Anna-Maria Jung, or queenmob, as she is know as in the t-shirt world is a geek. There is no doubt about it but she could be the coolest geek in the world. She loves comic books, she even creates them, she loves video games and pen and paper RPGs. She has met the legendary Bruce Campbell and the cast of Dr. Who. She is smart, funny and talented (she received the Fulbright scholarship to study for her MBA in New York for God’s sake) With a shock of red hair and a killer smile she has conquered New York and next the world.
At age 26, as you will soon see, she has already done extremely well for herself even if you excluded her work in t-shirts. But of course we won’t exclude that here. Anna-Maria has had 6 designs printed at t-shirt contest giant Threadless, as well as being printed at shirt.woot!, TeeFury, J!NX, A Better Tomorrow and maybe more that I don’t know about. She kindly took some time out of her not so busy as before (apparently) schedule to answer a few questions. We also find out that she has died 5 times in New York and the location of all those damned eels?
— ABOUT THE WOMAN —
Your name is Anna-Maria Jung but in the t-shirt world you are called queenmob. How did you select this name?
The name occurred to me when I read one of my favorite comics of all time, The Invisibles by Grant Morrison. One of the main characters was a sort of time-traveling, anarchistic, dimension jumping wizard called King Mob, who is also a sort of alter ego of Morrison. I know Morrision was inspired by a radical group of so called Situationists (a group emphasizing and fighting for cultural anarchy and disorder) in London in the 1970s and they themselves chose the name inspired by the “Gordon Riots” in June 1780 in which rioters painted “His Majesty King Mob”‘ on the walls of a prison in London. I just made up a female version of the name, honoring this comic.
I see from your online resume that you are doing an MA program in Illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Tell us how awesome that is.
I am actually done now. It’s an amazing feeling that I managed to complete a Masters program in New York. The program had some really good classes and I was able to take a lot with me from them. And besides being challenged by teachers, it was just really amazing to study in one of the greatest cities on earth. NY is very inspiring, artistically and simply to live an exciting life.
You were born in Austria so living in New York is a big difference. What part of living in New York were you not prepared for?
NY can be very overwhelming. It can swallow you up if you don’t distance yourself from the noise, the masses of people, the dirt and the stinkiness in the summer and the crazy traffic. As an artist from a country with a fairly small comic and illustration scene, I was also overwhelmed with the mass of competition I was suddenly confronted with, countless fantastic artists live here and I was very insecure that I would stay unnoticed forever here .
Apart from education, what is keeping you busy at the moment?
Well, I just managed to finish everything educational (hurray) so I finally have time for new things. I am currently cooperating with another artist and a writer friend, to realize a big fantasy-crime-comedy comic. Since I tend to make comics very long and cinematic, it’s gonna take us a while. Besides that, I work on more shirts, try to break into the children’s book and licensing market and try to satisfy my urge to game from time to time (video games as well as pen and paper RPGs).
How did you feel when you received the Fulbright scholarship?
I felt very honored: It was a lot of work to apply for it and I was glad it paid off. I was also a bit insecure about it, because I had just started building a life as a freelance illustrator in Austria. Change is scary, especially when you leave all friends and family. In the end, it totally paid off and with the help of Fulbright I was able to not make any debts while studying here. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to continue his/her education in another country.
— ABOUT THE ARTIST —
Many people know you from your t-shirt designs on Threadless, Design by Humans and J!NX but it didn’t take me long to discover that you have also done bigger things including writing and illustrating a graphic novel, contributing illustrations to various publications, collaborating on many projects including animation and more. (The list could go on but I don’t want to run out of ink). What percentage of your time to you devote to t-shirt design?
Since I started to submit at Threadless and other community shirt pages about one and a half years ago I have devoted a lot of time to shirts. Once they started to pay my bills, I knew it was worth it. I have decided to devote about one day a week to shirts, sometimes more, sometimes less. My concepts have gotten a bit stronger and more precise, so I do less shirts now, but they score better than they used to.
What do you enjoy most about being a artist?
One of my favorite aspects of being an artist is that I can tell the stories I want to tell. As a more narrative, sequential illustrator, I can tell all those stories that I would like to read/see myself. This is an amazing feeling, and even though it is a lot of work (especially a comic), it satisfies me deeply. It took me a while to get that – turning the frustration about reoccurring clichés and bad character development in movies, books, comics or whatever into creativity towards my own narratives is an amazing power. Another great aspect is to get good reactions and inspire other people, make them ponder about your picture and get good feedback.
If you weren’t an artist what would you do with your time?
I would have maybe tried to become an actress, and I have acted in amateur plays, but I was always too insecure to become a professional. Besides that I was never a fan of Austrian theater, it’s mostly depressing. I was in a great play here in NY written by friends which really brought back my love for silly acting. I played 7 different extras in that show, 5 of whom died. Great stuff. Besides the actress thing, I would have probably tried to follow a romantic profession such as defender of the innocent, ninja or pirate lady. Time traveler would also be nice.
