Thursday, January 29, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of January 22

It's been a pretty scattered week 'round here... wasn't even able to get around to a Threadless update. As such, voting was scattered as well, and this blog will likely reflect that.

Starting off at Design by Humans, we have Kala Rau by hege. What caught my eye here was the light textures. DBH kills with this sort of design, especially with the brightness fading out to black at the ends. I picture it looking quite nice as a shirt based on similar DBH tees. Of course, the light plays well against the illustration also, highlighting some skillful illustration. Bits of this look almost photographic, outside of the obvious lack of reality. I also get a smack of Simpsons from the monster, to be honest, but overall this has a great mythological vibe to it, and I think it'd look simply wonderful printed.

Threadless is where I spent the most vote time this week, and even that ended up being less productive. Still, I found some interesting pieces, such as "A Sailor's Life Ain't Easy." The presentation shows it drawn on the back of a notebook or something, and I think that is the element I like most here: it looks like that style of illustrations, and that makes it almost nostalgic to those of us who idled away many a class hour in doodles and writings. Mockart keeps an amateur flair to the piece that preserves that notion. Nothing is too perfect, but everything catches the eye. I love the thick lines, which really help the feeling of a marker drawing, and I really like the use of the shirt itself. It's a big, full shirt print that feels like less due to all the negative space. And while I like the yellow and blue contrasts (ever since hearing that the two apparently don't go together... screw your bourgeois fashion biases), what I really enjoy are the stark blacks of the rocks and the ship. And the apparent kraken. Those tentacles reaching up from the sea are tailor made for me. It's kinda sad. The design itself, not so sad. It's simple in a lot of ways, but smartly so.

By a country mile, Torakamikaze's "Of the Beholder" is the Shirt I'd Like to Buy of the week, and one I feel as though I have an excellent shot at. Besides being in an excellent position for printing as the final ticks come before scoring ends, it's also just as apt if not more to do well at DBH if Threadless passes it by (hopefully you've considered this, Tora). But less strategizing and more praise: I love it. It's gloriously weird, to start with. Is it a creature made of eyes and fur? A ball of yarn with vision? A mountain? Whatever the story is, it looks amazing. The lines make the weird beautiful, entwining in a mass of optic awesomeness. The detail makes it feel like there is a deeper meaning. It evokes a wisdom. I am pretty sure the design actually means nothing, but I love that it can fool me into that sort of analysis. I'm totally in love with the colors also. I love the iciness of the blues and the boldness of the reds. I get this brilliant wintery chill looking at the palette. But best of all, I get the feeling that this is truly art for its own sake. That alone is rare enough to feel a win is much deserved. It is simply a bonus that I love it as a shirt so much as well.

And then there is "FREE KITTENS!" This piece, bestowed on us by designer r.o.b.o.t.i.c.octopus , is an exercise in awesome. There is the adorable factor... even a curmudgeon like me can't say no to a free kitten. Specifically Kahn! The humor is incredibly dry, also, which I'm all for. You can't even explain the joke... it's just there, from the names of the cats to the lightning bolt in the background for no good reason, not to mention the line "resistance is futile"... probably the only non-subtle bit. The composition is also to be commended; it straddles the line between a homemade flyer and a band promo, while also crossing into phonebook ad. It's very "amateur graphic design," in such a way that you know it's intentional. Even the arrangement of the cat heads, and the accent of the word "free" speak to a very measured and very intentional style. My one gripe is the phone number. It lacks the genericness of a 555, and the joke of it is weak and rather unrelated to the piece as a whole. If only it was 548-8367 (number pad speak for "Kittens"). Still, a minor concern overall... everything else about this piece screams of a future classic.

Perhaps the biggest sign of all the scatter is this, though: a mention of one sundbe10 and his "Stroll down the styx". This one was for shirt.woot's derby, and it's getting mentioned largely because it's so marked an improvement over the designer's normal work. It's subtlty of concept, a leisurely row down the river of death, is commendable right down to the butterfly. The colors appeal to me more than they should, especially how the orange-brown of the gondola reflects in the "water". The men seem appropriately washed out and corpsey. To me, it represents a step in the right direction for the designer, at a time when the derby itself seems to be taking two steps back every week. I think this is worth commending, and actually look forward to see whether there will be even more stepping-up in this scenario.

Here's hoping the weekend is less cloudy than this week has been.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of January 15

This week is Threadless week. I hope y'all don't mind a more narrow view, as many weeks lately have been Threadless-dominated anyway.

