Thursday, August 27, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of August 20

There are few considerations in tee design that can do so much for your design than color. This week, we'll examine a few instances where we see just that.

We start at Teextile, where we see the importance of contrast with MJ's "Electric Eel." The starkness of white on black is always a bold choice, and I like how the inkless body of the eel itself breaks that up. The gradient's colors add a lot, too. The choice of gradient helps illustrate the surge that gives the eel its name, but the colors used help convey the watery depths at which the creature would live, with the dark purples giving way to the light pockets of aqua. But overall, I like how iconic the image is... after all, some people would say you can never have enough lightning.

While white-on-black is always stark, the right colors will bring even more pop, as is the case with ArrowHead, by Atomicchild. The textures here are gritty like the subject matter, which carries the grit of war and violence as well as the dirt long burying these stone relics. It makes the distressing and grunging work well with the piece. I also enjoy how the argyle-esque backdrop interacts against the triangular tips and the flowing arrow-shafts. But the colors are what really ratchet up the wearability here. Outside of the heads themselves, outfitted in rock tones and blood red, the other colors are bold and pop off each other while complimenting each other as well. It's a tribal palette, burning like fire like the rage in which these tools were used, and an autumnal one, speaking to that decay of time burying the past. Above all, though, the colors draw you in as they interact and intermingle. The palette alone is enough to finally give this Threadless staple a well-deserved first print, and the upcoming season can only help the appropriateness of doing so.

There are, of course, times when color is used to completely alter the perceptions of a piece, much as Mitohapa does in her eerie "The Ghost Town Cactus Trio," up for votes at Tilteed. I do so wish Tilteed allowed zooms and the like, because this piece deserves a closer look. The focus of this piece is ostensibly the natural strength and grace and wild nature of the horse, but a simple color switch elevates this piece from a well-done study more at home with young girls enthralled by Black Beauty to an evocative and mysterious piece of art. The greens and smoky blues make us behold a pale (and otherworldly) horse. The leaps and poses become a bit ominous, and serve to highlight how we humans can never fully know the natural world. The cactus element is odd, but ties in an old west stampede feel. The darkness recalls any number of eerie stories, from Sleepy Hollow to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. For me, I think all that is what makes the piece so magical... with just a simple switch of colors, the piece goes from an homage to an animal to something that can capture the imagination and mean something different for each viewer. It's all in the power of a creative palette.

Back to Threadless, we see another piece that has drawn me in largely for the color scheme: that is inappropriate's "Ask Again Later..." It's a piece that makes excellent use of black outlines, implementing thick, bold strokes against colors that can both compliment and hold their own against the outline. In all honesty, there's a lot I don't get about the piece... specifically where the 8-ball and it's predictive references come in. Presumably the layers of drippings are representative of whatever cloud of "magic" allows the simple ball to inform us of our future decisions. But what I do know is that I love the flow here, and love the colors... the unsaturated, almost dull tones nevertheless pop within their thick outlines and against the plain blank. I've also been becoming more and more of a fan of the goopy, drippy style in play here... my eyes can't stop following those lines wherever they'll take me. And whatever the true inspiration, it is true that the ball anchors the piece well, while the triangles, proclaiming some of the ball's most famous standard advice, definitely do break up the curvature of the main piece with their straight lines and sharp angles. It's brilliantly wearable, to me, and it makes me seriously wonder why more places aren't taking chances on things like this. It could well be the next big thing.

Finally, there is much to be said for being reserved and having a gentle touch, knowing just what colors need to be used. This subtle piece, The Lost Gondolier, is up at Design By Humans, and is brought to us by timizy01. It's cast in such simple colors that the design can easily look perfect on any given shade, and the mock-up here certainly aims to prove that. The simplicity of the colors doesn't kill the boldness the site is known for, though. The flowing waves here fill up the shirt, giving it a great texture. The helpless gondolier seems all the more engulfed by the waves for their vast expanse of shirt canvas space, and also helps contrast his composition, of thick black lines and fills. The piece needs no more than the two basic colors used here to be so bold and powerful and artful.

