Wotto’s Creative Characteristics
Wotto aka Craig Watkins is our Art Director at DBH but before he came here he participated regularly at DBH, winning six times. He is a versatile artist who is constantly trying new things. Known for his dark characters and doodles, wotto’s work is splashed over T-shirts worldwide. I walked across the office and interviewed the man behind the funky name.
Wotto The Creative Director and T Shirt Lover at DBH
Q: What is wotto? How did that name come about?
A: Wotto first came about when I lived in London. My good friend Woody called me wotto one day and it just stuck. I began to brand myself the next day and I have never looked back. Some people think it’s named after the flying dude in Star Wars and pronounce it ‘Watto’ but it is wotto.
Q: Where are you from and how did you end up as A.D at DBH?
Originally I am from just outside Birmingham in England but I have traveled around quite a bit. I freelanced in London, took a trip to India, moved back to Birmingham, did some teaching, freelanced again and then fell in love with an American girl. After lots of paperwork I moved here to sunny California, got married and landed the job at DBH. I have worked endlessly to build my client base and gather a dedicated following. It’s a jungle out there but with determination and hard work you can find success.
Q: How many T-shirts have you had printed over the past few years?
A: Well it’s has to be an estimate because I am not going to count them all but it’s just under 400 since the beginning of 2008. That’s pretty crazy but I set myself a very demanding schedule.
Q: How does working in an office compare to freelancing?
A: I love working at DBH, it is fast moving which suits me very well. I switch from a design environment to the print shop floor daily and seeing the full process is very rewarding. Freelancing is great but you can become isolated and lack the creative exchange that an office environment can offer. I do miss wearing my PJ’s well past noon though.
Q: Name one designer who you admire in the T-shirt design scene?
A: I admire many people but a few stand out for me.
Godmachine – His art isn’t always my taste but as a professional he is incredible. His work ethic is excellent and he talks a lot of sense.
Matt Skiff – Partly because I helped him but also because he has grown so much as a designer in such a short period of time.
Fatheed – His work is incredible, whether deep in meaning or a funny tee he always pulls off a great product. He should have his own line of T-shirts.
Q: Of your 11 printed tees at DBH which is your favorite and why?
A: The Gents, has to be. It’s so funny and silly. It actually sat around for two years before I submitted it and I never thought it would sell as well as it did. Who knew silly Victorian inventors could be so popular?
Q: So what is it about T-shirts that you love so much?
A: I just love the idea that one person wearing one tee can be seen by many, many people. It’s like a walking art piece. I also like the screen printing process too, the idea of a piece of art being pulled apart and then each color laid down one after another. There is a classic ‘cool’ factor to tees, I donno why, there just is. The funny part is I never intended to design for tees or work in the industry. I started out as an illustrator for online games and published books and magazines.
Q: Characters play a large role in your work, which characters out there are your favorite and why?
Sally from ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’ – she is meloncollie and beautiful all at the same time. She can also unstitch limbs at will.
Gizmo from ‘Gremlins’ – If you hadn’t seen the movie you still wouldn’t know whether to trust him. He is almost too cute to trust.
Moishe from ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ – Best monster ever, you just want to be friends with him.
- Pinocchio – The best Disney movie in my opinion. Naughty boys turn into donkeys and smoke cigars! Crazy but such a great character and story.
- The Moomins – Classic characters and so simple. So much expression for such a simple drawing. Love, love, love them.
Q: Is there a particular process you have for creating a design? Tell us how your images and characters begin?
A: T-shirt designing is about two things for me personally, a style that’s recognizable matched with an idea or concept. Sometimes I ditch the concept and look at purely aesthetics because some tees work just as cool images. Most of my work starts as a doodle, I always have to sketch the idea down even if it is just a squiggle. Then I usually redraw the idea, changing bits and bobs. I like Adobe illustrator as a tool and occasionally I’ll draw straight into that with my Cintiq. For me it’s all about the drawing, that’s where the enjoyment is. Once I think a design is done I leave it alone and revisit a day, week or month later. It’s good to look at a design with fresh eyes and I always ask my wife what she thinks too, another opinion is definitely worthwhile.
Q: When creating designs for clients, do you get attached to them? Is it hard for you to let go of a piece of your art?
A: Sometimes it is but I like the thought of it leaving me and setting off on its own journey. It’s off to be discovered by others and some will like it, some won’t, some will invest in it and some won’t. That’s a lot of fun but can also be scary too.
Q: Finally, if you could wear one DBH tee for the rest of your life which one would it be?
A: It would have to be To Hell & Back by mrdavenport. It’s creepy goodness.
Wotto’s Newest Tees
Read the Day in the Life of Design By Humans Creative Directer, Craig Wotto Watkins