Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two If By Tee.

As time goes on, I feel as though I may be doomed to run a blog with a title that runs counter to actual content. It has been a couple weeks since I've talked about a singular shirt, and today looks to be no different. Today's reason? Mr. David Creighton-Pester, better known in the shirt world as WanderingBert.

The DCP, as probably no one else calls him, first came onto my radar in April with a shirt.woot daily called Finding Technicolor, a brilliant and fun riff on old-timey cartoons. The style was on target, and the literal splash of color was plenty eyecatching. Even the fickle wooters, known for shunning many a creative daily offering, fell in love long enough to keep it in the game for over 20 weeks, making it not only one of the longest running dailies, but also keeping it very competitive against the more popular derby winners (as of posting, Shirts On Sale lists it as the third longest running daily, and a little stat-interpreting leads one to determine it's the 11th longest running shirt woot has sold).

So why does this matter? At the time of his woot print, David was a fixture at Threadless, yet had never won. In June they finally printed a piece of his. In a blog, he wrote that he found out about the planned print just as he'd submit his 100th piece. That's a lot of designs to slam through without recognition. Threadless apparently agreed... through the month of August, as though making up for lost time, they proceeded to print three more of his designs.

All of this leads to the point of the blog. This week, David scored a dual printing at Threadless... definitely not bad for an artist who seemed neglected for well over a year, and scored his first print not four months ago. I've been led to believe this is by no means the first time Threadless has given a double-print, but it certainly feels like a rarity, so I feel it is my duty to give congratulations where due. I suppose I'll even chat up the prints while I'm at it. I'm a giver!

My favorite of the two is one that I actually didn't like much at all the first time around in scoring: "Graphite For Your Right." It's a fist holding a lightning-bolt shaped pencil. I'm not normally huge on "artist" tees, which is to say designs about making designs. It feels like a very narrow focus, like songs about being in a band. I dabble artistically, but am not able to wield a pencil as an item of power. This, coupled with the main color palette suggestion, was likely a big reason I was no huge supporter on the first go-round. The colors chosen, though, look quite nice, and on a tee it feels a lot more powerful and iconic and overall wearable than it seemed as an image alone. It
definitely changed my mind on it by seeing it actually in print. I doubt it's a buy, but I do enjoy seeing things come out better than they seemed likely to.

"Microwaves Are Just Too Slow" is the other option, and it definitely veers off in a different direction. It's a clear example of the Threadless-style joke tee, and yet another indication that it's not a copyright issue if your art is from the back. A couple bits of this piece are perplexing... why Superman would break a microwave with his fist instead of just opening it, why his microwave would be on the ground for sitting on... but the basic joke is a solid one. Seriously, if I was Superman, I'd use this aspect of my power more than I could count. The solid illustration and impressive use of shirt color certainly only help the cause. Both shirts are quite Threadless, and it leaves no surprise as to why the site has begun printing the designer with such vigor. Congrats again on the double-print, David, or Bert, or whatever persona you'd prefer on the webs. May the prints keep coming.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Contest Watch: Week of September 18th

If there's one thing I can be relied on for, it is being unreliable. I've had a weird week, and when coupled with uninspiring weeks from Threadless, Woot and Teefury, not to mention DBH's current slowdown in anticipation of the big 10K winner, it adds up to nothing said. I've hardly found myself at a topical loss so early, and hope to bring you something new and exciting this weekend, but the last week, let's put it down in the record books as "lost".

One thing we can mark as "found" however is a boatload of great designs. The dramatically narrowed down results are below.

Starting off at Threadless, we have the "Get Out of My Mind" award, going to neomonki's "Man's Best Friends."It's an incredibly simple shirt, and there's really not much I can say about it that it cannot say itself. That said, it feels tailor made for me. It's a charmingly illustrated cartoon, and one I can condone the message of. Not only would I get to display my loyalty to beer and bacon (the latter admittedly being the one I am most apt to consume irresponsibly), but it's a DARK BEER. Even if I didn't love this shirt, I would have to give kudos to the designer for tapping into a topic that I personally could never tire of.

