If you have not checked out Nicks designs before you can check my feature on his Darth Stark t shirt which he launched at Geek ShIrts HQ a few weeks ago and his cool Star Wars inspired t shirt that has also been featured in depth at Geek Shirts HQ.Nick designs are great, he is always enthusiastic and and what came over in the interview is his passion for design.When not designing, he plays professional ice hockey for the Calgary Flames by day and works as a Mountie by night.He told me once, he gets inspiration for his designs whilst playing ice hockey, smashing skulls on ice seems to get his creative process started. Gentle walks in the park do it for meHmmm Nick please!! Put down that Hockey stick, no skull smashing today! lets finish this interview.
Can you start by giving some background about yourself? Where you are from? What is your background? How did you get into design.
Well I was born in Banff and then lived in Calgary for my formative years, whereupon my English parents whisked me off to the south of England to live in a centuries old pub with thatched roof in a small village.
I went to school, grew up (some would argue that), and attended university over in the UK where I studied Information Design: Illustration.
I got into comics pretty early on and it seems I've been a Star Wars fanatic all my life. I don't remember but apparently my folks took me to Star Wars A New Hope when I was 3 in '77.
So I've been pretty hardwired to be a geek from the start.
However I never really had a creative outlet in terms of employment. You know how life gets in the way, you get a partner a house and have to pay the bills so you move upwards in the job you're in, rather than keep striving for the dream jobs. But it's a happy ending because I've worked my way back to more creative pursuits in my job now, where I do a fair bit of design and Flash work.
And even with a daughter under two; whom I adore, I manage to find time to try and get a t-shirt empire going. I don't think my results are bad for having basically started in T-shirts as of November '11.
One for the Star Wars and Star Trek fans although admittedly this one is going to be less popular with Trek fans of course. But never fear there's a Phaser Beats Force version too. The last four are also fun because they add in the odd bit of typography."
Where did you get the name Firepower?
Along with being a rabid Star Wars/sci-fi and comics fan, I'm Canadian ,so obviously I loooove hockey. My local team is the Calgary Flames.
I spend a lot of time on a hockey forum called Calgarypuck.com and my username there is Flame On from the Fantastic Four.
After a while I sort of felt Firepower would have been better and I use that for other forums and sights I join and this was no different for Redbubble, where I started producing Tee designs.
I should probably make that story more exciting, something about armor piercing rounds and heavy fire zones.
Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
Well I want to root around in the characters and franchises I love. But I don't just want to be a fanboy that creates cool pictures of characters. That seems a bit useless to me and there a lot of people that do that really well. Also there's the small matter of Copyright infringement. So I tend to try and put a spin on said franchise/characters.
I'm really into The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones for example, so why not combine those two? Problem is when I do that I seem to get on a track and do a series.
So I've got Game of Thrones combos with Star Wars, Star Trek and Iron Man and I've done a couple of Walking Dead mix ups too. I call them mash-ups at times, but they're not strictly speaking mash-ups, it could just be a play on words. I mean Game of Clones fits perfectly. As does Iron Man work with the Iron Throne. Ned Stark, Tony Stark, Iron Man Iron Throne, you get the idea.
"This is a piece that hasn't been as popular as I thought, which I think is a shame. I guess I realize it's a bit off-colour but it's really just a fun play-on-words. I think Stephen Hawking has accomplished enough that he can probably look at the lighter side. Another intricate piece, lots of detail no one really sees."
When you create a new t shirt design, what is sort of process do you follow?
I come up with the concept first perhaps even based around the title, like Game of Clones and then I'll just start doing visual research of the character or subject. Ned Stark sitting on the throne with a sword was a seminal image for the series he was in, so it was pretty easy to jump to the idea of adding a clone trooper helmet to his head. That one fell into place pretty easily idea-wise.
As for drawing it I may do a bit of sketch work but I pretty soon head to illustrator. Then I'll transfer to Photoshop for colour having done the outline in Illustrator as mentioned.
