Artist Interview with MJ the T Shirt Review Master

MJ is an artist who has won T-shirt contests in several places, several times. She is the face behind and (two awesome platforms for keeping up to date with all that is happening in the T-shirt contest world). To call her an all rounder would be to do her a disservice, for MJ is more than that. She is an addict, a creative, a risk taker, a friend, a teacher and an good gal to boot. I snatched her handbag and made her answer my questions or face being separated from her possessions forever.

Obviously she cracked and I got my answers. Here goes:

Q: MJ! Tell me, are you named after Michael Jackson or was he named after you?

A: Actually, we're both named after Michael Jordan :D

Q: You seem to have an arts and graphic tee addiction which is worse than mine. Do you really love T-shirts as much as I think you do?

A: I am definitely a huge t-shirt fan. I've been trying to keep my collection capped at 365 or so (it seems like a reasonable limit), but it's a real struggle. There's just so much amazing shirt art being created that it's hard not to own it all. I'm cheating my 365 limit a bit right now by getting t-shirt pillows made, and will probably do a quilt at some point.

I love how much freedom there is in the medium- you can create art, jokes, or even powerful statements, and those designs get to become a part of the wearer's every day life. How can any gallery compete with that?

Q: For the people who are crazy and don't know about your two awesome T-shirt platforms please give us a short description of both?

A: Compete-tee-tion was my first site, one I started just as I was discovering the world of t-shirt design contests. As soon as I realized there was more than one contest, I started looking for a list of others. It didn't exist, so I decided I'd make it. So now the site exists as a resource for shirt designers, listing new contests, reviewing winning designs, and sometimes including tips and guides.

TeeMagnet evolved pretty quickly. At the time, there wasn't a site that updated promptly and focused on images of new shirts from daily tee sites, so a programmer friend helped me to create one. It's somewhat unique as a t-shirt blog because the content changes every day and it's all focused on imagery. I've jokingly called it the Dennys menu of t-shirt blogs because you can pretty much just point and click at the picture of what you like with no reading required.

Q: You write reviews of graphic tees every week and I like to read them, they can be brutal and I occasionally cry but I love your honest approach. Is reviewing T-Shirt designs something you enjoy. Would you like to be an art critic full time?

A: That's an interesting question, because I think I'm writing with different goals in mind than most people who write criticism. I've always felt like I don't really understand a subject until I've written about it, so for me writing reviews is a way of learning and processing information about art. I think doing so has helped me a lot with my own designs, because I can use the same critical eye and experience to improve on it.

So I'm not sure if I'd want to be an art critic professionally- I'm comfortable with my current habit of using criticism as a means to an end in honing my artistic eye. My worry would be that if the only goal was criticism, I'd get hung up on the writing itself and the reactions of others, rather than using it as a tool for self-improvement.

Q: Let's talk about your art a little. Do you consider yourself an illustrator, an artist or a designer? Tell us a bit about your style, where did it evolve from?

A: My background is in graphic design, but I definitely aspire to illustration. That's actually how I got into t-shirt art in the first place! I had been working as a restaurant menu designer, really immersed in text and in creating order. While it was work I enjoyed, that focus on clarity and cleanliness left me itching to do something with more freedom. Up to that point I hadn't done much beyond doodles, and t-shirt contests offered a way to learn while getting tons of quick feedback. It only took a couple of weeks for me to fall in love with the potential of the medium.

I think my style is still more that of a designer than an illustrator- I tend to favor simplicity and bold shapes. My goal is to improve my drawing abilities so that it's more out of choice than out of necessity, though!

Q: So of all the shirt designs you have had printed which is your favorite and why?

A: It's probably Dinosaurs Who Are Communist for Some Reason. Which, if you haven't seen it, is exactly what it sounds like- dinosaurs dressed up like communists. I'm a sucker for absurdity and silliness, and seeing that design print was a great surprise. I had always assumed that my weirder ideas were too odd to find popular success, and seeing that one print was a wonderful experience. Sometimes it's awesome to be proven wrong!

Q: If I asked you to name one apparel designer who you consider to be an inspiration who would it be?

A: Only one? Then I'm in trouble, because I feel inspired by a pretty huge swath of people, haha. If I had to pick just one, I think I'd go with MissMonster- what I find inspiring is not only her work (which is excellent), but also the way she's built a fanbase and such a trove of great products. I think that's demonstrative of a mind that is always seeking out new projects and new opportunities, and that's certainly something I aspire to.

Q: If you could pick a SHIRTdesign by another artist you think deserves to be printed here at DBH, what would it be?

A: I'm really fascinated by his style, so I think I'd have to go with beecombs's Island Lights. It's such a great mix of real and surreal, the kind of design I'd love to dive into and really explore. It would probably be tough to print, but man oh man would it be worth it!

Thanks again for the artist interview MJ we will be looking forward to your great t shirt reviews, new trendy shirts, and news in the t shirt design world.

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"Cowboy Samurai Viking Robot Knight Ninja Pirate VS 1.000.000 Zombies by wagnogueira certainly has a mouthful of a title! And the design is similarly packed to the rafters, with one man facing an endless sea of zombies. It'€™s a familiar set-up, as there are a lot of shirts feature one hero about to do battle with a crowd of the undead. But generally speaking, the lone protagonist is set up as a doomed hero, short on weapons and seeming to face an impossible task. Here, the lead guy is so heavily armed and drawing from so many hero tropes that he almost seems'€¦ over-prepared. You don'€™t doubt that he'€™ll win this thing somehow, no matter how long it takes. That'€™s an interesting twist, and the drawing has a smooth precision that supports it well." - MJ from Compete-tee-tion

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