That's about all for now, except to say that I will be out and about for the weekend, so we probably will not be seeing each other until Monday, the start of DBH10K week. Cross your fingers for a 5th place miracle.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Quick Bite

I'm not normally a slogan tee wearer. I tend to think my own wit is strong enough without them, and I tend to worry about the joke-repetition theorem: if you keep seeing a joke on a shirt, it is like repeating a joke, and it gets less funny each time to the point of annoyance. Which is to say, even a great slogan shirt can get tiresome after even one wear. They need to be attractive, not just witty, to truly carry over and be worthy of multiple sportings.

That said, Palmercash has clearly gotten inside my head with their new "Wake Me For Meals". It's the sort of tee I'm tempted to buy just to hang on my door, for any and all housemates in my life to see and be informed by. But it's also quite wearable. So if you tend to sleepwalk, this'll be ideal, too.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blogged With Awesome

Early early this morning, we gave you a quick announcement that may well end up being "made of awesome. And tonight, we take that concept just a little farther, and a lot more literal.

Welcome to "Made With Awesome," a new tee site that eschews that passé "fabric" stuff in favor of swaths of radical. It's the collaborative effort of two Threadlessites: Evan Ferstenfeld, the ubiquitous and omnipresent Threadentity known as Frickinawesome, and Philly designer Roni Lagin, whose Threadmoniker is the very straightforward Phillydesigner. We've seen both of them through our contest watch before: Evan has proven his chops time and again as a brilliant idea man, and Roni has impressed us with his art. So a combo platter sounds all the better.

What do we know for sure about this new shop? Well, it's clear the site name has two angles: the shirts are awesome, but also, Roni has "Made" a number of tees "with (frickin)awesome." The majority of the launch follows that pattern: Evan flexes his sloganeering muscles, and Roni illustrates them into graphic tee bliss. Even a non-slogan dude like me can appreciate that these will be a step above the average text-tee, but what I'm really looking forward to is the inevitable "design depository".

See, Mr. Awesome has done scads of collaborations with scads of Threadless alumni, and many of them are pretty epic, so while the slogans are the bread-and-butter, so to speak, I'm really interested in what former inspirations come to print. Two such collabs are in the launch packet, my favorite of which being "King of the Jungle Gym." With art by Cheok Siew Yen, the piece is whimsical, sunny, and even a little ominous... sure, there's all those charmingly active animals throughout the piece, making it appeal to the kid in us... there's plenty of fun detail to get lost in... but there's also that hidden lion, lost behind all the action, but still a bit foreboding. There's no reason to believe there's going to be any havoc caused, as this king seems to be a protective and stoic leader, but it IS a lion. Those things are vicious. Just ask Mufasa.

With two veterans of the tee circuit starting the business up, we're personally thinking this week-old brainchild will have legs. If you have legs too, and need something to cover up the torso they're supporting (or even if you don't... we love readers of all leggedness), definitely consider keeping them on the radar. Need a little convincing? We've got a coupon code, too! Save $1 off your order with code "SINGULARITEE". That won't expire, so keep it in mind... every buck counts!

Shameless and Awesome DBH10K Promotion!

If we're being honest, we here at Singularitee don't have an official horse for the DBH10K... our favorite was a long shot for even the top-10, and our other favorite, barring a fluke or voting discrepancies, was narrowly squeaked out in 6th. But we do feel that two of them have some amazing work, and would be happy with either placing.

One of these two has made our promotional choice easy: we may not have a horse, but we certainly can have a cow. Or a buffalo, in this case. CSJ89 is making a last-minute push, and we're happy to oblige. The following is taken from his site:

Please vote for CSJ89's Mecha-Labaw!

Our good friend Christian San Jose recently joined the DBH 10K contest at Design By Humans, where the winning design will receive a whopping $10,000 cash prize! Let's help him out by registering and voting for his illustration!

What's in it for us, you ask? Get a chance to win 5 Design By Humans shirts when you re-post this to your personal site, blog, or social networking sites. Just e-mail contact[at]csj89.com your post link with “MECHALABAW” as the subject, and you’re automatically eligible.

So what are you waiting for? Let's vote and spread the word!

