CS3INK first appeared on this planet aged six. Origin is, as of yet, unknown. His human name is not Chip Skelton but something similar, or so he would have us believe. And there is a III. I don’t know. It’s all very confusing. Anyway, the man is obsessed with giant monsters which is great for people who love giant monster t-shirts as Chip designs some of the best. And he designs a lot of them. But his interests don’t stop there.
Chip Skelton is a talented artist who can create images in a variety of styles as you can see from the examples here. He has been creating art since he could pick up a pencil and make monster noises. He has published two graphic novels. Has written two novels and is currently writing a self-help book. I could tell you more but then what would be the point of reading the interview.
Chip Skelton aka CS3INK Interview
I can’t believe it took me until now to realize that the ‘cs’ in cs3ink stands for Chip Skelton. (My first thought was that it was a PhotoShop thing.) Are you really Chip Skelton the Third?
Actually, no. I’m the third first-born Skelton male born with my birth name. “Chip” is a nickname my parents gave me when I was little and it stuck. I combined the “III” from my birth name with the name I’ve gone by my whole life and came up with CSIII.
I see you are based in Florida. Born and raised?
Been here over 45 years, but only moved here when I was 6.
Do you work full-time in art and design?
I make Harley-Davidson graphics for my 9-to-5 gig, and then do freelance and my own designs at night.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Write mostly. I enjoy the written word a ton more than illustrating, but it’s my art that pays the bills.
About the Artist
When did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
Since I picked up a pencil the first time. Frustrating as it can be, I’m an artist through and through.
I see you have two graphic novels under your belt but I could find them for sale anywhere. Are they still available?
No. I mean, I may have a few copies in my cabinet at home, but that’s about it.
How was that experience?
I loved it, though it was really difficult. I wrote and illustrated and edited both of them. Before I’d started them I hadn’t done much but be your typical insecure artist. Making it through both graphic novels built my confidence to such a degree that I’m no longer afraid to try anything. I’ve written two novels and am actually writing a self-help book for creative types about developing the confidence to pursue your dreams.
I think they were both published quite a few years ago. Are sequels still in the works?
I started the Terran Sandz sequel. It’s a sci-fi spaghetti western right out of Leone’s toolbox. My second graphic novel, Broken, is supposed to be the first in a trilogy, but I’m not optimistic I’ll ever finish it. There just simply isn’t time. Plus, I’d rather be writing.
Tell me about your novels. Are they published? Available?
No problem. Tommy Puck and the Prince of Elves is available on Amazon and most other formats as well. It’s a YA fantasy with strong steampunk overtones about a 17-year-old foster kid and 85-year-old janitor who are whisked away to a fantasy realm because one of them could be the Prince of Elves. Things go south and they’re separated, with one of them ending up amongst the goblins while the other makes his way to the Elfin Capital. I’ve started the second in the trilogy, Tommy Puck: Dragon Rider. I see the series as two trilogies.
Dead – Zombie Hitman Blues is a dark, urban fantasy about, well, a zombie hitman. It takes place in a world that looks just like ours but all those in power are either powerful wizards or even more powerful dragons. There’s magic everywhere, but it’s hidden to keep we cattle docile and easy to control. Dead, the assassin, is sent on a bizarre mission where he encounters the King of the Monsters near the end of his reign, an island populated by huge creatures that worship children before they eat them, and a princess in a loving relationship with a deadly band of seven dwarf assassins. Oh, and Johnny Cash, too. Dead is 99% finished and should be published soon. I see the series as 25 or so novels jumping back and forth through Dead’s crazy life.
You seem to draw a lot of inspiration from monster movies. You have a ton of Godzilla t-shirts. Have you watched a lot of kaiju movies? Do you have a favorite?
I grew up on Godzilla movies, but I’m an odd bird when it comes to appreciating them. Now, this is just MY opinion, but I think most of them suck. I love when Godzilla’s on the screen, but the rest of the stories tended to be horrendous, with terrible acting, nonsensical plots and terrible special effects. That being said, I spent years of my youth drawing massive pieces of kaiju destroying cities. My dad would bring home the computer paper that was used back then, 11 x 17 reams of connected sheets that I would unfold until I’d drawn scenes sometimes 15 or 20 feet long. Buildings destroyed. People running in terror. People getting stepped on and eaten. Cars and trucks exploding. Giant monsters doing battle. And of course, I made the noises of what I was drawing while I rendered it.
As far as a favorite, I’ll have to go to the original 1954 Gojira, the Japanese version. Raymond Burr is great in the US version, but the original is far more unsettling.
I also LOVE today’s kaiju movies. I’d always dreamed of them looking real and not being so silly. Today’s certainly fit that bill.
You also seem to like Ghibli movies and while other artists might focus on the cuter aspects of those movies, you seem to favor the grotesque. What is it about these creatures that attract you?
