design style?
Nowadays I do fan art/pop culture almost exclusively. I haven’t found my own style yet though. I range from cartoony to elaborate and from simple line art to photorealism.
When you create a new t shirt design, what is sort of process do you follow?
If it's parody on a logo I usually do some research on fonts trying to find as close a match as possible. If it's a character design I am looking up for reference for face and expression. After I'm done with that I start sketching the composition of my design, where would the text go, if it might be better without text, you know, is that element really useful etc. Then I start on the line art.
When it's finished I go over the whole design again and draw over the lines to make them cleaner because I have a really old tablet and my first lines are usually extremely shaky and messy. When I'm satisfied with the lines I start colouring and finally shading.
Looking at your own portfolio what is your favourite design and why?
It’s called “The Winter Court of the Sidhe” and features the three queens of the winter fairies based on some characters from “The Dresden Files” series by Jim Butcher.
I really love it because I spent SO. MUCH. TIME. On it and it turned out really good and almost exactly like I had it in my head. I also have a soft spot for my “Tru Blood Robette” an Absinthe Robette/True Blood spoof I made a while ago.
What current projects are you working on now? And can we get an exclusive peek?
I have a Vampire Diaries design on my to-do list but I haven't been able to start on it yet because I had a new baby last week so things have been pretty busy around here.
I think I'll be good to begin working on it sometime in the next week. So far I've only researched reference so I have nothing solid to show to you at the moment. I'm really sorry 🙁
Who are your favourite designers?
My best buddy Barbora. I love her and I’m pretty sure we’re actually the same person who somehow got stranded here from an alternate reality. I geek out a lot with her and her artwork is pretty awesome.
Besides her, in no particular order:
Basically just follow everyone I follow that is an artist and you won’t be disappointed. I could go on for hours and tell you about all of the wonderful artists I’ve met ever since I started in this gig
When marketing your designs how much focus and importance do you place on social media sites?
All my marketing is done through social media. First and foremost is Facebook which cross posts to Twitter, then there are the separate Twitter posts and Tumblr and if I have time I also upload stuff on deviantArt. If you want to be 100% sure you'll get updates from me though my FB page is the way to go
A lot of designers use sites like Redbubble and café press to market and sell their designs, Have you thought about setting up your own store?
I have but I really don't have the resources to do so at the moment. For the time being I'm really happy with my Redbubble and s6 stores but would really like to set up a store of my own at some point.
Do you try to convey any message in your designs?
Nope. I try to keep my beliefs separate from my artwork.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully working as a full time artist. Other than that I like things pretty much as they are!
What do you prefer designing for, something wearable or a print?
I try to combine these two but I really love working on something without having to think of limited colour palettes. On the other hand I suck at backgrounds so I'm better at tee designing. I really like both though.
What other interests and hobbies do you have when you’re not designing?
TV shows. I’m really into Stargate SG-1 and Buffy!
Other than that I really like Doctor Who, The Vampire Diaries, Once Upon a time, Bones, Castle and Elementary. I should also mention the X-files of course which is what got the ball rolling on turning a perfectly normal girl* cough, cough not really cough, cough* to a mega-geek.
I also love my books! You should see my bookshelves I have five bookshelves in my bedroom and the shelves are all double-filled. I really want to buy a new one but I don’t think it will fit in my room. Hehehehe. Aaaaanyway These are my favourites in no specific order:
I ADORE the “Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher, all books by Guy Gavriel Kay but mostly “The Fionavar Tapestry” and “Tigana” and I’ve recently discovered “The Iron Druid Chronicles” through a friend, and those are an awesome read as well.
I’ve also been a rabid fan of Drizzt Do’Urden for years (The Forgotten Realms over-20 book series) but I’ve been a bit disappointed with the last book I read (Neverwinter Wood #2/4 of the Neverwinter Saga). I’ve got the 3rd one to read soon though so let’s hope that was a fluke.
Do you have any advice for budding designers?
Keep drawing and designing even if you think your work looks bad. It might take time but you'll end up with something gorgeous at some point and then it will only go better!
Anyone you want to give a shout out to?
All my buddies at the RBC and the other designers I talk to daily. You guys rock!