Artist News

Affliction Clothing stole my art and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014


Here's the thing. I'm not "whining" and obviously this happens all the time and no I don't think I'm "a victim" here. But I felt compelled to write this down and get it out because I literally lost sleep over it last night and didn't get as much done today as I could have because of it. The intense negative energy (no matter where its directed) is fucking poisonous and exhausting. its labor that bears no fruit other than MORE negativity. So I'll say my piece here and hopefully be done with it instead of hammering away at my stupid phone about something as galactically silly and fucking laughable as "Affliction Clothing" on Instagram.


I first noticed Affliction was directly copying T-shirt designs from my company Shirts & Destroy, in 2011. Some were clearly influenced and others were undeniably lifted. I was referred to a lawyer who had successfully filed cease and desist orders for other artists. They felt we (myself and a friend who's work I publish) had a strong case to halt production on the copied designs and perhaps be compensated with a portion of the proceeds from the infringing merchandise. My friend was able to make his complaint stick and I was not. So it goes. It was explained to me that in the intellectual property arena, its all a "Gray area". Its tough to make the argument that THIS is just similar but THAT is a copied idea. Granted, but to me its one of those "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." scenarios. One's a tasteful nude, and the other's a pregnant gang-bang in a public restroom. But to the uninitiated, apparently its quite confusing, so here you go.


When you're early in your "career" making art / music / anything creative, you're emulating the artists who inspired you. Unless you were the very first guy to bomb a cave wall with a fucking buffalo 40,000 years ago you're borrowing from other artists. People start out trying to be their heroes. Read any interview with anyone creative ever about their influences and they'll tell you "I was trying to be like______." You make a bunch of shitty derivative "homages" and try to find your voice in it. You find that certain approaches are like a 4:4 time signature in the key of C. They're just the tools that work, so everyone uses them. We're all sharing here so try to keep them clean and don't be an asshole. 


"Good artists copy, great artists steal." Aside from giving me bone chilling idiot shivers every time I see this puked out on Instagram or Facebook, Its also a misleading statement in this context. Like most misunderstood things, its nuanced and requires interpretation and thought which a lot of people don't seem to have the time for. Quoting this in defense of some giant corporation profiting off an artists work is the cry of a person with tragically oversimplified "opinions". The quote has been attributed to T.S. Elliot, Igor Stravinsky and Pablo Picasso (in varying incarnations) and it is undoubtedly invoked in an attempt to prove the point that: "A famous artist said copying is ok, so it is." Ugh. Thats not what that means… you fucking jerks.


The "Good artists…" quote isn't championing the free for all intellectual property rape of an nonconsenting artist, Its actually railing against it. To "copy" is an attempt to fool people. A "copy" is an imitation, a fake, a cubic zirconia, a fucking fugazi. To "steal" is to make something yours. To take something and add to it what no one else can… you. If you're a good thief, you take things, they become yours and no one will ever know. Copying takes an instant, stealing takes time, skill and patience. THATS what that fucking means… dude.


My friend Jebb put it best (and I'm paraphrasing heavily and poorly here) EVERYONE making art is influenced by other people's art.  Especially when we are all drawing the same shit (skulls, snakes and daggers, et al.). Everyone's thing is going to be similar but It should be approached like making your own cake. You take this persons egg, that persons flour and add your own spices. A piece here, a piece there, and when it comes out, its yours. Its been filtered through you. For better or worse, only you could mix those ingredients in that exact way. (And mostly its for worse. By volume, most art is really shitty, mine included.)


When someone takes the exact same ingredients you just did, throws them in a box, writes their name on it without even the slightest understanding of HOW or WHY its tastes good, THATS NOT THEIR FUCKING CAKE. That mother-fucker doesn't even know how to bake! He just copied your recipe. He didn't toil away in some hot-ass kitchen drop-kicking shitty failed cakes into the trash can night after night. He sat back, watched you spend your money on all those ingredients. Watched you sweat and fail, trying to get the ratios and temperatures and baking times right. And when you finally did it he said "Mmmm that's delicious, I bet people would pay good money for a cake like that." So he fucking copied you and put your cakes in shopping malls so idiots could buy them. FUCK THAT GUY. Mother-fucker doesn't even know how to bake.