Continuing the alcoholic theme, we trade the bottle for the rocks glass down at Design By Humans, where the anticipation for the 10K winner is so high, they forgot to even announce a shirt of the day yesterday. Even with this screw-up, kudos to DBH for printing all five of the finalists, even if only two have come up
so far. By far the fairest way they could have possibly handled a pure vote contest.

An interesting side effect to the 10K frenzy? It's left regular voting a bit shaken in its wake, allowing people like me to find designs like "Croc 'n' Roll" by gloopz, a design that has apparently been up for voting nearly three months. It's a great musician shirt... the colors are attention-grabbing and the size doesn't hurt either, and the design, while not complex, is skillfully done. It's a brilliant spoof illo, and anyone at all familiar with an old time jazz club is going to see this and fall in love. Besides that haze of good music (would that be Crocodile Rock?) and smooth whiskey that the design evokes, my favorite detail is how much the croc evokes Ray Charles. That I can associate a big purple lizard with a classic artist speaks to just how well the designer put his concept together.

Now that I've successfully made myself look like a total lush in the last two sets of comments, it's off to shirt.woot for a glass of milk. This was another week with a number of solid shirts I could have written up, for which I am happy, and a fog that isn't worth wasting this many words on, for which I am sad. The theme: reinterpreted movie titles. There were lots of puns (expected, since the theme all but demanded them) and a severe lack of creativity in the selection of films, which is why I'm noting newbie Drakxxx's offering, inspired by "A Clockwork Orange." It uses perhaps the most overdone film in the derby, but is far and away the best shirt the title offered up. Instead of going simple, the designer had the yarbles to create a clockwork orange. Besides wanting these marketed as toys for the Christmas season, I love how the design completely counters the film's mood with a cheerful little soldier orange. I think that the clock helps anchor the design, for those people who wouldn't immediately get the pretty obvious clockwork elements, but wish the whole thing was a little smaller and used more canvas, something like the original rendition of the design, but with more organic and appropriate details... that could take this to the next level, because the style and skill are clearly up to par. I'm thinking this could be a designer to watch as he gets more and more used to the medium, presuming woot's fickle nature doesn't turn him ultraviolent.

While our last offering took something violent and made it charming, "You've Been Outcreeped!" by gumbolimbo takes something cutesy (seriously, the monster, the title, even the designer's handle is all adorable) and spooks it out. Pimp my haunted hayride would be proud. It's the details that make this totally slay. It has a great use of negative space, but the positive space is used to even stronger effect. The shadows are spot-on, with the ghostly attackers forming a shape one could logically expect from the chair shape, except for those pesky swords. My favorite detail is in the shadow of the clock, where the weights or pendulums (cuckoo clocks are not something I'm well versed in) reflect as coffins. However, my favorite element is the red pattern on the chair... not content to add it as a focal point alone, the designer insists on a flock or suede print, to make it texturally similar to the style of chair it is based off of. It's the sort of small but important detail that makes this design so wholly printworthy.

And finally, a bear fighting a squid. This shirt, appropriately titled "Bear Versus Squid," was created by a guy who goes by the name Slaterock. Apparently, Mr. Rock was of the impression that the world distinctly lacked awesome, and so he created something so mind numbingly epic, no snarky or verbose blogger could sum it up. It closes a wonderful week in the world of shirt contests. If this blog was the Daily Show, it would be your moment of zen. Just stare at it and marvel.

If you made it to this paragraph, you've likely finished drooling. I'd love to give you something else to salivate for and serve up something special for the weekend like I promised last time, but really, all I can promise in good conscience is that there will be entries between now and next week's contest watch. Until then, gawk at the bear and squid shirt some more. Maybe even take a second and vote for it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Contest Watch: Week of September 11

One of the reasons I want my contest watch to actually be up and running on Thursdays is because that is the time when the shirt.woot derby closes. With most shirt contests being ongoing, and woot being, as I've said, my real jump-off point, I feel it is the most logical time to update. This week, woot brought some of its best shirts in possibly months, and in honor of that, I insist on being on time.

