July 29, 2011

More Than Just A Moment Shared

An Interview with Joanna Barnum

Part 1 of 2 (link to
Part 2)
Click any image to enlargenate

Okay gang, I’ve got to do a ‘thing’ here before we get started with the
Joanna Barnum interview!

DO NOT WORRY: the kids do NOT have to leave the room! Especially if you're like me and need them to stay and explain stuff to you.

Since I’ve been getting to know Joanna and her talents, I’ve had a song that always enters my mind and gets stuck there, often for days at a time. And the only way to get such a repeating track out of the echo chamber between my ears is to play it - even on endless repeat until it goes away on it’s on! Or whenever the other voices get loud enough to drown it out...

So bear with me, please:

Now, many of you are no doubt going ‘huh?’ or even ‘where’s my sandwich?’ by now. Why this very well known track by the fantastic U2 you say? Well, if you’ve had the opportunity to go to one of their MUST SEE concerts, you know at this point, Bono usually invites a young lady from the audience up on stage to do a little belly dancing with him. And guess what? In addition to her talents at putting ink and paint and more to paper, not to mention the other creative outlets she has displayed over the years, Joanna is a very capable belly dancer! So you begin to see how my brain – well, there’s no better word for it - ‘works’, eh?

But I don’t want to hear any catcalls from the peanut gallery, understand? I know for a fact that belly dancing is not only a very aerobic, taxing and difficult to master art-form, but the performers are also often allowed to perform with swords or other sharp pointy things. So zip it!!

And so, with these mental images planted firmly in your mind (oh and plants will figure into all this as well), I am proud to present the terrific Joanna Barnum!


Welcome, Joanna! What are you up to these days?
Hi Ziggy, thank you for your interest in my work!

Right now*, I'm in the middle of getting ready for a show at a local nature center. It's going up in mid-May, I've only known about the opportunity for about a month, and I'm trying to create mostly new work for the show...so although I tend to be a fast painter, things in the studio are a little harried right now!

The show will be at the
Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, MD from May 18-July 30, 2011. It's a two artist show; I'll be sharing the gallery walls with nature illustrator Rebecca Clark.

In addition, in late 2009, I painted a portrait of Charles Darwin and luckily it was recently featured as a “chosen” illustration by the
American Illustration annual. This portrait has enjoyed a lot of popularity online in terms of blogging and print sales. I'm using the Darwin piece as a jumping off point for a larger series of illustrative portraits featuring other famous biologists, naturalists, and conservationists.
(ZN: don’t forget as well that the Darwin design shown here is currently up for voting and pre-purchase registration at
Kickstarter!! Pledge now! )

I'm also working on my piece to contribute to Girls Drawing Girls's Volume 4 art book, which happens to have a nature theme.

(*ZN : our sincere apologies to Joanna, who broke all records in getting back to us with her answers back in April and just happened to hit a rather full publication schedule!)

Can you tell us a little bit about your background please and what inspired you to become the fantastic artist and graphic designer you are today?
I grew up in White Plains, NY (a suburb of NYC) as an only child, with a few close extended family members nearby. I had what I'd describe as a fairly ordinary, positive childhood.

I've enjoyed drawing and making things for as long as I can remember, and my family has always been encouraging of whatever I've wanted to pursue, including going to art school. I guess I've always been kind of dorky, weird, and shy...I guess there's often a connection between being kind of weird and being artistic in some way!
(ZN: yep! Hi Mom, hi Dad!)

I was a good student all around in high school and could have chosen between lots of different fields if I'd wanted to. But when it came time to choose a college and I really thought hard about it, I couldn't imagine being happy in any field other than the visual arts. Sure, I could have been GOOD at other things - and no doubt more financially successful by pursuing them - but I had and have still no passion for any pursuit that compares in any way to how I feel about my art.

In terms of my ‘formal’ education, I earned my BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art, which has an amazing illustration department. Both the faculty and the other students there were incredibly inspiring.

Today, I identify as an illustrator first and foremost, even though I guess I'm more of what you’d call a creative ‘jack of all trades’. I do as much illustration work as I can get (which is never as much as I want!) but I'm still working hard to build the illustration career I really want to have. I got into painting commissioned portraits at first because it's something artistic I could find clients for, but it's become a real love for me, and now I'm trying to develop an illustrative focus on portraiture as well.

