Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Monkey Style T-shirt

I've mentioned before that I regularly contribute to a BJJ magazine called Jiu Jitsu Style. In addition to this, I have designed a rashguard for them, and a t-shirt. This new creation is based firmly on my love of the old Chinese fable Journey to the West and the character Monkey King, or Sun Wu Kong, to give him his proper name.

Read on to see how I took the core sketch and built it up over a period of many steps to create the final product...

My initial sketch showed Monkey grappling with a dragon. Since the client and customer base are jiu jitsu practitioners, it made sense to bring some grappling element into the piece. I thought it was nice design but hardly the most dynamic of poses - monkey was just bear hugging really.

But I liked the basic position to I scanned my pencil sketch into Photoshop and spliced it apart and re-composed to see what would work.

So the above image shows Monkey taking to the air among the clouds with his dragon foe. Again, it was okay, but just not hitting the sweet spot for me. Then someone who saw these roughs suggested I make the Monkey perform a full suplex manoeuvre, with him arching his back and smashing the dragon head to the ground. Awesome! And a quick trawl through Google images reveals plenty of photographs I could reference off, for example the image below:

kurt angle suplexes jeff hardy Credit: TNAPic from:

I decided to re-sketch the dragon digitally so that I could see how it would fit against my Monkey character, which was pretty much almost all there already. Note the use of circular guidelines on the second image below:

Once I as happy with the bare bones sketch, I then began the task of inking it up using the Pen tool, blob tool and brush tool on Adobe Illustrator CS5. The Chinese characters say 'Jiu Jitsu Style.' Note the cracks I drew onto the text.

I decided the Monkey fighting the dragon would look better as a back of the tee design so I had to think of something for the front. I chose to reprise the Monkey's face as a portrait for the front design. I don't really know why, I just wanted a gigantic Monkey King face gritting his teeth as a front of tee picture. The chinese words on his head band reads Monkey Magic - a reference to the theme tune of the eighties TV series called Monkey.

In a slight departure from my usual nasty manic face designs, I gave Monkey King dilated pupils. I think they take the edge of his nastiness and makes him almost baby-like! It's a classic example of my completely random thought process, I basically wanted Monkey King to look like the cover of the Eels album Beautiful Freak:

I'm often influenced by the artwork on the albums I bought when I was younger. The Eels' album came out in 1996 and is still a stunning collection of songs. The cover photo has stuck in my head ever since I bought it.

So, lastly, my task was to select a variety of colourways. Callum, the editor at Jiu Jitsu Style, loved all of the three I offered to thankfully he printed all of them.

This t-shirt will be initially made available to visitors of the Body Power Expo in Birmingham, and after that, they will be available to order online from the Jiu Jitsu Style Store.



  1. I saw these at the SENI2012 expo in london, was going to buy it but forgot to and only remembered later. When are these going to be up for sale online?

  2. Should go live Wednesday I think, after the Bank hols.But keep an eye on the Jiu Jitsu Style Facebook page.