Thursday, July 23, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of July 16

Holy crap, dudes. It feels like FOREVER since our last CW, and as such, I feel like I've been depriving you of a LOT of awesome. I'd love to get straight into the goodness which is this week's shirt selection, but there are a couple notes I must make. Firstly, Tgentry's "Steampunk Willie" is amazing (duh) and now up for voting over at Threadless. Second, a shirt we've long been a fan of, yet has never gotten its deserved print love, DCAY's "Sweet Child o' Mine," is up at new contest site Tilteed. I love ya, new contest sites, but seriously, the names are just getting lamer. But with an awesome DCAY shirt in their arsenal, lame names shouldn't be a hindrance. We love our CW entries like children here, so if you could toss 'em a vote, we'd be ecstatic.

Sadly, our contest watch hasn't seen scads of Design By Humans work as late (though we have discussed them recently: see elsewhere for details on that sale of theirs)... the last one seems to be Prehisteria, about two months ago. I personally blame the huge "Music Series" contests for shifting the focus away from just being human and designing, but even this year's DBH10K isn't really bringing in big guns and awesome designs. This being the last week to get those entries in, I'm hoping the great stuff is either in the queue or just about polished, with their designers taking every free second to make something truly special. For my money, right now, popwilleatitse1f's Invasion should find itself printing that week, whether as the big winner or as a top-5er. I love how original the invading monster feels, even though the idea of a massive world destroyer is nothing new. That the designer created his own character speaks volumes in today's design world, but the skill of the drawing is also commendable. The creature has an eerie, serious calm to him, as if its task is commonplace and just part of the daily grind, and its features, shriveled and soulless, make the creature seem mythic and ancient. The shading here is no less great than the characterization in the lines... the whole piece fades into the canvas without getting lost, and the contrast isn't so stark that it looks wrong, as some white-on-black pieces can be. Overall, this is the sort of thing DBH does best, to me: big, bold and unique.

Two weeks ago, at the time of the first CW I missed this month, the centerpiece of my Contest Watch was going to be The Nightsong, by TheInfinityLoop, which was entered at Shirtfight's Heavyweight battle. Since SF doesn't have a "hold" period for designs (meaning one can be entered elsewhere immediately if it doesn't take the prize), this week it is Threadless' infinite gain. Everything about this design is stunning... the placement, which inhabits the shirt brilliantly without cluttering the tee or leaving too much negative space. The textures of the moon and the planet below, and the way their shadows play along their surfaces. The ethereally light mist of star-music showering the satellite's planet, and the ghostly arms and instrument creating the song. The colors fit perfectly, bold enough to stand out against the dark tee, but warm enough to blend as well, so the contrast is pleasing, not blinding. What it comes down to is it simply works as a shirt. It's attractive and artistic, yet it's not difficult to appreciate and understand. It's a simple concept executed skillfully to give it deep undertones. And while space and music are popular themes, I can't think of anything off the top of my head quite like this.

Jagdalack's "Sparrow Escape" is bold as well, but in a fully different way. This is about color and execution for me, as the concept isn't much new or special... it's almost not a concept, really. Still, I love the rusty gold here, and I love the texture it's applied with. That natural, brush-stroke feel is just perfect to give the thick swirls here a sense of movement, and the placement, at the shoulder and over the heart, really makes the design enjoyable to look at, for me. This one's up at Bad As Hell Clothing, whose contest is only just resuming, so not only should you check this shirt and the site out, but if you design, consider an entry. Remember, great designs build great sites.

This week was a bit harrowing for Threadless fans, for reasons I won't give even further exposure to. So it was nice to see what felt like better subs than normal over there. Lest we forget that Threadless is the top tier tee site not for chintzy cash-grabs but for creative tees that range from truly inspired humor to brilliant and original artistic shirts, consider a piece like mr. spiers' "The Scales of Patterns are Dripped in Your Favour". I will be the first to admit it is boxy, as I'm sure some readers know it is often an aversion of mine, but to me, allowing elements to sprout from the rectangle, as well as creating a drippy bottom, gives this just a bit more oomph to better fit the canvas. I appreciate the mint blank, but what I appreciate even more is how each scale here has a different pattern attached to it, and how the patterns remain so diverse yet still remain visually appealing, while also not getting dull given the limited (yet perfectly harmonious) color palette. Even so, it is the hand-drawn nature of the patterns that really gives this intrigue, and the critters and flair emerging within the piece that really give it life. This week it was no problem finding scads of interesting work, from great humor to amazing illustration, but to me this is the sort of sub that really gets ignored when the voting goes haywire, so I had to feature it. Trust me, you should consider browsing the rest of the site to see what you probably missed in the hypestorm.

We end this week with a piece from Uneetee... something I'd LOVE to see printed, among any number of other things they should print, whenever they decide to print things again. While their $5 "mystery" gift cards are always a fun investment (you're guaranteed to get at least $6, so if you're a fan of the site, snagging one could be prudent), there's not a lot of motivation to buy if the back catalog remains small... it feels like they've taken a week off from printing new shirts every other week for months now. So add candysquare's "The Sound of Music" to that already backed-up queue. It's no secret that music is my first love, and so a great music tee, while a rare print occurrence these days, is always appreciated. This one happens to have great colors and a wonderful flow, and while I can't shake a nagging, clip-art feel with all the copy/pasted elements, it's a solid example of what needs to happen in a collage. Each tiny piece is literally creating a bigger picture, and becoming more than itself. The final outcome is attractive and wearable and fun, and comes across with a purpose to all the pieces. You can't really ask for more, yet many do far less.

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