We're not going to pretend that the kickback for promoting this bad boy has gone unnoticed by us, but it's hardly the only motivation. For starters, it is a pretty awesome design, with a stoic look and easily the best linework of the final four. It's big and bold and everything DBH loves to be, and made a name as being. And while I don't know for sure, I feel as though it's an underdog piece. Getting it to the top would be a total upset. The most convincing motivation, however, comes from his twitter account:


But back to that kickback: I take pride in not promoting anything I don't feel will benefit you guys. Normally, that benefit is finding an awesome shirt, and this certainly is a solid one. And, of course, it -will- print, no matter where it places, so if you love it it's only a matter of days. But I want to offer something more... in the event I win this little contest of his, I will be giving away three of those five DBH tees. It's a great opportunity for me to promote a deserving shirt up for a huge prize, and getting to offer you guys something special for being a reader makes it something I can't pass up.

All you have to do is tell me what ridiculous animal you'd buy with 10 grand, and why. I'll pick my two favorites and one random draw to win a DBH tee of their choice. Remember, a cat is not a ridiculous animal. Don't be a jerk and take the easy way out, jerk. In the event that I -don't- win, however, I will still be awarding some sort of consolation prize to my favorite entry. Just post in the comments below to enter. Oh, and don't forget to go vote for the shirt itself. That's kinda the point. Votes close Monday, so be sure to get yours in this weekend. I have no idea when the sub-contest ends, so get your comments in ASAP. And Christian, if you do win, I expect photos of you with your buffalo.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of August 13

I've got a good feeling about this week. Not that I have any reason to, as such, but it just feels successful. It feels right. This weeks shirts are but time away. Here they come:

We're gonna start this week at Scopial, which we've mentioned a while back, but have never really featured in Contest Watch. They're continuing to bring in some great tees, but it's always hard to get into the swing of things with new contests. However, I was incredibly drawn to casajordi's "Jolis Monstres" this week. The designer is most known for his collage work, but there seems to be a lot of illustration in this gloriously odd little piece. The tableau is almost an "American Gothic" type of feel, or the sort of thing you'd expect to see in an old family photo... three generations seem to pose here, though the family in question seem to be plant men or space aliens. I love the details on the new humanoids, with their bulbous heads and spore-like faces, and the other plant and floral elements add an ornate setting. The textures add both to the otherworldly scene and the aged feel of the image. Definitely an entrancing and engaging image.

In it's own way, one of Shirtfight's best pieces is a collage as well. This week is a free-for-all over at the most violent tee contest on the block, meaning entrants can enter anything they so desire in hopes of bringing home the prize and print. It is also their first double-week contest... the site's feeling a bit of a crunch, and feels a two-week contest will allow them to provide the same quality without taking a huge financial blow. Which means you'll have time to head over and vote for mathiole's Sensationalism before the contest is over. It's a totally visceral piece... chaotic and clashing... and as I suggested before, it feels like a collage. Not that I doubt the sources here are the designer's own, but all the elements are combined in a way that feels built and, ergo, collaged. I'm actually really big on most of the oddest elements here. The text and subsequent graph-icon-nonsense seems to fit well here, giving a context to the otherwise tripped-out content without fully spelling the concept out. I think part of why it works is that the image itself is so out there... the classic mathiole man-with-a-non-human-head is the most natural bit, what with the copious, ominous smoke and the three flame-spewing wolf-pirates. Seriously, the cerberus brothers are probably my favorite part, busting out of the TV head and barking at us. It packs a lot of metaphor, but more than anything it has a really unique look to it. Combined with colors that almost hypnotize the viewer, this piece really goes over the top to create a design that requires you to put the time and effort into grasping, but once you make it through the haze, the payoff is huge.

It's a bit bold to insist that this week is a success week when I'm featuring a shirt.woot design... losing a derby is often the last stop for a woot piece, as many designers find it hard to break in other places, or even gain the momentum to try other sites. Still, I have high hopes for Mitohapa's "There Goes the Neighborhood". It's a totally whimsical concept. What I really love is that you can tell where the concept likely began, but the rest of the piece still feels natural. It's obvious that this started with the house of the Baba Yaga... it's the biggest, the most unique, and among the most distinctive. It leads the pack on its trademark chicken legs. Still, while the others are maybe a bit smaller than they should be (it's hard to fully decide scale and distance here), what is true is that they have all been added as a natural mass, and that makes them feel totally in place. The diversity of the buildings is part of what brings this together so well, along with the pleasing nature of the palette. Also, again, that mythical structure taking the lead helps transfer its inherent magic right down the line to all the real shelters behind it, helping it feel enchanted and not just odd. Great work.

