Thursday, July 2, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of June 25

Late blog is late due to a million and one reasons, not the least of which being some good old fashioned summer laziness, so with the cool air of way-late-at-night surging in, and my fingers crossed for it not to downpour like every other evening this week, here goes:

Somewhere in the dregs of the "Fake Band Shirt" derby over at shirt.woot, homeschoolwinner came up with a charming little idea in Electric Bill and the Charges. For starters, it's a great band name, insofar as it parodies one of the classic band-name stereotypes (Someone and the Somethings) with deft humor... the idea is so mundane at first, but once you realize the finer points of the name, the point shines through. There could be a guy named Bill who goes by this name, and "the Charges" is a totally generic backing band moniker. Though really, once the absurdity sets in, the idea of an Electric Bill fronting a band, or even a band calling themselves Electricbill, is pretty classic. The logo itself is pretty perfect too... it definitely evokes a cover band at your local bar, while having a classic cheese factor that would be perfect back in the 70s as well. It's like Huey Lewis meets Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. And with a color scheme like this, it's quite possible the Muppets were on the designer's mind... it's fun and eyecatching, and answers the question "why the hell do I want to wear a fake band shirt?"

By the time I finish this blog, I wager the most recent Shirtfight contest will be over and, once again, I will probably be perplexed as ever over the eventual winner. I'm having a tough time cementing the weekly contest's taste, but pretty consistently it seems the answer is "not mine." As such, I am sad to announce that Mandolin's Pangolin, by r4fitch4, is probably not even close to the pick of the week. A shame, because it's certainly one of my fav's from Black and Blue week, despite making more sense as "Pangolin's Mandolin". Not the least of my appreciations about this tee is my appreciation for pangolins, which are about as underrated as an awesome animal can get. Also impressive to me is the use of shirt blank, with it showing through heavily among the creature's scales, while not making the overall feel seem disjointed, and the cartoony style, turning the little guy into a charmer in a fun hat. But I'm most digging the color palette. It seems to really run with the Black and Blue theme by giving off that purple-blue tint that everything seems to take on by moonlight. You can picture our friend here serenading his pangolin world until the late hours, while everyone has an awesome, pangolinny time. It adds a sense of magic to the piece, and implies a bigger scenario than the single character can convey.

As usual, Threadless picks up the bulk and slack of this segment, beginning with WanderingBert's simple but charming "Losing the Connection."It takes it's concept there and back again, first imagining a deer's antlers as television antennae. It's a fair comparison, with both sporting many branches and a daunting, weapon-like shape. One could even suggest that deer are in tune with nature as we tune in to television. But one would probably be more pretensiously verbose than I. What I do like best about this piece, however, is how it starts with such a simple idea, then translates it back to make it all the deeper... the deer is rendered as static and white noise, what most of us in the modern age most associate with archaic antennae such as these. It's an image that leaves itself wide open for interpretation and discussion, making it artistic in its simplicity, but for all the meanings we could glean from it, the final truth is that it looks awesome. And that's all I need to consider a buy.

Despite talking it up fourth, Babatai's "CHENAPAN" is without even remote reservations my favorite shirt of the week. It's a lovely drawing, for starters... the storefront here is made up of equal parts hand-drawn beauty and European charm. It makes me yearn to retreat to a small town overseas, where I can see this sort of scenery daily... a charming café or convenience shop just inviting you in to mangle the local language in front of the good natured staff. I feel like I saw any number of places like this when I was in Italy, and it brings me back. The colors, mostly earthy with a couple subtly less-natural tones, are calming and pretty much perfect for a good viewing. It's not only classic from this artist, but it's classic simply on the basis of aesthetic. It's so appealing you almost miss the fact that, hey, THIS CRAP IS WEIRD! I mean really, what the hell? Some little rabbit demon is fishing for a fishman? That's something I -definitely- didn't see in Europe. But the characters are so nonchalant about what is going on, and so whimiscally drawn that while they'll cause the average viewer to do a doubletake, they don't taint or cheapen the work, but naturally add to it. The weirdness seems totally in tune with the rest of the image, as if everything is so charming and unassuming that the totally quirky aspects blend in as though nothing happened. Absurdity is one of my first loves in art, but this piece's style is so great that I'd wear it even without the fish dude. I'd buy this in a heartbeat... it's truly wearable art.

Still, let my love of the last piece not taint you against the also awesome "Dinner is Ready," gracing us courtesy of Jacopo. Here, the weirdness is evident in everything, from the fun cartoony style to the bizarre idea. It's a great two-color design, utilizing its spaghetti dinner shades to solid effect and little surprise given the action. The scene plays out like a Monty Python one... the lumpy vikings are here to storm the tower, but the tower-dwellers are having none of it. Some medieval fortresses would use vats of boiling water as a weapon in their defense against hostile takeovers... you can imagine you'd probably run too if someone was about to dump boiling water on you. Here, the water has long boiled, pasta's been added, a sauce has been made, meat has been cooked, and the whole mess is about to bring some pain to the adorably vicious attackers. Yet they are ready: they've brought a huge fork as a battering ram. I love how this scene has its own internal logic... the war probably is commonplace in the world created here, though absurd to our eyes. It sparks the imagination... what is this world like? How did this rivalry start? What else don't we know? That's totally appealing to my mind. Give it an attractive and charming style and I am sold. I'll have to explain this to anyone who sees me wearing it. And I am fine with that.

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