One of the greatest concept pieces I've seen ever at woot is ChrisRisse's "Summer Ends With FAIL." Is it solid illustration? Sure. Do the colors work? Definitely. Hell, even the physics seem pretty convincing. What goes in for the kill, though, is how complex the story is. We see the guy having clearly fallen from a ladder, breaking the tree branch. What takes a little longer to see is the spray-painted leaves. From there, it's a brief jump to notice that the accident occurred while trying to tape the spray-painted leaves back onto the tree. Which, as I said, great concept. It's a smart and detailed joke shirt, and one I think could do quite well elsewhere later on.

If you're not funny, or dislike funny things, perhaps EdgarRMcHerly's "Here comes fall again" will be more your speed. Maybe it should be anyway. It takes a bold and decidedly un-fall color and still pays off as a clear representation of this week's autumn theme. I love the laid-back fall-god, just casually blowing against the trees. I love that his beard is the only "colored-in" part on him... it helps with the idea that Old Man Autumn is more of a spirit, an entity unseen by the human eye. There's a definite mythological vein to this piece. Also worth note is the mixture of styles, with the most "realistic" detail going to the leaves, a major thematic element but in many ways a supporting part, while the most recognizable element is done with the most relaxed hand, set against a fairly clinical distressed sunbeam, I would presume to add some contrast against the linework. And really, all other things considered, the design inhabits the shirt brilliantly, with the bulk spread across the chest in a standard placement, but with the leaves blowing out in a nice arc toward the bottom and adding depth.

Elsewhere in contests, Design By Humans has bypassed Autumn altogether in the midst of it's 10K contest (final votes this week, but I don't have to recommend a THIRD time, do I?) and gone straight on to the second installment of their Halloweek. The entries are filtering in slowly as yet, but one of the early horses is "Ghost Pattern" by Spires. It's oh so very DBH, with an all-over print of detailed wallpaper. I can only hope it's custom-crafted. Regardless of that consideration, tho, what I appreciate here isn't solely the wallpaper, because let's be honest, that'd make a pretty gaudy shirt on its own. I firstly like the colors chosen for the pattern/background interplay... bright enough to show up, but dark enough to play against each other. But what I love is the ghosts. Every one seems to have personality... bigger bodies, smaller bodies, different eyes... and there's so much movement in them... they're great to look at. More importantly, though, they're laying under the wallpaper pattern, which really makes them otherworldly, and plays off the idea that ghosts can pass through matter... here, they're lying right beneath the surface. Just a simple decision that makes this a totally sweet submission.

More monsters abound in iQuitt's "Maurice & Harry," despite not being a Halloweek entry. I have to presume that, despite the obvious Harry/Hairy wordplay, the fuzzy cycloppus is Maurice, because I Pompatus-Of-Love him. The expression on his one-eye is great, as if he has never been more concerned than he is at the thought of his skully red buddy tossing that airplane. Sure, Harry the Skulldude is cool too, and adds a nice splash of color, but the real design is all about my buddy Maury. The flow of his 20-or-so legs is mesmerizing, the detail is wonderful, and there is just so much to ask... why would anyone create this weird and wonderful creature? Why is it hairy? Is it floating or swimming? So much remains unknown about Maurice. And he is Maurice. Not even the designer can convince me otherwise.

Perhaps the biggest story this week was not coming across many really mind-blowing shirts at Threadless, one of the biggest purveyors of such quality, especially in a week where I could have included a couple more woots if I'd really wanted to. Ok, sure, there was one, but I think it was a bit too obviously mind-blowing to be fair to include. In lieu of that one, though, there was one solid piece that I knew I'd have to talk about, and one I actually like more for me, even against the clear quality of the other: "Two Novels Collide" by TOSOMB. It is everything a wordy bastard like myself could want... a solid drawing that pits two literary heavyweights against each other. Oh sure, The Old Man and the Sea is a wayyyy thinner volume, and sure, lit nerds like myself will notice it, but I quite enjoy the dreamlike atmosphere of the illustration, as if it exists in a world similar to Toy Story, or those old cartoons where mascots on cans and boxes would start dancing when someone left the music on. Please tell me I'm not the only one who recalls these. The distress scratches help give it an older, classic feel, and while I do not condone the dissing of the Hemingmeister, I can appreciate that this epic battle is taking place between two tomes often known for the sheer repulsion High School classes the world over have for them. Now, if only I could find out what all those other books were...

