Timothy Lim is an audiologist. That means he spends a lot of time looking in people’s ears. He uses art to escape from the horrors of his day job. He lives in
Albuquerque, New Mexico and deals meth as a side business Arkansas (pronounced Arkansaw) and likes to eat greasy food. Timothy has no formal art education so we can only assume that he picked up his artistic talent while peaking into stranger’s ears. I can’t even imagine the things he has seen in there. It must be like peering into their souls.
While his audiological prowess may have made people stand up and notice in the ear industry and despite the fact that he is the savior of the aurally challenged it is actually his t-shirt art that has brought him worldwide fame. He has been commissioned to work for some of his childhood heroes like Stan Lee and thanks to licensing agreements his t-shirts can be seen all over the world and probably in a few alternate universes too.
The art of Ninjaink has been featured in print, posters, and t-shirts on an international level, including WeLoveFine, IDW’s “Ghostbusters,” the Calvin & Hobbes documentary “Dear Mr. Watterson,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” Udon’s “Tribute” series art books, MTV’s Splash Blog, Super Punch, Comics Alliance, Fashionably Geek, TeeFury, and RIPT Apparel.
Luckily he made some time to talk to the Shirt List. Read on…
So, tell us about the name Ninjaink.
Ninja Pencil was already taken, so I went with the next available option. 🙂 Just kidding: it’s somewhat based on a running joke about how some of our friends and family call each other ninjas.
I think Ninjaink is more than Timothy Lim. Can you tell us about your team and what each of you do?
Sure: “Ninjaink” is certainly connected largely to my art, but the truth is, I have a small number of friends who feed me ideas. Since they do not do any art, I try to credit them under the generic “Ninjaink” banner — I recently finalized my status as an LLC, so for future references, they can at least put on their CV’s that they worked under my corporation.
Are you Arkansas born and raised?
Tell us something interesting about where you live.
Arkansas is a great state that I could go on all day about, but I’ll just say that our food is amazing. And by “amazing” I mean “all fried and probably not that good for you”. 🙂
What do you like to do when you are not creating art?
I received my doctorate in Audiology 4 years ago. When I’m not illustrating, I am a licensed audiologist and I currently teach graduate school in Audiology and supervise student clinicians.
About the Artist
When did you start creating art?
Since I was little, although I don’t think I did it in any professional sense until about 4 years ago.
When did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always liked it as a hobby, but I don’t think I ever wanted to do it professionally. It was somewhat discouraged in my family due to the whole “starving artist” idea.
Have you had any formal art training?
Apart from t-shirts, are you involved in other art/design projects?
Yes! I try as much as possible to diversify my portfolio, so I’ll take up any project that sounds interesting. I’ve had some publications with Udon and I did cover work for a young adult romance novel last year. I’m also pretty involved with Heroes and Fantasies in Texas as well as the San Antonio comics scene.
Were you influenced by any particular artist or style?
In the 90’s I followed Alex Ross and Joe Madureira religiously. Then in the 2000’s I started to follow the works of other painters such as Gabrielle Dell’Otto and the classic work of Drew Struzan.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
I think it’s pretty standard for a lot of artists. I start with a blue pencil sketch and then do inks before finishing with colors. Occasionally when I hit a rough patch, I’ll ink in a silhouette to make sure that I have a good idea of form, then work on developing details.
What artwork are you most proud of?
I’ve done some artwork for Dan Gilvezan (the voice of original G1 Bumblebee), Peter Cullen (the voice of Optimus Prime) and recently Stan Lee. I think being commissioned to do work for some of my childhood legends and heroes has been a great personal accomplishment that I could not have imagined 5 years ago.
About the T-Shirts
How did you first hear about t-shirt design contests?
A friend of mine told me about them 5 years ago.
Do you remember your first t-shirt contest win? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
Sure, it was for TeeFury. And it was one of my biggest sales, so I was floored when I found out that the market was so strong! It was a piece called “Peace in Space,” a Samus Aran / nouveau design.
Your t-shirts are available in too many places to list. Which company has provided the biggest return for you?
WeLoveFine, definitely, for my licensed work, and RIPT Apparel for my unlicensed work!
Do you wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
I used to not since at work I was so used to having to dress professionally (polo / long sleeve shirt and slacks). In recent years I’ve been taking more of my friends’ advice to sell myself, so I certainly do now!
Have you seen somebody wearing one of your t-shirts in the real world?
Yes! All the time, and especially at conventions.
Photoshop or Illustrator?
About the World
Do you have any role models?
Yes. I’m a cradle Catholic and so I study the lives of the saints pretty extensively. There are too many of them to mention in one post!
What is the most exotic location you have been to?
Costa Rica as part of a biology excursion about 7 years ago
Where would you most like to visit? Why?
I’d love to someday visit Vatican City to reach the heart of my Catholic upbringing.
About Other Designers
Which t-shirt designer(s) do you admire the most?
I love Eriphyle (Dora Lerf). She’s got a great style that’s instantly recognizable and she’s been a great friend of mine. She uses her talent and portfolio to speak for herself and doesn’t rely on gimmicks to gain attention. Jolly Nihilist (Heather Carlton) has also been a great mentor to me, especially starting out!
What are you watching on TV at the moment?
I just finished Daredevil on Netflix. Awesome show!
What’s the last movie you saw in the cinema/movie theater?