"What about artists who use famous company logos and mascots? Thats copying too." Wow, you hate thinking. Mickey Mouse, Bart Simpson and the fucking Metallica font  are all part of iconography that is instantly recognizable the world over. If you "copy" Bart Simpson and put him on a T-shirt that could pass for a piece of officially sanctioned "The Simpsons" merchandise then YEAH you're trying to dupe people and make money off something someone else made. But you can draw Bart Simpson in a Nazi uniform and make a screen print out of it.  (Maybe as an artist, your'e trying to draw some parallel between the FOX network and fascism. I don't know, its your shitty pop art not mine) 


Now if your "Adolf Simpson" screen print becomes wildly successful and someone copy's it attempting to pass it of as "One of those 'Adolf Simpson' things you guys love" THEY are taking YOUR idea. Also, some giant billion dollar company can eat shit regardless. Why do average working people rush to defend corporate entities that would euthanize them if it would make their stock go up .0001% ? Seriously, what bizarro, head-in-the-sand marshmallow fantasy world do you dumb fucking dumb-people live in? Honestly, I wan't to move there so I can join your party and drool on myself and let my brain degrade into dog shit. It sounds simpler than what we've got going on here in reality. Jesus Christ I have such a headache. 


Opportunists and dick heads with money will always try to profit from the outside. They're the same people who get richer exploiting "gangster rap" culture and selling it to bored, privileged white kids who want to play make-believe in a Disney-fied version of the ghetto. One of the more recent teeth-gritting-with-rage examples is that fucking dork Adam Jackson and the mind-blowingly shameless copying perpetrated by him and the company "Fatal Clothing" on Mike Giant and his clothing brand "Rebel 8". (If you're unfamiliar with it, I won't play out the entire drama here. You're all grown up and you can google it yourself.) FUCK IT, I DID IT FOR YOU.


I remember seeing the Fatal Clothing website for the first time, I was trying to pick my jaw up off the floor along with everyone else. How could anyone think this is OK? For fuck's sake Adam and Fatal, that woman is pregnant and this bathroom is filthy. What would your mothers think? I don't think Jackson is as abominably clueless as he portrays himself in his half-assed "addressing the controversy" posts on his blog. Rather twice as chicken-shit.

If the fucking dude just apologized he probably wouldn't be so vehemently hated by everyone. But he just can't bring himself to do it. Instead he sheepishly defends himself 

"I believe I can draw however I like" Totally true, just like you can make hamburgers and call them "Big Mac's" In the privacy of your own home. But when you try to sell them, theres the rub. 

"Rebel 8 wants to have a monopoly on a given style"  Yes. Yes they do, but only because it happens to be THEIR style. Theres nothing "given" about it. Its created by their one and only artist who draws in that very specific way. Thats their recipe, dog. Make your own. 


"they are after all, the cool kids on the block." 
That last bit oddly enough, is the most damning. 


So why is it ok for one guy to draw like that but not the other? This is why; Mike Giant has been a very well known and respected graffiti artist, tattooer and illustrator going back to the late 80's / early 90's. Someone who has been immersed in the very culture his art makes reference to. BMX and skateboard graphics, Graffiti, Traditional tattoo flash, etc. Someone who has borrowed from these cultures but also given back. A guy who rides bikes, skateboards, and is completely covered in tattoos. A guy who fell in love with something and dedicated his life to it. Walking the walk. And weather or not you love all the same things he does is irrelevant.

Anyone who is involved in these art scenes knows Mike Giant, either personally or by name. No one had any idea who this Adam Jackson guy was. Why? Because he was never involved with it. He's just some normal-ass mother-fucker who probably finds nothing soul crushing about shopping at Walmart and loves Adam Sandler movies. The kind of guy who thinks Starbucks is a place to get "good coffee". You know, a norm, a tourist, a fucking dork. 


I looked at this dorks blog. He's hanging out by the pool in shorts with no shirt on and boy, for a guy who seems to revel in the celebration of "fuckin tatts, and lots of em!" he doesn't have a one… none. He's an opportunist poser. A taker. A goon, trying to drop in. Some asshole who couldn't put a cake together if his life depended on it. Go back to they Valley bro. 

Take a look at the rest of Adam Jackson's work. Its aimless. A bunch of polished neo-comic book illustrations that while technically drafted very skillfully, are soulless and void of any real culture. He has no idea where any of this iconography comes from, the rich history there or what any of it means. He's that guy at Guitar Center in a button down rayon shirt with flames printed on it who "shreds". Theres a lot of technical ability and skill at play, but well… its lame. Super lame and really corny. All frosting, no cake. Which brings me back to Affliciton.


No one needs to be told that Affliction is embarrassing, corny, Try-hard, douchy, etc. The reason its worn, endorsed and appeals to a bunch of clowns is they're the same people making all that shit. The type of clueless dip-shit uncles that hold up the DIO goat wrong and call it "The Rawk Sign". You know, cunts. Dorky sheep who think they're in wolves clothing. An "Affliction T-shirt" is a punch-line. Its something the wardrobe department puts on "Douche-bag #2" on a movie set. And we need these people. Otherwise, how would we know we're not them? Besides, its a great litmus test. Nothing says "Don't listen to me I don't know what I'm talking about." like a god damned Affliction T-shirt.