I’m also curious about the art and design scene in the Maryland area where you are. Is there a large ‘colony’ of fellow conspirators in the region? Or is a lot of this limited – if at all – to either the DC or Baltimore areas?
Parkville is just inside the Baltimore beltway, so I'm connected to the arts scene in Baltimore. That's where most of our galleries and events happen, but there are also other arts councils, etc. scattered around the state and I try to keep up with opportunities wherever I can find them.

I love that the Baltimore creative community is kind of offbeat. We have the
Fluid Movement water ballet group here, we're home to the Visionary Art museum and its kinetic sculpture race, and we have an active neo-burlesque scene. Baltimore is big enough that venues and projects can gather momentum, but small enough that it's easy for anyone who has the will to display their work or join a performing arts group.

Jumping right into the deep end of the pool, your work has been included in various collections of ‘erotic’ art; however, despite this all-encompassing label, I find that the pieces I’ve seen so far are – how to put this – somewhat ‘tamer’ (more reserved, less pornographic?) than many of so many offers seem to be today. What is important for you – or what do you look for – in terms of capturing ‘Eros’ in an image?
I have a strong traditional background in life drawing from the figure, and a lot of my work has focused on mythological subject matter. It feels natural for me to include nudes in those works much in the same way the nude features heavily in classical and Renaissance mythological artwork.

It is both a thing of beauty and I feel it helps to emphasize the archetypal nature of these stories. The body as well as the face has great expressive potential and can be used to convey passion and emotion in the general sense, not just the erotic. I'm happy to have these pieces welcomed into compilations of erotic work, and I enjoy that element of their nature, but that's not the only element at play for me.

Because so much of my work has celebrated the female form, I was welcomed into the
Girls Drawing Girls collective about a year and a half ago. The group is focused on pinup artwork from women in the animation and illustration industries. Being a part of the group has pushed me to start exploring the “Eros” element more blatantly, and I've been having a lot of fun with it. In general, I think the work coming out of the group is about women's own celebration of themselves not as erotic objects but as complete beings with agency and unique attributes worth admiring.

Speaking of ‘GDG’ – not that I’m looking for yet another opportunity to plug their latest collection known affectionately as ‘
GDG Volume IV : The Way Nature Made Her’ (order your copy today!!) – you also recently scored both an annual calendar appearance as well as getting to do their recent ‘Hoity Toity Art Show’ poster! What has being involved in this team meant for you and your career?
The ladies who run the group are not only amazingly talented artists themselves, but are also very driven to find and put together unique, exciting opportunities for all GDG members to participate in.

The opportunities that have opened up to me through participation in the group, both as official group activities, and through networking with the other women in the group, have been just astounding and I think have helped to push my career up a notch in the past year.

You also seem to have a keen connection to the world of fantasy. Can you explain a little about your fascination with this type of imagery and how it relates to your artwork? Is this more escapism for you or do you, too, walk the way of the macabre and sinister?
I grew up a BIG fan of fantasy and science fiction. Even as a very young artist, I wanted to paint dragons and unicorns, and I learned that that sort of work was usually considered “illustration,” which is what first started me down this road. As I matured, I fell in love with illustration as a concept, and branched out quite a bit. But I've managed to maintain a strong focus on mythology in my adult artwork, and I love getting illustration assignments that fall into the fantasy realm.

Having said that, I do think my work is different in style from the traditional look a lot of fantasy work has, like the sort of thing you'd expect to see coming out of Wizards of the Coast, but the fact that it's different has appealed to the indie publishers I've worked with. Painting someone else's invented worlds and creatures is ridiculously fun, and yeah, it is escapism to a degree.

It's not super intellectually heavy; it's just FUN.

Continued in
Part 2

More Than Just A Moment Shared

An Interview with Joanna Barnum

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click any image to enlargenate

Joanna, I’ve really enjoyed going through your different galleries, great stuff!

