The world that Aaron Jay grew up in is like a David Lynch movie. Odd things appear in an otherwise normal life. We’re talking crossbow training and robot-building in school, horny wild animals, cage fights between tattooed pandas, beavers and otters. Despite this background and his hate of Adobe Illustrator, and despite his young age, this recent college graduate has already made a mark on the t-shirt design world and is currently branching into other areas such as advertising and children’s books. And this time next year he’s going to be a millionaire. You mark my words Rodney. So read this interview to see what Aaron Jay aka RandyOtter has to say.
— ABOUT THE MAN —
emotional animals could become a family thing, who knows
Well I read somewhere that the name randyotter (randyotter3000) was inspired by your friend writing friskybeaver on a pencil case. So, is there a hornymuskrat out there?
Ha ha no I am afraid that it only really got as far as Randyotter and Frisky beaver although quite randomly my brother started using the name Angry Panda so perhaps emotional animals could become a family thing, who knows.
What is friskybeaver up to these days?
As far as I know he works in a bank, I guess that’s a pretty suitable job for aroused and wet mammals
What kind things were you learning in your high school?
How to shoot crossbows and build small robotic goats.
I believe you are an Englishman and all going well have recently received an illustration degree (not an illustrated degree folks, although that would be cool too). So what are you going to do with all this education now that you have it embodied on a piece of paper?
Well I got stuck into freelance work the second I finished university and I haven’t looked back so I guess the degree is paying off. Now that I am fairly comfortable the big goal now is to make one million pounds in 2012 just for the fun of it.
Do you think that your illustration course will serve you well? I mean, did you learn some neat skills that have helped develop your art?
I did learn some interesting things however they were probably more about the ins and outs of the illustration industry and how to get jobs etc as the basics such as learning to draw better are ultimately down to you alone.
What do you usually do in your free time? What are your other interests apart from art and design?
I have gotten into skateboarding again so I spend a lot of sunny days skating around town working up a suitably disgusting sweat. I also play a lot of computer games and indulge in the odd bit of socialising and the ‘occasional’ drink.
— ABOUT THE ARTIST —
I have seen your tees all over the place so you must put a lot of effort into t-shirt design. Please say you do! What percentage of your working time is spent designing t-shirts?
Well I have put in a lot of tee shirt design for sure however it’s often the designs that you finish quickest that surprise you with the best results so I try and just work the hours that seem suitable for the design in a weird kind of way. Generally a good 90% of my time is put toward tee illustration as it is an area I feel really confident in currently and brings in a decent living, as a result it is now opening up time and opportunities to do different work which hopefully will go well.
tattooing a picture of a cheese grater onto a shaved monkey is all good as long as I am getting paid.
Do you do other design work?
I have done a few magazine illustrations and I am currently working on my own children’s book but generally speaking I am always happy to take on anything a client can throw at me so if I am tattooing a picture of a cheese grater onto a shaved monkey its all good as long as I am getting paid.
Photoshop or Illustrator?
Always Photoshop, Illustrator is evil
Apart from software what is your favorite medium?
Well basic pencil and paper is always so fun easy and endless in its possibilities but I guess oil painting always gave a great sense of achievement once a piece was done.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
Freedom to do what I want when I want would have to be the key thing , I if want to sleep in all day or party all night it’s up to me, long as I get the work done which feels awesome.
If you weren’t an artist what would you do with your time?
I would love to study science, more specifically biology, I find it so interesting and science was always a strong subject for me at school
Cute animals dude…they are everywhere. What’s the obsession? Do you wish you had taken a course in Zoology instead of illustration perhaps?
I just found the animals and the cuteness became my own little trademark and it works out fairly well, people love animals and the cute factor is non threatening and makes people smile which I all I really want my images to do at the end of the day.
Where do you usually get your inspiration?
A majority of my inspiration comes from children’s cartoons and studying mundane objects, imagining lives for simple household items and various other potential interactions.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
Ok I get this question a lot so let’s get this done haha
1. Brainstorm something, ANYTHING
2. Draw a rough doodle/thumbnail
3. Draw a decent pencil sketch
4. Scan into the PC
5. Open in Photoshop and trace the lines with my Wacom bamboo
6. Colour and texture with the tablet
7. Get paid
— ABOUT THE TEES —
Do you remember your first t-shirt contest win? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
It was actually at Threadless so it was an exciting first win; I got the confirmation email around about 3am which meant I woke up my mum to boast to her as she was pretty sceptical that it was possible to win money on the internets.
I really like your “Now I’m the Tallest” t-shirt which was for sale for a limited time on Tilteed. There is something about the anthropomorphism of buildings that gets me every time (not really, I just wanted to use the word: anthropomorphism, but I do like that tee). How did you come up with this idea?
Damn now that’s a hard one to answer even looking at the piece I can’t really imagine how that made sense to me while I was drawing it, as far as I can guess I was thinking about how sometimes buildings are built to be purposely higher that some other buildings which I guess I found to be rather odd and worth drawing about.
Of the tees that you designed which is your favorite?
Generally whatever I have drawn most recently becomes my favourite and then after a week I hate it and have to draw something better, it is an endless cycle of drawing torture but at a push I guess “Mr. Cloud’s new scarf” as that little guy has put in some serious effort for me since I have drawn him.
Do you wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
I can honestly say I have never worn a tee that I have designed, every one that I receive in the post I give free to friends and family, I would feel too egotistical wearing something of my own so blatantly.
Have you seen somebody wearing one of your tees in the real world?
I have seen a fair few pictures and have most recently heard about spottings in Moscow and Paris but I can’t say that I have ever seen someone in person unfortunately.
— ABOUT THE WORLD —
Do you have any role models?
I don’t think that I do really, a few people I have looked up to over the years but I have often grown bored of them after a while so I just try and do my own thing.
Have you lived somewhere else beside England and/or would you like to?
I have lived in England all my life in various cities; I would like to live in a different country for a few years at some point either Spain or the USA depending on how life goes.
What is the most exotic location you have been to?
I haven’t been anywhere particularly exotic really so I guess either Portugal or Greece would have to be the best I can mention.
— ABOUT OTHER DESIGNERS —
Which tee designer(s) do you admire the most?
It has to be Aphte simply because his style and crazy characters made me realize that I could have some success as an artist as well as being a great person whose designs may well be tattooed onto my body in the near future!
— ABOUT TEE DESIGN —
What design trends have made you go WTF?
The whole desperate pop culture parody thing, it really gained some momentum in 2010 and has levelled off so to speak but now we are bombarded with lame Harry Potter and Doctor Wh0 shirts both films/shows that bore the hell out of me and worry about our future nerd generations.
Any advice for other designers/artists?
Draw every single day, try to move towards your goals relentlessly even if you only make a fraction of progress over a week at least you haven’t stopped and you are not moving backwards so stick at it!
— EXTRA —
If a randy otter, a frisky beaver and a horny muskrat were in a cage fight which do you think would be victorious and why?
The Randyotter would clearly win, mainly because as I previously mentioned I have an Angry Panda as a brother who would rip the side of the cage off and make some horrendously gory carnage, all in the name of fun of course.