We start with blog-favorite EdgarRMcHerly, with the sublimely creative Choose Your Own Adventure. It's really almost a guaranteed print, because it has everything it needs: it combines the artist's charming style and twisted humor in a way that makes it very Threadless in those elements, as well as hitting the right nostalgia chords and having a gimmick that works. Trust me, the payoff on the back of the shirt is worth clicking through to the primary vote page. I don't love reviewing shirts that have already scored so well, but for this artist, let's call it a bit of early congratulations.

There was a LOT of astrology going on this week at Threadless, and we'll start off with a cliché archetype done brilliantly: ilovedoodle's "The Juggler". Let's be honest, the wolf shirt has been taken over as the new-agey equivalent of a cat sweater, but it feels like it couldn't be fresher in this piece. It, of course, doesn't hurt that the wolf is drawn gorgeously, but it is the interplay of the moon phases that hits this home. For starters, the wolf is subtle, almost fading into the shirt at a distance (or in less-than-stellar lighting conditions), which lets the moon, with it's bold contrast against the shirt, take center stage. It gives the wolf an almost otherworldly quality. The way the piece is conceptualized really works, too. Steeped in mythology (the lore of werewolves) as well as fact (wolves do indeed howl at the moon, though unintentionally) , the idea of giving the wolf control of the moon itself seems natural. He controls its phases through his juggling. More subtle and more beautiful is the implication that that is not the only way he and the moon connect... the hole in his chest where "new moon" would lie really ties in that the moon is indeed a part of him, just as it relies on him for its phases. It's my favorite detail, and I think it alone is enough to really make this a powerful piece of art.

Againstbound's "Kleptonaut" orbits more around humour than art. The graphics are quite nice, don't get me wrong, but the concept and humor is the sales pitch on this one. Any piece that relies on a collection of like items is only as strong as the cohesion of those items, and the designer has given us quite the grouping here. I especially enjoy the jar of what appears to be infinity, which gives the otherwise flat row of jars some visual interest (as well as creating slight symmetry with the held jar), but there's also treasure to be found in video game references like the space invader held captive, as well as the purely absurd, like the goldfish and that sock you somehow lost in the dryer. I also quite like the colors on all of the suggested shirt blanks: the black of the captured cosmos in each jar pops great off each one, and while I think it's most awesome on red, any given option would be a definite purchase from me.

Tying the two worlds of art and humor together is our final space-case: Solar System Family. Badbasilisk does what he promises in the title, painting a, ahem, "universal" family portrait. It's not exactly accurate (a moon could never father a planet) but it is super attractive and wearable. The fade of the background blends it into the shirt smashingly in both suggested color schemes, though I prefer the whole thing in blue. The style here is spot-on, and takes me back to the early 1900s (not that I was really there). It's no surprise to have a man as the moon (and what a swanky mustache he does have) but the sun woman looks amazing, the way the stylized rays become her hair without any sort of stretch of imagination. While Earth-boy isn't much to look at compared to his superbly rendered parents, I cannot help but smile seeing him sitting there in his sailor suit. The whole piece seems classic, the sort of scene you know you've seen a hundred times before in real life, and bringing that to fruition with a more unique family is part of what makes this so great.

Finally, we end with something quite definitively terrestrial, Self Serve/Surf, by Jimmytan. It's really all about mixed media, here. The elephant is a photorealistic study of half-tones, speaking a transparent bubble of joy. Can't blame him, he looks like he's having a blast. The waves he is both riding and creating are done with skillful linework, clean and precise and likely done by hand with vector software, to make sure each strand of waves and each frothy crest built up precisely as the designer wanted. In contrast, the fill looks watercoloured, with all the imperfect drips and bleeds and textures that the style implies. The success here is how great these different paths meet up in the finished product. The totally charming idea only seals the deal.

I'm hoping against hope that I'll have some more diversity for you next week. Until then, here at Camp Adder, we're getting a bit anxious to see if Threadless feels generous enough to continue what has been a perfect score since Christmas of at least one new print being a contest-watch special. Stay tuned to find out what happens on both fronts

Monday, January 19, 2009

12: Caves a-Caving

Threadless does it yet again, printing an excellent former contest watch mention with "Found Anything Yet?" by Tang Yau Hoong. You may remember it from my classic blog, "Contest watch: Week of November 20." Yet again, Threadless is getting speedy with its wins, taking about 2 months to print the shirt despite many shirts taking twice the turnaround time to see a print. Here, I fear it was a costly speed... I maintain that this design would have been even better placed lower, with the "tail" wrapping around the side, as displayed in the original mock-up. Still, the concept is brilliantly Threadless in all the best ways, and if for nothing else, it deserves its print for that reason. It gives a wonderful picture of not being able to see the forest for the trees, or in this case, the cave for the dinosaur. It really captures the thrill of exploration, I think... that idea that there is something bigger to find. In this case, the payoff is beyond expectation.

