Interview: Godmachine


Hi guys, what we've got here today is my first interview. Hanging around on the internet I've found these amazing works, and the artist behind all that is called Godmachine. He's very active in t-shirts design too, so I thought it could be interesting to get an interview from this cool guy and he has been so kind to accept, giving us very interesting and inspiring answers.

1- Tell us something more about you and your works. How did you start? What did you study? Where do you get the inspiration?

I live in Wales (UK) with my two cats and my wife to be. I have been drawing all my life- I think if I remeber rightly I was a lot better when I was younger- but I never thought I could make a career out of it. I always wanted to go into film- did some courses in it- watch a lot of films hahah- but you dont realise what kind of dedication and concentration you need to be a film maker- thats some serious focus. I later studied Time Based Media as the age of flash was dawning- never having a computer or even playing computer games I was lost. I couldnt even turn the macs on in Uni- I was out of my depth. I expected it to be mostly direction and so forth....I left and after a year of social work with the homeless I started a Graphic Communication course. I passed but I couldnt tell you how. I was lost on that course too- it was a new course and the lecturers didnt seem to know what was going on- got taught all the basics- but I was still out of my depth. I spent most of the course drawing Lenor type sketches or hugley detailed Beardsly black and white ink drawings. The tutor took me aside and said 'I dont like this kind of work- I think its artistically offensive and I dont understand it. But I also know from that that you may well be succesfull for it'. It irritated me a bit because she would fail everything I did. Luckily the head of the course was a big Tom Waits fan as was I, and would catch the same bus home as me. He made sure I got decent grades off her and watched my back for me. I dont think you can teach graphics or typography- you either get it or struggle. I spend hours looking at the posters on fffound wonder what is it about all that typography/graphic that people like- I'm totally clueless to it all. so for ages I swam in this work of graf' art and typography- all these kids (I was a mature student having been a bricklayer or electricians mate most of my youth) all jerking off over clean vector stuff- I was lost...... ...untill I discovered old skateboard designs were collectable again- my mate who is an avid skateboard collector started talking about this and that and It was about the same time I discovered Horsebites- he really cemented the plan for me to do what I'm doing today- I'm lucky enough to have had a lot of communication with the guy and I'm chuffed to say he is one of the nicest guys out there (I would love to mention so many people here but I fear it would end up as a huge list with no reading value). Lowbrow skulls etc had come back just in time.

2- Which tools do you usually use? Both "traditional" (pencil, markers...) and digital.

I dont have the patients to move squares about all day (illustrator). Finally my Mrs bought me a canvas and some paints and told me to do a painting- I nearly died- all my stuff up untill then was on scraps of paper with either a biro or a pencil. I was hugely influenced by Gieger, Aubrey Beardlsy, Klimt, Richard James loads more...and anyone who drew for 2000AD (a comic in the UK) in the 90's and 80's. My mate bought the painting off me- so I did some more. I finally ruined our front room and kitchen with acrylic paints and started to do work above a shop in town- I hated having to walk to my studio to paint every day- and finally they needed the space back. I have no room or time to paint anymore- I miss it- but not the mess- I like splashing it about hahah. So, slowly over many years I began to get to grips with photoshop (im still a complete idiot with it) and started to learn about brushes and textures- and would scan in my pen drawings and colour them in. It took me years to learn all this stuff. I bought a tablet ages ago and didnt use it at all. lately Its all i use- I know sketch straight into the computer. I only use photoshop and no other program- it took me about 5 years to get where I am with it today- I only stopped using PS7 3 months ago. Im old old school.

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3- Can you describe your workflow, from a sketch to the finished product?

what i have learnt form computers is that its soooo easy to erase your mistakes- unlike paints where correcting a mistake can take days. So know i do a doodle- literaly a doodle with about 6 lines on a scap of paper. Imagine in my head what i want it to look like and start to sketch it out on the computer- using layers start to build up a more adhesive structure untill I even surprise myself with the out-come. I take regular breaks from the computer to play with my cats, do some cleaning, buy fresh veg and fruit for the day a bit of gardening- so it usually takes me about a day or two to produce a pic'. But then some days I'm like a dog with a bone and I will stay awake untill its finished. I havent picked up a pencil or pen to sketch for ages- I bought some sketch books and some pencils and have been trying to sketch more and more- I'm always too eager to get it finished so as soon as I have thought of something- I'm straight on the computer- and seeing as I work from home- I am never away from the computer long enough to warrent a sketch book....I hate it hahahah...but love it...

4- When you get a commissioned work, for a t-shirt for example, how much freedom do you usually have?

freedom on a piece can be a curse at times. 'hey man, just do your usually godmachine stuff', so theres this mutant evil baby i've been thinking of for ages- so I go ahead and produce it- then they say 'oh hell bro- thats sick- but we think its a know'. hahah so its cool to be given free reign- but people just dont realise what that means. Others are very specific about what they want- and that can be cool or a curse too. You get used to who you work with and learn to lay down some rules. I generally just try to draw what I want and hope that someone wants to buy it. It sucks when it comes to fitting in text- but its a lot better than a load of rejections. I've know designers get into mad depressed funks from rejections- its not cool. I do get some rad art direction from some people though. I suppose people come to you because they want a bit of you in the pic' - they want what you do- but its not always easy to guess whats inside someones head hahah. I dont blame the customer- I think its a lot to do with experiance and your catalogue of work. Slowly I'm getting better when people say ' a bright monster' I can generally guess what they have been looking at from my work and get it right 8 times out of 10. Its deffinately a skill- and not something you will ever get 'right', some top level artists still get rejections.

