Thursday, April 30, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of April 23

Besides some lovely work in the sidebar that yours truly had a hand in helping create (or creating in full), this week we'd like to ask you to support Contest Watch alum "Baby Herman" (now entitled "Sweet Child o' Mine"). DCAY's got it back up at DBH, minus the Von Zipper branding and plus a really sweet, understated feel with the new DBH blanks. Let's help this one along to finally print somewhere, eh? Oh yeah, and don't forget that sale: it'll be ending tomorrow.

This week's theme at shirt.woot was Steampunk, and like all style themes, it was ignored by most designers and almost all voters. It's something that irks me most about contests there: it's one thing to have a loose interpretation of a theme about a thing or idea, but it is another altogether for a style. All styles have rules, or else they are a different style. However, there is always room for creativity if it shows respect for the theme, which is why my favorite of the week was likely tgentry's "Steampunk Willie." A Rodent of Indeterminate Origin is happily steering away at what seems to be a big, metal airship. Steam powered, of course. By using an old-timey cartoon style, though, the designer is able to make a design about steampunk, instead of in the purest sense of the style (although it could be argued that taking a modern movement and inserting it into the early 1900s captures a bit of steampunk's heart). The piece stays truest to the classic cartoon roots, evoking the more complex secondary style simply and cleanly instead of with the ornate bells and whistles normally associated, but there should be more than enough for an enthusiast to understand and praise. As for that concept, it is absolutely killer... it's a perfect subject for the theme, right down to the easy punchline of a title. Parody at its finest.

Threadless, on the other hand, was ever modern this week, with some seriously flawless work that just didn't hit me strongly enough to make it to print. Not that the pieces I've chosen aren't also near perfect to me. Look at againstbound's Dark Matter. What about this ISN'T modern? It's big and stark and has a beautiful outerspace look to it. It's the sort of thing that NEEDS to be at DBH if it doesn't make it at Threadless. And it uses one of my favorite color threesomes, albeit backwards. I love the use of halftones here: now that they're in vogue, they're often done sloppily and gaudily, but here it comes across as a vivid red astral cloud, like it's supposed to, while the shirt itself peeks through the black as tiny stars. It's amazing to me how well the two colors work. I love the boldness, too, of the big shock of black against the blank canvas of white, pointing up at me: the design screams to be looked at, and it demands the trail of vision continue up to the wearer. A shirt like this is where art on a shirt becomes art as a shirt... it looks fine as a graphic, yeah, but it's meaningless until it's on the tee, and then it's perfect. This one's for all the white shirt haters: eat neater, because this is a must buy if and when it prints. Oh, and as an aside, give ol' AB some love at Cameesa... his work is clinically under-supported over there.

Of course, it's easy to fall in love with the work of a well-known designer, but one should never underestimate the underdogs, like relative newcomer Radiobot. This is why you should all go vote for Frog Rain, before I spend another one of these installments whinging about voting more. Admittedly, it's one of those pieces where I just don't get what's not to love. I could probably go on for a page just about the deermen... "Look at them! They have antlers and fur, but they're humanoid! That is a freaking box of awesome!" Seriously, though, great characters. Great mood, too... while there's a lot of crazy going on (and don't get me wrong, I love my crazy), there's also, to me, an unmistakable "spirituality of nature" feel to this. There's a peace to the big guys and their cloud world, with its earthy tones and smart textures and possible being-in-outer-space. There's a beauty, too, despite its quirkiness. Even the titular amphibians raining down, while a little creepy at first, give an interesting flow to the piece. It just all feels right... Threadless is known best, perhaps, for it's humor pieces, but in a lot of ways, this sort of thing just feels like what the site it all about.

I had planned a nice segue about trends and how what I see as classic may not be what an older member would see as the same. The idea was to introduce Flying Mouse 365's Lunar Escape as part of a "new school" of designs already making waves in print at Threadless. I abandoned it, though, because it became more puffery than even I'm comfortable with. So let's just speak of the facts... this is awesome. To start with, it revels in the natural world, which means it's got some beautiful source material. The execution, though, and the amalgamation of the main elements are what really puts it over the top. For starters, the rigid grid element of the piece is tempered by the smooth round circles of the moon... the curves help prevent this from being too boxy. Of course, the growing tentacles and eventual breakaway do a lot to quell this, as well. Therein lies another win in this piece: the birth of the octomoon. The phases of the moon alone would make a pretty boring shirt, but they make a great set-up for the next progression. I simply love how it's rendered, with the surface rippling and sprouting and eventually shooting off into the atmosphere. The moon is an entrancing enough object, especially against a backdrop where it can appear to illuminate, but the flowing arms progressing out of the latter "phases" here make the whole scene look nearly ethereal.

Finally, back to woot. One thing I haven't done too much of, but like to do now and then to mix up an otherwise one-sided watch, is to talk up a design that I'm torn on. In this case, it's cmdixon2's Outpost. In theory, I love it. The little bug-like copter has more character than a machine should be allowed to have. The floating islands have some absolutely gorgeous execution to them... despite the post-apocalyptic feel of the setting, each tiny landmass has an idyllic beauty. Seriously, check the detail images... there is a LOT of awesome in here. Still, something feels off, and it's hard to place. It might be the white smoke... is it too pure white? Too solid at the head? Too gauzy at the tail? The positioning, also, seems to be off... the islands sit in an odd place, and feel a bit too small, while the bugcopter feels way too far away for the image to resolve. So why talk it up here? Simple: I -know- there is an awesome design in here. It already has everything it needs... it's just a matter of how to get there and hone it down. If any of you have opinions, shoot 'em over to the comments, and keep an eye out if it ever pops up elsewhere: it could be a powerhouse.

1 comment:

Loving This Tee said...

i love the againstbound and flying mouse submissions!