Thursday, July 30, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of July 23

If I thought last week was busy, this one is crazier.

Blog favorite tgentry has been blowing up the classics at Threadless lately: Contest Watch fave "All Dinosaurs Go To Heaven" is finishing voting tomorrow, while his lovely Durer Koopatrooper is newly posted in a somewhat changed form as "Life Study of a Dangerous Creature." Robbielee has also subbed a CW piece to DBH, with some new background and the revamped title "Those Post-Apocalyptic Blues". If they're new to you, check 'em out... you'll love 'em. If they're old to you, why aren't you votin' 'em up again?

Also at Design By Humans this week: more sale, and the end of the DBH10K subs. I'm feeling a bit mixed on that, because it really feels like there is less true awesome this time around. Maybe I am speaking with the curse of nostalgia, but I've perused a few times (and likely will again) and there's a lot of stuff that feels, I dunno, a bit tepid. Besides the normal crop of entries that make me wonder if the designer ever looked at the site, it rather feels like it's split between "generic DBHy pieces" and "great, unique shirts that will never win the 10K," and I bet you can figure where my picks are landing. To be sure, it's not as if The Mollusk Charmer by mizaveta is the most inspirationally awesome thing ever posted at DBH, but it is really rockin', and if promoting it means it'll have a better chance, I'm all for it. As with all octo designs I write up, it's the octo itself that I am most in love with... they're such ugly critters, but this one is done wonderfully, and those snaking arms are as eye-catching as ever as you follow each one, not only from body to tip, but around as they twist. Unlike some common tee elements, the cephalopod is natural because of its fluidity of shape and movement, which helps every skilled rendering feel fresh. The concept really sinks its teeth into that fluidity, letting the mollusk wriggle and writhe as a snake does for a snake charmer. The art feels a bit mystical, as it should be given the tradition shown, and I love the colors, with both bold and subtle touches against the orange blank. Which, as DBH hopefully remembers, they have to create anyway for the sake of Hogboy's "Taipei Rocks". I'm watchin' you guys.

Of course, some of you may well be wondering: if there's an octopus in the snake pot, where'd the snake get to? In all likelihood, the octo probably gave it a death blow with its chitinous beak and ate it, but kinzoku's "The Two-Headed Snake's Mortal Foe" presents another possibility. This is very smart shirt design, surprising considering that the shirt.woot derby it came from yielded so little worth looking at. The color palette, staying in a very defined range, helps add a lot of texture to the combatants here, and while it's not particularly bold on its own, it pops like a cornfield on the sun against the lemon blank. The snake is particularly well-rendered here, but the mongoose is looking good too... past that, there's just a little texture to imply ground and shadow, which helps keep the graphic simple yet unites it to give it a sense of belonging there. It's got a bit of a "why?" factor... there's no logical reason outside of the contest theme for either animal to be two-headed... but it does have a nice subtle jokeyness to it. Somehow the two-headed snake isn't far-fetched enough to me to question, so the two-headed mongoose can remain a punchline, even out of context. It does, however, lead me to wonder: if so many shirt buyers insist they want something funny and simple, why can't this ever be that? You can be both without having to resort to something blitheringly basic.

Also simple, yet far less obvious conceptually, is iQuitt's "Oya & Ono," featuring what I have to presume is a hirsute, animal representation of yin and yang. Oya is the joyous one, with a soft but undeniable smile, while Ono steeps himself in a palpable yet not oppressive negativity. I like how the two creatures flow together, and even flow individually, helping give more visual nods to the idea of yin and yang without hammering it into your head. The colors, as well, do well to foster the concept... Red and Blue are both primary (with the yellow blank being the third), so the colors are bright and bold and work wonders to start with, but they are also opposing colors. The flecks of each shade against the opposing creature's legs speaks to the unity and intrinsic bond between the two. Even the speech balloons, again in opposing colors, work well... not only do they help make the idea here more concrete, but hey, if you're gonna use lettering, use hand-lettering. It always ratchets up the charm, even when it's already charming. A disclaimer here: Tee Invaders, where this is up for votes, for some reason disallows you to view entries without being signed in. Keep that in mind if you click through.

I don't want to say there was a shortage of good Threadless picks this week, because there wasn't. I guess I was just excited about having such a diverse set of tees this time around that I didn't really allow myself to fall too deeply in love with many of the entries I've seen. Not the case with ginetteginette's Tipi Man. I don't know if it is possible to not love this one. It's an extremely simple main graphic: a tipi/tepee/teepee/wigwam, with a little dude sleeping within. Oh, and the tepee has eyes for some reason. It's odd and simple, yet strangely attractive. But the real payoff is the incredibly intricate patterning here. It looks great on a number of different blanks (see sub for details), but the important thing is that it looks great. It makes the tee look totally unique, and the two tones look like even more for it. The detail of all the flowers and vines and general flora makes a great backdrop for the wide expanse of flat color on the tepee, allowing the two textures to play off each other. It's not "classic" Ginette, maybe, but it is definitely pushing boundaries, and with the addition of the weird and whimsical centerpiece atop the visual wonderland of the background, it may be different, both among other shirts and the designer's usual fare, but that uniqueness makes it, in some ways, totally fitting within her portfolio. This is simply the sort of tee that makes reviewing tees exciting and rewarding... nothing else is quite like this.

Finally, off to Uneetee for the sole holdout on what was unintentionally "bright shirt color week," adamsw216's "Sundrip Orange Sundae." Not that there is not a lot of brightness in the piece itself, but at least the blank is a bit more subdued. There's really nothing to the piece that can't be summed up in the title: there is a sun, it is dripping, and it is orange. Presumably the designer likes ice cream, also. The overall package, however, is really attractive to me. I am usually very over watercolors and drips and splashes, but the color combo here, as well as the positioning, really sell the image, and the textures seem to be chosen wisely and for compositional reasons, as opposed to simply being there as the style of the moment. It's nice and abstract and wearable, proving you never need to "get" a good shirt... sometimes there's really nothing TO get.

So that's the week. However, if I may, I'd like to ask a little favor. I've got a piece up at Threadless myself this week, entitled Point.illism. If you so desire, I'd much appreciate if you gave it an honest score (or barring that, a blind $5 won't be that offensive), and perhaps a comment as well. The entry will be linked, as always, at the top of this blog's sidebar, if you are interested in voting.

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