Also worth discussing while we're on Threadless: the 2008 Bestees. Last week, Threadless held voting among every shirt they printed last year, and the 20 finalists are up this week. The winner will snag a cool $2oK, which is not bad at all for one design, especially considering the cash and prizes it already won this year upon originally printing. Each user has a single vote: mine is being sunk on Fail, by Radiomode, based on two factors. First, it is what Threadless does best, a solid joke with an attractive style, and to me a Threadless Bestee winner should be classic Threadless. Secondly, though, it's out-of-print. It is, therefore, a selfish vote in many ways: there is a hope inside me that winning a Bestee might contribute to a reprint. It is important to note, however, that fully half of the Bestee nominees are worthy of that 20-grand, so it won't be an easy choice. If "Fail" fails to grab you, my next best recommendation is polynothing's "Attack of Literacy." Come for the pulp-art feel, and stay for the literary "who's who" guessing game.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Vinnie the Moocher

I won't lie, I feel a little dirty about this post... it's not the point of this blog to advertise myself, but today's shirt.woot is nevertheless a concept of my own. Even so, I have to at least take a moment out of my regularly scheduled blog to praise TheInfinityLoop on the rendering job she did on this piece, Vincent's Alternative. It's based in a history where Van Gogh spared the ear to sever the eye, and while he looks a bit like a jaunty pirate in this world, I cannot say enough about the way the designer took Vincent's style and was able to make something iconic and recognizable while totally original. I think it's a piece that deserves to be seen, ethical concerns be damned. And I think that the way Loop did the background, it will end up quite wearable to boot. If you came out as floored as I was when I saw it, you can still grab it today for $10, but if you miss it, I've got a sneaking suspicion it won't last more than a week at $15. Woot will be Woot... don't dawdle.

Friday, January 16, 2009


A couple days ago, I noticed that Flying Mouse, creator of a number of Threadless classics (previous write-up "I Love Sushi," for example), has started his own store. This is always exciting to me, because it means there's another outlet for great shirts, and with a solid designer at the helm, we know that there will be no shortage of quality shirts.

Of the launch shirts, my favorite is Mother of the Sea, primarily for the concept. The idea of the mermaid defender bringing fishermen to their demise for assaulting her children is the stuff of sailor legend and sometimes cheesy horror movies, and the way this is executed really pulls it all together. The mermaid is beautiful yet vengeful, even a titch magical. The dead pile up around her, making the piece darker. I love the look of the bones and rods, some still bobbing, others crumpled in a heap, with the warm-to-black fade from top to bottom. I also am quite impressed with how well this concept works despite being on anything but a water-representative blank. Lastly, the placement is great. You can tell the mermaid is about to pull her next victim down below with her, but with the fishing line extending up to the collar, it gives the idea that the wearer might be that victim. And really, there could be worse ways to die. Needless to say, this will be a store to watch, especially as the site's "collaborative" pieces start emerging.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Contest Watch; Week of January 8

Very weird week for me in the t-shirt world. Here's a look back at some of what I've seen:

We start off this week at LoiterInk, a site I've reviewed before with a contest I've yet to look at. I ended up browsing their submissions this week after submitting a design of my own in their current "Loitery" contest. Loiter has a handful of top notch regulars (Tom Burns is their creative director, even) putting together their own brand of mostly humorous shirts, but the one that struck me most while browsing doesn't quite fit that mold: Treequaria, by luckybeaver. It's colors and linework here: not that there's all that much color, but the contrast works, er, swimmingly? It gives the piece a liquid feel. The lines, also, make the hidden sea-life feel natural as well inside the branches. It's a serene, natural piece that is easily set apart from generic tree shirts. Definitely worth viewing bigger.