I read somewhere that “The Friendly Spirit” was inspired by Tonari no Totoro. Ninja’s also seem to a common feature in your t-shirt art. Would you say your illustrations are heavily influenced by Japanese culture?
Hm, maybe not heavily, but a good junk of inspiration comes from there yes. Especially Japanese animation is a great source for amazing character designs, great backgrounds and fantastic stories. No other culture in the world dedicates so many resources to an art form that is mostly ignored in other countries. Another cultural element I value is the typical Japanese “kimo kawai” character – meaning “ugly, but cute”.
Where else do you usually get your inspiration?
I have a lot of sources. I like to cut of junks of inspirations from countless different aspects of life. Artistically, I love classic art, especially romantic art. Comic wise, I am equally inspired by the French (Trondheim, Moebius), the US (more on a story-telling level: Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison (I know he is Scottish) and Garth Ennis (British as well)) and Japanese comic scene (I don’t have real role models there, but I adore some of the style elements they use). I also buy almost every concept art book that is published – it’s probably my favorite kind of illustration at the moment because it is usually very cinematic. Another source of inspirations are classic point-and-click adventures. When I played them first when I was 13 (Day of the Tentacle was the first) I always adored the cartoony backgrounds with all those layers of depth (a similar style used in traditional animation backgrounds). I also get a lot of inspirations by any narrative-based medium, movies, TV shows, computer games, books, theater but especially pen and paper role-playing games. And last but not least, other illustrators of course, famous and successful ones as well as some who are just on the rise. I learned at a lot by looking at illustrators on various internet platforms, illustration blogs, shirt sites or some of my illustrator friends.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
For the execution of my work, I prefer beginning with clean line art with traditional media (mostly fine-liners), later adding color digitally. Most of the time, this line art is based on a very rough scribble or thumbnail sketch. During the drawing time, I like to surround myself with books of my favorite art that is particularly interesting for what I’m working on at the moment. On the computer, I like to work with flat surfaces of color, sharp-edged shadows and lighting as well as colored outlines which support the feeling of traditional animation – all of the coloring work is done in Photoshop.
— ABOUT THE TEES —
Do you remember your first t-shirt contest win? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
The first contest win was “A Day in the Life”, it scored really well and got good feedback. But it took them about two weeks to reply so I didn’t even expect it anymore. When the e-mail came it was magical. I had been waiting for this for 1 year and when it was finally there it was exactly as awesome as I imagined it would be. It also meant that my financial situation would get a bit easier, but it also motivated me to make more and more designs with more fun and less pressure.
Which of your t-shirts is your favorite?
It’s probably the first one that got printed, “A Day in the Life”, along with the second one “Ninja Kick Ass Clash”
Do you wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
Yes I do, but mainly the black ones. I got a lot of white designs printed at Threadless lately, which is great, but also sucks because white shirts look weird on me.
Have you seen somebody wearing your tee in the real world?
Yes, at the Dr. Who signing I saw someone (besides my friend) wearing the Who shirt I made for Woot. Besides that, only friends, but that’s awesome as well. I am waiting for this magical moment when one of my shirts appears in a TV show or movie hahaha.
— ABOUT THE WORLD —
Do you have any role models?
Well, most of the people I mentioned in the question about my influence are also role models for me. Especially other illustrators who I know serve as role models for me, in terms of how to build your career and deal with other people.
Where would you like to live, after New York and why?
I will go back to Graz Austria for a while and then I’d like to come back to New York. It is a new home base for me now.
How many languages do you speak?
German and English and very very bad French. I can also say 4-5 words in Japanese which I learned from watching Anime.
— ABOUT OTHER DESIGNERS —
Which tee designer do you admire the most?
The most influential tee designers for me are Alex Solis for his exquisite illustration style, iloovedoodle for his amazing concepts and ideas, murraymullet for the originality and experimental of his stuff, FRICKINAWESOME for being a great community member and concept creator, randyotter for really nice, crazy characters – and many other designers. I wouldn’t be anywhere without all of those great designers as inspirational source.
Who would you like to see featured on the Shirt List next?
Any of the people mentioned above or a complete newcomer, like my friend Becky who is trying to break into the shirt business right now.
— ABOUT TEE DESIGN —
Any advice for other designers/artists?
For shirts: Keep on trying and trying and trying! I submitted almost 30 designs before my first one was printed. Persistence and the will to learn and accept critique by others is vital. Open your mind for new concepts, but don’t leave your own style and love for certain topics – don’t bend to the Star Wars theme just because it might sell well. Study other people’s art. Read articles. Deal with the industry.
— BONUS —
Could you say something controversial to shock the readers?
My hovercraft is full of eels!!!!