I first became e-cquainted with Delaware-based human, Omair Ali via the blog forum on Threadless.com about 9 years ago. Many of you might be aware of the T-shirt design powerhouse that is Threadless these days, but a decade ago, the company was still in it’s formative stages and, as the founders would admit to you proudly, the community that surrounded them is a vital reason for their success. Threadless was formed by friends, Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart, with the $1,000 that they won in a T-Shirt design competition, and was built on a format which allowed artists to submit their own shirt designs for others to vote on using a rating system of 1-5. The winning designs would then be printed and sold. Keep in mind that this was well before the flood of quirky T-shirt companies flooded the internet. The most important thing about the company and what drove it’s evolution, however, wasn’t simply the lack of outside competitors, but also how they were able to foster a community that both trusted them and supported each other. I can’t remember specifically how it evolved, at least not step-by-step, but I do know that toward the beginning, the winning designers would receive a copy of their printed shirt and then, later, something like a $200 prize. As the company grew, so did the earning potential for contributors, with thousands of dollars in cash and prizes at stake. When/if there is a reprint of the design, the winning designers receive additional compensation for that, as well. Over the years, Threadless has expanded to other products, built a brick and mortar shop in their home town of Chicago and even have a collection of recycled paper greeting cards available at Target, but none of those accomplishments will ever outshine the community which they nourished through that forum.
When I moved to Seattle in 2005, I did so without a permanent residence. I took on a shitty graveyard position as a night auditor at a hotel and would spend my nights fucking around on the internet, when I wasn’t chasing out crackheads that wandered in from the park across the street. I didn’t even really have much in the way of clothing, but Threadless shirts were only around 10 bucks or so, at the time, and they would offer $3 worth of credit for every order that came through a referral. This resulted in me embedding my referral link into everything that I could, racking up a shit ton of credit, and, eventually, coming up with around 30 free T-shirts to clothe myself, when it was all said and done. Beyond voting on designs, I discovered the forum as a place to kill time communicating with strangers across the globe, during those dead midnight hours — remarkably enough, it was consistently active 24-hours-a-day. Prior to that, I really didn’t know shit about computers, but I remember picking up basic html concepts by interacting on there, along with other skills that I continue to use to this day — without that forum, I’m not sure if this website would even exist, right now. One of the greatest things that came from that platform was that it operated as a place to bounce ideas off of one another; artists would often show work-in-progress designs and early concepts to the community to receive feedback before submissions. When people had questions, others were generally eager to help them out. The idea of being able to vote on designs gave people the feeling that they had a voice in the process, while the compensation for their participation and direct interaction with the staff made them feel respected, but the forum gave them an actual community for themselves to grow. Threadless became respected enough to eventually draw artists like Mel Kadel and David Barnes (of Montreal artist/brother of Kevin) to contribute designs, but even more impressive are the artists that grew out of that community to make names for themselves later — Olly Moss, Mike Mitchell (the man behind the iconic Team Coco poster), and Justin White (aka Jublin) were all regular fixtures submitting winning designs and engaging on the forum well before they were selling out Mondo prints and solo shows at Gallery 1988.
Omair Ali — or, iPear, as he was known on the blog forum — was as a regular figure that was as recognizable in that community as anyone, and more than most. I seem to remember that he might have drawn the stray image now and then, but, for the most part, he was never one of the folks on there creating and entering designs, which was never my intention or purpose there either. That being said, as supportive as that community was, it could be equally as daunting to be surrounded by so many talented individuals. In recent years, however, I’ve seen a number of illustrations pop up on Omair‘s personal Facebook account, primarily in the comic and videogame realms. About a week ago, the Delawarean seems to have found a new muse, jamming their image into the world of anime and geek culture, while pumping out a-dozen-and-a-half related illustrations onto his instagram account in a matter of days, as if almost by compulsion. The focus of his art? None other than that horrendous frosty-haired douche-clown from the food network, Guy Fieri. Yep, the same Guy Fieri who has a skull like the singer of Smash Mouth managing the Steiner Brothers, and a wardrobe styled in the bathroom of a Flying J truck stop. With themes ranging from My Little Pony (“Guy Little Pony”) to “Guyndum Wing,” Ali‘s drawings were clearly just notebook sketches created to entertain himself and those on his friends list, but they still caught my attention immediately. He really seemed to hit his stride after stumbling across the idea of making “Guyju.” I’d love to see these Fieri interpretations of Japanese monsters (Kaiju) rendered as vinyl toys, and/or featured in a Rampage-style video game, where these beasts are stomping through Flavor Town, reaching into diners, drive-ins, and drives, yanking out families like they were donut-crusted chicken fingers, and plunging them into Chef Guy‘s signature habanero mustard wing sauce.
