Interview with Diarmuid O Cathain

This interview with Diarmuid O Cathain (aka Dirmface) is the first interview of a fellow Irishman on the Shirt List. Yeah! Diarmuid lives and works at home with only his dog and his anglepoise lamp to keep him company ever since he left his safe job as a graphic designer to enter the exciting world of freelancing. He is quite an enigmatic figure who was able to commit to doodling every day while still being too lazy to use the alt key on his keyboard. (Side note: Actually he didn’t technically keep up his doodle-a-day project but it would be rude to mention that here.)

‘Soup it in’ was coined late one night in a kebab shop after one too many beers back in the college days.

He recently scored his first print on Threadless with the autobiographical How Big Foot Staves Off Boredom. Just picture Big Foot as an Irishman living in a rustic two-room apartment in Dublin with his faithful mutt, playing the original Wii Sports to stop from going crazy out of idleness and … I’ve forgotten where I was going with this. Screw it. I’ll try it from another angle.

Diarmuid is an extremely talented artist who clearly loves what he does. Let’s hope that he gets enough time to submit more of his artwork to t-shirt design contests. He does have some time on his hands though and luckily for us, he spent some of it answering my ofttimes ridiculous questions. (Thank you!) Read on.


Hi, Diarmuid. Welcome to the Shirt List Show. Take a seat… you’re already sitting down aren’t you… unless of course, you are reading this on a smartphone. Then you could be standing up. Anyway… So, first of all, let’s get your name cleared up. Can you give a phonetic version for the unschooled? (My friend, another Diarmuid, from about 10 years ago has insisted on his name being pronounced Jeermid. Good luck with that in Montreal. How about you?)
Phonetically my name would be pronounced Deermid, I guess. Closest I can get it.

O Cathain. No fadas? No apostrophes? Or just for internet efficiency?
My second name is pronounced ‘O Coh-hawn’. And it actually has two fadas. It’s Ó Catháin. Not sure if it’s internet efficiency or my own laziness that the fadas are absent. Sometimes I just plain forget to type them. You do have to hold down ‘alt’ with the desired letter to get a fada. So much extra effort.

Diarmuid does Rube Goldberg
Diarmuid does Rube Goldberg: This is actually how he wakes up every morning!

On Threadless, you use the name Dirmface and elsewhere soupitin. Can you explain yourself? Or the names anyway?
Well, my friends call me Dirm. The face part was tacked on for no reason in particular. The name needed a little more substance. To ‘soup something in’ is to consume with vigour. ‘Soup it in’ was coined late one night in a kebab shop after one too many beers back in the college days. God knows why I chose that as a domain name back then, but here we are.

So you are Irish born and bred, I assume, you have a traditional Irish name and you live in Ireland. Do you also speak Irish?
I was born and bred here in Dublin Ireland. I couldn’t be mistaken for any other nationality. Probably related to the high kings of Ireland, to be honest. Swaddled in a potato sack, fed on shamrocks and Guinness. My beard grows in an electric red so that is a sure indicator of my heritage. I’m a fluent Irish speaker also.

Which Irish stereotype do you fit into the most? Check all that apply (I checked them all):

  • can drink like a fish
  • fight like Mike Tyson
  • write poetry like Byron
  • sing like Roy Orbison
  • dance like the devil (in the pale moonlight)
  • f#%k like Don Juan
  • eat potatoes
  • talk with your mouth open
  • sleep with your eyes closed
  • love your mammy.

(I don’t know how to get the checkboxes to work in Word so you can skip this one. Everybody will assume you checked them all anyway. That’s how stereotypes work.)

The Genes that Make and Man Irish
Diarmuid considers some alternate Irish stereotypes in this art for the Irish Times newspaper

What are you up to these days?
I am living and working in Dublin as a freelance Illustrator. Trying to make my way in the big bad world!

Might not be many jobs here at the moment but it’s a great time to buy a house. How’s your employment situation? Any worries?

The dog isn’t the best conversationalist.

Commissions are up and down. I’ve been freelance for two years. Working as a Graphic Designer before that. I’ve been very fortunate to have a steady flow of work since going it alone. Not that much stuff on at the moment, that said. Might just be a new year thing. It gives me a chance to work on personal projects etc, which is nice. It’s important for me to keep myself busy. I work from home so it’s a constant battle not to sleep in or play computer games. Every now and then sure. That’s the beauty of being one’s own boss. My Christmas party was a little slow, to be honest. The dog isn’t the best conversationalist.

KNORR SOUP Campaign concerning the horrors of the midday slump!
Diarmuid’s Illustrations for a Knorr Soup Campaign


When did you start creating art?
I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. Raised on a healthy dose of cartoons and comics. I would draw from morning to night at some stages when I was a kid. My school copybooks filled with doodles in the margins and all that.

Is everyone in your family artistic?
Yea, well my two brothers and my sister all drew a lot as kids. We all did art through school etc also. I was the only one brave/stupid enough to run with it as a career choice. Oddly enough my parents can barely draw a straight line. Must have skipped a generation or something.

Sony Cybershot Promotional Stand
Diarmuid O Cathain created this to promote a new Cybershot Camera

Do you get to use your artistic talent every day at work? (If you mentioned above that you are currently between jobs you can curse me out like the heartless bastard I am.)
Curse you ye bastard!

What’s your favorite medium?
I love the vector. Adobe illustrator is my best friend. Everything I do still starts life on paper of course. But it usually gets fed into the computer then and brought to life through the wonders of technology. I am experimenting more with paints and other mediums as I would like to bring more texture and variety to my work.