I am curious though how you got involved in either ‘culinary illustration’ or even your ‘wildlife illustration’, where you’ve featured not only recently extinct animal species but also plants and fungi?
I love science, and I love the natural world, and preserving it is very important to me. I also have a strong aesthetic attraction to food and plants which I can't quite explain. I love painting these little jewel-like moments.

I also collect objects that are shaped like food or plants, which drives my husband crazy.

Now unless my eyes are getting worse than I thought, it seems that most if not all of your works feature watercolors & acrylics, pens & inks, colored pencils and a few other ‘traditional’ techniques. In other words, you work mostly by hand, correct? Do you ever include digital methods in your work?
I'm primarily a watercolorist, and sometimes I combine other mixed media elements with my watercolors. I'm definitely traditionally focused. I mainly use Photoshop to clean up my work after I scan it into the computer, but I also use it to rearrange traditionally created elements when I do design work, like logos.

For example, I'll paint lettering by hand, but it might take me several attempts to get all the letters the way I want them, and they might be all spread out over a sheet of paper mixed up with false starts. I'll scan that in and then rearrange the individual letters digitally.

I like my final pieces to look like they're traditionally created even when I've used Photoshop as a tool.

Your portrait collection also features some really well done pieces, including both ‘free-style’ and commissioned works (or even this lovely self-portrait)! But I’m curious (also because I may try this to help pay some bills soon): do you find it more stressful painting a person or someone’s pet? I know what I would answer!
When I'm painting a commissioned portrait of a person, it is a little more stressful than if I'm working on a portrait for an illustration or for my portfolio, because what's most important to most private clients is that the portrait be a) very true to life, and b) flattering. When I paint someone's pet, I actually have more freedom and can be a little more expressive, because the client is less likely to say “oh, the nose is too big, and what's that crazy red shadow you put under the eye?”

I would say that after sampling a large number of your works that there is a distinctive ‘Joanna Barnum’ style, where I really like what is written on your home site namely that your ‘style is loose, expressive semi-realism, executed in a combination of watercolor and mixed media.’

Can you describe a little what it’s taken to establish this in such a way that people will indeed look at your work and say ‘hey, that’s a Joanna Barnum!’? Putting it a little differently: do you hope or is it your target even that when someone is considering a commission say ‘hey, Joanna Barnum’s work would be perfect here’?
It's funny, because I spent a lot of time as a student, and I still spend a lot of time fretting that I don't have a distinctive style to my work. So it's nice to hear you say that you think I do.

Having said that, how important do you think it is for an artist to establish such a distinctive style? Does this have any negatives to it, namely, is it ever restrictive to you?
When I was in art school, a lot of my professors were really big on emphasizing that “style isn't important,” because I guess they didn't want us to get prematurely or even artificially locked into a surface look before really developing ourselves as artists. In some ways, though, I think they took it too far to that extreme, and it was a bit of a disservice.

I've found that the most marketable illustrators have a really clear look to their work, and often a strong focus on a certain genre... and as I mentioned, I've grappled with that a lot. I still feel like I'm not really sure what my work looks like...but I guess it's always easier to look at another artist's work and be struck by its distinctive look. Sometimes it's hard (or impossible?) to see one's own work for what it really is.

What is the ‘Rooney Gooney’ project? How did you get involved in that?
Rooney Gooney is a self-published educational children's book I collaborated on with a local retired doctor, Charles Bush. I've always wanted to work in children's publishing, so when an opportunity came along to work through the process on a self-published project, with an author that was actually willing to pay me for my work (which is pretty uncommon, if you peruse the classifieds section of Craig's List for any big city), I decided to go for it. It was a wonderful learning experience.

I had a lot of hypothetical knowledge about working through character development, dummy book, final illustrations, and layout for a children's book from my education at MICA, but I had never actually been through the process start to finish for a whole book.

I also learned a lot about how to put together something for print-on-demand publication through Lulu.com. I'm excited to use both those skill sets more in the future.

You’ve also created some very interesting dolls and/or ‘dragon scarf puppets’, jewellery, decorative items and more! Is the more ‘craft’ oriented side of your work a big part of your future plans or is this something you just do on occasion to mix things up a little?
The more crafty stuff is mostly a hobby for relaxation, although it's great when I can sell some of it to boot.

