Photograph: Isaac Zoller
London-based ‘Ted’s Draws’ is making a distinctive stamp with his limited edition, hand-drawn t-shirt designs featuring cult favourite icons old and new. With fans such as Jessie Ware and Dizzee Rascal to boast, we caught up with the man himself to talk Larry David, collaborating with Adidas and why “school is for losers”.
First of all Ted, you are quite elusive to track down on the internet, introduce yourself to the world!
Hello world, my name is Ted Pearce, I draw pictures, I live in Hackney, I don't do Facebook (my business partner does), I like drinking wine, watching Seinfeld and listening to rap music.
So it’s not just yourself running the show! Tell us a little bit about your business partner…
It's my friend John McDonnell who I used to live with. He is a journalist and blogger, so he can cover the media/internet side of things, such as putting stuff on the website and talking to magazines, whereas I do the designs and we both process the orders and talk to the screen printer.
We also have a guy on team who has moved to LA who sorted our recent photo-shoot.
How did you initially take your steps into the world of art?
I used to DJ a lot with my friend ('little') Ted and ended up drawing flyers for our own nights. Friends then began asking me to do their flyers, then people at magazines ended up seeing them and asking me for illustrations, so I made a blog.
What earlier works particularly stood out for you?
My friend Deano runs a collective called 'Real Gold', I used to do a lot of flyers for him, which was fun as I knew him well enough to do what I liked. He asked me to draw a poster for his bar 'The Alibi' of a selection of his favourite people - that was basically perfect for me and I always like seeing it up in there - plus they've got loads of my old flyers printed on the wall, too.
In general though I don't like doing illustrations for other people, I find it really tedious drawing stuff I’m not into. I couldn't do it as a full time job, I’d just get angry and frustrated all the time and write "fuck off" all over the paper. I'm more of a draw-er than an illustrator.
How did the ‘Ted’s Draws’ project span from all of this?
I really wanted a Prince t-shirt, but all the ones on eBay were shit, so I drew my own one with fabric pens like this but with 'Purple Rain' in the same font as the album cover and in purple. As soon as I wore it, all my friends started hounding me to make them one and I kept drawing ideas for my own t-shirts, until eventually, five years later, friends offered to put up some money to start printing and selling proper ones. By that time I'd perfected the drawing of Prince.
So you are very much self-taught? Did you study within any aspect of the arts?
I am self-taught, but my parents went to art school and they kind of taught me as a toddler. Most of my family do or did artistic things, my cousin's more of an odd one out as she's a nurse. I was born to do it, I spent my early 20's avoiding it, but I eventually realised it's my best chance at achieving anything in life.
I couldn't wait to get out of school. Studying isn't my thing, and I'm not that into 'real' art. I did my GCSEs and got a job in Somerfield. You can't tell me nothin' about cash handling. School is for losers.
Your second series of releases was surrounded around the theme of TV heroes and villains - was it a conscious choice to include more ‘cult’ movies and references?
All my choices for 'Ted's Draws' are basically who I want to wear on a t-shirt. If anything, I have to reject half of my ideas as they're not big enough names to sell. Christopher Walken, Sade and Prince are my muses; luckily other people love them too. When I was growing up Eddie Murphy was the king, my idol; and Larry David is a prophet - he wrote the Bible (Seinfeld), and the New Testament (Curb).
Best Larry analogy ever! Who are the names you speak of that are not 'big enough to sell'?
Slick Rick, Kool G Rap, KRS One, Curren$y, Sean Price, Big Pun, Dennis Berkamp, Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson even, I’m just picturing a t-shirt to sell to actual people, maybe if I get a name for myself, people will buy them for my drawing rather than the face, but I doubt it!
Over on your blog, you seem to keep your work as up-to-date as possible- most notably in reference to your recent Olympic sketches ranging from Mo Farrah, Usain Bolt and even artists involved such as Kate Bush- do you find it important to not just scope from the past- a habit which many artists fall into- but to take inspiration from the here and now, too?
I actually got a job as a customiser for Adidas athletic shoes at the Olympics, so I spent three weeks drawing all the events and athletes to get in the zone. I couldn't ignore Mo or Usain, but the Gold medal face belonged to Aliya Mustafina, a Russian gymnast who looked like she was on the verge of tears or screaming, she had something Walken about her, I had to draw her. She has an Oscar winning face. Kate Bush was a failed attempt at a t-shirt design, she just looks like a brunette, I spent at least two months trying to draw her.
I disagree, I love the drawing of Kate! How did the Adidas X Olympics collaboration come about?
They approached an agency, who approached Vice, who asked me as I’ve done a lot of stuff for them, and they like my company (in both senses). I was actually a bit freaked out before it happened because I wasn't sure I’d be able to come up with the goods. I’m a felt tip on paper kind of guy, but I hired an assistant with craft skills who basically made it all possible for me to apply my art to other materials and it ended up being pretty fun. Plus it made me take more interest in the whole thing, a bit of well-paid Olympic spirit!
Your blog also seems to have been engaging in a long-term love affair with all things pop, such as the images of Rihanna, Gaga and the inspirations behind your first season releases, explain!
What can I say, I’m a pop artist, these people are our leaders, the most influential, there ain't nothing wrong with great pop music. Play the hits!
See Ted’s work past and present along with his online shop at tedsdraws.com