Diarmuid starts his day with coffee and doodles

I love the Doodle-a-Day project. I see a lot of visual puns. Where do you get most of your inspiration?
Yea, Doodle a Day was started when I first went freelance. It was an exercise to get me going every morning. Forced the creative juices to start flowing. Ideas would just pop up a lot of the time. To be honest there are a lot of obvious plays on words etc but the odd time I’d get one that I really liked. Some days I would find myself struggling to come up with anything. Would just start looking at stuff on my desk desperately for inspiration. Hence, the many doodles concerning anglepoise lamps, tea, and staplers.


Well, there is only one tee at the moment and that is How Bigfoot Staves Off Boredom. How did you feel when you got the email from Threadless telling you that your design would be used?
I couldn’t believe it to be honest. It’s always been a small dream of mine to get printed up there. I can tick that off my list of to do’s now and hopefully build upon it with a few more prints.

How Bigfoot Staves Off Boredom T-Shirt
How Bigfoot Staves Off Boredom: $20 at Threadless

Where did the idea for this particular design come from?

I studied under the great master Pierre Le Pompernickel. Mainly drawing nudes.

The idea for the Bigfoot tee came from being bored myself. When you work at home you tend to get bored very easily. No watercooler gossip. A bit of guitar, some computer games, maybe head outside to shout at clouds. So that idea then progressed into me wondering what other solitary creatures would do to stave off their own boredom. And who more solitary than the mysteriously out-of-focus fiend, Bigfoot. Paddleboard seemed like the right fit for him.

Do you have the t-shirt yet and are you wearing it every day?
I got the t-shirt in the post a few weeks ago. I have been wearing it ever since. Don’t even take it off in the shower. It has my name printed on the collar and all. Pretty nifty.

Are you going to do anything in particular with the cash?
I am going to pay rent and eat food and drink beer with the money. Boring right?

The Horrors of Queueing
The Horrors of Queueing: this should be on a t-shirt! (Click to see more!)

When did you first hear of Threadless and t-shirt design contest sites and what made you decide to enter?
I’m not sure exactly where I first heard of Threadless but I remember knowing about it in college and really wanting to enter/win.

Have you entered any other contests, t-shirt or otherwise?

It was brown and triangular, kinda like a Toblerone.

Threadless is the only T-shirt competition I have entered designs into so far. I won a few other things over the years. I won my first art competition at the tender age of 4. There was a choice of prizes. I picked out a one man tent. It was brown and triangular, kinda like a Toblerone.

I see you currently have another design in the running at Threadless, Clay People Shooting. Do you plan on making regular submissions?
I think I will keep posting submission on a semi-regular basis anyway. Hopefully, I’ll get lucky again!


I see you went to Paris to practice life drawing. Can you tell us a little about that?
I did? News to me. Actually, let’s run with that. Makes me sound more sophisticated. I studied under the great master Pierre Le Pompernickel. Mainly drawing nudes.

Sketches from South East Asia
Sketches from South East Asia: Diarmuid’s impressions

Have you had other similar excursions?
Ehm, not really. Well apart from college trips to Morroco and Lisbon. I usually try drawing whenever I go on holiday anyway. I went to Thailand/Vietnam for two months over last summer where I drew a lot. So much weird and wonderful stuff going on everywhere. Lots of inspiration.

Have you ever lived overseas? Would you like to? If so where?
I have never lived outside of Ireland. Not yet anyway. Something I definitely plan on doing in the not too distant future. Would love to spend a year or two in Canada. Was in Toronto on holiday a few years back and loved it.

Party Trick
Party Trick: This is just gas!


Are there any t-shirt designers that caught your eye?
There are so many great t-shirt designers on Threadless alone. Andy Gonsalves‘ stuff is amazing. Great ideas and great illustration style to match.

Any you would like to know more about (perhaps we can convince them to do an interview on the Shirt List?)
Well, if you could convince the above to do an interview I’d definitely give it a read.


What design trends have made you go WTF?
I LMFAO and say FFS at any LOL’able trends.

Any advice for other designers/artists?
Learn to live on pot noodles and drink the cheapest beer in the off-licence and you’ll be grand.


Guinness or Murphys?
Guinness. But I’m more of a beer man, to be honest.

Tayto or King?
Tayto all the way. Can’t beat a Tayto sandwich.

The Late Late Show or the Saturday Night Show?
Neither, please. Late Late Toy Show actually, once a year before Christmas.

John or Edward?
That sort of question isn’t good for my blood pressure.

  • Guinness and Murphy’s are popular Irish stouts. Guinness is the best but unlike the Murphy’s it is bitter. If you ask for a pint in a pub in Ireland without specifying which beer expect to be served Guinness.
  • Tayto and King are popular crisps (potato chips) sold in Ireland. If someone asks you to get them some Tayto they probably mean the Cheese and Onion flavour.
  • The Late Late Show is a fairly dry TV talk show and the longest running talk show in the world. The Saturday Night Show is the national broadcaster, RTE’s attempt at replicating American talk shows like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Show with David Letterman. They are both hosted by gobshites.
  • John and Edward are the names of the identical twins who form the popular Irish boy-band group, Jedward,  made famous by participating in the X-Factor. The are the candy-floss (cotton-candy) of the Irish pop scene.

Website: Soup It In
Website: Doodle a day
Twitter: @DiarmDraws

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