That about wraps it up for the week. The best part about doing the contest watch on time is that there's more room for an extra entry on the weekend, so I'll try and get something fun up for you. In the meantime and beyond, though, anyone know of some solid and brisk contest sites a guy can check out? I feel I'm checking the biggies, but I also feel like I'd do a disservice by solely focusing on what appear to be the big three.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What the Cluck?

I've wanted to get a good review on shirt.woot since I started this blog a couple weeks ago. It was the site that first got me addicted and the site that started introducing me to the larger shirt world. More recently, it was my frustration with the site's persistent ignoring of quality work that made me start digging deeper elsewhere. Still, it felt disingenuous to go so long without talking about them. It was just a matter of finding the right shirt. Tonight, I got a two-for-one deal... a shirt that showed both what I loved and hated about the site, all at once.

Enter Chief Many Feathers, a lovely design by Alvarejo. The colors are bright and vibrant and look way more numerous than they are. The illustration is artful as all get-out... the chicken is unmistakable, and the headdress comes to life like you'd imagine a true tribal headdress to come to life. The chicken is almost stoic, as a leader should be, making it a bizarrely powerful image. More apparently, there's a comic side... a feathered animal wearing a feathered headdress. Perhaps a headdress of its own feathers. A subtle joke, but a joke nonetheless. Woot shines at a good joke, and while many woot designs feel like total bottom-of-the-barrel scraps from otherwise amazing designers, many others are totally solid submissions, saved from the depths of other contests that just didn't want them. For this one, woot should be considered a Samaritan. Right?

Nope, apparently this design is the most racist thing woot has seen since Adolf Hitler wore a Klan robe to the 1941 Judaism in Africa convention. Not that anyone at Threadless minded (see archived page here), but wooters chalked that up to a lack of education. Pretty funny for a brand that made a name as a college brand. And that is where Woot falls short: their community. A community that claims cats on a boat mock WWII. A community that can find Nazi symbolism in Native American style art. A community where people are insisting this is a turkey. It's sad to think customers can drag the product quality down, but here it's true. In many ways, shirt.woot has more potential than any other site around. It's got an incredibly fast-pased contest, an incredibly diverse offering 4 days a week, an incredibly reasonably priced product... but an incredibly flawed vote system, an incredibly narrow-minded consumer base, and an incredibly lax stance on improving itself. It's especially clear in cases like this, where people can't see the chicken for the feathers. Part of me wishes someone would explain WHY this is offensive. But most of me prefers to just enjoy it as the artist intended it.

As with all woot designs, this'un will probably be very limited edition, so grab it now, or later this week or next week at $15, because I don't foresee it lasting to October.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stroll With the Punches

Today's blog is brought to you by Wooshka and their current sale. Or, is brought to you by me on Wooshka's behalf. Though Wooshka could certainly sponsor me if they wanted. I like money. And shirts.

Wooshka also likes shirts. Limited edition shirts. Wooshka's shirts are custom made (and fit approximately like your standard American Apparel), which means, hypothetically, they could print anything you wanted to design. Don't quote me on that if you send designs to them. It's just hypothetical. They also also like money, and sadly this shows, as well... not that their prices reflect greed, but when you're making your own shirts, and keeping them to pretty limited editions (500 a shirt, to be exact) you're just not going to have the profit margins you need to keep being awesome unless you charge a little extra green.

To that end, however, when Wooshka has a sale, they freakin' mean it. Their current sale runs until Friday (EDIT: Sale has been extended until the 24th), but slashes prices on everything by at least 40%. That's $9-12 on shirts that normally cost $20+. Think that's good? Their last sale, everything was marked down to a dollar! While I wouldn't hold my breath on another of those any time soon-or-ever, the current sale is definitely one you should check.

The con to limited edition, of course, is that things sell out, and the thing I wanted this sale did just that. However, I would love to recommend the shirt I scored from their dollar sale, "I (Heart) Strolls" by the jnthn prjct. It's pretty simple, and totally cutesy, and that's all it needs. The colors are subtle and light, the stripes make for a definite focus and extend far enough that they don't sit awkwardly, and the monster dude is awesome. Seriously, how badass must strolling be if that dude hearts it?