Having said that, I'm becoming more and more experienced with illustrator (which I'm fairly new to) and so have recently be staying entirely in that program. So outlines, then colour blocking and then colour detail and I often will add effects in Photoshop. Things like glowing, reflections, light sources etc. . In this sense I suppose I'm following a sort of comic book format.
"This is mentioned in the interview. One of my first tees that I made that was more art than tee, far more intricate than my stuff like Don't Mention The War!! A pretty popular piece also which was good to know and who doesn't like working with both Star Wars and Game of Thrones?!"
Looking at your own portfolio what is your favorite design and why?
That's pretty difficult but probably Game of Clones so far. It was one of my first and I had early success with it which game me encouragement to continue.
Another of my faves is called Don't Mention The War!! It's John Cleese as Basil Fawlty from the BBC comedy Fawlty towers. It was a really simple design, I think I did it all in an afternoon.
I just thought I'd throw it on Redbubble almost as an afterthought. Again, this was early on. And you know what it's sold tons it's really popular. Must be a lot of Brit ex-pats around the globe that love it and let’s face it, it is classic comedy.
"This I think was one of my early pieces on Redbubble and really took off. I did it in an afternoon as mentioned in the interview and it's been really gratifying to see the results. A good reminder that sometimes less is more too."
What current projects are you working on now? And can we get a exclusive peek?
I just finished my sequel to a project, the first of which you highlighted here at Geek Shirt HQ. That was the Darth Stark combo (Vader's chest plate instead of Iron Man's ARC device). The one I just finished is the ARC implant on Vader instead of his 70's Sith aesthetic. Called Stark Lord (or The Stark Lord of Sith)
Here some of the developments pictures for that piece.
And the finished design
"My follow-up to my franchise combo with Vader and Iron Man. This time with the Dark Lord getting his chest plate alternate reality version, which is Tony Stark’s ARC implant. It’s not a mash-up, which implies it’s just two characters being mixed up all over the place.
This is just a fun speculation of what Vader would look like with instead of his 70’s button-based chest plate, he had the Iron Man ARC implant. Again the naming was tough here’s what I came up with before settling: ARC Lord, Stark Vader, Tony Sith, Lord Stark, Iron Vader…and you’ll be pleased to note I never considered Vader Man!"
After finishing those I hit a bit of a blank about what to do next. I had been working on something but I wasn't liking it, so I've put it down for a while to percolate a bit more. But I did have a light bulb go off for what I should do in its stead.
I wanted to continue my Game of Thrones play on words series, and have decided to work on Game of Jones. That’s right an Indiana Jones inspired combo. I have another after that too I might work on, I’ll let you know about.
Who are your favorite designers?
Oh I don't know that I could single out Tee designers per se although there are many I like.
I'm more into people whose work I like across many fields. Phil Noto does amazing portraiture amongst other work, just look at this Michael Caine, ridiculous. He's a pretty new to me.
I love the amazing Ralph McQuarrie, my fave of his is Rebels in Trench from Empire.
Joe Johnston's storyboard and concept work is amazing.
I work in a Museum/art gallery in western Canada and I love the work of Charlie Russell. So I run the gamut of inspiration and fan-boy envy with those I admire.
"The next in my The Walking Dead line, this one combos The Walking Dead with Game of Thrones of course. It's just a funny take on the title because when you think about it, it doesn't make much sense, most zombies are taken out if they're beheaded. I thought the Weirwood tree in the background really help support this piece and the red leaves were very apt."
Do you try to convey any message in your designs?
Oh no I just have fun. But maybe some time I'll do a political centered piece. I can't see it not still being humorous at its heart though. (I'm considering one with a big dump on the head of Mitt Romney instead of his good boy Mormon haircut, and call it Shitt Romney, but I don't know if I want death threats lol)
Star Wars Or Star Trek? Which Do you prefer
I think that's probably been answered lol. Star Wars of course. But actually I have a lot of time for Trek, I love it too. I just recently went to the 25 year Next Generation reunion panel in Calgary, it was phenomenal.
