Phil Jones. What can I say about him. Well, quite a bit really but for the most part I will let him speak for himself. I mean, that’s what interviews are all about and that’s what this is. Well, this is an introduction to an interview. Not a very good one but that’s how I roll! Yeah, that phrase hasn’t totally played out. Well, maybe now it has. Anyway…about Phil. They call him murraymullet and he explains why below.
What can I say really? The man has talent. Phil credits some of his creativity to not having a smartphone but I call bullshit on that because if he had one he would either be creating art with it or he would be using it as a source of inspiration. I mean Peanuts characters from hand-painted peanuts, Mr. T from arranged t-shirts and the Jesus from Cheez Whiz. Jesus! The guy inspires spandex clad dudes to post dubstep dance videos on YouTube for God’s sake! Just read the Phil Jones interview below.
— ABOUT THE MAN —
So your name is Murray Mullet but you often go by the alias Phil Jones. The usernames people come up with on the internet always amaze me and Phil Jones is particularly strange in its normalcy. Where did that come from?
Phil Jones came from my parents. I think some kid down the street had the same name. I imagine that kid is pretty damn cool. Murraymullet is a combination of my alma mater Murray State and my love for Mullets. There is also a deep fondness for mullets at Murray State.
“After my two-year stint at Mindsalt, I packed up for my now wife, moved to Charlotte, and began working for Wray Ward.”
After reading this sentence on your website I have a few questions.
● The first one of course is: is Charlotte your wife?
Charlotte is a city in North Carolina. My wife is not Charlotte.
● Or did you leave your wife for Charlotte?
I moved to Charlotte to be closer to my wife who was living in North Carolina.
● Or is it some strange mid-western polygamy-is-acceptable-type-thing?
I am only a transplant to the mid-west so I am not completely familiar with their polygamy bi-laws.
● Can’t your wife do her own packing or are you just whipped?
I am happily whipped if that is what you want to call it.
● Is Wray Ward any relation to veteran character actor and winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Chicago International Film Festival in 1997, Fred Ward?
Maybe but probably just someones last name from many years ago.
In Japan they usually refer to KFC as Kentucky. So when you hear Japanese people say they are going to Kentucky they are probably referring to the Colonel Sanders fast food joint rather than your home state. How does that make you feel?
I don’t eat at KFC but I know that many do. I don’t mind that they call it Kentucky but you might be a whole lot healthier if you visit the state rather than the restaurant.
This may be a silly question (and maybe not the last one I will ask) but do you actually have KFC in Kentucky? If so, is it a source of pride? If not, I have no further questions on the matter.
That is like asking if there is a Starbucks in Seattle. To some I am sure it is a source of pride but to others I am sure it is the exact opposite.
Did you move to Minneapolis to get away from the smell of fried chicken or to get closer to Prince? It was surely not for the weather and I can’t think of any other possible reasons.
Moved to Minneapolis because the culture is incredible. In the first year I got to work on some of the biggest brands in the world. Minneapolis offered so much access to arts and culture that you just couldn’t find in Kentucky or North Carolina.
I was a big Prince fan for a while. (I’ve lost a of weight since then. It was hard work but thanks to Jenny Craig I can now look at myself in my mirror. But that’s another story.) (Side note: Jenny, thanks for returning my mirror!) I love his earlier stuff. Have you met Prince? Been to his club?
Haven’t met Prince but been to his club. I am a fan of Prince as well.
Have you given up on Twitter?
Not yet. It would be easier if I had more time.
Apart from creating some of the most inventive and interesting artwork I have ever seen, what do you like to do in your free time?
I like to bike and check out live music.
— ABOUT THE ARTIST —
You create these splendid pieces for Threadless, shirt.woot!, TeeFury and possibly more that I don’t know about. What percentage of your non-work creative time do you spend on designing t-shirts?
I spend a majority of my time crafting ideas. If the idea feels right for a shirt then it goes on a shirt. If it feels right for a flier then it goes on a flier. I tend to jump from medium to medium and really let the concept push the execution.
You’re an art director. So I am guessing that entails the occasional doodle. What are the differences in creating art for work and art for t-shirts?
Art Direction requires many different skills. You must not only answer the issues at hand creatively but you have to bring them to life. That could require you to be a writer, director, photographer, illustration, etc. Sitting down to create a t-shirt requires an idea and an execution. Two very different approaches especially when you are your own client.
What’s your favorite medium?
Anything that I haven’t worked with yet. Nothing is more exciting then working with a medium I haven’t tried yet.
I have a feeling you could create art from almost anything. So imagine you are at home. No electricity ie. no computer. Some art supply perv has stolen all your pens, pencils, paints, crayons, Play-Doh, paper (except toilet paper, he’s not that weird) and err..(probably should have put the and before paper) emmmm… protractor sets. And you just really need to get your art fix on. What would you use? What would you make?
I am pretty sure I could walk around the house and gather up random things from the tool box to the kitchen cabinets. Nobody could really prevent me from creating things.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I am always finding new things that inspire me. I don’t own a smart phone so I have nothing to stare at while I am walking around or on a bus so I just constantly jot things down in my little book. I love awkward conversations and bad jokes.