Regardless of the fact that these illustrations may never have been intended to be much more than semi-quick concept drawings for his own amusement, their appeal is strong enough for me to feel that it would be a shame if they never became visible to anyone outside of Omair‘s social media friends list, or someone with access to his sketch book. Beginning with the “Guyku Fieri” Dragon Ball Z illustration used as the header image above, I’ve posted each of the drawings in the chronological order that they appeared on Ali‘s Instagram feed, complete with their original captions. Additionally, I also put together an equal number of questions to accompany each of the 17 remaining images below, and sent them over to the artist, to provide a little more insight about this
obsession project. So… if this sounds like something that might be your jam, then you’ll probably want to go preheat that oven, cook up a box of Flavor Town crispy cheeseburger ravioli bites — yes, that’s a real fucking product — reverse those sunglasses to the back of your dome, and peep these things out. They’re all pretty brilliant.
Tell me something about Delaware.
Delaware is a small fishing village on the Eastern reaches of the United Lands of America. Delawareans come in three flavors: unsalted, scream-o, and camouflage. The nearest Ikea is in Philadelphia.
I first intermet you on the Threadless “blog”/forum about 9 years ago. Were you doing much drawing at the time? With it being such a supportive community, how much did the Threadless forum affect you, as far as your drawing/art is concerned?
Around the time that I first joined Threadless I was drawing, but very infrequently. Honestly, I was just a punk kid looking to find a place to post dumb jokes. But, I quickly found out the community was filled with lots of people who understood my humor, and furthermore, accepted me.
Growing up, I was told by a lot of adults that drawing was juvenile and, in extreme cases, even considered a sin. But, joining a community like Threadless was tremendously important to me moving forward with art. Granted, it took me several years to finally take making art seriously. But, if it wasn’t for the support of the friends I’ve made through threadless, I don’t think I would have *ever* considered making art. I’ve met many people through Threadless, and I’ve seen even more branch out into amazing creative endeavors. I think this was essential for me to see, as it provided me with perspectives outside of my immediate vicinity.
There’s a post of yours on the forum from January, 2011 titled “Guy Fieri.” When you click into it, all that it says is “F that dude” and features a youtube montage video of him taking disgusting bites of giant food and a TotallyLooksLike.com image comparing Fieri to Violent J from the Insane Clown Posse. Was that around the time when you first really started paying attention to him? Do you still remember what your first exposure to him was?
Yeah, I’d say 2011 is probably when Guy Fieri first came on my radar; it sort of spurred from this in-joke me and a couple friends had about mentioning people/things going to Flavortown, an imaginary town of extreme Flavor described by Mr. Fieri. I don’t know exactly when I was first introduced to him, but during the rare times I actually watch broadcast television, it’s usually turned to Travel Channel or Food Network.
After drawing so many images of Fieri, do you feel as if you’ve acquired some sort of view into the mind of the man himself?
I think I like the idea of Guy Fieri more than the man himself, so everything I imagine about him is more exaggerated than he actually is. He feels larger than life to me. One theory I have is that he always smells like Cool Ranch Doritos.
At this point, these are just sketchbook drawings, correct? Did you create these with any future plans, beyond simply getting them out of your head?
I think these are going to remain as sketchbook drawings for now. I think drawing is sort of like working out my art muscle; if I don’t keep on doing it I’ll get out of shape. So, I started drawing Guy as an exercise in portraiture. But, then it took a weird turn into pop culture mashups.You kicked 18 of these things out over a handful of days. How long do they take on average and which one was the most involved?
On average, they take only about an hour or so. I have a bunch of ideas that don’t work, or just aren’t really fun to me that I keep on returning to. But, as for work I like, the Kaiju ones I did were probably the most involved, simply because I added a lot more detail to them.
Do you see all of these separate Fieris existing within the same singular universe?