Ok, admittedly I disagree with jnthn's creature... I'm pretty big on sits and rides, but strolls I can take or leave. But he looks so happy on his jaunt that it's tempting to try it out. The lines help create a bit of movement that the creature itself doesn't evoke, which helps the theme, and there's a little bit of a smirk behind the idea of wearing this out while walking around, which is how I recommend this. No one's going to care about the irony of wearing this while you lounge at home. Save it. Throw it on and go walk somewhere. People will notice your tasteful shirt. Others will catch the joke and smile. And really, this shirt is about one big goofy smile.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Contest Watch: Week of September 4

As I slowly crawl my way to an actual schedule for these posts, please enjoy last week in contests, a slow week but with some definite solid work.

For starters, I'd like to speak of the DBH 10K contest. Hundreds of designs were entered into a contest for $10,000. DBH selected 10. The users will narrow it to 5, and then from those 5 select a single design to score a cool 10-grand. Last week's selection, Radiomode's "Perversion of Paranoid Populace", is one of the designs chosen, so you know my vote's behind that one, but my other vote, if there must be only one, goes to an underdog, "Ekadanta" by Ellsswhere. It stands out not only for the lovely illustration of Ganesh the elephant god, and subsequent Eastern feel, but because of it's muted, tasteful palette and weathered appearance. It stands out against a sea of splatter and loudness, and for that I wish it only good things, and ask that if you can spare a vote for it and PPP, please do this weekend, and next week as well if they make the final cut. (If you're looking to complete a trio, my recommendation is "Fight the Good Fight" by Jimiyo, a stellar illustrator and all around good guy)

On the other side of contests, "Threadless Loves Drawing" has a presumptive winner, or at least I'd presume it. The piece which will unfairly kick my beloved Mouthface to the curb is "The Infinite Struggle," by MINNIM. It's a piece best appreciated riight up close. From afar, it's an oddly textured shirt with a big white triangle on it, which is admittedly kinda stupid. Get up close, though, and one would certainly be impressed as all hell with the sheer intricacy of the doodling. It is doodling, when it comes right down to it, but it's doodling on speed... I'm willing to say without intentional exaggeration that there are probably a good million tiny doodlemen on this shirt, especially if you consider that the back appears to be full of them as well, given the all-over appearance of the print. It's in somewhat bizarre artistic company, since one cannot help but get a vibe similar to some of Martin Handford's more crowded "Where's Waldo" illustrations, especially in that there's a lot of action in the crowds, not just crowding. There appears to be a message going on in the throngs... it's not just any struggle, but it seems to touch on many human rights struggles, predominantly religious freedoms and persecutions. The style keeps the dialogue from becoming strained or overserious (it's just a shirt after all, right?), but the details added to flesh out that subtext make the design more attractive than its doodles alone ever would. I just wish those extra elements were more dispersed... there seem to be massive spots of doodle with nothing particular going on, and spreading those extra icons out a bit could add a lot to the overall impact. It's not a perfect shirt, but it's one that absolutely must be seen for the sheer effort put forth.

Also imperfect, though quite a bit more enticing to me, is "Night of the Fish," a design submit by Aman over at Uneetee. To be honest, I don't understand Uneetee's vote procedure. This particular design had been up there since March when I deigned to stumble over it this week, which is a long time to be available for voting. To be honest, I'm not even sure I -did- vote for it. I certainly meant to, though. While I'm not sure how the alleged gold foil would work, I love the style... you can tell this was sketched up by hand before getting inked, and that scratchyness adds a lot to the zombiefish. They make up quite the group, positioned so some seem to be walking along, others swimming through the night sky, like some truly otherworldly posse of spirits. I'm hoping Uneetee stops sitting on this one now that autumn and Halloween are upon us... it'd be absolutely perfect for the season.

The main reason I went to Uneetee at all this week (as it's never been a place I voted at) was because the derby over at shirt.woot was among the weakest ever (and with what is shaping up to be two winners with no sellout in a row, it's apparent that even the wooters who tastelessly chose the fog are agreeing with that assessment). Thankfully, I'm noticing more and more former woot designs at other sites, which warms my heart, because I think woot's best designers deserve attention from the real shirt community. One such reworking, Dekonstruct's "Space Bees II," found its way to Design By Humans this week. In all honesty, I don't know if this is a DBH design, even with a strong reworking and a big, visible print. I still love it, though, and have since I first saw it. The designer has a brilliant sense of the absurd (seriously, Space Bees?) and knows how to make simple designs pack a wallop. There's a lot to be said for intricate art, but a simple piece with a good concept and a smooth execution is nothing to sneeze at either, and this designer has long been one of my go-to examples of doing that right.

