It's rare that I'm open to collaborating unless I know the person very well. I've had too many crackpots approach me with work only to never pay me, or folks who are convinced they can help me get published/sell prints/get greeting cards out only to find out I've looked into all of that and it's not free. There's no publisher sitting on the other side of a desk with a big cigar who wants to make a star out of me--or them for finding me. If I'm ever successful I'll be lucky to bring in $35,000 a year. I'm cool with that because it's my dream to illustrate children's books, not to be the next big 'it' artist. Idea men (or women) never seem to get that though. I contact agents and publishers regularly and I get rejected regularly. I listen to their feedback, I make my adjustments, I try again. It's not thrilling work for someone who thinks they've got a hot idea and I can make their dreams come true by drawing a good picture for it and bam, we'll get published!
However now and then I make exceptions. I am nearly always in collaboration on something with Amy or Preston because I think we work well together. If someone approaches me with a genuinely good idea for a children's book, I'm on board. If someone comes to me with something that seems really out of my style, I'm honest.
Seeking free feedback and exposure has lead me to submitting my work to certain sites, and one is threadless.com. My ultimate goal with submitting to threadless has actually not been to have a tee shirt made. My goal has been to get my drawings accepted for scoring, (which I have 5-6 times out of 7-8 submissions) to get folks to see the drawings and like them, and to hopefully grab a few new fans of my work. While I like the illustrations I have sent in, I don't really have a mind for actual tee shirt design and so every time I try to place one of my drawings on a shirt the border is an issue. Basically, I'm sticking a rectangle on a shirt and poorly trying to disguise it. Since I'm just trying to get them past scoring, I've never thought much beyond that. If you read the comments on one of my shirts it's always "great illustration, you should illustrate kids books! But the border is killing this---"
So a few nights ago a guy on threadless approached me with his email and said, "I love your drawing style but I think you need help translating the image to a tee shirt. I have some ideas that I think could actually win but I don't do art, could we collaborate?" Already I was on board. Here was someone observant, direct, and polite. Why not at least hear them out?
Today I received his ideas, and I've got to say, every one of them has a real chance on that site. It's made me think of threadless a little more seriously for the first time. I'm going to try to draw 3-4 of his designs (the ones I felt would work with my style, although I encouraged him to send the others to more artists because they've all got a shot). I also may try to do a design Kyle had a few years back that I always felt could win and split it with Kyle if we did.
So, we'll see how this goes! I must confess, I'm more interested to try my drawings with a person who has actual tee shirt designs to see how the score rating changes.