Monday 11 February 2013

Heavenly Footlock

The Heavenly Footlock t-shirt is a collaborative project together with Tatami Fightwear, BJJHQ and 93 Brand to raise funds for the charities RAINN and Rape Crisis.

When I first began sketching down the concept, I realised quickly it would be quite a task to get it looking as technically decent as I wanted it, and I needed help too....

I first came up with the idea of a geisha submitting a demon using jiu jitsu skills for my Tap Cancer Out charity t-shirt. It's a cool theme that I would like to return to every now and again. I guess the above design is my sequel to the Tap Cancer Out design.

1. Initial sketches just to play with layout and basic anatomy

2. An initial attempt at a proper composition

3. The sketched out version was ok, but a little stiff perhaps?
It was at this stage that I showed my art buddies and was given several great hints at improving the dynamic anatomy on display - big thanks once again to Ola Lanteli and Bong Abad for their help.

4. The re-drawn version improves the geisha body position
As an aside, the technique the geisha is performing is called a toe-hold and is very painful. I chose it because I was recently promoted to brown belt in BJJ and suddenly we are allowed to execute this technique so it's a submission that is very fresh in my mind. Handily I have a book called Vital Leglocks that provided some key reference photos for me to work off.

The sketch stage was very hard to get right. I must have drawn and fully redrawn the above composition a dozen times. Each one starting from scratch. I wanted to get the design both technically right from a jiu jitsu point of view, and aesthetically right, from an artistic point of view. Finally however, I felt it was good enough to proceed to the next stage..redrawing the whole thing again using vector pathways on Adobe Illustrator:

5. Vector work - I mostly use the pen tool

6. An exaggerated swirling kimono adds a flourish to the piece
7. Photoshopped draft shows the potential as a poster design

With the linework done, the next tricky phase for me to decide on were the colours to be used for the t-shirt. I played around with dozens of colourways. In the end I chose a fairly traditional blue vs red combination for the subject matter set against a plain black t-shirt base. I felt black would enable the smaller elements in the design pop out.

8. Close-up of the actual t-shirt, which was discharge printed

9. Another close-up shows the excellent printing work (HandPrint Store)
Note the kimono design - I chose to feature a peony flower as the print on the geisha's clothing. It is a flower with a deep history and symbolism in China and the Far east.

Finally, I wanted to design something simpler for the back of the t-shirt. I usually dislike dumping sponsor logos on without care and attention so with this tee I reprised a close-up of the foot lock itself and surrounded it with some kanji. The Japanese reads:  足取り搦み (ten ashi dori garami) which roughly translates as heavenly foot lock. I used a judo manual to obtain the judo term for footlock: ashi dori garami. Apologies to fluent Japanese readers for my probably terrible interpretation of Japanese!

10. Back design features kanji, footlock art and sponsor logos

11. The final t-shirt design
Thanks to everyone who helped me produce this design. There have been many key stories in the headlines recently detailing horrific incidents of sexual violence and rape. I felt it was an important cause to support. I hope everyone will join me in this campaign.



  1. Do you scan in your sketch and use the mouse for the line tool or a graphics tablet?

    1. Yes Niall0 I scan in the pencil art then use a Wacom graphics tablet to draw new vector pathways ontop of the sketch.

  2. Hello,
    When will this shirt be available Meerkatsu? I just recently stumbled on your page and love your artwork!
    All the way from Texas,

    1. Stephan I am hoping it will go live as a one-day sale on BJJHQ next week sometime, the tees are already printed so it is a matter of finding a slot among their busy release schedule.
      The ones printed by Tatami fightwear will be available slightly later on and will be available as normal stock through their store.

  3. Hi, will you sell this through your online store? The british Tatami site doesnt seem to offer Australia as a shipping destination and the shirt isn't available on the Tatami Australian Store. This artwork is amazing!


  4. They just added it in the australian store, congrats on the success of the shirt! Doug.

  5. I really love this it still available?

  6. I love this shirt.
    I wish I could get one.

  7. I love this shirt!
    Any idea if this print will ever be available again?