In the spirit of giving back, and our desire to support local businesses and artists, we are doing an artist spotlight series. We will be showcasing a new artist each day for the next 31 days. Today’s artist is Stephen O’Blenis, mashup and pop-culture artist.
Stephen hails from Plainville, MA and has been doing design for over 15 years. His designs are fun and unique and feature mashups of pop-culture icons. Please join me in welcoming Stephen to the feature artist family.
In 1980, Chris Makepeace played a tough guy named Clifford in the movie “My Bodyguard.” He stood up for the nerd and broke Matt Dillon’s nose. Pop culture artist Stephen O’Blenis is that guy. At first glance he looks like he eats Green Berets for breakfast – and maybe he could – but that’s not what he’s about.
Like so many of his heroes – Andre the Giant, The Incredible Hulk – O’Blenis is a thoughtful man occupying the body of a giant. While he slaps the plates onto the Olympic bars at the gym, he dreams of the amazing T-shirts he’ll make for his brand, Warbucks Design. O’Blenis, like the bodyguard in the classic film, stands up for nerds everywhere by giving them unique shirts that fearlessly announce their passions to the world.
It’s an amazing compliment for an artist like myself to post a new design on my art page and have people just fall in love with it. It’s why I come home and plug away on my creations after the daily grind of my graphic design job. My day job doesn’t challenge me. My challenge is to interpret new ways for people to appreciate all the things I’ve loved since I was a kid.
From Star Wars to Super Mario Bros. to Walt Disney, O’Blenis mines his childhood passions for Warbucks Design. His illustrations are beautiful, but it’s often his concepts that set the shirts apart from the others in the massive world of pop culture T-Shirts. His most famous piece is a clever combination of the Harry Potter franchise and Disneyland – “Wizneyland.” It’s a perfect example of his style; a clean, simple, surprising take on two huge pop culture icons.
Many artists have one look and they stick to it. Everything looks the same. I respect the artists, but I’m not a fan of that style. I hope the people who buy my shirts do so because they know they will stand out. They can’t get these concepts anywhere else.
His following is growing. Maybe it’s because he is one of them, maybe it’s because there is karma in the world, and maybe it’s because he makes damn fine T-shirt designs. No matter what it is, people are coming to Warbucks Design. The years of staying up late, drawing, and submitting designs in the hopes of success are starting to pay off. It is a life he has worked for, one he deserves. If you want to see why nice guys like O’Blenis sometimes catch a break, check out his work.
Question: How did you get into design?
Stephen’s Answer: I actually went to school for graphic design and ave been doing it for over 15 years. However, I have only been design t-shirts for a little over two years and I love it. What started out as a hobby as turned into something much more as Warbucks Design slowly makes a name for itself among the pop culture t-shirt world.
Question: Where are you from, where did you go to school?
Stephen’s Answer: I currently live in Plainville, MA but I grew up in East Providence, RI for most of my life. I went to college in Providence, RI at Rhode Island College and studied graphic design. When I was finished with school I walked out with a BA in Graphic Design and a minor in Graphic Communication.
Question: What are your tools of the trade?
Stephen’s Answer: My Macintosh. I love my laptop. I sit and I doodle on it all the time and try to come up with the next big hit. (Still waiting) Basically all of my work is done in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
Question: What websites do you go to for design inspiration?
Stephen’s Answer: Honestly, I’ll look at all the current daily sites if I’m stumped or need something to kick the creative juices. Or basically just to see what’s popular and what people want. Then once I have an idea it’s off to the drawboard… or laptop in this case.
Question: What is your favorite movie, band, and artist?
Stephen’s Answer: I’m a huge movie buff so that’s a tough one. If you’re forcing me to pick my favorite movie of all-time then I have to say Star Wars. I’m talking about the original trilogy. But I love all the other classics like Jaws, Indiana Jones and Rocky. I can sit and watch them over and over. Plus I love all those guy movies; Stallone and Arnold.
I don’t really have a favorite band. Whatever is on the radio and sounds good works for me.
I do like a lot of the classic artists but I’m going to go with MC Escher. His stuff has always been cool in my book.
Question: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in design?
Stephen’s Answer: Design what you like and stick with it. Be satisfied in what you’ve created even if it doesn’t turn out to be a popular design. This way you’ll be happy with what you’ve created. Also, if you want to be a successful artist it’s not always about how amazing you are at illustrating but your concept. If people love your concept, your a hit! So don’t think that just because someone is more talented then you when it comes to illustrating/drawing that you can’t be a successful artist. Works of art are beautiful to look at but brilliant concepts make great t-shirts.
View more of Stephen’s artwork at his Facebook page.