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BEHIND THE SCENES: Activist Commission for Pride

Quick content warning: this post touches on homophobia and includes images of some homophobic slurs.

Scott Whalen and I went to college together, so when he asked me – over cocktails and Ru Paul’s Drag Race – about an idea he had for some shirts, I was totally game.

The idea was to reclaim slurs that had been used against him and other queer folks in a series of t-shirts. He told me that, as a cis white dude, he felt he had the privilege to make the more provocative statements and, thus, a responsibility.

During our initial concept conversation, we discussed a simple sans serif block letter, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how we might better convey the idea that these were being employed by someone at Scott, not just employed by Scott. He asked for something that was bold and aggressive, and something active vs passive.

I came back to him with a few ideas: including a westboro baptist sign feel, a scrawl on a locker, or a social media platform. I wanted it to be clear that the words had been employed at Scott, not by Scott.

After some sketching, I ended up focusing in on a painted sign concept. Not exactly the iconic westboro hate speech posters, but one that that someone scrawled for a counter protest. I got to work developing types of paint strokes and sent him a few options:

From here, Scott decided he was on board with the paint pen concept. His feedback was to combine two of the letter styles — which is a GREAT piece of feedback to give an artist if you’re working on a commission! He told me he liked the Q and U of the last paint brush option and the E E R on the second line. That tells me he likes a rounded brush tip and a sketchier stroke where the paint isn’t fully covering the surface.

We also had previously discussed accent marks. We looked at some florals and some fruit to go along with related slurs, but decided not to move forward with them. But! When I sent him samples of all the words — notice the rounded ends of the letters and sketchier paint coverage — I asked if he preferred plain letters or if he was interested in these sign-making accents I had experimented with. He decided to go with them, so a variety of accents were reflected on the proofs I sent him. They’re also reflected on the final shirts. Swipe through the images below to see the final shirts!

Tell me what you think!