Dale Edwin Murray, that’s what the DEM stands for but you probably figured that out by now. Orphaned at the age of two, he spent his young life being passed from doting foster-father to doting foster-mother until he finally decided he couldn’t take the middle-class cuisine and the first-class education anymore. He struck out on his own at the tender age of age 27 with nothing in his pocket but a £500,000 cheque he had inherited from an uncle on his mother’s side. After losing all his money in a high-stakes game of bingo and realizing he couldn’t quickly overcome his crippling dyslexia, he gave up his dream of being a professional gambler. (His foster parents were also forced to reduce his weekly allowance due to the recession).
Totally broke, he had no other option but to pawn the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren his foster parents had given him for almost graduating university and renting a luxury apartment in one of the cheaper buildings of London’s West End. There he eked out a living as a Calvin Klein underwear model until he found his true calling as a rodeo clown. It was a decision he might yet come to regret and not one that was made lightly, but a fear for his well-being and dislike of gaudy costumes, made him turn his back on that life and focus his attention on art and design. Despite his disdain for the industry he battles through life doodling for others while dreaming of the day when it will be acceptable for rodeo clowns to wear GAP cargo pants and J. Crew button downs while distracting ferocious bulls from behind a safety barrier.
Disclaimer: a lot of the preceding text may me false as the interviewer didn’t really do his job properly and had to make up a back-story on the fly. Dale Edwin Murray is a popular artist/designer whose work can be seen on t-shirt websites such as Threadless, A Better Tomorrow, shirt.woot! and, more recently, Goodfibres. His designs have also made an appearance in Japan’s t-shirt powerhouse, Graniph. Two years ago his attention was focused on t-shirt design and he was quite successful. He even has his own store, BananasTees.com (20% off with friend20). But these days he has mostly moved on from tees and creates art for organizations such as Wired (my favorite magazine), Google (me loves me some Google too) and Toyota. His work is everywhere and you have probably seen it without knowing. When he is not sitting at his Mac he is either playing the drums or planning a bank job. He is a very busy man and we are lucky that he gave up his YouTube breaks to answer a few questions. Please read on and yes, there will be a quiz when you are finished, so pay attention.
— ABOUT THE MAN —
Dale. Edwin. Murray. Most people have usernames, you know, an AKA for when they submit to t-shirt design contest but not you. You just go by your real name and as if just to rub everybody’s noses in it, you use your middle name as well. Well, Dale Edwin Murray, why is that?
Ha ha! I always hated my middle name when I was a kid, but as I got older I grew to like it. When I was starting off as a freelance illustrator someone had already registered the URL www.dalemurray.com but www.daleedwinmurray.com was available – so I decided to go the whole hog and use the whole lot. Now people are often not really sure what my name is – Dale? Dale Edwin? Someone even thought it was Daleed Win Murray. I wish my middle name was Win – that would be awesome!
I read somewhere that you were based in East London. Do you ever get so elephants that you use the dog and bone to get a flounder and dab home? (I’m sorry.)*
I have no idea what the rest of your question meant.
Yeah until recently I was based in Spitalfields – I’m temporarily out of London at the moment and looking for somewhere to move back. I have no idea what the rest of your question meant.
Were you born and raised in London or did you move there later?
I was born and raised in the Midlands and moved to London in 2000.
How do you like living in London? Do you take advantage of all it has to offer, like the museums, musicals, architecture, shopping etc.?
Living in London is amazing – I’m really looking forward to getting back there. I probably haven’t taken advantage of everything the city has to offer yet, but it’s always great to know that it’s right on your doorstep.
What do you usually do in your free time? What are your other interests apart from art and design?
To be honest, even if I’m not actually working on an illustration, I’m usually thinking about the next one I haven’t started yet. But, when I do manage to switch off I love listening to music, watching movies, reading and playing the drums.
— ABOUT THE ARTIST —
You have had your designs printed by too many companies to mention and on top of that you have your own t-shirt store called Banana’s Tees. What percentage of your working time is spent designing t-shirts?