At Threadless, they're winding down their "Joy of Text" competition, which closed for submissions last Friday. However, while their last Horror competition got incredibly stale by the time this point rolled around, this one is still surprising me with its freshness, especially considering how much I normally loathe text shirts. One that really sets itself apart this week is CallMeSteven's War! Besides the general medieval styling, there's a lot of interesting stuff going on. What I'm especially liking is the card motif... the multiple dueling bodies attached at the waist, like the portraits on a deck of cards... a touch that takes that stroke of creativity. I especially enjoy the horse, done in the same way, and floating above the castle for some reason. While I'm a bit iffy on the UV ink, it is mainly an issue of "why?" for me... the graphic looks perfectly lovely with or without the UV highlights, so while having two different shirts in one sounds nice, the ink seems to change, not add. Overall, in or out of the sun, you'll be having a great shirt... i'd just rather the subtle reds and golds to be there the whole time... I'm simply not in the sun THAT often in a normal day.

From the Joy of Text to text that brings me joy, we have an oddball entry that I quite loved this week: Der Bär, by evalottchen. "Bär," it is explained, means "Bear" in German. Not that we couldn't have guessed... this adorable, stumpy guy is 100% bear, even with his face replaced with his German name. It feels very dadaist to me, while also being very cutesy, and I appreciate how it challenges the viewer subtly... the picture is complete enough that you don't fully notice the face is a word at first, but that piece is arbitrary enough that it stops you in your tracks when you finally DO get it.

Much less challenging to the normal person, but more to me, is our final Threadless piece this week: 0901, by tjbox. I normally want to hate Koi and the general overflow of Japanese art culture into western culture, but this takes all the best parts of that feeling, instead of slapping a kawaii face on something and calling it art. I love the bold colours on the black background, especially the golden koi, which comes across more warrior like a dragon than ornamental like its average brethren. I really have no clue why the koi, or the flowers, or any of this is coming out of a set of headphones (perhaps this was inspired by Shonen Knife?) but the little round-headed guys, rocking their own tunes and climbing all over the scene, add worlds of charm... I love their faceless, almost alien proportions, and their clearly endless gusto in trying to subdue their massive carp adversary. It's an image that raises more questions than it answers, but sometimes a solid and bold piece of artwork answers a thousand "why"s better than actual words can. Allowing your eyes and mind to wander themselves is enough.

Finally, to shirt.woot, which was graceful this week in redesigning itself in a way which makes my blog look professionally designed. There will be more on their derby later this week, I am sure, but for now there is Battle of the Iron Clads 2, by rglee129. The designer is known 'round woot for his appreciation for robots, but here he really outdoes himself, re-imagining old warships teaming up to keep yet another "Iron Clad" at bay... a massive underwater robot. What I love here is that the illustration preserves the shine of the robot while also giving a vintage texture, so it looks perfectly at home illustrated in an old history tome, or photographed in sepia. Incredibly well done art that helps set the history of the piece brilliantly... something I hope to see get a chance elsewhere some day.

More to come this weekend for sure... it's destined to be an odd one, much as the week has been... so stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Give a Hoot pt. 2

Perhaps your love of owls goes even further than all that, though. Maybe one good owl shirt isn't enough for you. This is something I'd anticipated, thankfully. It involves a little shop I've wanted to talk up for quite a while now... welcome to Owl Movement.

Owl Movement has plenty of owls for your owly pleasure. "Oh Really" you ask? Ya, really. There's a whole series of shirts based off owls, as well as owl pillows and stickers. It's enough to make you oscillate your head 180 degrees in any direction! What I really love about OM, though, is their overall feel. The rest of their non-owl shirts tend to be bright and bold and generally happier colours than I am used to feeling. I think that is what does it for me... their palettes and designs often evoke this blissful bright world that is foreign to me.

My personal favorite of their shirts, one I picked up long before this blog started, is Scuba Platypus. Again, it's bright green and cute. I am not a bright green and cute person. I am, however, a platypus person (this sadly makes the third one I've written about in the last month or two, I believe). I'm also a fan of people who can do a lot with only a few colours. The ongoing wallpaper pattern motif really adds a lot to the proceedings, giving the mammal-that-should-not-be a very pop/retro feel. It also helps break up what would otherwise be a rather big chunk of ink. I love the size, though, especially the way the waves are placed up at the top of the shirt, so it almost looks like you're a platypus tank or something. The fish are even welcome, especially the transparent ones across the tail, and the one poking at the top of the water line. It, as much as anything, evokes Owl Movement's apparent carefree and sunny philosophy.