"Another of my works from my comedy line, this one from the Ricky Gervais series Extras". His Patrick Stewart (playing himself) character was so hilarious I had to do a shirt."
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Oh goodness that's tough. Hopefully design/t-shirt-wise I'll have hundreds of successful lines and a good brand that will be followed by hundreds on twitter or something.
I don't want to be cheesy when I say it's not for the money, but it really isn't. But as long as I am earning I won't lie, that's a nice side bonus. I wouldn't mind opening some sort of geek centric store and be my own boss one day too. Something like a comic store or collectible shop or combo of.
What other interests and hobbies do you have when you’re not designing?
Well I try to be a gamer and play a lot of Call of Duty on x-box but being near 40 I don't think my reaction time can keep up with the younger folk on there. But I love it.
I'm a Calgary Flames season ticket holder.
I love to travel, even though I get to do far less of that than I'd like. Most of the rest of the time I'm wrapped up in life with my young family, which includes a daughter about to turn two, and as you can imagine, keeps me on my toes.
"I love this one and people don't seem to love it as much as I do. There's a lot of "Keep Calm" t-shirts out there and for the most part they don't take much thought. I like this because you need some knowledge of the Star Wars script.
3PO: He made a fair move. Screaming about it can't help you.
Solo: Let him have it. It's not wise to upset a Wookiee.
3PO: But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.
Solo: That's 'cause droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.
So it works as both you keeping calm or keeping Chewie/Wookiee calm and thus keeping your arms."
Anyone you want to give a shout out to?
- Again not to be cheesy but my wife.
- My parents particularly who were always very supportive of me and everything I tried to do growing up.
- Redbubble I couldn't do this without.
- Ah and who am I kidding, tip of my hat to Mr. Lucas too, at least for his early work ha!
Anything else you want to say or add that we have not covered? This is your opportunity
Oh just that a lot of the time I put far more detail into a piece than will ever be seen by the viewer, at least on the scale of t-shirt sized prints.
For example, in my Leia pinup version, she has painted nails matching the colour of her lightsabre blade. Which incidentally I had to do some research on for the look and colour of the blade. Other than that, thanks for reading this far and maybe stay tuned for more!
Here at Geek Shirts HQ we are in the middle of Batman Fortnight! Just want to ask you a few Batman questions!
What is your favorite Batman Tee?
What is your favorite Batman storyline?
I was always a Marvel guy. Not because I don't like DC, but growing up I collected so many comics I basically had to pitch my tent for Marvel and stick to that because I couldn't afford to spread out.
Having said that, I really like Bat Man and probably my favorite storyline are ones involving Arkham Asylum or the classic Killing Joke.
I don't think there's a comic duo of protagonist/antagonist that are more the antithesis of each other than Bat Man and Joker in comics. One is about order, discipline, logic and justice. The other is about chaos, randomness and violent psychosis.
Also it's kind of funny that the "hero" of the two has a civilian alter ego, while the villain of the two is always the villain and doesn't wear a mask. At least one that is removed….. Always thought that was intriguing.
And finally for Batman! What is your favorite Batman film?
My fave Bat Man film, that's also tough. I have a real soft spot for the first Bat Man movie with Keaton and Nicholson, I think it still really stands up today.
But you have to love the Christian Bale version of the reboot too. For that the I'd have to say The Dark Knight is the best. Conversely Bat Man and Robin with Clooney was one of the worst movies ever, let alone Bat Man movies!
Where is the best place to find your designs and buy some of your shirts? And of course get in contact with you
ANY OTHER WEBSITE THAT FEATURES YOUR DESIGN
One last question, when you going to design a Back To The Future Shirt as I am a massive fan?
Hmm that could be tough, but I'll definitely have a crack at it at some point. Probably will be based around the Delorean.
Thank you Nick for a great interview. Wow! one of the best yet! Loved all the detail. Don't forget to check out his tees over at his Redbubble store.