I really like anything involving making things with my hands: painting, sewing, embroidery, crochet, cooking,
baking, gardening, you name it. Mostly small scale, intuitive type things.

However, I'm not good at building stuff - I'll generally pass on anything involving math and/or power tools!

Now before I let you go, I must ask you one very important question: as someone who is by their own admission a little bit shy, how did you get involved in belly dancing, even to the point of (gasp) performing in public?
Belly dance is enjoying a huge surge of popularity in the United States. I had a lot of acquaintances that were involved in it. I took a class at a local community college because I hate to exercise, and I thought it would be a fun way to get moving. I ended up falling head over heels in love, for so many reasons.

I have since discovered that dancing is about an ephemeral moment shared with a live audience. It's exhilarating. Apparently, there was a performer hiding somewhere inside me waiting to come out.

And in the case of belly dancing, this form of expression is based in the social dances of the Middle East, and it's truly a dance of the people...there are belly dancers of all ages and shapes. It's been exciting learning a new way to express myself, and it was really scary at first because I'm used to creating my work in private, and then putting it out there for consumption when it's finished.

Right now I'm a member of a troupe that started out as a student troupe, but that I think has slowly been evolving to a more professional level, which I guess is on par with my personal progress as a dancer. It started out as a hobby, but I'm a pretty intense person, and I have trouble doing anything halfway if I love it enough to do it at all.

I keep saying that I don't want a second creative job, but it's become important to me to work toward dancing on a professional level. I guess it’s a point of personal pride, so we'll see what happens there.


Joanna Barnum is a bright young illustrator and portrait artist whose work has appeared in books, magazines, and games, as well as in several juried annuals of fantasy and other types of popular illustration. She holds a BFA in illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art, plying her craft primarily in the areas of fantasy and children’s illustration. In addition, her observational figurative work can be found regularly at local galleries and festivals. Her distinctive style has been described as being ‘loose, expressive semi-realism’, which she creates using primarily a combination of watercolor and mixed media.

Joanna grew up in White Plains, NY and currently resides in the Baltimore, Maryland area with her husband Mike who continues to show amazing patience in terms of his wife's odd collections. Among her many other interests, Joanna lists needlework, costuming, baking, camping, and volunteering as a board member and coordinator for the non-profit organization that runs Playa del Fuego, a regional Burning Man-inspired event.

Please check out more evidence of Joanna’s 'evolving' talents (I’m sorry, I thought I could get through this without using that pun) at the following links and galleries:


DeviantArt gallery
Etsy shop

And of course, be sure and follow the fantastic exploits of the ‘Aubergine Belly Dance Troupe’ at either their
homepage or as a fan on Facebook!


All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Joanna Barnum, including all current or previous business affiliations related to same, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations. In all cases, we invite you to visit the artist’s site(s) for more!

July 9, 2011

Nothing Beats a Good Designer!

An Interview with Ian Leino

Part 1 of 2 (link to
Part 2)
Click on any picture to enlargenize

I’d better get a move on with today’s introduction. No, it’s not because I’m in a particular hurry nor is it necessarily because of the letters the faithful have been sending me lately that can be, um, politely summarized as ‘for the love of humanity, will you just shut up and get on with it?’ (Okay, Mom, I get it! Don’t make me de-friend you!)

No, it’s mostly because if I don’t get it in gear our guest for today, the one and only Ian Leino, he will undoubtedly be releasing another 2 or 3 designs before I’m done!! And trust me, I’m checking back every few minutes as it is to make sure I’m as au jour as I can possible be (that means dressed from the waist up, right?).

Ian is what one could call a prolific artist and designer person. Now, I know I’ve said that about others that have graced these good e-pages – including colleagues in the same genre such as Chow Hon Lam, Jared Moraitis, John Sprengelmeyer and Nichole Lillian (shameless plugs, I love ‘em! Thank you, CostCo!) – but Ian is busy with a capital Oh Boy! If he’s not pushing his tee designs at Threadless or other fine retailers, then he’s busy helping judging others’ designs, all for good causes and valuable cash prizes! And if he’s not busy putting out another great newsletter (subscribe now!) about what’s he’s sending your way soon, then he’s carrying tons of packaged loot to the post office to mail away! And a lot of that may include the very generous give-away’s that he offers on a regular basis. Have you subscribed yet? Hello?

