Dianne is a bona fide nerd. She’s a big Star Wars fan. She’s into cosplay. She enjoys tabletop gaming and recently she has become hooked on Magic: The Gathering, whatever that is. It sounds nerdy, though. Dianne is also a nurse so it’s a wonder she has time to create these awesome intricate pop culture designs.
On top of nursing, Dianne is also working on some artwork for an upcoming card game expansion and fending off grizzly bears while hunting and gathering for her family (boyfriend and derpy dogs) in the remote wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. Imagine the output if Dianne was a full-time artist. Dianne goes by the name DiHA.
So, I’m guessing Di is for Dianne. How about HA?
My artist name is the first two letters of my first name and the first two letters of my last name. (I save the creativity for the designs.)
You’re from the Rocky Mountains. Tell us about where you live.
I live in a log house up in the mountains of beautiful Boulder, Colorado with my boyfriend sidekick, and our two derpy dogs, Loki and Freyja.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Some friends recently got me hooked on “Magic: The Gathering,” so I’ve been nerding out hard on that when I’ve got a few spare minutes. I’ve added that to my usual repertoire of tabletop gaming, working out, and reading (and re-reading) Star Wars books.
Do you work full-time in art and design?
Not right now. I’m presently splitting my time between being a professional artist and being a professional nurse. I pretty much work 6-7 days a week.
About the Artist
When did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
I think I’ve always known; I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. I’ve had some ups and downs over the years as far as making art my career, but I’ve always drawn.
I read that you are a classically trained artist. Has this helped in creating pop culture designs for t-shirts?
I think any art training, any practice creating, helps you create better work in the future, even if you deviate from that path down the road. Like any other skilled craft, designing takes lots and lots of continuous practice. So I’d say, yes; even though I work primarily digitally now, I still apply hand-drawing and painting techniques to most of my designs.
Apart from t-shirts, are you currently involved in other art/design projects?
I’m working with an indie gaming company, Travesty Games, on some artwork for an upcoming card game expansion, which has been really fun because it’s pushing me to do some really different (and sometimes really bizarre) stuff.
Were you influenced by any particular artist or style?
I was a big anime geek in high school and through college, so I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from those shows and movies, as well as from manga and comic books. And of course, Disney’s animated movies – it’s hard to be a child of the 80’s and 90’s without having that art influence you.
Where do you usually get your inspiration?
I tend to draw from pop culture influences that I’m watching/reading/playing anyway, and just let ideas come as they will. I actually keep a list of ideas for designs I’d like to potentially work on, even though a lot of them will never see the light of day, which is helpful to keep me working all the time. Of course, there are those times when an idea clamps onto my brain and I HAVE to work on it now before I can focus on anything else, so I’ll often have a couple things going at once.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
I’ll initially make a really rough sketch of the major elements in Photoshop (and I mean REALLY rough – I rarely post them because they’re pretty ugly). If I’m sending concepts to an art director for approval, I’ll try to clean up some of the lines and block out basic colors, too. If there’s going to be a geometric background element (like in most of my art nouveau designs), I’ll do that linework in Photoshop, then bring the piece into Manga Studio to do the character linework and colors. (I adore their painting and inking tools.) For final cleanup, lettering with fonts, and then halftones (when needed), I go back to Photoshop. It’s a little bit chaotic, but it’s evolved into a chaos that works for me.
About the T-Shirts
How did you first hear about daily t-shirt sites like TeeFury and RIPT?
A friend of mine told me about TeeFury because she’d been buying shirts from them. It was about a 30-min stretch from “I have to check that out” to “Oh my gosh, I’m buying this shirt” to “I bet I could do this, too….” After I’d had my first print, I started both being approached by other sites and seeking them out on my own to keep working in the field.
Do you remember your first print? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
It was Chat Noir de la Lune in TeeFury back in 2012. It was a totally overwhelming day. I don’t think that many people had ever seen something I’d made before, and after that I was hooked.
You have had t-shirts printed by TeeFury, RIPT, and ShirtPunch. Who do you usually submit to first? Why?
It really depends on the design. Some styles and topics seem to be preferred by some sites over others, so I try to first submit where I think the design will do best. Sometimes sites put out specific calls for designs from their artists, so obviously if I’ve made something for that topic, that site gets the design first. That’s been a good way to really target designs to sites, and form more positive relationships with their art directors.
Of the t-shirts that you designed which is your favorite?
I feel like I should say “Chat Noir de la Lune,” since it was my first printed design and got me my start in the industry, but it’s probably actually The Sword and the Sith. It’s never been printed on a daily tee site, but it features two of my favorite characters from my favorite fandom, and it was definitely a labor of love.
Do you wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
Of course. If I wouldn’t wear them, why would I expect anybody else to? My friends wear them, too, which has actually gotten me some new opportunities, just from that extra visibility.
Have you seen somebody wearing one of your t-shirts in the real world?
Several times, usually at cons. It’s always pretty exciting. I actually signed somebody’s shirt at Denver Comic Con this year, while he was wearing it.
Photoshop or Illustrator?
Photoshop. And Manga Studio. (I’m a huge cheerleader for that program.)
About the World
Do you have any role models?
I admire a lot of the professional artists I’ve met who also have a “real job,” but manage to give priority to their art. It’s hard to not let the world tell you that you should choose a regularly scheduled paycheck over anything else, but it’s inspiring and reassuring to see people who’ve chosen their own path, even if that path takes you in a hundred different directions.
What is the most exotic location you have been to?
I stayed in Nagoya, Japan for a few months back in the day. I’m dying to go back. It was such an amazing experience. (And I miss the food.)
Where would you most like to visit? Why?
I’d like to go back to London and Paris. I’ve been to both but was touring with a metal band at the time (slinging tees, not playing!) and we were only in each place for a day. I’d love to see more of the cities themselves.
About Other Designers
Which t-shirt designer(s) do you admire the most?
I think Karen Hallion and Timothy Lim (Ninjaink) both do amazing work, and I always like to see what they do next. I also really like Eriphyle, Gilles Bone, and Medusa Dollmaker.
Read the Medusa Dollmaker Interview.
Have you done any collaborations for t-shirts?
I’ve never done a collaboration before, and don’t know if I’d even know where to start with something like that. Maybe it’s something I’ll consider doing, in the future, if the stars align and the moon is right.
Who would you like to see interviewed on the Shirt List next?
I’m gonna go back to my previous answer and point the finger at either Eriphyle or Gilles Bone.
Any advice for new designers/artists?
Just keep drawing, drawing, drawing, and playing with techniques until you find what works for you. At the end of the day, do what makes you happy; don’t get too caught up in trying to make the next sale by just catering to fads. Make weird things that nobody else is making.
What are you watching on TV at the moment?
I finally caved and started watching Steven Universe, and I’m pretty enchanted, so far. I also can’t wait to see Season 2 of “Star Wars: Rebels!” (I realize they make TV shows for adults, but who wants to watch those?)
What’s the last movie you saw in the cinema/movie theater?
“Mad Max: Fury Road” And I still need to see it a second time! (And maybe a third.) Then I’ll just be biting my nails until “Episode 7” arrives.