I love those fliers you do. You know, the missing or wanted fliers posted on your lamp-post/telephone pole/incredibly straight tree. I showed one to my mum (that’s mom in American English) last night. I don’t think she got it but it still made her laugh. When and why did you start doing those?
Thank you. I started creating fliers when I noticed I was spending too much time indoors not interacting with people. Most day-to-day work never sees the light of day. If it does it tends to take years to be produced and then by then I have moved so far on that I forget what I was even thinking when I created it. The posters were instantaneous. I would have an idea, draw it and hang it within hours. It was very refreshing to have such great reception to something that was so organic.
Could you describe your typical design process for t-shirts from concept to completion?
I usually have one item or interaction that I focus on. Basically it is a puzzle in my head to find out what the best or funniest pieces are needed to complete this interaction. Once I have the problem solved I usually draw out my initial thoughts with any available pen/pencil on any available piece of paper. If I like the sketch I will then scan it and take it into Photoshop where I will ink and color. This isn’t always my process as I have been known to do many other styles and executions but for most all my illustrative pieces that is my typical process.
— 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 I won was Threadless’ 10th Anniversary Contest. It was their biggest prize ever so it felt pretty amazing. I created a shirt with hand painted peanuts alongside my other entries of folded t-shirts and easy cheese. I pulled out all the stops but it definitely paid off.
2010 saw you become Artist of the Year on Threadless. Were you disappointed that you weren’t crowned Artist of the Century or are you satisfied for the time being?
I am more disappointed that I hadn’t heard of Artist of the Century. I was extremely honored to be named 2010 Artist of the Year. Threadless is an incredible community of artists, many of which I very much look up to. I was just amazing the be considered at the top of such an amazing pack of designers and artists. It is definitely an honor that I don’t take lightly.
You collaborated with Phil Tseng on Piet’s Playground (one of my favorites). How did it come about? What was the process?
I am good friends with Phil. Being one of my favorite artists I had to ask him about a concept I was playing with. I thought it would be perfect in his style so I asked him if he wanted to work with me on it. He pretty much took it over and with a little feedback from me he knocked it out of the park.
What’s your favorite of the t-shirts you designed?
Honestly I really love little things about all the shirts I have created. One of my favorites might have to be WAKE. It was such a simple idea that I sat on it for months afraid to even submit it. It flew through the internet and became one of the highest scoring designs ever on Threadless. I was unaware of how new it might be but looking back it is one of the few designs that I would change nothing about. I really do still love looking at it.
Do you or your wife (please still be married) wear any of your own designs?
I tend to wear more designs by other artists but from time to time I do wear my own work. My wife will also wear my stuff from time to time. She is a very big supporter.
Have you seen somebody wearing one of your tees in the real world?
Sadly I haven’t seen anyone wearing my work in the wild. I have seen plenty of my friends wearing my work but that is only because I gave it to them and they probably feel they have to. I am looking forward to really creeping out the first person I see wearing my work in the wild.
— ABOUT THE WORLD —
Do you have any role models?
My role model is Mister Rogers. I want to be more like him.
I know you have lived in the mullet capital of Kentucky, Murray and that you now live next door to Prince in Minneapolis. Have you lived anywhere else? Would you like to?
I haven’t found any place better suited for me than Minneapolis at the moment. I did fall in love with Vienna, Austria this summer so if I was ever to move somewhere I would love to live there if just for a little while.
If you had to work overseas for a year, in a country of your choosing, where would you go?
Well I have to say that Vienna, Austria is the first place I could see myself. I think I could also enjoy Amsterdam and Paris. I haven’t traveled nearly enough but I love Europe and their passion for life and design.
— ABOUT OTHER DESIGNERS —
Which tee designer(s) do you admire the most?
I have lots of artists I admire people like Brock Davis, Glenn Jones, Andy Gonsalves, Marc Johns, Gemma Correll, Alex Solis, and the list just goes on and on. I have been lucky enough to work with just about everyone that I looked up to when I first started out. Now I just admire their minds and talents. I feel lucky to be able to call so many talented people my friends.
Who would you like to see featured on the Shirt List next?
— ABOUT TEE DESIGN —
What design trends have made you go WTF?
I have never really understood the photographs with the box edges.
Any advice for other designers/artists?
Draw and create everyday. Even if you hate it you will learn from it. Stay off design blogs and keep your heads out of design annuals. They make seasoned pros doubt themselves so it will do nothing to make you feel better. Just create and get feedback.
— EXTRA —
Tell us a little about the Stampler. Where did that idea come from and how did it get from concept to product?
I have turned much of my sites to product design and development. The Stampler was an idea I had a long time ago now to combine a stapler with a stamp. I created a mockup of what it would look like and pitched it along with about 100 other ideas to random places. SuckUK out of London loved the idea and helped me develop it. They are now distributing it worldwide.
Any other cool gadgets or projects on the horizon?
I have many new gadgets and projects on the horizon. I have new patents in the works and will be creating more and more products as the years go on. It is a new hobby/passion of mine.