Oklahoma City artist Dustin Oswald is humble about the success he has found with his Bombs Away line of original T-shirts. The shirts, he said, are a means to continue working at his real passion: painting.
“That's what pays the bills,” he said of his Bombs Away line.
Oswald spends much of his workday at his small studio, 2921 W Wilshire, hand-pulling T-shirts at his four-color manual press. His designs are hand-drawn, and he uses silk screens for producing the shirts. He has so many orders, he said he hardly has time to do anything else.
The thing about Bombs Away shirts that makes them special to Oklahomans is that many have Oklahoma-themed designs. Oswald's most popular and recognizable design is Osage Shield, from the Oklahoma flag. Also Oklahoma-themed are his Scissortail design and an American Indian image called The Warrior.
“I like the fact that Dustin's line is all hand-drawn and not just tweaked in Photoshop,” said Amanda Bradway, owner of DNA Galleries, a Plaza District boutique that specializes in art, crafts and other items from Oklahoma artists and crafters and carries many of Oswald's shirts.
“It's inspiring for the public to see artists in Oklahoma truly make a living and growing right in front of them,” Bradway said. “Dustin is really making a huge impact on our state's culture.”
A sense of pride
Like many artists, Oswald admitted he didn't always feel like he fit into his local society, especially while growing up in small-town Apache. Oswald was into punk rock music as a teen and said he always felt a bit alienated from the rest of the community.
The term “Bombs Away” has long been meaningful to Oswald, he said. “It's kind of like my carpe diem, live-in-the-moment kind of thing.”
He felt such a kinship with the term he even had it tattooed on his shoulder during a trip to New Orleans about 12 years ago. That was five years before he would start his T-shirt line. His first shirt was commissioned by Blue Seven, he said.
After finishing college at Oklahoma State University and moving to Oklahoma City, Oswald said he started seeing a wave of Oklahoma pride among his artist friends and acquaintances. That was just what Oswald felt he needed: pride in where he lived.
“I wanted to do something that would make me feel more a part of the Oklahoma City community,” Oswald said. “I wanted to be proud of where I came from. I wanted to embrace my roots and see where that could take me.”
Though he considers himself an artist who makes T-shirts, Oswald's shirts really are expressions of his artistic nature. The designs are as cool and interesting as his paintings.
In his painting, Oswald uses mixed media of acrylic and ballpoint pen to create whimsical yet slightly disturbing paintings that lean toward fantasy, fairy tale and absurdity.
Where to find them
Bombs Away T-shirts are available at Blue Seven and DNA Galleries in Oklahoma City, at Stash in Norman, The Rage in Ardmore and The 18th Block in Lawton.
For more information about Oswald and his Bombs Away line of T-shirts, go online to Bombsawayart.com.