Let’s put it this way: in the vernacular of my ‘people’ (howdy y’all!), Ian simply ‘churns the stuff out’. And yes, to answer your next question, I have churned butter the old-fashioned way, so I know of what I speak. I’ve also milked goats, but I can’t provide any more details to that owing to the pending legal proceedings. So like I’ve been trying to say for much too long now, let’s get on with the interview and meet this talented fellow.


Hi Ian, welcome! Let’s start off with a favorite standard: Can you tell us a little bit about Ian Leino please and how he became, quote, ‘a graphic designer and illustrator currently living in Asheville, NC who specializes in design for the entertainment and apparel industries?’
Thanks for the invite Ziggy! Me? Well, I'm just a nerdy guy in his early 30's who's equally at home in a fine art museum or the action figure aisle of the local toy store.

I graduated with a degree in fine art and computer science, and took a job doing graphics for a local news station. I'd never touched Photoshop before, but luckily there wasn't that much actual work to be done! So I used the rest of my time to go through every Photoshop tutorial that I could find online, and slowly taught myself how to use it.

From there I took a job at a film and video company, at first doing still graphics then eventually working up to motion graphics, compositing, and editing. At that point I also started doing freelance work on the side, and my enjoyment of music and entertainment drew me to those sorts of projects and clients.

I’d also be interested in knowing more about your life as – hang on, let me list all these – an amateur chef, a bassist, home-brewer, oh and also the bits about owning both a jeep and a pug. Are these in some way all done simultaneously or how does that work with your graphics business?
I love food and music, but have no real formal training in either. I'd like to think that if I weren't a designer I'd be a chef or musician – but in reality I'd probably be a computer programmer (which was my original college major).

Concerning the beer thing, two years ago I was introduced to home-brewing and found that it was a great way to be more involved with the process behind something that I truly enjoy. I find it really fun to experiment with new styles and recipes, and I've found that quite a number of my friends are incredibly appreciative of the end result.

The jeep has been invaluable in traversing the snowy mountain roads of the Appalachian mountain region of Western North Carolina in the winter! Oh and our pug Norman has the very important job of ensuring that I always know when the delivery guy is here by announcing his presence with an excited round of barking.

You have some really great works already out and about. What were your influences that helped you develop your style?
I still don't think I've developed a signature style, as I have too much fun trying on different looks for each project. I enjoy the challenge of finding the one look and/or style that I think best communicates the core message of the piece.

The great thing about being in this sort of work is that everything that I enjoy at any stage of life can become an influence - everything from Looney Tunes cartoons to video games to beer labels.

Ian, you are of course very well known in the world of custom tee-shirt design. In fact, when we started talking, you were listed as the ‘best seller’ on the TeeFury site. A few questions if you don’t mind about this aspect of your work:

First of all, your work appears on several different sites as you show in your ‘printed apparel’ listing. Why do you submit to so many sites? Or do they – as in the other sites – approach you once one site takes off with a design?
A lot of that stems from trying to find the right market for certain designs. For example, some of my best-sellers at TeeFury would never have been printed elsewhere, and some of my Threadless designs that have been reprinted multiple times might not have even registered on other sites.

But you’re right: having a design that really hits at one site is also a sure-fire way to get emails from lots of other sites, as everyone is looking for good artists and potential big-selling designs.

What do you think it takes to succeed with a design and get it printed?
Like with any form of artwork, strong ideas and refined artistic skills are incredibly important; but finding the right audience that really connects with your work is equally important.

Some of that comes from time that I’ve spent building relationships and investing in communities; and some of it is sheer dumb luck. Since I can't control luck, I tend to rotate my focus between the other three depending on my current mood – that is, refining ideas, practicing new art styles, or spending time connecting with communities.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve talked to some of your peers in the recent past and am just curious if the group of designers in this market is relatively close or is it more of a situation where you share mutual admiration for each other but not necessarily Christmas cards?
A huge percentage of the friends in my circle are people that I've met through various online design communities, most of whom do at least some work in t-shirt design. For my part, I'm terrible about forgetting to send cards of any sort, but yes, I did actually receive Christmas cards from several other artists this year!