As a side note, OM appears to be having a winter sale. Their news section insists it ended with 2008, but their cart is still taking 15% off all orders. This may be an extremely limited glitch, but I'm sure they won't mind the slight hit to get you into some awesome shirts. It's worth checking on, for sure.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Give a Hoot pt. 1

We could go on about Rob Gould's "Midnight Visitor" for a while if we wanted... about the awesome color choices, the charming drawing, the line of ominous and adorable being straddled. However, I think curator Wotto sums it up best:

In the circles that Mr Gould dwells I assure you all that this tee IS in fact LEGENDARY.

Anyway, It's awesome. That owl is in your house right now.

There really is no more to say. Either you love it (and I do) or you're wrong. My only complaint is this: stop it, Teefury, with the printing awesome stuff when I cannot afford it!

If you can swing an extra $11 yourself, and you agree this is the stuff of legends, you have until Midnight EST to pick one up, before it is lost to the sands of time and left to the whim of errant shirt boutiques which may be wise enough to pick it up later.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Citrus Marches On

Update #11 comes shortly after #10 in the form of Drakxxx's Clockwork Orange, first blogged back in September. Originally posted at woot, it now finds a home at Teefury, at least temporarily. I loved the sketchy style and creativity, as well as the happy feeling to the sunny citrus, but feel the whole shebang is even better with the new addition of the gears... it gives the piece a lot more visual interest and weight. We at Singularitee hope that it secures a more permanent home some day in the future, but are glad it had its moment in the sun no matter where it was. Just remember, this is NOT going to last forever at this price... snag it in the next 24 hours, or you will miss out on the first print from a designer who could easily make some splashes in the next year.

Ten for Threadless

Three for three at Threadless, claiming Update #10... this week they're printing the absolutely gorgeous Seven Swans by Valorandvellum. I didn't talk about this too long ago, making it a far-and-away earlier print than most Threadless winners (especially in contrast to something like the 9 month old "Her Hair," also printed this week). Of course, when you get something as solid and creative and awesome as this, you don't really want to sit on it too long, I'd imagine. The Sufjan Stevens reference could only help, too. My full original writeup is here, but it's worth praising the colors again, from the bright, simulated-process bursts to the muted beige swans popping against the dark brown of the shirt. I fear this'll be a speedy sell-down, but it'll be well deserved.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Animal Weekend!

Checking Ink-Hound tonight, I decided maybe this weekend should be thematic... thus, I bring you Animal Weekend. Today we bring you birds, normally a less-than-favorite theme of mine. What makes jecrt's Avian Crown different, however, is the use of pattern. This flighty mandala features some repetition, but sticking with the basics helps pull off the cycle-of-life motif that the artist went for. Either way, the style he chose works quite well, with the almost bored adult bird, the inquisitive child, and the eggish eggs in the nest smack dab in the middle. The colors also make this work, sticking with very subdued primaries, which makes for a simple, attractive design. Into every life some bird shirt must fall... you could certainly do much worse than this one.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Garden Reptiles

Teefury is the sort of site that relies on quickness... quick shirt-lifespans translate into requiring quick decision-making skills to put in a quick purchase before the shirt is lost and gone forever. Similarly, many shirts seem to have incredibly quick turn-around time from selection to print. It only seems fair for my reviews to be quick as well, in the interest of giving all interested buyers ample time. Today's shirt is by DaniellesGarden, and is called, simply, Lizards, because that is, simply, what is on it. The colors are also simple, but the lines are gorgeous, with plenty of shape to the lizards and a perfect, organic end to the cracked wall they are climbing up your chest. Because this is all about quickness, I've evaluated and decided that while I like this a lot, it's not a buy for me... however, it really is a sweet shirt, and so I wanted to make sure you guys had the chance to get it yourselves. I think it'll be love at first wear.

Again, TF doesn't reward slackers; this shirt will be gone within 24 hours, and while some artists have used those retained rights to sell 'em elsewhere, it's the exception, not the rule. Anyway, there's no reason to miss out on a shirt you'd love for $11 shipped, so grab it while you can.

Contest Watch: Week of January 1

First contest watch of the new year. Expect confetti! And shirts!!! Since starting the segment (and conversely the blog), I've talked up what comes just shy of 100 shirts, with 9 of those shirts already printing. Not bad luck so far, but I'm hoping to see still more good things come from the next year, starting with the latest crop of 5.

Red is a bold color, and that is probably why I love it when I see it used well, like in shirt.woot's pegasustastic The Beginning of the End, by derby veteran tgentry. Gentry gives Thomas Kinkade a deserved kick in the ass, out-painting his light in this one, which is what makes the image so striking to me... all the detail comes from that warm glow, illuminating just enough detail and keeping just enough silhouette. It's a powerful image, too, mixing the mythological with an almost spiritual feel.