I love monsters. I have since my grandfather gave me my first book on dinosaurs when I a wee brat. Ghibli’s creature designs are poetic to me. Plus, everyone and their cousin is doing the cute Ghibli thing. I’m not so good at doing cute.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
An idea pops into my head, I do a quick sketch, and then I begin rendering the finished piece. Sometimes I wish I was one of those artists that does a ton of sketches to maximize the elements of the design, but I tend to jump in feet first and caution be damned.
About the T-Shirts
How did you first hear about daily t-shirt sites like TeeFury and RIPT?
I worked with Bamboota, arguably one of the best-known daily tee artists, for several years. She and I talked from time to time about what she was doing. I wanted a piece of the pie, so I drew my first piece, a Godzilla of course.
Do you remember your first print? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
Sure do. It was my first Gentlemen. You know, those creepy villains from Buffy the Vampire Slayer? TeeVillain offered it. I didn’t know what to expect, but it started off REALLY slow. I mean, like I was making hardly anything, then, with just a few hours to go the numbers doubled, then that number doubled. I ended up making a serious killing, all because some Buffy fan page on Facebook shared the info about the sale. It was so bizarre.
TeeVillain remains my favorite, though. Nothing against the other sites, as they’re all great, but TeeVillain has the largest prints, their printing is some of the best I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been doing tees for over 30 years – and they’re just friendly as all get out.
You sell your designs on TeePublic, RedBubble, Design by Humans, NeatoShop and Society6. Which performs best for you? Which is easiest to work with?
TeePublic sells the best so far. I do okay on Redbubble. The rest fall short. Funny how that works. It’s the same designs for the most part in all my galleries, but some sell well and others not so much.
TeePublic and Neatoshop are the easiest to work with. Loading designs on Redbubble, DBH, and Society6 can take a really long time due to how they want the artist to oversee placement and color on every single product they offer.
Of the t-shirts that you designed, which one is your favorite?
Probably my first Creature From the Black Lagoon design, where he’s swimming at you surrounded by Peacock Bass and obscuring the title. I love the creature!
Do you wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
Almost every day. I tend to get them for free when some of the sites print them. No need to buy tees when I can get ones for free that have my own work on them, huh?
Have you seen somebody wearing one of your t-shirts in the real world?
A few times. I tend to embarrass either myself or my kids by telling the poor stranger they’re wearing a shirt I designed. Most of the time they put themselves between me and their spouse or kids and slowly back away while digging in their pocket or purse for pepper spray.
Photoshop or Illustrator?
Photoshop is what I use 99% of the time. I know many very talented artists that create gold with Illustrator, but Photoshop is just more intuitive for me.
About the World
Do you have any role models?
I’m not a role model kind of guy, but I’d have to say my Dad and my wife. My Dad is an amazing man of principle who has worked hard to build his business and reputation, and my wife is one of the most loving, selfless people I know.
What is the most exotic location you have been to?
A mountain stream in Ketchikan. It’s a tiny island off the coast of Alaska. Giant mountains rose high above the tree line on either side of the flowing water. There were dozens and dozens of bald eagles lining the trees on either side of the stream. Occasionally one would drop, opening its massive wings and soaring to another branch. Giant, spent salmon fought the current, struggling for their last moments of life after spawning. As I walked up the stream a large black bear entered just ahead of me. I froze. It suddenly charged toward the other bank, diving into the water and coming up with a fifty-pound salmon in its jaw. It looked over at me calmly for a few, long moments before quietly ambling out of the stream.
Where would you most like to visit? Why?
I’m a Japanophile. I dream of spending a ton of time exploring its countryside.
About Other Designers
Which t-shirt designer(s) do you admire the most?
BeastWreck has had the largest impact on my work. I’m not nearly as good as him, but I strive for the lyrical use of line and bold color pallet he regularly employees. He’s a master.
Have you done any collaborations for t-shirts? If so, who and what did you design? If not, who would you like to collaborate with?
I’ve never collaborated. I was going to before the bottom fell out of the daily tee market. Now earnings have dropped so much I don’t know if splitting the profits with someone would be worth my time.
Who would you like to see interviewed on the Shirt List next?
I didn’t see BeastWreck in your list of those interviewed, so I’ll go with him.
Any advice for new designers/artists?
Do it. Don’t wait until you think you’re ready. Make art and put it out there. Take criticism with a grain of salt, especially uninvited criticism. You’ll never improve or find success if you wait until you think you’re ready. You only improve via doing.
What are you watching on TV at the moment?
Old Columbo episodes.
What’s the last movie you saw in the cinema/movie theater?
Moana. What a magical movie. Gorgeous!
Thanks a ton for interviewing me. I had a great time.
And a huge thanks for all the love and support you continue to show me and other daily tee artists. It’s a rough way to make a living and we can use all the help we can get.