Thursday, December 11, 2008

Contest Watch: Week of December 4

This was a rather incredible week for a couple sites, to the point where once again, we'll be seeing but two featured in this week's Contest Watch. You know the drill at this point: allow me to be a ho-ho-ho for a couple gifts I want under my tree next year.

We start off with Workshop by ISABOA, reprising his role in his last Contest Watch as "King of the Monochrome." The detail is absolutely stunning, and it has a hand-drawn, pencil sketch feel I always appreciate in a world of oversmooth vector lines. It gives the piece a more "workshoppy" feel, as the sketch makes it rougher and dirtier. I especially enjoy the detailing around the head cavity, and the way the articulated hands were constructed. The great thing, though, is how well it works as a shirt... where many sketches feel slapped on, you can tell this one was created with the canvas in mind. The hulking robot fills the shirt perfectly, and a little ominously. I'm unsure which is more appealing to own: the shirt, or the bot.

There was no shortage of success at Threadless this week, as these first three should show. Their new prints were among their best line-ups, and even if I'd only talked up their entries, I'd have had to leave out some solid work. As such, it is somewhat disappointing to have seen radiomode's La Guitare so late in my travels, but while there were plenty of diverse, complex, and intriguing options to stick in its place, I simply love this simple piece for its perfection in simplicity. It's really an ultimate music shirt, a topic there has certainly been no shortage of in the shirt world. It's the small attention to detail... the staff is completely playable, and not only that, but it is specifically guitar music, not just random notes. The added symbols make that abundantly clear. The positioning of the hands also feels so right... I couldn't be sure of the chord, but the fingers contort in a fully believable manner, and the strumming hand is even apparently fingerpicking, as the piece suggests. Even the ends of the staves finish off perfectly, as though thread through tuning pegs. All this and a perfect color scheme. There's no question why radiomode is so printed when you see work like this. It sums up why simplicity can be just as powerful as complexity.

Childmirror's RACE is similarly simple and perfect. Besides insisting you should check it out as a full flash production to get the full effect, I insist you should hop in and vote ASAP, as it's ending soon. It's a great one-color production, but more importantly it's a take on an old idea that is totally fresh in this designer's hands. Sure, the tortoise beat the hare, but on his own turf, he could beat more than 20, easy. The simple linework is perfect, letting the new take on the old concept be the focus. The bunnies have an adorable determination, and while I'd love more different ones, there are enough different poses to keep the illusion intact. It really speaks for itself, so my words are a bit redundant. Let it suffice to know it is smart, simple, and worth the praise... it all just works right.

Over at shirt.woot, we had a surprisingly amazing derby also, and again one that I could feasibly have spent the whole write-up on. The theme, Book Titles Reinterpreted, stood to serve us some horrible puns, and to that end, it disappointed by not disappointing. Still, while once again, the winners look to be a bit behind the curve, we got some amazing inspiration, like Enin's piece, inspired by Still Life With Woodpecker. The title of the book allows for a lush, artistic piece, and Enin does indeed give us an artfully drawn still life. With a woodpecker. It sits well on the shirt and shows clear artistic prowess, but the real win here is for any fan of the book itself. The title allowed the artist to create a still life from items in the book: things like a pyramid, a couple cigarettes (likely Camels), a metric ton of tequila, and of course dynamite. It becomes not only a very wearable shirt, but a very competent and clearly respectful tribute to an American humorist.

Finally, less tribute and more full reworking, blog-favorite EdgarRMcHerly brings us his take on Notes From the Underground. What I love here, to begin with, is how it's not just a quick pun. The title is actually re-interpreted, and there's a whole scenario built up that stands alone even without the title. There's almost a Maurice Sendak feel to the illustration, appropriate given the theme of books. The focal point is clearly the little monster, who one has to imagine is playing some soothing night music as opposed to the haunted strains you might imagine from the creature under the floor. Still, as you follow the flow of the notes up above, it's worth noting the covers of the bed, and how naturally they have bunched up after being flung off to check out that mysterious music. It'd also be clear how well the colors popped off the dark canvas, while also showing the designer's sensitivity to subtlety in the very gently accented window. If it seems I'm overly partial to this designer (as he has certainly appeared more often than may be healthy in these round-ups), it is simply because I feel he's one of the most under-appreciated in the shirt world, and one I want to bring more attention to.

This weekend looks to be a holiday extravaganza for me, but I will do my best to provide you with my promised postings, even with the madness going on. As always, there will be more of this very thing next week, so stay tuned.

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