Crazy designs for crazy times: lockdown 2020

July 16, 2020

‘Two-faced guy’: t-shirt/hoodie design by Callum O’Sullivan

Callum O’Sullivan emerges from the doldrums with a burst of creativity and his newfound passion for making t-shirts

I was always the kid at school who drew in class, any class. I started with doodles, which gradually developed into figures, faces and cartoon characters.

I’d have a particular character or concept in mind, and make a kind of visual summary of the main features, and then exaggerate them. I sometimes base ideas on people I know or just someone I’ve passed in the street who stood out in some way.

During lockdown, once the massive disappointment of not being able to see my friends and continue my college course eased, I started to get motivated. I found that without having to travel an hour each way to college, I had much more energy.

I’m not waking up so early, as I don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time, but I’m still producing lots of work I’m happy with. Maybe I’m not working at a super fast pace, but I think there’s value in taking my time, and daydreaming a little.

Research shows that many of our best ideas come to us during idle moments. According to Journal of Psychological Science, letting your mind wander can lead to better creative problem solving.

‘Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve’: t-shirt design by Callum O’Sullivan

Personally I usually have my best ideas when I’m bored on my own, in my room or just in the shower.

Art and music have always been a really powerful outlet for me. I’m not sure what I’d do or where I’d be without them. I often make sense of the world through creating a character or making music.

I sometimes draw inspiration from Pinterest, and I’ll just keep going until I see something that gets my brain working. TV shows like Adventure Time, Bojack Horseman and even Rick and Morty have also played a part in how I draw and represent the world.

With my designs and drawings I find it gives me the opportunity to have a different take on my thoughts about life. Through my cartoons I can see the funny side of darker issues.

I like to sketch out my initial ideas with a black marker on paper. You can see me in action below ⬇️. I might draw a few characters and then add some words, which I build on, by cutting out the different elements and working out a composition.

When I’m happy with my sketches I scan them into Photoshop or Illustrator where I can add colour, backgrounds, logos, resize images and adjust the composition.

My idea for creating designs for t-shirts came through laying some creations out on my bed, and a t-shirt was the first thing I grabbed to use as a plain background. From there the idea flourished.

With what I do, I don’t feel there needs to be a deep meaning behind my ideas; as long as I like it and can connect with it, I figure that other people will too, hopefully.

My sisters and friends certainly like my stuff. My designs are aimed at people of my age, teenagers primarily, but younger kids might get into them as well.

‘I Think You’re a Hottie’: t-shirt design by Callum O’Sullivan

I love to bounce ideas about with other people. There’s always value in listening to other perspectives. Even if I only incorporate a small suggestion, it always makes for a better end result.

I’m in the early stages of designing t-shirts and not 100% certain of how it’s going to work out. However, I’m learning a lot right now and I’ve landed a big commission with Exposure!

My brief is to create a design for all the young people who have made exceptional contributions to Exposure’s website during lockdown. The t-shirts will serve as a souvenir for this period generally too.

I’m excited to see the finished print on the t-shirts; the order will be placed very soon!

Here’s a sneak preview 😎…

Editorial support from Finn Souter.

Callum is studying media at college. He has played guitar since he was eight and now at 18 enjoys jamming with his band. Callum is developing a clothing brand, Bube. At the moment his main passion is designing for t-shirts and hoodies.

Other work

Donate via PayPal

Exposure is an award-winning youth communications charity giving young people in north London a voice.

Please support us to continue our work. Thank you.