Marco Mottura aka Mdk7 is a gamer and editor for IGN Italy. Nice work if you can get it. I would like to note that he speaks English remarkably well for someone who spends most of his time playing weird niche games. I suspect that there is more to Marco than meets the eye. Perhaps he is an undercover spy investigating corruption in the world of video games. Maybe the reason Marco doesn’t have a Facebook page is that he doesn’t really exist. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marco Mottura, code name: Mdk7, just vanished into the ether one day. In the meantime, though, hopefully, he continues to design t-shirts as he is pretty good at it.
His legend says that he was born in a remote village near Milan (Busto Arsizio – Population: 81,883), he loves football and, in particular, is a big fan of Juventus. As well as video games he loves dinosaurs and is an amateur numerologist. But that could all just be an intricate cover story.
Can you explain Mdk7?
It’s not related to the game by Shiny Entertainment, even though I did love it A LOT back in the day. I’ve been using this moniker online since I was a little kid, I frankly don’t remember why I chose it, but it was definitely something related to my fascination with dark, obscure stuff like serial killers stories and so on. The “MDK – Murder Death Kill” thing was supposedly used by the FBI to indicate violent crimes, along with the tag “Code 187″… So if you sum up 1+8+7 it makes 16, and if you sum up 1+6 it makes 7, which has always been my favorite number. And that’s how Mdk7 was born. 😀
Now I’m a lot older, I still like dark stuff – even though I’m not obsessed with it anymore – and I just keep using that nickname since it’s pretty much everywhere online (on forums, on Twitter, on Xbox Live and so on).
I see you are in Novara, Italy. It seems like a nice place. Born and raised?
No, I wasn’t actually born in Novara, and frankly I don’t really like the place, LOL. I moved two years ago, to live together with my girlfriend who’s from here. I’m actually from Busto Arsizio, a pretty boring city located 35 km away from Milan (and 40 minutes away from Novara). So I’m not a fan of my hometown either, even though I like it much more than Novara. 🙂
What do you like best about Novara?
Well, they have AMAZING ice cream parlors around here, and a couple of great bookstores. Plus Novara is closer to Turin, where my favorite football team (Juventus) plays: in exactly 60 minutes I can be there, at my beloved Juventus Stadium!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I play A LOT of video games, since as a second job I work as an editor for IGN Italy. I’ve always been really, really into gaming: I started playing at 5, and things really became pretty serious when at 12 I imported my Nintendo 64 straight from Japan (as I couldn’t bear to wait for the European release). From that moment on, I don’t even know how much money I spent on consoles, stupid peripherals, and weird niche games. But that’s pretty much my life, I live to play. Other than that, I like to draw, to watch TV (huge Game of Thrones fan), to go to the movies (I like horror films, mainly gruesome-trashy stuff from the 70s and 80s) and to read (guess what? Thrillers and horrors, in particular, I’ve got a thing for Lovecraft).
Do you work full-time in art and design?
Sort of. As a full-time job, I work as a graphic designer for a small company that sells gaming accessories (both first-party and third-party, as a distributor). So yeah, in a way I do work in design, even though unfortunately there I can’t be as creative and nerdy as I can be with my tees. Honestly, I’d love to design tees as a full-time job, but I’m sincerely too afraid to quit my job (the situation in that sense here in Italy is not exactly easy), so we’ll see. Keep your fingers crossed for me! 🙂
About the Artist
When did you start creating art?
Oh, nice one, I’ve always been drawing and sketching and cutting and gluing things around, ever since I was a very, very little kid. I remember that when I was like 6 or 7 years old, my mum used to say “if they gave us 10 Lire for every scribble you make, we would already be billionaires!”. So yeah, the act of expressing myself through drawing has always really been a part of me, and I’ve always been deeply fascinated with visual arts (that is what actually drew me into gaming, the graphics). As for creating art in terms of designs for tees, I’m pretty new to the scene: I started in spring 2014, almost by chance, because a friend – thanks, Stefano! – just told me “hey, why don’t you try?”.
Have you had any formal art training?
In 2009, I took a 3 years course in CG Animation and got my basic Photoshop/Illustrator notions there. I wanted to work with 3D and I wasn’t too bad with it (I liked modeling, and loved Zbrush in particular), but eventually I left the field when I understood that that area would not pay my rent here in Italy, and most of all would not give me the satisfaction I need from my work (at least not within the Italian scene). I probably should have left my country, I know, and I will always kinda regret that. Honestly, I’d still leave it to go somewhere else (I love the US), but it’s not an easy step to make at 32.
