Jorge Garza is a tenor, a painter, and popular t-shirt artist. Perhaps I should have said “are” instead of “is” because I’m actually talking about 3 different individuals who all happen to be talented artists with the same name. Today we will be talking about and to the popular t-shirt artist who also goes by the name Qetza. This is a site about t-shirts.
Qetza is a comic book nerd with an owl-fetish who when choosing his nickname showed a total disregard for standard spelling conventions. I approve. Oh yeah, and the beauty and detail of his art are mind-blowing.
Jorge Garza has had his art printed on t-shirts by Design by Humans, Threadless, Shirt.Woot! and more. In the t-shirt world, he is known as Qetza and he was kind enough to answer a few qestions for us here. If there are some qestions you wished I had asked please feel free to qiz Qetza in the qomments seqtion below. Read on!
About the Man
A quick Google of Jorge Garza can be a bit confusing. Apparently, there is a critically acclaimed tenor and a well-known painter with the same name. Has it been difficult competing with your namesakes for Google ranking?
A little, it’s been like that from the get-go though, so I work around it. If you type something specific after my name like “t-shirt” or “owl” I show up ok. I use the name “Qetza” and will chime in once in a while with “Btw my real name is Jorge Garza”.
Is that why you chose the unique nickname Qetza?
Yeah, It took me a little while to get used to, ha, ha but I’m cool with Qetza.
Where did Qetza come from and why is there no “u” after the “Q”?
It’s short for “Quetzalcoatl” of Aztec (Mexica) mythology. I’ve been into Meso-American art for a while now and never had a cool nickname, so I made a short list and went with it. It needed a little distinction as well (thus the spelling). Plus it was available as a website, so it all worked out.
According to Twitter, you are based in Indiana. Born and raised?
Yes indeed; corn and raised.
Have you ever lived anywhere else?
No, although I have lived in a couple of different parts of the state.
The extreme detail in your art seems like it might be very time-consuming. Do you have any free time and if so what do you like to do?
It can be, but if I’m working on something with a lot of detail I’ll take breaks. Free time depends… I may have a few brews, listen to music or podcasts. I may do that too when I’m drawing (except the drinking). I can’t drink and draw.
Do you work full-time in art and design?
About the Artist
When did you start creating art?
Not sure when exactly, I was creative at a young age and drawing was one part of it. Interests like comics and history helped fuel that. I remember also being into making things with my hands and liked clay and plaster of paris. I think some of that was the mess, bright colors of the paint and being fascinated by the process.
Apart from t-shirts, are you involved in other art/design projects?
Right now it’s all freelance and shirt designs. I have some personal projects in the works too, but it’s early on those.
As I mentioned above, your art is very detailed. Was it always like this?
No, but it’s the kind of stuff I’ve always gravitated towards for sure, especially pen and ink. There’s something about a black and white illustration in pen and ink that captures my attention and if it’s done well, blows my mind. I’ll just sit and stare into all the positive and negative spaces taking in all of the drawing and skill with my jaw on the floor.
I look at work from artists like Aaron Horkey, Vania Zouravliov, or even classic Bernie Wrightson (Frankenstein) and think, “Now this is it!” There’s a level of craftsmanship that is inspirational and definitely makes me want to push my art more. And while there’s a big part of me that has always viewed versatility as an important part of being an artist (in a commercial sense), I do see the benefits of a consistent style and try to bring a better cohesion to my detailed work. It is a challenge though because, on one hand, I love to experiment and on the other that versatility has come in handy.
Were you influenced by any particular artist or style?
Tons – Mainstream comic book art (When I was a kid I devoured comic art and wanted to learn about as many artist styles as I could (I’m familiar with many artists from Winsor McKay up through the Image guys and just a little beyond them. Ha, ha, I recently started getting into comics again and am completely lost), pen and ink illustrators, art history (19th century thru early 20th) and ancient cultural art (Anything mesoamerican and related, native American, Incan etc). There’s a lot of new artists too that are incredible. I find new stuff I like all the time. It’s a great time to be an artist for sure.
Where do you usually get your inspiration?
Everywhere. I take notes a lot and make lists of things to draw and pool from them. Lately, I’ve been taking pictures of flowers, leaves, and textures with my phone (I’ll use some of them as refs). I will also check out history shows and docs on YouTube of ancient cultures and sometimes get ideas and look up stuff from them. Ancient cultural art is such a vast resource of some of the coolest most inspiring art ever.
If my mindset is to make a sub for a t-shirt site, I may check out what the recent trendy subject matter is and try working something up, but I’m usually terrible at responding to trends. The only exception has been owls. They kind of stuck, but in a good way; I enjoy drawing them.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
It depends on what it’s for. My inspiration answer above has some of what I may look at to get the brain going. If it’s for me a visual or a design element comes to mind; then a quick sketch. I take a picture of the sketch (if done on a sketchbook) and transfer it to my computer, then it’s all PS and drawing tablet.