Champion of the week, though, goes easily to Threadless submission "See Otters" by ninety. It's absolutely adorable without being those two scathing insults so often seen at shirt sites: girly and kiddy. There is no gender to this, and the style is sophisticated over cartoony, making it much more clearly geared to adults who still have a sense of wonder, as opposed to children. I could talk about the way the rest of the cityscape is kept sparse to not draw away from the otters themselves, or how I'm fond of the choice of color for the water, but seriously, the appeal of this shirt is summed up by the first poster in its submission thread: "I wish this was a real place!" I agree. And I wish that was my real car. OTTERCAR FTW!

I'll make no promises this week as to when next week's recap will get published. We'll say "general weekend vicinity" and leave it at that. Catch you then, and hopefully before then for more individual tee talk.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pardon our dust...

As of tonight, SingulariTee goes live. There's still a bit of remodeling to do in the new digs, but feel free to check us out and stick around, and bear with the boring layout for a tad longer!

Ride the Lightning

Just a quick and dirty post about TeeFury, which is a deal-a-day, 24-hour-only shirt site. For $11 shipped, you get a shirt that will be printed for exactly one day... it's a great deal for the consumers who are getting high quality work for cheap, and a great deal for the designers, who keep their rights to their design and can resell their work later. I want to write more about them, but that will be for another time. For now, let it suffice to say that today's 24 hours rock. The design is MJ's "Thor Is My Co-Pilot." It's very self explanatory as a text shirt, so I don't need to say much, but I have a couple notes to make. I normally hate text shirts, but love this one, for the following very scientific reasons:

1) It's funny without being derivative. It's a clear parody on a trite saying, not an out of context movie quote, and not a shock-jock attempt at faux-edge.

2) Colors Colors Colors. There's severe pop, and the choices make total sense given the topic too.

3) This is a biggie for text shirts: Hand Lettering. Distinctive style is so rare in slogans, and that really sets this apart from scads of half-assed slogany badness. It's almost like a metal logo. THOR WILL ROCK YOU TO ASGARD MOFOS! EPIC SCREAM!


More tomorrow! Promise! I've got a lot I want to get to.

Monday, September 8, 2008

You Can Lead A Horse To Oil...

Enclothe, one of my favorite independent shirt shops, has a pretty swank moving sale going on right now: buy any two shirts, get 30% off your entire order. I have no clue how long the sale lasts, but it's pretty well noted at their site at the moment, so it's definitely worth checking out. It shouldn't be hard to find two or more shirts worth rocking, either... they don't have a huge collection, but what they do have is incredibly solid, reasonably diverse, and very worth browsing.

Without a doubt, the best value for my money in Enclothe-land is the brilliant Horsebot. Its current rendition is selling down to the wire (Men's S & XL are all that are left, last I checked, as well as most smaller women's sizes), but it is definitely a shirt worth keeping tabs on if you can't snag it now (write to Enclothe if you want, even... they'll be more apt to reprint if they see demand). Like most of the shirts at Enclothe, it's designed by Derek M., the shop's mastermind, and while the storefront does boast other designers, it's clear Derek's aesthetic runs through all of the work. And that, gentle readers, is part of why Enclothe kicks all sorts of ass... it's got a founder with a style so solid, it doesn't really NEED to bring in outside work. Which I suppose should bring me back to the point of the blog: Horsebot kicking ass.

