From alien t-shirts to animal t-shirts, and Native American t-shirts to unicorn t-shirts, there isn’t much that David Penfound hasn’t illustrated.
Based in England, David Penfound works with traditional mediums like acrylic and airbrush, but is also a master of 3D digital programs like 3dsMax, which he uses to create his signature 3D breakthrough t-shirts. He’s also worked on animations for companies like Target, Nestle´, and KFC. When David isn’t creating he can be found playing the drums in the Torn Off Strips, paragliding all over Europe, or deep sea diving with his son.
With such an assortment of designs, we were curious about what made this diverse artist tick. Check out our conversation with artist David Penfound below.
How did you first get into art? What was your first artistic experience?
In my early childhood I realised I loved to draw, and would spend hours sketching everything and anything, from cars to dragons. I probably should have been doing my homework but drawing took me away to another realm.
You’ve worked on a little bit of everything: aliens, animals, aircrafts, Native American culture, unicorns, famous landmarks, famous brands. Plus you can’t forget the pop culture properties like Star Wars and Jurassic World. What’s the most inspiring to you? What is your favorite thing to work on?
The great thing with art is that everything becomes reality. The excitement of working on a new subject matter, be it a dinosaur or spitfire, becomes addictive, and the thrill of pushing myself to create something I’ve never done before gives me a natural high. I literally have never done a project that I haven't loved whole-heartedly. I try to challenge myself every day to learn new skills.
Have you ever sat down to work and found that the creative juices just aren’t flowing? In those moments, where do you pull your inspiration from? How do you combat artist block?
Because of the diverse subject matter I am asked to create there are many times when I feel stumped and need to do my research. I trawl through reference books, check the web, and more often than not take my bike out for a long ride to clear my head. If all else fails I find a cup of tea helps the creative juices flow.
You do a lot of digital artwork, including 3D animation, but you started out as a traditional artist. Do you prefer computers over paper? What’s your favorite medium?
I feel incredibly lucky to be able to crossover from traditional artwork, using acrylic and airbrush, to using my computer as my artboard and bringing a subject to life. I really enjoy both mediums and still try to find the time to paint in my studio. I really couldn't choose as both mediums give me a buzz!
You were born and raised in England, but found a connection with Native American Art. In fact your first exhibition in the United States was of your Native American artwork. How did you first discover Native American culture, and what was it about that culture that resonated with you?
Whilst at college I became friends with a beautiful Native American girl who gave me some insight into her fascinating culture. The amazing stories she would tell about her Native land was awe-inspiring and led me to create my first Native American picture. In fact, I even used my friend as a model as she had exactly the right look of strong but delicate features. Since then, the whole culture excites and astounds me.
Jack Black has been seen in a few Penfound t-shirt designs. Have you ever had the chance to meet him?
I love it when Jack Black wears one of my designs. It's such a thrill to see one of my idols wearing a cool Mountain Tee with one of my images. Unfortunately, I have never met him, but it’s on my bucket list.
Music is a big part of your life as well. Can you tell us a little about the Torn off Strips?
I believe that music and art go hand in hand. I listen to music every day whether I’m working, relaxing on holiday or even doing the gardening. From the age of eight I learned to play the drums and have been in local bands ever since. I have been a member of The Torn Off Strips for 10 years, and we tend to do covers and play at weddings, parties and corporate events. It’s brilliant as I get to play next to my brother and best friends.
Above: David Penfound playing drums in The Torn Off Strips.
I hear you’re also an adventure sports enthusiasts. What kind of extreme sports do you do?
My biggest thrill is testing my endurance and pushing myself to my physical limit. I currently paraglide all over Europe and enjoy sky-diving whenever the weather permits. I’m really keen on snowboarding and try to get to the slopes once a year. My big love is deep sea diving. I enjoy exploring the undersea world with my son who’s recently completed his PADI. Each experience enhances my work which I hope is expressed in every project I do.
What is your spirit animal, and why?
I’ve always felt an affinity with wolves, perhaps it's their hypnotizing eyes, the secrets they hold or just because they are big and fluffy!
What’s the most exciting project you are working on right now (if you can tell us about it)?
I’m currently working on an exciting project with NASA where I am helping to develop an interactive exhibit. I can't say too much about it but it involves space suits…..