There was a lot of great, powerful stuff at Threadless this week as well, so I wanted to start there with something a bit more lighthearted, combining two elements I've been surprised to find myself appreciating as much as I do: nautical imagery and beards. Not to say Fleck's Sea Beard isn't still powerful despite it's hairy theme... it's simply that facial hair seems to be the humor of choice for many tee-shoppers these days. The combo of elements, however, makes it look more like an angry sea god tossing a ship about in the waves. The crashing spume around the boat blending into his long beard simply cements the image to me. The lines of the waves and hair really work gorgeously, but the thing that really kills on this piece is the placement... specifically the belt option. The size is great, and it fills the shirt epically, as a design like this should... the single color belt print makes it look insanely classy and keeps it from seeming overly busy also. For people who don't get how a shirt can be art, this shows how to work the canvas... for people who already get it, this is likely to be a no-thought-required purchase if and when it prints.

More hairy power comes in the form of buko's Big Horn Invocation, which is simply stellar. The illustration itself is pretty incredible, with the textures of horn and goat fur, but I really like the more spiritual feel to it, with the rushing wind and summoning horns, and the doves flying around like live offerings to the spirit of the ram. It's a shame such spiritual concerns get such a bad wrap, because done right, imagery like that can be incredibly powerful. Of course, even if you're not about to praise a ram-god, there is always something to praise here... personally, I like the horn cut-aways a lot, both visually and conceptually... they add to the other-worldliness of the image, but also carry the concept of that horn blast... after all, where do you think the "horn" came from?

Design by Humans made a welcome return to the awesome spotlight this week, as well, with a couple worthy pieces. While it meant a little skimping on the Threadless stuff, I feel it's worth it. Starting of, we have Beastly Knot by hands_on_fire. The shape is one of the first noteworthy bits here, forming an almost hourglass from neck to waist and making the piece one that you can't help but draw your eyes to. Also eye-catching are the textures, running the gamut from scaly to smooth... beastly indeed, but also birdly and, apparently, squidly. The real payoff to me is the colors, though... they mesh well as the strands intertwine, but what really pops is that cool blue of the almost liquid strand... it helps its texture seem so slick, but also provides an excellent contrast that really draws everything else out, especially against the black.

Closing out this week is Sonmi, who actually just scored her 5th DBH print yesterday. Which is cool and all, but so is Tell Me, which is an explosion of artistry. Once again, colors are key here, with the lavenders hitting just the right balance (or possibly lack thereof) against the sand shirt. Perhaps it is a bias due to loving the small muntjak which seems to be the focal point (I clearly am too partial to cute pastel animals), but I think the unconventional color scheme works perfectly. The whole piece, however, feels like a secret world... the sort of anything's-possible mental running that comes in that second before a secret is let out. It's definitely abstract, and there may be no deeper meaning than to give us some rockin' art, but to me there's definitely a conveyance of that text within the art itself. Even if it's just an intimate, decoded glimpse into the artists mind, there are secrets here.

As a final note, those of you interested should definitely check out Uneetee on Monday for the wrap-up to their (admittedly a bit late) kickoff to the New Year. They'll be announcing their winner for their $3000 payoff contest then. I'm personally more stoked for later in the year, when we'll be seeing some of the entries that DIDN'T win print, since the finalists didn't strike a chord with me, but it'll still be worth it to check out the big reveal, especially if you missed them announcing the final 5. We'll probably see you Monday anyway for Threadless, but if nothing else, you can catch us back here in a week.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pardon My Double-Posting

A couple hours ago, I lauded the print of Timberland at Threadless. What I failed to notice at the time was that another Contest Watch favorite is now available for pre-order: ...Excuse Me, by blog-favorite Edgar R. McHerly. This one, picked up by Bad As Hell, is a full-on dark humor piece, in contrast to Timberland's artful whimsy. Not to say the art is any less skilled, but the focus is the pop of the white on the character's head, not the details of his body (though the joke itself is still the most subtle part). It took long enough, as far as I'm concerned, but I'm stoked to finally see it available, even if it is one more entry into the tshirt industry's evil plan to force me to buy more khaki. It's also one more entry into the Bad As Hell catalog, which I quite think has more potential than pretty much any site of similar age and size. Now, if they'd consider my second fav. submission (Warholbot's Reincarnation), BAHC would be my best buddy. Until then, they're still an awesome site worth checking out, if only to snag yourself an Edgar (though you really should browse through the rest as well. Solid stuff, I promise).