I really should be able to leave it at that. I mean, look at it! Your ass must be sore already! And I say, why wouldn't it be? The image is powerful and iconic, straddling the line of military and mythic. The colors are bold, popping off not only the black silhouettes they sit on, but against each other as well. The general silhouette idea is a solid one, also... it gives a rough exterior to the precise linework. Those lines, though, are precisely what sells the design for me. The robotics below the skin of the rider, blowing his war trumpet as his steel-skeletoned mount charges on... I won't lie, I can't escape a hint of He-Man in the idea of a robotic horse, but there's no nostalgia in my appreciation. This is a dark design, not a reminiscent one. It's almost likening this technology, this hybrid animal as a harbinger of the end times (and indeed, it's writeup at Enclothe doesn't dissuade one from that opinion). It's a serious shirt, and one of the most striking I've seen in my travels... I knew I had to have one the second I lay eyes on it. Allow me to pass that desire on to you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Contest Watch - Week of August 28

So what does one do when they promise a Thursday column on a Friday? Post it late Sunday night, of course! The concept strays a bit from the normal format, but is simple... discuss a couple of the true standouts from the contest scene... a brief overview of the unprinted work I came across over the last 7 days or so. So, without even further ado...

"I Like Books" is a great imaginative piece from EdgarRMcHerly over at Design By Humans. Edgar's a designer I found over at shirt.woot, and this is a reworking of one of his old entries there. To me, this improves the piece immensely, though I liked it fine before... it takes it to a subtler backdrop with a much nicer color palette... I really like the soft blues of the elephant and the thought-cloud, not to mention replacing all the letters with quotes. The message is equally solid... it's impossible not to see the respect for the imagination and vitality of learning in this piece. In many ways, to me, it sums up the artist's unique art style.

To a degree, it's foreshadowing that there would be such a solid entry from woot to DBH, since I found a solid piece in each of their contests from one artist, and one I'm sure to speak more of later, Radiomode. First there's "PPP (Perversion of Paranoid Populace)" which you should definitely click for a larger view. It's a wraparound print of a security station, each screen with a different view of places a camera should probably not be focused on. The varied screens are impressive enough, as is the underlying message (and people foolishly say shirts are disposable), but to me, the real win is the detail on the camera-head man. I just love him, and he looks just as ominous as he surely was intended to be. Then there's "Music Industry", an old Threadless sub that ended up in woot's Work derby. While I'm not normally a fan of the resub in a weekly contest such as that, there's no denying the quality in this... it's a great turn of the phrase, with a futuristic vibe and, like PPP but more subtle, there's certainly a commentary on the "disposable" nature of modern music in this piece.
On to Threadless, and JW's prettydamnepic "The Last Move." There's a lot I love about this, surely more than a brief synopsis can handle. The barren feel is great, especially when coupled with the fully unspecific apocalyptic scene. Something big went down, and while the illustration gives some big clues, it's done in a way that there's no definitive way to nail down what it was. It's a shirt that will have a different meaning for anyone who picks it up, and I think that'll be at least half its charm. In fact, it's one of the few shirts I really feel would benefit from a wall print, not just a shirt... I can see plenty of people hanging this up, and just staring at the story unfolding. BTW, I highly recommend clicking that link for the sub to see the full wrap-around and what's going on in the back. Proof that shirts can be wearable AND artful.

Without a doubt, however, my favorite shirt I've seen this week is "Mouthface" by hands_on_fire. Hands appears to be pretty new to Threadless, but even in her few submissions, there's a huge amount of honing and improvement of skills, and Mouthface is thusfar her pinnacle. It's got some stellar illustration and a totally whacked concept fleshed out with a bit of a gonzo-skatepunk style. To compliment the illo, there's a very skillful use of shirt color in the design. It's impeccably disturbing, and based on the artist's comments, it shows that History class doesn't NEED to be boring. I'm hoping to be able to blog even more pointless lauding for this shirt very soon, because I want it to print very badly.

It's never good to be late for your first day on the job, but thankfully this blog is self-hired. I should be seeing you all Thursday though, on time, for a new crop of characters. Until then, back to our regularly scheduled shirt blogging.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Disarmed By Hummingbirds

Design by Humans is really the second of the two big guns in the online shirt world. While Threadless often relies on strong concepts to back up their shirt art, DBH often eschews concept for bold and artistic. They revel in the shirt as a canvas, and many of their prints take full advantage of this, using unique placements, specialty inks, foils, even embroidery. If you want abstract, DBH is your place. If you want big, there is something for you for sure. Looking for some high-quality detail work? It is entirely likely there has been something you'd love designed by a human. It's a totally different market from Threadless more often than not, and it really helps add some diversity to the shirt game.