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5- In t-shirt design which are the common problems we can get into about the printing process? Which are the most common limitations we can step into? Can you show us your most problematic design for a t-shirt and tell us which compromises did you have to accept?

seperations and size- these are my problems. Limited colours: I havent really got a problem with this- for years I drew only in black and white so its fun to return to that- and with halftones you can do a lot more. They say in art you should always limit your palette to make more of an impact- I'm realising that lately, but it makes me forget I can do stuff other that tees- I get into this 4 colour limit way of thinking with my work- its hard to break out of. Seperations: I work in photoshop only and I work very messy (behind the lines) i use layers to cover things up and build up a clean look- this gives me a huge file size- so I have to flatten it and then seperate the colours into layers. I have never had to do this before and it perplexes me that a printers would not offer this service- i think its a program called film-ripper or something like that. I do enjoy sending a flat image off and having the printers do it proffessionally rather than me having to worry about it. I think it makes sense for printers to include this service- it will get you a lot more clients. Size: grrrrr It bugs me when you produce a design a certain size and the client/printer prints it small on the chest. I was talking to some big design folk about it and they were saying: if the client cant produce your work as intended then you should not produce any work for them as it is a direct representation of you- no one thinks- hey the band printed it small- they think- hey the artists did a small drawing. which is not good. I suppose you can always deny doing it hahaha.

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6- Are you active in any t-shirt design community, like for example? Did you get printed?

Emptees is where I hang out more than others- some of the people there are cool as hell and loads of fun. I did a design on Design By Humans and it got printed- I dont think I have the constitution for competitions- I'm a natural worrier. My friend is spending a whole year entering contests alone- no freelance work- the guy is a demon though and have the right frame of mind for all that- check him out- I learned a lot from him. Recently I have been learning a lot about the nature of mesage boards and threads- they live forever. I was told recently by some big names about staying away from message boards as they breed negativity- by all means show work- but be carefull of threads- people talk shit on them alot. People forget that the internet is a small place and you dont know who is watching. You know those people on youtube who leave comments like 'fag' or 'you twat' etc? Well, they exist in the art world too.

7- Your design seems to get inspired a lot by skateboard decks and stickers of the 80s and 90s. Did you ever worked for a skateboards label?

work for a skateboard label? yes please. I was a skater and that where my influences lay- the 80's and 90's were such a good time for me- skating all day- hanging out in huge packs of chip throwing ramp building burmuda short wearing curb shredders....get me a time machine. Art and Influences go around in circles- we are always digging up the past- adding some spice, reheating it and feeding it to a new generation- it will never end- I remember in the 90's it was a rehash of the 60's with bright swirl colours and a plethora of drug and field raves. It will happen every generation- and its cool. Skateboard art recently has become a mad place to be-I wish I was in the thick of it. There are a few companies who are slowlu bring good design back to the game. I remember for a while skate graphics went a big regressive or logo/branded and I lost interest. Skateboarding has always been at the forefront of most style and changes in my culture and most others.

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8- Which tips and advice can you share with who wants to become a professional illustrator?

I am lucky to have been given some great advice by some great people- and even just some great encouragement-I have only really been doing this seriously for about a year- so its nice to have. I will regurgitate some for you now and include my own at the end. Jeff Finley ( has been great to me from the start and one of his best bits of advice was to 'just draw it'- this wasnt said specifically to me- it was on his blog. It was along the lines of that he sits and think and worries about the piece too much and that he should just start drawing it- mistakes and all. I think we all have that problem at times and it rings through my head and has helped me produce some great pieces when I'm stuck 'just draw it'. jimiyo is one smart dude- his philosophy is amazing- I just recomend you check out his blog/site- a very resorceful person: his tutorial about how to make a weathered brush from his cat is brilliant. Jimiyo says some great things about believing in yourself and being the master of your his blog. Again, there are loads of people I would love to enter here by name- sorry. Personally I would say- join a community- there are loads about at the moment, it has helped me no end- you get to finding groups that do the same kind of stuff like you and you get to bouce ideas about. When I was a boxer we used to have sparing partners who would also train with you- this was to ensure that if you didnt feel like running that night- your partner would be round banging on your door making you run- and versa visa (sic). Joining a community is much the same thing- the vein of the style I do now was just coming into its own and I have some excellent- if not frighteningly, terrifyingly good sparing partners. Thank you for interviewing me- it was terrifiying- I hope it helps someone- If anyone wants any other advice or anything, feel free to drop us an email. yours aziz A.K.A. Godmachine

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