Apart from t-shirts, are you involved in other art/design projects?
No. I might do this and that if someone asks me to create a logo or something, but I’m currently not involved in any other project apart from designing my tees.
Where do you usually get your inspiration?
Being the nerd I am, I’m mainly influenced by gaming. I’m also a kid of the 80s (i was born in 1983), so of course my background is heavily influenced by things like Masters of the Universe, Garbage Pail Kids, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all that kind of imaginary stuff: that’s the stuff I grew up with, that obviously left a big impact on me. As for the actual inspiration moment, the spark usually comes unexpected, often when I’m showering, when I’m running or when I’m driving: I get this sudden flash, and I feel the urge to create.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
Usually I try to think about the subject I want to work on, mainly depending on the moment: if I know that a certain game or movie I dig is coming out and I want to make a design based on it, I usually try to set my mind on that. To give you an example, my last published design was based on Jurassic World (I haven’t told you yet that I’m the biggest dinosaur freak around, seriously!): I knew that the movie was about to come out, so around May I started thinking about the series, about what I really liked about the franchise and what could work as a design for a T-shirt. Eventually, while I was driving to work, the legendary Mr. DNA came to my mind: the character really struck me when I was a kid, and I thought other Jurassic Park enthusiasts could appreciate a design based on him. So I started sketching out the shapes on paper (I always do that, usually in a very very stylized way that it’s probably impossible to understand for anyone other than me), visualizing the basic design in my head, and then I opened Illustrator and started to have fun. 🙂
About the T-Shirts
How did you first hear about daily t-shirt sites like TeeFury and RIPT?
I really don’t remember how I heard about them, but surely I was a customer before becoming a designer. Those pop-culture tees are the tees I wear every day, and I’ve been buying them for years. I never thought about trying to create some of my own, probably because I didn’t have enough confidence with Illustrator and Photoshop. As I said before, suddenly a year and a half ago a friend of mine just told me “Hey, why don’t you try to come up with a design made by you? You like Titanfall (I was playing tons of that at the time), make a Titanfall tee!”. I thought “why not? Let’s give it a try…”, and so it began, completely by chance. 😀
Do you remember your first print? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
Of course I do, I will never, ever forget that as it was really one of the best moments of my entire life. Let me tell you a bit of backstory about it: I’m a fan of Godzilla (have always been, since a little kid), and the latest Godzilla flick by Gareth Edwards was about to come out. I was madly anticipating it, and so I decided to make a design to celebrate the King of the Monsters. I started thinking about the roots of Gojira, about his strong relationship with Japan itself, and eventually decided to put the creature inside one of the most iconic symbols of the Rising Sun itself, the Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai. At first I put Godzilla’s silhouette among the waves, but a friend (Ugo, I will never thank him enough!) told me “why don’t you actually turn the wave into him?”. I toyed around for quite a few hours, came up with the final design and put it on a gaming forum, immediately receiving good feedback. So I uploaded it on Qwertee, and what happened later seriously blew my mind: I remember it was a Saturday morning, and I was helping my girlfriend painting her office. We stopped for lunch, I checked the voting section without any particular hope and I could not believe my eyes: hundreds of votes were there, and I could literally see the number growing and growing in real time. After the weekend, the tee was taken down and the guys from the site contacted me to tell me they were going to print it a few days later. I had no idea how much it would sell (and boy it went GOOD… like really, really good!), but the satisfaction I got when I checked the site and my design was there, right in the homepage, is something I’ll definitely remember until I die. I really felt I made it in a way, and that gave me a lot of confidence in myself.
You sell your designs on TeePublic, RedBubble, Design by Humans, NeatoShop and Society6.
-Which performs best for you?
-Which is easiest to work with?
Design By Humans used to be the strongest one for me (the vintage version of Hokusai Gojira stayed in their top 50 for a few months), but when they started to sell licensed tees and took down a lot of designs, including Hokusai Gojira, things definitely got worse for me. Now TeePublic is definitely where I perform best, by far. The guys there have been supporting me A LOT, and it’s a pleasure for me to work with them (so much I made a Splatoon design exclusive to their shop, to thank them for the support). But in general, it’s really nice to work with pretty much everyone, as people in this business are super, super kind.
Of the t-shirts that you designed, which is your favorite?