I think the Internet has really changed the nature of communication and affected all of our relationships in the process. I have several online friends who I've only met once in my life (or never at all) that I talk with daily, while I may go weeks or months without seeing some of my good friends that live here in town.

To take this thought a step further: do you feel like you’re in competition with these other designers – even the ones you may ‘know’ well – or is it really focused on pushing yourself to come up with a great design?
I'd say on some level, all designers are in competition with each other but in a more positive way than that concept is generally perceived. I mean, without competition, the first caveman who grabbed a smoking ember from the fire and left a charcoal mark on a wall would be hailed as the greatest artist in human history; the creator of the wheel would have had the pinnacle of modern transportation forever; our concepts of art and communication and technology and beauty would never have advanced and society would be in pretty lousy shape.

I think we're all competing with ourselves, but it takes the work of others to show us how our own work measures up. A person on a desert island who makes a spear is pretty impressed with himself … until an aircraft carrier cruises by.

I’m also curious about your ‘available designs’ section. Are these designs that you feel strongly about that haven’t yet found an outlet or where do they fit in?
Exactly. After completing them, there are a number of designs I've created that I enjoy and that I think could work well as a t-shirt but I just haven't found the right home yet.

Also, when I'm contacted by companies looking for designs, it gives me a way to point them to one central repository of all of my currently available designs, rather than sending out PDFs that may soon be out of date as new designs are added and old ones are sold.

Continued in Part 2

July 8, 2011

Nothing Beats a Good Designer!

An Interview with Ian Leino

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any picture to enlargenize

Ian, continuing on about some specific designs: I really got a kick out of your piece titled ‘Ironic Slogan’, which in good British seems to take the piss out of the tee-shirt design industry. Was that your intention and if so, were you aiming it at certain design trends or really just having fun with everyone’s’ work including your own?

That's precisely what I had in mind.

It seems like a dozen new online t-shirt shops are founded every day, and most of them are based on the same general formula. I thought then that by creating a design of the formula ITSELF that has been behind so many other designs I was doing a sort of tongue-in-cheek end-run around the entire industry. I enjoy humor in all forms, but have a special appreciation for meta humor like that.

If I had to choose, I’d probably say my own personal favorite design of yours is ‘I Wish I Were’ with the ‘devil’ making snow angels (I shouldn’t say this, but it really speaks to me!!). Can you please walk us through how a design like this comes to ‘be’ from concept to finish?
That design started out as an element of a larger design that was titled “A Cold Day in Hell”. I wanted to show a picturesque snow-covered scene in Hell with a number of rather cute and playful demons enjoying a variety of wintertime amusements from skiing to ice skating to snowball fights. After it was done though, the aspect of the design that people responded to the most was the one demon making a snow angel! So I decided to focus in on that one character to create a stronger impact.

I think we all like the opportunity to step outside of ourselves occasionally and try on different personas. Whether it's wearing a costume at Halloween or even dressing up for a fancy dinner - the way we see ourselves affects how we act. In re-working the character, I wanted to portray the idea of a dark and powerful creature taking a moment to act out of character and enjoy a bit of playing in the snow.

You’ve also done some exciting work for the ‘music industry’ including print projects, promotions, calendars (for both Black Eyed Peas and KISS – well, one out of two ain’t bad!) and more. How did you get ‘in’ to these outlets, which I would think would be really competitive and tough to achieve?
My work for the music industry was actually my first step into the world of free-lancing. I lived in Mobile, Alabama at the time and got some very small projects for Integrity Music, a Christian music label that was in town. I slowly worked my way up and eventually landed bigger projects with better budgets, and they remain one of my best clients.

Between client projects, I started working on tee-shirt designs for sites like Threadless; but before I was ever printed through any of those sites, I used those designs as a portfolio to apply for t-shirt design jobs that I found online. And actually "Ironic Slogan", that you mentioned earlier was what landed me a gig with a band merchandise company doing a couple of car-related designs for Kid Rock. That company was very happy with my work, and kept giving me more projects - mostly shirt designs but also magazine advertisements, calendars and other print jobs.