Yes! Like a “House of Cosby” type situation. Except with more drama, suspense, and romance.
Two Guyju battle. Which ones are they, who wins, and how?
Guy Fiedorah (Hedorah) and King Guydorah (King Ghidorah) fight. King Guydorah consumes Guy Fiedorah, but Fiedorah is too picante and takes his asshole to flavortown. King Guydorah dies hours later from explosive diarrhea. In war, no one wins.
There has been a great deal of both celebration and heartache in the news lately, specifically in regards to the federal recognition of same sex marriage and the endless racially-motivated violence that this nation continues to endure. Meanwhile, there is an epidemic plaguing this country that has been largely overlooked. How serious do you believe that the Guy Fieri impersonator problem really is, and how bad do you believe that it has the potential of getting?
These Fierimposters are the worst. These guys are diluting the true Fieri experience; exploiting his name for their benefit. The government bails out big business, but why aren’t they doing anything to preserve the authenticity of Big Flavor?
If you had your own food network show, what would the premise be and what would you call it?
I’d have a show called “Put a Pizza On It!” Any food, you name it, I throw sauce and cheese on that biz. If you like rootbeer… how about a pizza float? It would work as a cross-promotional outlet for my restaurant chain “Pizzafy Me,” a buffet with unlimited sauce/cheese options.
You have to share a meal with Guy Fieri. Where are you, and what do you eat?
Me and Guy Fieri have dinner at an abandoned Blockbuster somewhere in New Jersey. To start the meal, we enjoy Guy’s signature garden salad: a meat salad complete with heritage potato chip lettuce and artisanal Mayonnaise Aioli (It’s mayonnaise mixed in an emulsion of more mayonnaise). Our main course is a helping of Kickin’ Buffalo Kimchi Filet of Chicken Dick Dippers with a Parmesan-Teriyaki Smashmouth slaw. For dessert, we suck on some greasy foil. To finish off the night, we knock back a few Jagerbombs. But instead of red bull, it’s a glass of A1 steak sauce. Also, instead of Jagermeister, it’s a burnt jalapeno popper. We both leave the table pondering the point of our finite existence.
Just to clarify, are the Hot Pockets in the Fieri Potter drawing labeled as “Sour Garbage Flavor”?
Yes. The crust is multi-grain, so it’s good for you.
I really like that one and see that it’s the only drawing that you bothered to sign before posting it. Meanwhile, the one of Stewie Griffin was captioned with “I hate this one so much.” Do you have a favorite so far?
My favorite one is probably Shy Guy, because he’s truly terrifying. After Fieri Potter, I decided that I was going to start signing my pieces, but I guess I forgot? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Guy originally hosted the gameshow Ultimate Recipe Showdown with former Double Dare/Family Double Dare host and noted OCD sufferer, Marc Summers. If you could send Guy through any Double Dare style physical challenge, whether it be one that was originally used for the Nickolodeon program or one of your own invention, what would it be?
Guy Fieri has to travel through a hall of mirrors. But, the twist is that there’s only one *actual* mirror, the rest of them are Fierimposters. Behind the mirror, there is a door with a lock, but there is no key. The only way to free himself from the puzzle is to determine what it truly means to be Fieri. It’s more of a psychological challenge.
What if you were on a Double Dare team together; what’s your team name?
An Edlritch Evil Exhumed; Awoken from it’s Eternal Slumber. Mortals, beg for the relief of absolution, for you know not the suffering he shall wrought. He razes the land, and and consumes the oceans, he cries out to the sky “SPRINKLE WITH CREOLE SEASONING”.
There’s a video that I saw with Anthony Bourdain where an interviewer asks him when the last time that he really laughed uncontrollably was; his answer was after seeing Guy Fieri tweet that he was headed to a Nickelback concert. Is there one specific image or moment that comes to mind for you instantly when you think of Fieri, because it really epitomizes what he represents to you?
Guy making a goofy face, mouth agape trying to take a bite of a cheesy, soggy, mound of amorphous flavor in a cramped kitchen somewhere in Las Vegas. He’s wearing a bowling shirt with a tiger on it, and he looks very sweaty.
Fill in the blank: “Guy Fieri is the ____ of this generation.”
Guy Fieri is the Pepsi Kona of this generation.