Thursday, April 9, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of April 2

Thur's no day like Thursday. That's the day we take a look at some of the sweetest shirts yet-to-be on this beautiful nearly-spring day. And while my service to you comes first, it is not preventing me from opening a window and enjoying the fresh, cool air outside from inside. Anyway, on with it, eh?

Though I live by a bay, the air I've got coming in is nothing like the scent of sea air, a segue which makes far more sense when you check out Kaloyster's Great Kanagawa Eagle. The piece, up for voting at Design By Humans, is all but cloned from the classic Hokusai print, but it becomes a melting pot of homage and creativity (as well as of cultures) by the incorporation of an eagle's head in the crest of a wave. While a bit of smart art humor, it's far more impressive compositionally... seeing an eagle in the wave is a stretch most couldn't take, but once it's there, it's just so perfect that you can't believe you hadn't seen it before. The placement, along the bottom seam, doesn't hurt the cause either. A great example of where imitation crosses to inspiration.

A bit older than Hokusai, dinosaurs aplenty were provided us during shirt.woot's at first frightening Dinosaur derby, and while voters turned a surprisingly good derby into the normal upsetting final results, it can take nothing away from the quality work that somehow arose from a potentially stunting theme. Take tgentry's "All Dinosaurs Go to Heaven," which somehow takes dinosaurs, a perpetual staple of kids' and nerds' imaginative diets, and makes 'em all grown up. The flow of the design is excellent, and the concept is sorta lovely... regardless of the realities of the afterlife, there's something about seeing these massive victims of extinction wending their way weightless up to an eternal life of whatever heaven would be to a ridiculously large monster-lizard. I'm also impressed with the colors... they're mostly dull greys, yet they come across beautifully instead. One'd never have thought you could have an adult dino-themed tee, but it is quite arguable that the designer pulled it off.

On the other hand, there's dekonstruct's "Brontosnorus Saves the World," which is decidedly less mature but still all kinds of wonderful. The stark black and white design makes a solid case for the much maligned white tee, and the concept is a charmer. I love the idea that the dino (who has quite the bed set-up, I must say) is dreaming of not only the extreme future in his sporty spaceship, but the not-so-distant future as he pulverizes the asteroid which will likely end his and his kinds' existence. Great concept.

Getting back to the Asian inspiration, and keeping things rooted in the past for this contest watch, we head out to Threadless for one of the most jaw-droppingly awesome designs I've seen here at contest watch. It certainly should be, too: Solar Power is a collab between two pros, Xiaobaosg and FlyingMouse, and the two pull out all the stops. Their geisha is beautifully rendered. Also, she's huge and sitting among the mountains. I'm not really sure why, but it's a largely moot point since she's lighting a branch WITH THE FREAKING SUN for the purposes of also lighting her pipe. The sun, and fire in general, is no less gorgeous than the geisha, and adds some nice color to the otherwise earthy palette. It's funny, though... when I find a design like this, which is so unspeakably perfectly done, the less I can find words to talk about it. Which is probably fair... my words can't do this justice. It speaks for itself. It's probably better to just look, smile, and vote for it.

Finally, we check out Threadless' "Loves Green" competition. I have been fairly harsh toward this competition lately, and to be honest, it deserves it. The trite imagery and hackneyed messages were only part of it... somehow, having a more political theme kept even good designers down to talking points and imagery I expect to see at free tees from local Earthfests. It made me want to go pollute or deforest. Thankfully there were a few saving graces, one of which was mr spiers' "The Last Resort." I'm a little torn on it, namely because it's not the best of the contest, but it is probably my favorite, and it is one that would make far less sense printing outside of the context of the contest. I like that instead of making an elaborate tree like everyone else, this was done in a simple, charming style. I like that instead of trying to make a helpful tip like "switch off appliances" somehow be a meaningful tee, the designer kept it as simply a list of cartoon paneled tips. It is perhaps my loathing for most of the work in the competition that makes me even not hate the boxy nature that the design's concept brings about. But I especially like the "little green man" character. I like him bicycling. I like him laying insulation. I like him changing light bulbs. And I especially like him in the one-two punch of punchlines in the design... first the subtle one in the last panel on the front, and then the more obvious titular joke on the back. Does it work better as a comic than a shirt? Probably. But I've seen lesser designs succeed on this principle. I can't help it if I think this one is better.

And thus it ends. What do you guys think? Were you also shocked by good dinosaurs? Have you had to hold back from spilling oil after a night of scoring Green designs? And are you eloquent enough to explain how awesome solar power is? The comments are yours until next week.


opifan64 said...

Glad you pointed out Kaloyster's one. I loved that when it was up for voting on Threadless. You nicely summed up why it works even though I recall there were some people who accused it of being a rip-off more than an homage.

I'm going to try to work on our collab this weekend... hopefully make some progress. :S

Loy said...

thanks for featuring this art. i'm glad dbh can print oversize ones so i don't have to limit the design's size.