I'm pretty fired-up about the rapid-fire updates lately... the next one is the big 10th, and I am very excited to find out who it will be, and where. Is it too much to ask for Croc N' Roll tonight, DBH?

Timberland prints! Hoorah!

For the second week in a row, Threadless has proven to know what's up, printing yet another former contest watch superstar. The print, Timberland by Peachbeach, looks absolutely perfect, just like I thought it would... it fills the shirt perfectly, and the colors look great together. As I said back in my contest watch for the week of October 30th, besides having such a classic palette, I love the style, I love the patterns, and I double-love the critters roaming around the scene... and while white is never my first choice, my last Threadless cart was over half whites and cremes, and I have no qualms about the same thing happening next time if that's what Threadless goes and prints the awesome stuff on. Which is to say, you should buy this up.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tweet deal

Hello. Allow me to introduce you to one of the coolest shirts I've seen in a while. It comes from a place called Random Objects, which is appropriate because it is a random object, and also because it is allegedly shipped with a random object. It's appropriately named Origami Pigeon, and it's exceedingly meta. Admittedly this is why I love it... the origami could have likely made a cool tee on its own, but I really love the superimposed pigeon photo atop it. Even more so, I'm quite digging how the folds are defined nice and thick, turning the origami form into a set of frames for the photo itself. It's an interesting and attractive layout that even makes me forgive the branding at the bottom (appropriately in pigeon-dropping range?)... I just can't begrudge such a thing when the graphic itself appeals to me so much. Definitely something to keep in the consideration bank.

Just a reminder...

In case you've forgotten, or didn't know, Design By Humans' after holiday sale ends when this weekend does. As mentioned before, there are lots of great shirts at about 20% off regular prices, but there are also lots of great shirts for sale at $10, which clocks in at a little under or over 50%, depending on the shirt. It pays to search a bit deeper in the catalog if you want to snag a $10 winner... many of them are sold-down stock where one or two sizes are all that remains, but there are also lots of forgotten winners, like Tom Burns' We Are In This Alone. Its a shirt that struck me early... with its use of old-time family imagery, it conjures up an anonymity, an eeriness, that is very close to home. The wisps of whatever emanating from the screens each character holds helps keep a haunting isolation in the design. It's an image that requires a little extra thinking, but the thought put in makes it that much more appealing. I can't wait to see this one up close and personal, especially to check out the abalone-foil accents... I think that will end up adding a lot of character to what I find to be a thought-provoking tee.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Sometimes that one piece of art comes along that completely changes our perspectives on what we can expect from its purveyor. It's like Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine and Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love. It's Rubber Soul, or hearing a Lindsey Buckingham album and realizing that you don't hate Fleetwood Mac, just Stevie Nicks. Even while some artists go through periods where they totally change their MO (see also Picasso), you know there was some point where Michelangelo went from "that nice painter boy" to "holy crap, did you see the David?" It's how it goes... even if you know Bruce Almighty is still looming on the horizon, it's nice to see something totally unexpected appear on the quality scale where you shouldn't expect it.

This is where Stuck Inside comes in. While created by tgentry, a designer I trust to make quality threads, it is nevertheless the first-place print in a shirt.woot derby. This is an achievement that rarely if ever brings greatness, yet here we are. This is a HUGE artistic stretch for woot and its voters, and that is part of what makes it so important. This is the sort of thing that, made a bit larger, could be found at Design By Humans for twice the price. It's that skillful, blending halftones well to create the wispy fade-ins and moody shadows. It uses a warm rusty red against an icy cool blue for an amazing contrast, and makes skillful use of the negative space on the shirt. That's saying nothing of the mind's eye concept, feeding the intellectual fire. In another catalog, such a design would be a solid addition, but at woot, this is a standard-bearer.

The question becomes, at a site where a design like this feels like a fluke of a win, and where it will be followed by an elevator of anime bunnies, what does setting the bar even mean? The hope is that this will prove that you can indeed succeed with an artfully done shirt. The hope is that more artists will bring their A-game, instead of just being in it for the quick money. The hope is that quality artists outside the derby circuit will see it and take the risk submitting a higher quality daily... and it's indeed true that there is a hope that an artistic shirt like this could bring in new buyers and new voters to help counteract the generic blandness that so often comes to the forefront in these contests. They're all longshots, I know, but that basic hope, that spark of excitement coming from seeing the brand hit its zenith, can't keep me from being just a shred optimistic as the new year dawns on shirt.woot. We'll see how and if it plays out, but for now I'd like to congratulate the artist for creating, to date, the most relevant and flat-out most impressive shirt woot has ever sold.