I feel like it's been a while since we've talked up a piece that was great for its humor, not just its art. That's why I can't pass up Cruel Joke, by tenso. You can find it up for voting at Threadless, which is a perfect venue for this concept. The cartoon art is smart, giving appropriate depth and characterization to possibly the least-characterizable creatures on earth. The colors are bland but work perfectly for the vignette, and the humor is spot on... it feels like a Far Side comic, with its dark humor and anthropomorphic gastropods. This scenario is even more vicious than the water bucket classically used. While the big payoff is the joke, meaning the image is pretty spare otherwise, even some of the subtle details are very nice here... the slug-family portrait on the wall is a nice touch, and whether it was intentional or not, I love the fact that the area rug is fringed like a paramecium of some sort. Great concept on this one.

One of the greats of the week, though, comes from long-absent favorite Aphte. While he often charms and amazes with big, bold and busy scenes, he tones that down with this week's Fish King. It's a great character, as so many of his characters are, and its ornamental patterning signals just how stately this fish is. The colors work amazingly, and coupled with the shapes, it makes the fish feel like it's kept in the domes of Moscow. The other side of the coloration, though, is a less characteristic darkness that blends and shadows skillfully against the deep ocean blue of the blank, giving it a feeling of being underwater. Overall, everything here just works to give a stylish and bold yet incredibly wearable shirt.

Contest Watch: Updates #26-50

#26: Not Your Average Seahorse
#27: Caspian Tiger (1947)
#28: Trampoline (Teextile, no archive)
#29: Burrowish
#30: Sea Beard
#31: Eight-Legged Cats Have Cool Names
#32: BurgBot
#33: Rhanga
#34: Schrödinger's Fish
#35: Apparition of the Grouchy God
#36: Nautical Problem (Threadless 12 Club Tee)
#37: Cornerstone
#38: Dark Side of Doodles (Teextile, no archive)
#39: Solar Power
#40: Arr, Let O' Me Nuts
#41: Heading South for the Winter
#42: Steamworks Operatica
#43: Air
#44: Sweet Child O' Mine
$45: Umibozu
#46: The Walrus and the High Wheeler
#47: Sensationalism
#48: Coq Music
#49: Wah Wah Wahhhhh
#50: Song Bird

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wear Do We Go Now?

I had no desire to blog today. I had a desire to sit around in the cooler rooms of the house, and try not to succumb to the oppressive humidity. But that was before I started the rounds, and found that, in the midst of climatic oppression, there was something finally freed from being repressed: DCAY's "Sweet Child O' Mine," a Contest Watch favorite from way back.

As a caveat, loyal readers should expect the piece, finally printed at Tilteed, to come in Kelly Green, a shade far closer to the background in our photo above than the tees themselves. And that, really, is a great thing. Kelly's more saturated hue makes the predominantly black illustration pop all the more. It contributes to one of the things that most impressed me when I first wrote this up months ago: the shine on the piece. The carriage, especially the "roof" part, nearly gleams black, like it was just finished with Armor-All. Which is not to discount the skill of illustration here, with the Victorian details of the carriage and the excellent textures of the tentacles. The placement is also key... the low, side placement allows the arms to really reach and writhe across the canvas, making an image that started off pretty creepy all the more jarring.

It's pretty highly recommended you get this in the next three days, before the new tee is announced, for the $12 pre-order price (who doesn't prefer saving money?) but there's no reason you shouldn't snag one anyway even if you do miss it. This should be a good one, and it's a well-deserved, long-awaited win.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Woot Doesn't Suck For A Week: A Review

Regular readers likely are very familiar with shirt.woot. I know many of you are woot users yourselves... designers, patrons, possibly staff (hi, guys). I know many of you are bloggers, and ergo used to finding yourselves on all the big names. And surely many of the designers and shirt buyers from other sources have been featured at woot, or checked out designer friends when they were featured. So I think it's safe to say that the average visitor knows the simple fact: shirt.woot is not known for great, good, or even decent tees. Which was part of why last week was so glorious for long-time checkers of woot... it was like finding a whole new site!