I've designed hundreds of T-shirts and other merchandise for bands, small business' record labels etc. And many of them were not 100% original. If the drummer said "dude put a little deformed skull at the bottom" did I go out and buy a malformed human oddity skull, set up a studio, light the skull, photograph it and spend 30 hours rendering it in pen and ink? No. Especially since the bass player is just going to say "Nah, take the skull out." 20 minutes later. You find something in an old book or some obscure website, you alter it a little and work it into your stupid T-shirt design for the band "DEATHFUCK" or whatever and wait for them to change their mind again. (its not like they're going to pay you anyway) People do it because the time spent versus money made for mosts artists / designers is a giant… hilarious… joke. Its grotesquely undervalued by everyone which has created the climate where "grabbing something and using it" is commonplace.

One time someone angrily emailed me about using a comic book image from the late 70's as a band shirt. (you know, like Danzig did) This guy let me have it. Told me I was a fucking hack and to fuck off and everything. He was surprised and actually apologized for being so aggressive when I emailed back and told him he was right. It was fucking lame and I thanked him for letting me know how he felt as a fan of that artists work. The band needed something quick and I threw this thing together and sent it to the printer for the discounted rate of $0.00. Thats how much money I got paid to be lame and get berated by some bummed out comic nerd. Cutting corners and swiping shit doesn't pay. In defense of underpaid designers everywhere however, there is a difference between appropriating something from one context and using it in another versus copying a CURRENTLY AVAILABLE T-shirt design for use as another T-shirt design. Especially when you clearly have the money to pay some guy to draw shit for you. 


I can't help but think about who might be on the other end of all the hostile posts and emails that were sent to Affliction on behalf of me and some of the other Shirts & Destroy artists who's work I am so proud to publish. Maybe they tried to convince themselves they did nothing wrong like that Adam Jackson dork and the shameless vultures at Fatal Clothing. I guess admitting you did something lame and saying you're sorry is harder than being hated by a bunch of "cool kids" because most people apparently don't care or can't tell the difference anyway. Whats most likely, is that they really just don't "get it" and never will. Even if you explained it with all the half informed reasoning and stupid analogies you could muster. 
Anyway, Fuck em, These pussies don't even know how to bake. 


-Begley

Shirts & Destroy 

Black Sabbath guitar straps

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013


Loudwire.com did a little feature on our friends at Heavy Leather NYC who we collaborated with to create guitar straps for both Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler of BLACK SABBATH for their current tour. Our role in this project was having Ryan Begley create all the original illustrations and artwork for both straps as well as Dylan Currie at Artifact Publishing engraving the leather. It was a huge honor to be involved so thank you to Heavy Leather NYC and of course Tony and Geezer for enthusiasm and appreciation. BLACK SABBATH!!!

Boston Marathon Benefit shirt

Friday, April 19th, 2013


We put together this Benefit for victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and their families. 100% of profits will go to "The One Fund". Its the best way to make sure out efforts go directly to those most in need. We will be taking pre-orders for this shirt through the weekend and production will begin next week. We will ship these orders by 4/30. This design was inspired by Comedian Patton Oswalt's hopeful thoughts durring a very dark time for the city of Boston. Thank you.

 

 

TOY AND DESTROY!

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012


Our Toy and Destroy Holiday gift items are here! Limited Edition items by Thomas Hooper, Ryan Begley, David Cook and Chris "Tallboy" Coulon! Order now and get it in time for Christmas or Kristmvs or Chanukah or Winter Solstice or whatever.

Biography

Shirts & Destroy is an ever expanding and evolving team of artists, designers, tattooers, musicians, screenprinters, giclee printers, illustrators and other creative minded contributors. We produce, publish, manufacture and offer to our customers fine art and high quality boutique style music merchandise.

Our mission is to support true underground artists and musicians before their ideas are inevitably co-opted, copied and watered down to be sold in shopping malls.

Contributors of Shirts & Destroy invest no money and recoup 80% of the profits from sales after production costs. Our customers directly support the artists and musicians on our roster and we work hand in hand to ensure the artistic integrity of our contributors endeavours is always intact.

"I've always seen it as the role of an artist to drag his inside out, give the audience all you've got. Writers, actors, singers, all good artists do the same.
It isn't supposed to be easy."

-Henry Rollins

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