Thursday, March 5, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of February 26

Words can't express how uninspired I am today... hence the putting this off and putting this off... but we bloggers have obligations, eh? Thankfully, there was plenty of artistic inspiration to go off.

I'm going to start at Design By Humans today, to prove a bit of a point. See, I'm often harsh on branding. It takes the focus off what we should be focusing on: great design. Too many brands are more focused on their brand than making something wearable outside of promotional applications. Others take great work, and ruin it by adding in that unrelated brand tag. It's the downfall of many smaller sites, and it's one of many reasons I've never loved DBH's special contests... the few truly artistic pieces seem to get lost in the milieu of generic logos, and even then, it's still a brand I don't feel strongly enough to support on my chest.

All that said, I HAD to write up Wotto's "Quicksilvery" because I would wear it right now, trite surf/skate shop branding and all. What I love about this is twofold. Firstly, it totally encapsulates the brand as I understand it... there's plenty of boarding going on in various settings, of course, and both their logo and icon are incorporated. Even the shirt itself rides the "silver" wave. The great thing here, though, is that their logo is subtle and secondary, while their icon is used creatively and organically, making this a shirt more than a marketing tool. Secondly, though, is how completely Wotto it is... the characters are quirky and seriously awesome, and there are great details and textures. The flow is solid, with elements playing with each other and against each other... I really like how the waves reach out to the skate-park area, and rise against the mountains, for example. And those mountains... hell, they are charming enough to make the whole tee. I'd call them the definite focal point. Even so, I am mixed on this design for one reason. It needs to place... if it doesn't, then these branded contests are little more than a joke... a way to bring in top contest designers just to make a generic branded tee. This not succeeding would fly in the face of everything DBH seems to stand for artistically... the special contests so often feel like they come at the expense of the regular contest entries, and that'd be even more so if the winners were all nothing special. But the part where I'm torn is, if it doesn't place, might I be able to get this without the branding? Either way, a great piece. Congrats, Wotto, for scoring what I believe is thusfar the longest rant in Contest Watch history.

Of course, if your lust for weird critters simply can't be sated by Wotto alone, you probably need a good dose of Aphte, likely my favorite in that department. This week at Threadless, he's been on a roll, submitting a number of simple two-color combo pieces. All are charming, but my favorite is Blue and Yellow. While its win on color combo is far from definitive (all the pairings are pleasing to my eyes while feeling a bit quirky and unconventional), it's far and away my favorite on characters and layout, and ergo the one I'd most love to see print. It might be all a matter of that central character, with his knobby elbows, apparent dress of sorts, and what appears to be a monster-hat and beer bong... he serves well in anchoring all the other delicious oddness. Still, all the combos are worth checking out. They all make excellent use of that third color (the black outline, which helps make everything pop), and each one is featured with two killer shirt color options. While I prefer the starkness of the white tee in almost every case, the more vibrant options always make for a whole new experience. A great series, and this one is the best of the lot in my eyes.

There's not a lot to say about Childmirror's "Change, Change, Change," but I'll go through the basics. Firstly, it is part of "rabbit week." I'm pretty sure this is a celebration only CM knew about, but it was a charming one nevertheless, and one worth browsing his other work to see more from. Secondly, it's a chest placement, if you need to know such things. And thirdly, it's awesome. I love the textures, but mostly I love the evolution from leaper to leaper. A totally lovely idea that really speaks for itself.

I am a great lover of absurdity in tees. Why, just this afternoon I was discussing how to me, if a concept doesn't make sense as to "why," it had better go whole hog on either the art or the absurdity. Timrb's "Historical Mnemonic" takes the latter approach. I like the vintage approach to the style, and I like the simple palette. But what I love, and what makes this so vital to my wardrobe, is how ludicrous it is as a concept. Even if it didn't play off the classic Columbus mnemonic, the idea of sailing to the moon in an old galleon is a quirky and romantic notion, and the art captures that. But with the matter-of-fact message in the filigree, it really turns the piece on its head as regards what sort of art it is. None of the pieces fit... Lincoln was long dead before space travel, and hundreds of years in the making in 1492. There's no reason for me to believe he was ever a sailor... I couldn't even say for sure if he was ever on a ship. I clearly slept through that part of history class (if only I'd dreamed this shirt while I was at it). And of course, boats don't sail to the moon. But while it may look like I'm playing Captain Obvious, it is those obvious points which make the combination of elements in the joke so effective. Effective enough to garner a real laugh out of me. Humor is so often about choosing your words, and this piece handled that masterfully. That it's got some solid art and looks like it'll sit well on a shirt are simply added perks.

Finally, we end with shirt.woot, ever-fickle contest that it is. Grayehound is to blame for this one, and I for one would be proud of such blame were I him. An Island Unto Herself (Redux) stands as one of the most impressive derby entries I've ever seen. I love the care put into this... even the rough-drawn silhouette gives an impression of coming out of a rocky inlet to see the scene captured here. The other winning aspects should be more obvious... the color interplay, the sailboat making a perfect, subtle eye, while the cascading flowers set into their vines seem natural masquerading as hair... the thing that really blows me away, though, is the water rendering. It really looks spot-on and gorgeous... a total paradise. The whole piece is a mess of details that simply had to have taken serious time to perfect to this level... all that and a definable, appealing concept. It's totally refreshing to see an artist take that sort of time with any piece, but especially for woot work.

I'm pretty excited for next week... with a couple new faces in the game, it should be exciting. We'll see you then, as always... hopefully a shred earlier.


opifan64 said...

I love the absurdity of the Lincoln shirt too. The humor reminds me a little bit of Brian Neely's hilarious, mind-blowingly absurd animated short about George Washington (check it out on YouTube if you've never seen it).

It's interesting to me how many designs featuring Lincoln have suddenly popped into the collective zeitgeist. I wonder if the political climate (the hope represented by Obama) has triggered some kind of unconscious association with Lincoln who also embodied change and integrity -- maybe I'm reading too much into it, haha.

Adder said...

That'd be the "he's coming, he's coming, he's coming" one, yes? Also brill.

I'm guessing the Lincoln fad is based mostly off of how distinctive the man looked, and how much folklore there is mixed in with the fact about him... he's almost legendary instead of real, and most of the subs reflect that. But if it is a political subconscious thing, it is just as possible that Lincoln is coming to the forefront to refresh the Republican image. After all, that's the party Lincoln was affiliated with. If only more of the modern party reflected on him.

In an effort for bipartisanship, I think Obama should convince Threadless to print the shirt.