Thursday, November 20, 2008

Contest Watch: Week of November 13

There are times when posting these things seems futile. When quality feels dead. When the icy grip of the ignorant seems to throttle everything pure and creative in the world. What good am I, but one blogger, against droves of vocal fools? If the goal cannot be education, though, perhaps it can be revolution. To join forces and fight for better. Tis the season for the Walmart wardrobe. We must fight to take back the avenues we travel. And that said, some of our warriors this week.

By warriors, of course, I mean adorable little things, such as Jacuzzeggs, by Lucky1988. This comes from shirt.woot's Miniature Worlds derby. I guess eggs would qualify? I'm not hugely convinced by the thematic validity, but I am convinced by the sheer joy on these little guys' faces. The colors are simple but just right, with the bluescale, the starkness of the white against the royal, and the coil of the burner adding a little more interest. I like the mix of style elements, the empty outline combined with the smoothness of the cross-section and the halftone shading on the eggs. The shirt comes down to a simple charm and cuteness, though, and shows just how to do it right.

If you're looking to see cute done more-than-right, though, Threadless would like to introduce you to andyg. Having left a long trail of adorable prints in his wake (and a handful of adorable disasters too), he has a near-surefire new one in Capistrano Spring Break. It is absolutely redolent of '50s cartoon charm, and the joke is so soft and subtle that it doesn't even need to be funny to add to this. There is such a mystique and even romance to the migrating swallows that them making love and drinking brews doesn't even seem out of place. They're just so happy! While you don't need to know anything about Capistrano to love this, the details evoke the intended setting well, and the colors pop like corn in a fire... the blues and whites especially, but even the more subtle red-on-red interplay. I know I say this often, but I especially love how this design inhabits the shirt. There's so much going on, and so much space used, but it's all contained and cohesive. There's plenty of canvas showing through, making the final print assuredly very breathable wearable, and all the elements draw your eye pleasantly... there's a lot of visual motion even in the fixed locale items. Simply put, if you cannot fall in love with this shirt, you may not have a heart.

I Have a Dream, A Song to Sing by Henna is not a shirt I imagine I'd wear (though I'd never stop the artist from sending me one to find out for sure). It feels just a shred too feminine to me. Still, it is one of those pieces you look at and are simply struck by, and not just because it's real art in a sea of branded nonsense at Design By Humans lately. The design works lovely as black-on-white as well, but white on black really captures the dreamlike nature. The lines are just beautiful to me, from the way the woman's hair cascades wavelike into the actual water to the dreamy spiral clusters embellishing the night sky. It is also worth noting that I normally dislike human elements in a design, but between the stark contrasts and restrained skill, the sleeping woman radiates. Throw in her wonderful animal and lunar cohorts and heaps of style, and you've basically got a single word: enchanting.

There are quite different lines to be found in A Low Owl's "Traveling Lines," which comes across with a very Warholbot/Zeptonn collab feel (with much speculation that it is indeed the former, hiding). Whoever the mystery owl is, he's put together a charmingly bizarre scene of grinning pyramids, vomiting hill-critters, walking buses? What I love most when I love something like this is just how much is happening... there's so much to look at, and it's all interesting, different, and eyecatching. It's about honing in on something you just love the sight of... for me it's that aforementioned smiling pyramid and the legs on that bus at the bottom, but also the beautiful illogic of the biggest guy's arm meandering along his body. Past that there's the style... even with similar flairs to other designers, it's still solid and unique, combining solid detail with cartoony weirdness. People often insist simple shirts with bad jokes are conversation starters, but to me this trumps those any day of the week... there's so much more to ask, and so much more to think about. Sometimes you just need a good, weird, yet attractive shirt, and for me, I'd be happy to make this one of them.

Finally, a piece that is just a great concept: Beelection, by Xzanthis. It's not perfect, to bee sure, but everything still works... any flaw is a matter of cleaning up alone. I love the election map, though the colors seem a smidge flat on it. I think it'd look better still without a frame, and a more built-up news room, but the hexagonal cell makes total sense tied in with the idea of a honeycomb. I wish the bee candidates looked a little different from each other, but bees are bees. Even if I'd change things, it could easily go to print right now. The concept, I state again, is stellar... the bee colony gives an excellent ability to play off the idea of districts/states going to one candidate or another, and the community that bees have going could reflect our own. I imagine this less with selecting a president, and more for selecting a queen (another possible switch-up?), with the workers and drones casting their ballots. Also judicious: a map that reflects our own nation, yet with a very close race, so as not to upset anyone who might get up in arms about fictional bees winning against their preferred party (seriously, we don't know bees would even have parties like ours). And while it's only a garnish to a quality idea, I love the news anchor bee. Not only is he nicely fleshed out in a somewhat flat world, but his hair, facial and otherwise, is simply made of win.

As to winning, I wish it on you, Threadless and DBH pieces. To the woot pieces, may you find your final resting place somewhere happy sometime soon. This is never the end. Regroup, rebuild, and launch the assault again elsewhere.

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