As always, grab it quick before it sells out if you want it for $10, but starting tomorrow you can pick it up for $15 by following my links. My belief is that a shirt like this should be carrying on for a while, but in case woot decides to be woot and doesn't latch onto actual quality, you should really pick it up before mid-month. There are never guarantees to a shirt's lifespan. But hey, if you miss this one due to an uber-short run, take solace in being able to buy tomorrow's bunnies for months and months. Bunnies are adorable, and art is dumb.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of December 25

In honor of the New Year, I wanted to do something a little special. Thanks to the incredible ease of browsing past voted items over at Threadless, I put together a special blog over in those parts highlighting 15 pieces I felt were grossly underscored. You can check that out by clicking here. It includes both blogged and non-blogged pieces, so it may make a diverting browse for you. How appropriate, then, that this final week of 2008 was so Threadless dominated.

First, though, a little charmer from Itself. What I absolutely love about this piece, Trabe's Rhino Bolquet, is the sheer glee inherent in it. I dare you to not smile along with the grinning rhino. Everything about the design is there to make the wearer or viewer happy... from the bright gold of the shirt to the nostalgia of back when simple ball-in-cup games were enough to distract us (seriously, we all had a game like this in our youth, didn't we?). If that's not enough, the left-field juxtaposition of animal and toy should be, and that silly grin on the rhino's face keeps persisting to the last, making sure that there's no avoiding it. Both art and fashion should be about making us happy. This can do nothing but that.

Which isn't to say that there aren't some brilliant Threadless pieces to keep the happiness going, starting with Alexmdc's Blue Moon. The designer in question ended the year with a succession of killer after killer, but this right here is one of my favorites. It's no secret I love musical designs, but this one stands out even from such a large crop. It has such excellent characterization... I love the wise, weathered, yet friendly face, and the laid-back joy his expression gives, showing that he truly loves plying his trade. Ah, that lucky old moon just jams around heaven all day. AND he has a jaunty hat. How great must that be! Again, this is a piece that I can't help smiling at, and the lines and depths and textures make it all the better. I really love the colors, too... they're moody enough to give off the night vibe, but not too dark, so it's still bright and vibrant like the scene requires. I even like the halftone glow (gasp!), though I'm even more into the flow of the stars, pouring out of his sax like his own personal style of music and looping around and behind as a solid backdrop. Definitely one of the most printworthy of the week.

Matter v. Antimatter by TGWA is perhaps a selfish selection, but it's one I cannot help but be charmed by. I love how puckishly nonchalant Antimatter is, protesting the visibly and understandably upset Matter. It has a Spy vs. Spy feel in some ways, or a Goofus and Gallant, or any similar duo. Tom and Jerry. Bugs and Daffy. Antimatter may as well be hanging a "Matter Season" poster. That subtle humor is what really does it for me on this shirt, and is why I wanted to bring more attention to it.

Threadless' most recent "Loves" promotion is The Joy of Text. This should by any normal stretch of the imagination be something I'd absolutely hate, but even this week alone there were a few vying for a write-up. The winner, however, was Kooky Love's PLAY ON WORDS. It wasn't even a contest. The idea is clear to begin with... the word "Words" is clearly playful, made up of playground standards and depicted in a very playful palette (making it incredibly attractive and wearable). Even better, though, is that the beginning of the title is indeed playing on the words. It's multi-layered with its pun, and done incredibly attractively, which is what makes it so awesome. My gripe with most text shirts (as I'm sure is no secret) is the lack of concept and effort, but this is the sort of thing that makes words on a shirt more than just words on a shirt. Even if the words in question involve "Words". All that convoluted nonsense aside, I'd say this is a front-runner for this competition, and well deserved, too... it's incredibly intelligently created.

Finally, we end as we started... pure glee and horns. Bisparulz is to blame for this incredibly adorable piece of wonderment, with the equally adorable title "Thanks, it's an awesome gift." There's really nothing I can say about this that it doesn't say itself... let it suffice to note that the exchange here is priceless. It really captures the imagination and whimsy of childhood, and once again, once you catch what happened here, you cannot stop smiling.

Happy New Year to you all. Hoping to have a couple more related notes in the next few days, but whatever the case, definitely enjoy the beginning of it.