This was a project I was extremely excited for. The challenge to create my own design and have it printed was something I had been waiting for since the start of the semester, and I intended to give it my best shot. That is, until I ran headfirst into some severe artist’s block. Although I knew I wanted to create a t-shirt, I had no ideas for witty sayings or clever puns to use for my subject material. So I turned to my sketchbook and Pinterest for refuge.
Hitting the Wall
When I ran into artist’s block, it was hard. I wanted to make a shirt I would genuinely love and want to wear, but when your interests are as varied and widespread as mine are, it was more difficult than I had assumed! I had originally wanted to create a 40’s and 50’s inspired movie poster for one of my favorite episodes of the X-Files, but then I moved down the list to consider a Rocketeer shirt, a Blues Brothers shirt, an Undertale shirt… until I finally realized that if I really wanted to challenge myself, I needed to make something much different.
The thought of an X-Files shirt wasn’t bad, but I wanted something much, much better.
After messing around with my brush pen for hours, I had finally come to a more concrete decision. I wanted to make a shirt inspired by Mad Max: Fury Road, one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a fiercely dieselpunk apocalyptic movie that is fast-paced, intense, and so gorgeous that every frame could be featured in an art gallery. And there isn’t enough merchandise for it. I consider it my duty to spread the good word about Fury Road, so I set to work.
Making it Real
My next step, as always, was Illustrator. I already knew I wanted a recreation of Immortan Joe’s brand for the back of the shirt, and I decided to create that first as a test to see if this would actually work. From there, I took inspiration from various movie posters and iconic scenes in the movies to come up with my first draft.
I used this poster in particular as a reference for the steering wheel Nux uses in pivotal scenes of the movie. I knew that I wanted to create a shirt that would echo the posters for the movie without directly copying any of them.
It seems to be tradition by now that all of my first drafts are awful, but this is the worst one I’ve turned in so far. Although the font is not an altogether horrible recreation of the font used on the movie posters, the brush I was using to outline the various elements in the shirt was a no-go. Brother Kerr gave me the excellent advice (which I really should have seen coming) to use shadows to outline the shapes in the hand and arm to make it seem more realistic. His suggestion was that I find a better reference, so I borrowed a friend’s arm and used that for the photo reference to create a better design.
As you can see from my original Illustrator document, it was an arduous undertaking.
The Finished Shirt
This shirt echoes some of the most iconic moments and phrases in the movie. The character featured on the front is Nux, holding his steering wheel aloft in praise of the sadistic overlord Immortan Joe, the villain of the movie. I used Agency FB Bold, the same font that was used on official posters for the movie, to recreate the battle-cry on the front of the shirt. The emblem on the back of the shirt is typically branded on the necks of his lackeys in the movie, but in the context of this shirt, it’s a subtle piece of iconography that pays tribute to the movie without having to call it out specifically. This shirt only includes four specific colors, five if you include the black color of the shirt. I look forward to wearing this shirt and I plan to sell it online if I can. The shirt is iconic and eye-catching enough that any fan of the movie should be able to recognize it. Even though I hit the artistic wall many times while creating the design for this shirt, and made many mistakes along the way, I am immensely proud of the final product and I can’t wait to wear it!