Austin Frankel is an American Sign Language Interpreter for the Deaf, a Star Wars fanboy, and a very talented artist. He creates art for himself but it appeals to many. When he’s not living in his imagination, which seems to be an awesome place, he’s at home in Redlands, California with his wife and three dogs. Austin observes and interprets. We all do it but Austin has literally made an artform out of it.
Of course, as a sign language interpreter, he needs to observe and interpret but he also uses this skill when conceptualizing art. Hopefully, he doesn’t let his imagination run wild when he is interpreting sign language like when he is creating art. In the t-shirt world, Austin Frankel is better known as RebelArt.
It is a pretty cool handle but when and why did you start to use the name RebelArt?
Ha, well honestly I’ve always been a huge Star Wars fan, and all my nicknames, gamer tags, and handles had something to do with that. Most of my designs are pop culture related and heavily Star Wars influenced or parodied. That and “StarWarsFanboy” may not have made a great artist name. 😛
According to Twitter you are based in Tatooine and according to Facebook you’re a Jedi. It seems to me that you might be living in a fantasy world. When you are on earth, where do you live and what do you do?
I like to think my Artist persona is a Jedi on Tatooine. As for me, I reside in Redlands, California and make funny pictures for people to wear on their chests.
What do you like to do in your free time?
When I’m not drawing, or playing Artist, I like to spend time with my wife and our 3 dogs. Between them, Art and some time for video games, my time is sufficiently used up. And that’s exactly how I like it.
Do you work full-time in art and design?
I work part time as an Artist although being honest I never stop thinking about art, design, and creative stuff. I’m also an American Sign Language Interpreter for the Deaf.
About the Artist
When did you start creating art?
I think this answer probably parallels many other Artists, I have been drawing and doodling for as long as I can remember.
Apart from t-shirts, are you involved in other art/design projects?
Outside of t-shirts, I do sometimes create pieces for galleries and various art shows. I also work as a freelancer, taking on art projects and design work from a variety of companies.
Apart from pop culture references, where do you usually get your inspiration?
Thanks to a combination of OCD, ADD, and a very overactive imagination, I tend to get ideas from everything. Some of the most fun ones tend to come from me misinterpreting images and situations. Sometimes seeing only part of a picture will spark something in my brain that I previously didn’t see because of predisposed limits and the way my brain works normally. (If that makes sense).
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
My process usually starts with a traditional or digital sketch depending on the idea. Then once I clean up the idea I’ll ink it all pretty-like. Then comes colors and any final tweaks.
About the T-Shirts
How did you first hear about daily t-shirt sites like TeeFury and RIPT?
I first saw Teefury years ago and remembered thinking it was amazing that clever mashups like that existed and there was a platform supporting it.
Do you remember your first print? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
Yes, it was on Ript Apparel. I remember being on the way to Disneyland with my Wife and our best friends. I was stoked that something I drew would be shown to countless people and worn by so many.
You have had t-shirts printed by TeeFury, RIPT, and ShirtPunch. Who do you usually submit to first? Why?
Yes, I have been featured on many different sites. I usually submit to Teefury and Ript first, but it often depends on the content. Some themes work better on one site over another. Ript will always have a special place in my heart for featuring me first and starting me down this path. I also really enjoy Shirtpunch, teeVillain and Once Upon A Tee.
You sell your designs on TeePublic, RedBubble, Design by Humans, NeatoShop, and Society6.
Which performs best for you?
Which is easiest to work with?
I’d have to say so far Teepublic is a great performer. Again each site has their benefits and fan bases.
All the sites have their benefits for ease, Teepublic and Neato are super easy to use.
Of the t-shirts that you designed, which is your favorite?
That’s a super tough one. “Are These The Droids You’re Looking For?” is one of my favorites and one of the first I ever did. I’m conflicted as it was well before my style and more artistic ways were developed but the idea came to me and seemed perfect.
Do you wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
I do sometimes wear my own shirts. Mainly because the reason I started doing this, the reason I make art is to create things I want to see that don’t exist yet. I really wanted a ‘Star Wars / Beatles’ shirt and didn’t see one I liked so I made my own. I wanted funny Star Wars themed shirts so I made them. I started making art for me, the fact that many others seem to like them is icing on the cake.
Have you seen somebody wearing one of your t-shirts in the real world?
Yes, that is a surreal feeling. I have seen people at cons or just out and about.
About the World
What is the most exotic location you have been to?
Exotic? Probably Hawaii on my honeymoon. I made no art there but was a hell of a time.
Where would you most like to visit? Why?
England. I think I’ve just over fantasized it in my head for so long, and I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.
About Other Designers
Which t-shirt designer(s) do you admire the most?
Too many great Artists and Designers in our industry. Those who styles appeal to my taste most would have to include: AtomicRocket, Jehsee, Beastpop, Fanboy30, Fuacka, Rocky Davies, JML2art, Tim Shumate, SixEyedMonster, Harantula, DJKopet, Naolito.
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 have done a few collaborations. I have collabed with Artist Jennette Brown (sugarpoultry), we made “The Rebels” and “The Doctors” mashups together. COD Designs and I made the “Simpsons” skull designs.
Who would you like to see interviewed on the Shirt List next?
Fanboy30! Fantastic Artist and designer!
Any advice for new designers/artists?
Never stop drawing. Try and think outside the box. Keep an open mind, and develop a thick skin. Always try to do your own thing. Good luck.
What are you watching on TV at the moment?
Game of Thrones.
What’s the last movie you saw in the cinema/movie theater?
“Deadpool“, multiple times. Fan-fucking-tastic.