Needless to say, I was excited to find out that today's Design By Humans offering was a piece worth blogging about, just in time for my second entry. This particular one is called "The Defender," and it's designed by Artulo, who one must presume to be a human. It's a highly detailed drawing of a hummingbird in full and flashy knight regalia. Check out the detail in those tail feathers... that's DBH's bread and butter right there, bringing fine details to life. I especially love the smaller bird in the coat of arms on the larger one's chest and double-ended triton of doom... it's not an eyecatcher like other parts of the bird, but it's almost like an inside joke... proof that the designer put a little extra thought in when putting his piece together. Even in the less detail-rich areas, the linework is crisp and clear, and the color choice for that line art stand out well against the white backdrop without being too stark.

Even with the details, however, it's a piece that seems to run counter to my rundown of the general Design by Humans M.O. Sure, the ink is listed as "reflective gray," which gives the promise of this bad boy looking totally swank in the sun, but even that doesn't fully take advantage of their printing capabilities. Until you realize... this thing is freaking huge. Which takes me back to that comment about not being too stark: with a print this size, the more subdued gray ink is an even wiser choice, avoiding blaring black off your chest. But the size is just the beginning. You don't just get a very attractive hummingbird illustration. You don't just get it sized perfectly for hotties to see it from a distance and appreciate your impeccable taste (giving them time to scrawl out their number and surreptitiously slip it into your pocket as your paths cross). This, my friends, is an all-over print. Those wings will be peeking over your shoulder, wrapping around your side to your back. Wear it to the bank, the DMV, Disneyland... anywhere there's a line, you will capture the curiosity of those lucky enough to be directly behind you.

Tomorrow, I'll be bringing you the first installment of what I hope will be a weekly segment: the SingulariTee contest watch. More on that when it comes, obviously. Until then, I totally recommend clicking the pics in this post to get a full-sized view and see why this is much more than your run-of-the-mill bird shirt.

Monday, September 1, 2008

All the Shirt That's Fit to Print

I have, for a while, wanted to throw my hat into the shirt-blogging ring. Over the last year, I've become somewhat addicted to the world of shirt designing. It's a very specific artform, to my eyes... learning the specific needs of the shirt canvas, needing something eye-catching and wearable to grace that canvas, working with mass produced and, ideally, mass distributed art... it's a very different world than other art avenues. Even from the sidelines, you can feel a certain form of excitement, that someone's work might get distributed widely, and be seen not in a gallery, but in day to day life. The rush must be unparalleled, for most designers.

What I see still more of, though, is brilliant and wearable work going to waste at the expense of a gimmick, a cliché, or simply work that brings nothing to the table. In some ways I've become vilified for daring to question the almighty popular vote. While I do not plan to shy away from that persona, this blog has a much more positive core to it. I want to tell you a little bit about some of what I have REALLY liked in the last year of searching, some of the best of what's around in NEW content, and some of what really SHOULD get a shot at printing in the submission stages.

There's really only one place to start when it comes to the internet shirt industry, and that's Threadless. Threadless is quite likely what really made the industry explode with some iconic designs, and is still offering some of the best shirts around, and especially this week, as they extend their huge $12 back to school sale another week, there's really nowhere else to begin. The lucky subject? Recent reprint "Destroy NYC," by Aaron Hogg:

Aaron's shirt has a lot going for it... I love the muted colors and how the linework fades into the edges of the shirt... even the dim and relatively pointless sunburst in the back is subtle enough to just give a light framework. The true charm in the shirt, however, lies in the contrast of styles, between the reasonably detailed and New-York styling on the apartments and the simple cartoon outlining on the invaders. They truly feel like they don't fit in the scene, without feeling out of place in the design, which helps the idea that they are attacking the city block, and the simplicity and lack of detail allows them to be both incredibly endearing while also packing a bit of creepy in.

It's safe to say there will be no shortage of Threadless discussion in blogs to come; they update every Monday with new shirts, reprints, and even wall prints of some of their back-catalog classics. This has been my favorite of the last two weeks of their sale, amid a mass of some very interesting prints. Keep checking back for more of my faves from Threadless and beyond as I start getting this blog rolling... I've got a lot more in store.