Thursday, October 9, 2008

Contest Watch: Week of October 2

October has started with a bang, my friends... there was enough quality work that there's not enough room to stuff more than two sites into this here update. That said, lets get to it.

Starting off, a glimmer of hope from shirt.woot's rather dismal "Art as Text" week. While most pieces this week come across as little more than glorified slogan shirts (and rather nonsensical one-word slogans at that), there were a few that really shone through, one being Radiomode's "Curiosity Kills." Part of the charm is that he eschewed words, going for a single character, yet the design is able to convey that character perfectly. Which is to say, the design works whether you get that it's a question mark or not, yet the "?" shape enhances the design, as opposed to constricting it. To me, this is what the theme could have been... it tells a quick story, and refers back to a well-known maxim, all in one keystroke. I love the kiddie-book whimsy in the imperfect lines, as well, not to mention the bold color choices.

Also worth noting, though not pictured: "Ski" by the appropriately named skirochester, a subtle and skillful take on the theme that works perfectly as an illustration, and lets the text sneak up on you. It's something I'd almost certainly have written up in-depth if I cared a whit about skiing.

What I apparently do care more about than skiing is the letter X, and nikkyt's "X" has that in spades. In fact, it has little else BUT X-y goodness. I think there might be some sort of message hidden in the milieu behind it... it's full of stock-looking images of consumerism, of frivolity, of symbols that have lost their meaning. It might be trying to say we should cross the importance off such things. It might be a pun on excess (heh, Xcess... I make myself giggle). Whatever meaning might be deeper in there, though, I am simply big on the colors of the background with a big ol' oppressive X of negative space atop them. Not overly surprisingly, the overpowering presence of the letter is a turnoff for many of the voters, but I like the enigmatic nature of it. X is a perplexing letter, and a rarely used one at that. It holds a certain allure to me for that very reason. Of course, it's hard to really deeply explain why you love something when it just hits you in the right way, and this certainly does. At the end of the day, it feels good to love something that you know won't print, even if printing would make the love all the sweeter. So good luck, dear X. May the rest of the world see what I see in you.

Even when not appeasing very specific tastes, Threadless was dominating this week, and the rest of the post will continue stating why. "Roundup" by TGWA is next on the list, and while I'm no Threadless exec, I can't help but see their entire bread and butter base summed up on this design. It's got solid art with a solid joke taken further with the more subtle background elements. The palette is tasteful and earthy, which goes along well with the western flavor of the concept... and as a concept, it's something that feels incredibly fresh, not only with the centaur cowboy (an image I'm shocked hasn't been done to death already) but with the secondary hook of a herd of minotaurs, taking the mythological reference to the next level. Really, it only makes sense that a human/animal hybrid would end up corralling a hybrid leaning toward the beast side of the coin.

Another favorite of the week, and one I'm liking more and more and more the more I see it, is "Incurable Collector" by igo2cairo. It works perfectly as a shirt, nice and big but not huge, and with a shape that makes the size more comfortable. It's also incredibly visually rewarding, even with so much gray going on. The swirling lines and dust of the twister look great, for starters. I also love the eyes, more for how they're set against the "body" of the storm than how they greedily eye that airplane up by the shoulder. Sure, that airplane looks like quite the prize, but the real prize in the design is the array of items already swooped up. When you've already got a UFO and a Pyramid, do you really need some measly plane? I can't help but speculate further on the fiction... what's in the deeper recesses of the spiral? The Colosseum? Big Ben? Jimmy Hoffa? The questions of our ages could be answered! Or I could just enjoy the shirt, which I am certain I will. It's simply solid work. Solid work with great humor, great details, all summed up into a fully wearable product. Surely, Threadless, that should be enough for a print!

And we end this week with yet another must print... valorandvellum's "Last of the Buffalo." One of the most important pieces of the design spectrum is style, and v&v delivers in spades with every submission. The linework here is flawless and detailed and beautiful in every shaggy buffalo head. The skyscrapers ooze southwestern flair, as if the old towns of New Mexico built up not in the modern way, but in their own distinctive building style. The way the buffalo backs are built up with small housing settlements not only helps the idea that the buffalo are blending into the scenery, but evokes the idea that simpler living is hanging by a thread, like the buffaloes once were. The finished product inhabits a shirt well, and also takes the designer's ornate hand, and turns out something which is truly unisex, in contrast to some other printed work of hers which leans more deeply to the feminine side.

What worries me is that both of the last two entries are from the most recent "Threadless Loves" contest. The big contests always confuse me: with so much top quality work submit for them, one has to presume other shirts get printed, not just the grand prize winner, right? While I've found no certain answer to this in my travels, I can honestly say that if a contest shirt dies with the contest's winner announced, this week alone should be reason enough to change the rules. Hopefully next week will be equally solid, and DBH will regain their entry mojo. We'll see you then to find out.

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