I should really say Hokusai Gojira, as that is by far my biggest hit (and also my first print, as I said before). I’m also happy with how my Crystal Heisenberg tee came out, as it was based on an illustration I randomly found online made by a graphic designer called Spencer Owens: I adored his polygonal portrait of Walter White and decided – with his permission of course! – to kinda turn it into something else, creating the face of Heisenberg out of blue meth shards. Oh, and also Hokusai Cthulhu of course, as a die-hard fan of Lovecraft: seeing that printed was another great, great moment for me, both as a designer and as an HP Lovecraft enthusiast.
Do you wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
It felt a bit weird at first, but yeah. Also because, most of the time, I design tees I’d personally wear, so my personal taste in clothing definitely has an influence on the design itself (and that’s why you probably will never see a yellowish tee made by me, LOL).
Have you seen somebody wearing one of your t-shirts in the real world?
Yes, and it was magic. And again, a bit weird. But mostly magic. 😀 It happened quite a few times (also because I’ve got amazing friends and colleagues in the gaming business that support me and actually buy my stuff…), but the first time was at E3 2014: I was in line, waiting to get my hands on Destiny, when completely out of the blue – E3 is pretty huge, trust me – I saw a guy passing by wearing my Hokusai Gojira tee. I immediately got out of the queue and stopped him, also because I had never seen the tee printed in real life before that moment (mine arrived while a was in Los Angeles). The guy was super into the design and even asked me for my business card, LOL!
Photoshop or Illustrator?
About the World
Do you have any role models?
Not really. There is one celebrity that I deeply respect and admire with all my heart, though, Alex Zanardi. I wasn’t a fan of him when he was a racing driver in Formula One (I’m not into motor sports), but his determination and the way he reacted to the tragic accident in which he lost both his legs really struck me: I remember seeing him on TV joking about the fact that as an amputee he would be able to play better with his toddler, what a man he is. I would have never been able to react with the courage and the strength he showed (I mean, the guy even managed to complete the Ironman World Championship last year!!!), so yeah, Zanardi’s kind of a real hero to me.
What is the most exotic location you have been to?
Probably I’d say Chichén Itza, the ancient Mayan city in Mexico. I visited that place quite a few years ago, and it was really a memorable trip (I also went to Tulum, another breathtaking location, and dove into a Cenote during that occasion).
Where would you most like to visit? Why?
Definitely Japan. Japan has always been my obsession since I was a child (you know, I told you about my thing for gaming and so on…), but unfortunately I’ve never been able to actually go there yet. And it’s really something that I’d love to do, one day. Also, because I’m totally fond of the culture, the cuisine, the nature, the quirkiness of some aspects… Yeah, I’d really, really love to visit the Land of the Rising Sun.
About Other Designers
Which t-shirt designer(s) do you admire the most?
BeastPop is a true monster to me: I just adore his style, I’m in love with everything he does and he’s by far my favorite. I have tons of admiration for Bamboota, Naolito and Glennz too. Oh and Drew Wise!
Have you done any collaborations for t-shirts?
I kinda answered this before, as I said I did a sort of collaboration on my Crystal Heisenberg tee with an artist called Spencer Owens, even though it wasn’t exactly what I would define as a proper collaboration (I basically took an illustration he made as a reference, and then from there I created my own design). As for who I’d love to work with… see the ones above (even if they’re honestly so much better than me I’d be terrified to work with any of them, LOL).
Who would you like to see interviewed on the Shirt List next?
Any advice for new designers/artists?
Do not give up. Be as nerdy as possible (watch a lot of TV, read as many books and comics as you possibly can, play tons of games). But most of all, really do not give up: it’s not easy to get printed and become “someone” inside this world (hell, I’m certainly not there myself in the first place, as I sincerely consider crazy the fact that I’m being interviewed for the very first time in my life!), but don’t be discouraged by failures. They will happen, a lot of times. But please keep trying if you think it’s the right thing to do!
What are you watching on TV at the moment?
I need to start watching the season 2 of True Detective, after the ending of the season 5 of Game of Thrones I honestly haven’t watched a lot of TV. I’m really anticipating Ash VS The Evil Dead and the season 2 of The Knick, I madly loved the first one.
What’s the last movie you saw in the cinema/movie theater?
Babadook. It came out at the end of July here in Italy, and even though I had already seen it before online I decided to go to the cinema to show my support towards a particular movie like that. I liked it a lot, so much that I actually bought a copy of the book itself via Kickstarter! 😀