Also, you’ve even had a few shirt designs make it all the way to sales for The Beatles! Tell us a little how that project came to be?
Once I completed the Kid Rock designs, they tried me out on a few other bands like The Doors, Bob Seger and ZZ Top. After that they approached me about doing some retail designs for The Beatles. I was thrilled to have the opportunity, but intimidated by the sheer volume of Beatles designs that already existed!

After working through a number of concepts I eventually pitched them 2 designs, one of which was approved and eventually sold through The Beatles official store as well as a number or retail outlets.

In terms of your ‘non-Tee’ offers – again including promotions, branding and others – how do these differ to you from either a design approach or even end satisfaction perspective?
These other types of projects allow me to stretch different creative muscles, and keep me from becoming a one-trick pony.

To make a musical analogy - lots of musical artists create 'side' bands in a totally different style from their main band. They may still love their major creative outlet the most, but it's important to be able to create and express ideas that may not fit in with that mode. Print design, apparel, branding and the occasional web work all allow me to take a different approach to a creative challenge, but they offer the same sense of satisfaction when I feel I'm able to communicate the central message of the project - whatever the project is.

It seems that a one man ‘show’ as it were in the active design industry is a busy, perhaps even often laborious task, referring to one picture you posted of a HUGE pile of shipments to be made. How do you balance these ‘operational’ aspects vs. getting the time you look for to be designing, sketching or just in general using your creative talents?
It's a balancing act, for sure, and there are times that a huge workload on one side causes the other to slip a bit. When I have several client projects in the works, it may take me a few extra days to ship orders.

For the most part though, they're fairly complementary. My brain can only work on creative concepts for so many hours at a time, and I find that taking a little time to deal with some of the business side of things often gives me just the break I need to feel refreshed and ready to delve back in to design work.

Even when things start to pile up, I try to find ways of getting things done without bursting from overwork - maybe talking to clients while I'm driving to the post office or folding shirts at night while I watch a movie.

Looking ahead, in what direction would you like to see your business go in the coming moons? Is there a specific area in the design or illustration fields you’d like to get into or even do more work in?
I just finished up my first ever movie poster design and I'd love to get into more of that work! I'd also be interested in working directly with bands on album covers, posters or other projects.

As for long term goals, my sister is a costume designer in the theater, and I think it would be really interesting to collaborate together on creating a full apparel line one day.

Having said that: what’s next for Ian Leino?
Well, I've just released several more products through my shop, plus I'm really enjoying the big response my Facebook fan page has been receiving! Also, in the next weeks and months I have some designs coming out on at least three different websites.

I'm a big sci-fi fan, and I've donated over 50 of my popular "Serenity Sake" shirts and glasses to this year's "Can't Stop the Serenity" program, which shows screenings of "Serenity" all around the world, with all profits going to Equality Now and other charities.

In non-design news, I'm excited for summer so that we can finally put the top down as we drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway! Oh, and I’m definitely looking forward to an Italian vacation that my wife and I are planning for the early fall.


Currently plying his trades from his wonderful surroundings of Asheville, NC (please visit today… and spend all your money while you’re there! My tax refund will be glad you did!), Ian Leino has received critical acclaim from far, wide and any other dimensions you might want to add. As an independent graphic artist, he’s worked with a broad range of regional and national clients as well as well-known brands, including famous bands, and much more. His work on a wide variety of projects is available for your viewing pleasure on his homepage and also via his social media links.

Ian is perhaps best known for his apparel designs that have created a fanatic following that awaits each new design with glee. Seriously, when he runs a freebie contest, his Facebook wall looks like the mosh pit at a Green Day concert (ha! I knew I could get a plug in for these pics!!). His different designs with often poignant or socially relevant themes have been picked up for production by a number of the most popular and competitive online sites including Threadless, TeeFury, DesignByHumans, Woot and many more. Check ‘em out today and also be sure to stop by his shop for out of print designs and other merchandising fun!

Links (ha, get it? Like sausage... never mind...)

Shop (direct orders from artist)

Facebook ‘fan’ page

Flickr gallery


All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Ian Leino, including all current or previous business affiliations related to same, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations. In all cases, we invite you to visit the artist’s site(s) for more!