About the Tees
How did you first hear about t-shirt design contests like Design by Humans and Threadless?
I was working on a color separation job and the customer wanted 4 color process but I was thinking simulated. My boss was fixated on index seps (which I was unfamiliar with) so I searched online and ended up finding a tutorial by Jimiyo. From there I saw his design gallery and some of his subs to DBH. And once I got to DBH, I was like, “I gotta try this!”
Do you remember your first t-shirt contest win? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
It was “By the Light of the Moon” at DBH and it felt great. It was awesome to be recognized for the work. I must have read that email 4 or 5 times and kept staring at the letters until they were blurry. Ha, ha. Then I snapped out of it and was like, “Crap I have to get the file ready!” I didn’t want anything to go wrong and got on that right away.
Total rookie moves, I know, but before I started subbing I hadn’t drawn anything in over 4 years so I was rusty. I had been getting serious about art again tho and invested in a new iMac. That drawing was the first design I made on that iMac. So yeah, it was a very cool event for me.
You have had t-shirts printed by Threadless, Design by Humans and Shirt.Woot!. These three stores usually print different styles. Do you take this into account before submitting artwork?
For the Woot derbies sometimes. For DBH and Threadless, not so much, because if it doesn’t win at one, it will probably get subbed to the other; Maybe with some minor tweaks along the way (usually colors, imprint size or placement).
Of the t-shirts that you designed which is your favorite?
That’s an impossible question for me. In lieu of answering, I’d like to plug a few designs if possible…
Do you wear t-shirts that you have designed?
Not usually, but I have. I feel funny when I do, but that’s just the little voice inside my head messing with me because I’m perfectly fine wearing other people’s work. Even so, most of the time I wear blank tees or button-up shirts.
Have you seen somebody wearing one of your tees in the real world?
Yes, but it was a retail thing I did. I haven’t seen any of my TL, DBH or Woot stuff in the wild. I had heard my “Seahorse” design (Shirt.Woot) was worn in a commercial. But it was super fast and unless you knew it was coming could easily be missed. I searched a bit, found it on YouTube and made a screen cap. It’s been my wallpaper now for about a month.
About the World
What’s the most exotic location you have been to?
I have been to a few places in Mexico and to New York City but no place too exotic.
Where would you like to visit?
Anywhere with bungalows and beaches, tropical scenery and brightly colored rum drinks (tiki style), but then again I’m a sucker for the wilderness so Yellowstone would work too.
About Other Designers
Which tee designer(s) do you admire the most?
Oh wow, so many. I took my time with this question and it still doesn’t come close to covering the amazing talent out there.
Jerry Maninang – Such a solid illustrator and designer. He makes it all look too easy.
Rachel Caldwell – Her linework is incredible. Great illustrations that are modern yet have a classic feel.
Joshua Belanger – Super illustrator and great dude. I’m amazed how he can fit so many lines in a small area and still have such clarity.
TOO MANY SKULLS – Another great draughtsman and very creative. He makes skulls look cooler than they already do.
Radiomode – Amazing designer, versatile and super creative.
Namsing – Incredible. Illustration. Machine.
Christopher Lovell – Beast of an illustrator…on another level entirely.
Nicebleed – These guys will get in a run where 10 designs in a row will be the most incredible. tee. designs. ever. [Read Nicebleed Interview]
Godmachine – Top notch illustrator with inspiring work. As amazing as his illustrations are, his color palettes really stand out to me and make his work instantly recognizable.
Katie Campbell – Very creative and excellent designs that are both stylish and smart.
Have you done any collaborations for t-shirts? If so, who and what did you design? If not, who would you like to collaborate with?
I’ve collaborated with a few artists, most notably Nicebleed (The Minoza Brothers) for a win over at Threadless called “Lost Translation“. I’ve done a few with Biotwist (Jonah Block) and a couple of others. I have more than a few on the back-burner that I need to get to. I’d be into collaborating with just about anyone and like it better when both artists have their hand in the piece somehow.
About Tee Design
What design trends have made you go WTF?
I think any trend can get there. I know I’ve done a few designs that make me say that out loud a couple of days later with or without any trend involvement.
Any advice for other designers/artists?
Do something creative every day whether it’s jotting ideas down, sketching or designing.
Photoshop or Illustrator?
How do you feel about Adobe’s move from purchase to a subscription model?
It hasn’t affected me yet, and as long as my stuff stays drawing based it shouldn’t for a while. I’m sure I’ll try it out eventually and it will be fewer boxes to misplace.