I used to do a lot more t-shirt graphics – that was actually how I got started in illustration. I don’t really do any tee graphics anymore – every now and then I have an idea for one and jot it down, but I haven’t done anything with them yet.
What other design work do you do?
Right now I’m concentrating on editorial illustration as well as work for advertising and design companies. My dream job for 2012 would be a book cover. I also love doing art prints. I have just started an ongoing series of Hip Hop caricatures called Hip Hop Heads which have been really popular https://www.hiphopheadprints.com
What is your favorite medium?
I have to say that I love working digitally. I used to do all of my sketchings with a pencil and paper but now find that I work much better by jumping straight on my Mac and working through ideas on the screen. It is also a much faster way of working which really helps when you get a short deadline from a client.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
For me, there is nothing better than drawing for a living! I love the process of thinking of a concept and then articulating it in the most stylish way possible. Working with lots of different clients is great fun because every day brings something different.
I would probably spend it reading and planning a bank heist.
If you weren’t an artist what would you do with your time?
I would probably spend it reading and planning a bank heist.
You have a very distinct style. How did it come about?
I don’t know really. I’ve gone through a few different styles before getting to where I am now. I’m really inspired by the mid-century aesthetic and the quirks of hand printing techniques – I try and take these influences and add a modern twist.
Where do you usually get your inspiration?
Inspiration can come from anywhere – music, movies, photographs. I also get inspired by the work of other illustrators.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
The first thing I do is a spider diagram of words associated with the subject that I am illustrating. Out of this, I work on some concepts by doing some really, really rough sketching in my sketchbook. I go straight to my Mac and brainstorm the idea on the screen. I usually run through a couple of different routes before deciding on one and completing it.
— ABOUT THE TEES —
Do you remember your first t-shirt contest win? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
My first t-shirt win was Squeeze on Threadless. I remember being super excited because it is such a competitive site with so many talented artists. That first win was a real seal of approval for me and gave me the confidence to strive for a career as a freelance illustrator.
Music Business Remastered is probably the design that I associate with you the most and I have a feeling it is destined to become a Threadless classic but probably my favorite of your tees is When Chameleons Go Wrong at A Better Tomorrow. How about you? Do you have a favorite?
I would probably say that Music Business Remastered is my favourite. It was the first design I felt I had nailed conceptually and stylistically. It is also always a favourite graphic with clients.
Do you or your wife (I believe you are married) wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
I never wear t-shirts at all, and I have just got divorced from my wife – so the least said about that the better!
Have you seen somebody wearing one of your tees in the real world?
I have seen a couple of people wearing my Music Business Remastered tee. I had just bought a pint at a gig when I first saw the first one. I was so shocked that I dropped my pint and had to go back to the bar!
Your designs recently popped up on my radar again with the launch of ethical t-shirt brand Goodfibres (interview coming soon). How did that come about?
Jon from Goodfibres emailed me out of the blue and asked if I’d like to get involved. I actually swing by his office and had a long chat with him. I get lot’s of competition companies asking me to submit designs but I rarely do – but Jon’s company was so professional and clued up that I decided it would be a good move.
— ABOUT THE WORLD —
Do you have any role models?
I don’t really have role models – I just try and focus on what I’m doing.
Have you lived somewhere else, besides England, and/or would you like to?
I’ve never lived outside the UK. I would love to live in Holland or Germany for a while.
What is the most exotic location you have been to?
I would probably say Arizona – the perfect mixture of cactuses, mountains, and golf courses.
— ABOUT OTHER DESIGNERS —
Which tee designer(s) do you admire the most?
I really love Geoff McFetridge – for me, he is the master of simplicity and concept.
Who would you like to see featured on the Shirt List next?
A chap called Anthony Peters who goes by the name of Imeus
— ABOUT TEE DESIGN —
What design trends have made you go WTF?
The huge type tee got pretty tired pretty quickly.
Any advice for other designers/artists?
Keep believing in yourself and stick to your own style even if it isn’t ‘fashionable’
— EXTRA —
What’s your favorite Premier League team?
Blair or Thatcher?
*Some cockney the interviewer researched on the interwebs but he has also forgotten what it means.