aaaTee.com – The Beginnings
aaaTee was founded early in the new millennium, but is the outgrowth of several decades worth of experience in the graphic t shirt design business. It's founder, the T Shirt Guy, is a former advertising/marketing creative director, who began his art career early, doing cartoons in school at a very young age. He had his first published pieces in a consumer magazine at age 14, and was doing professional work by age 15. He then went on to learn virtually every aspect of the graphic design business, working for screen printers, sign shops, printing companies and local ad agencies.
Pragmatic experience in the art trade laid the groundwork for art theory and general snobbery studying art, art history, painting, illustration and graphics in school. The artist found it quite amusing when he often knew more about actual art production than his instructors, but quickly learned to swallow his tongue after a number of unfortunate classroom “incidents.”
Leaving university early, the Art Guy, as he was then known, landed a cush full-time art director gig with a growing national retailer. Despite soon tiring of a repetitious and not-very-creative regimen of catalogs, magazine ads and brochures, the artist stuck to the gig for nearly five years, while continuing work on his own projects and sublimating a growing hunger for more creative freedom and fuller expression. He was lucky enough to ride the ascent of new technology at that time, including learning computer typesetting and digital camera skills long before they became “in demand” and “industry standard.”
Things came to a head, and the Art Guy was suddenly back to early roots: freelancing. Unfortunately, this time with an overhead far more onerous than in prior iterations, including payments for a new sports car (!) and an expensive 2nd generation Macintosh. Much stress followed.
For a short time, more catalogue and ad layout work paid the bills, with t shirt projects on the side. If you patronized a certain chain of t shirt shops (long since gone) found in Westwood and Hollywood, you probably bought some of the artist's designs.
Fortunately, not too much later, the artist was lucky enough to connect with the new Los Angeles branch of a northwestern entertainment company, where his skills and ambitions were a solid match. The Mac was just coming into vogue, and the artist's extant digital skills soon came to the fore.
During this intense but highly creatively rewarding period, the Art Guy produced a broad range of work, from original logo and illustration design, to copywriting and creative direction, and much more. Perhaps most importantly (for the years yet to come), he was exposed to and quickly mastered Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop in their earliest versions, skills that would prove pivotal for later t shirt design work, as well as every aspect of the graphic design business. The gig was good but the pay poor and the internal politics stultifying. Drama within the company continued to escalate, until the inevitable implosion occurred.
Things came to a head, and the young artist soon found himself back to freelancing around L.A., where the biggest single creative-driven industry was, of course, Hollywood. Being a film buff of many years – and having digital skills that soon proved to be highly in demand – Art Guy soon found himself in the movie business, quickly becoming the Entertainment Art Guy to a number of small ad agencies, boutique design shops. He was soon designing print and trade ads, movie and TV show packaging and even so-called “key art,” the main piece of art used to represent a show. Think movie posters.
More to come…