As Contest Watch goes, we're pretty psyched to announce that two of our four predictions panned out for their last Editor's Choice week. The best of the two (and the best print of the week, if I do say so myself) was EdgarRMcHerly's "Air," a gloriously sunny and bold watercoloured piece that has absolutely exceeded my expectations in print. It came out big and bright and beautiful, while preserving the hazy weirdness of this city in the stratosphere. It really hits a standard of design, not to mention print, that woot rarely can find itself measuring up to. It's simple complexity and charming little cloudmen make me wonder why a site with this sort of talent wouldn't print things this wonderful regularly.

Also succeeding in printing was Drakxxx's "Steamworks Operatica," a piece (shown below) which truly illustrates just how needed these editorial fingers in woot's pie are. The piece took fourth in woot's Steampunk derby, missing a print despite being more on-theme than the rest of the top-5 combined. It is, however, a wonderfully detailed piece, full of the bits and bobs that capture the imagination in the style. It aims to capture the aesthetics of the technology, the fashion, and the art, instead of simply condensing it down to gears, smoke and robots (though there's certainly plenty of that, too). Again, it makes for a shirt that is attractive and artistic enough that it's a wonder people take the generic route so often.

It's not to say woot was short on its humor, giving us Dekonstruct's smart-yet-nerdy Cthulhu BBQ to prove that it is indeed possible to appeal to the average wooter base AND the people who want a little more in concept, as well as Artulo's clever parody Gonna Make You Lunch, which serves to prove that cuter art need not be geared to children. For people who wanted a moodier piece, there was Jewelwing's The Pressure Lessens, which stands out even against the other artistic pieces this week. It was just nice to see a week that was diverse without being super-niche, and to see derby designers get some recognition without needing to be generic and cloying.

Of course, while the reviews were pretty raving all week long (and why shouldn't they have been), it's looking like the sum total of awesome will be lost to the sands of time this coming Monday, during the reckoning. Le sigh, this is why we can't have nice things. But there is time yet for you to make a difference for these lucky tees that got a chance to rise above the milieu normally surrounding the contest they were denied print from. It'd be nice to see something good succeed for once, and it looks like you can buy with confidence in these cases, so feel free to snag yourself a woot shirt you'll feel good about. We all know it could be a while before that happens again!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of August 6

Contest Watch Faithful will likely note right off the bat that I have a sub up at Tilteed, which is linked in our sidebar as always. If you so choose, I'd love your vote. More importantly, don't forget Umibozu, which has made it to the top 10 and absolutely must print next week. Your vote is welcome for either. As for the new stuff? Well, read on!

We start this week at Teextile with TobiasFonseca's "Binary Song". Tobias has been pretty damn prolific there this week, uploading what seems like over 10 new designs at the site, and most of them should have a solid chance at printing. What I like most about this is pure inanity. I mean, sure, there's a link between bird and music, but there's so much that doesn't make sense. Still, I love the blissful bird-face on the monitor-head of the body, the flow of the music and, ergo, design, and the skill in bringing this weird picture to life. I'm also in love with the colour choices, and truly torn... while I feel the piece works best against the yellow, that aqua looks gorgeous just on its own.

If I'm denied a yellow from the last piece, though, perhaps Threadless can offer me something on a similar blank. I believe the tee is officially called "dijon", and I'll accept that, since it looks delicious. It doesn't hurt, of course, that the piece I'm looking at, Kra Shaon, is brought to life by the always amazing valorandvellum. She's at her dreamy and ornate best here, creating enough whimsical creatures to make Dr. Seuss bow in defeat (my children's lit mind puts this somewhere between On Beyond Zebra and Aardvarks Disembark). I don't think there's a single critter here that doesn't wow me, from the accordion birds to the many-faced gumdrop creatures... not only for the trademark linework, but for the sheer creative beauty in their imagining. Evolution had better get crackin'! Personally, I'm in love with the mindset of combining music with nature that arises in many of these new breeds, which increases my appreciation. All that, and amazing colors... the black on yellow already has almost a Grecian urn type of effect, but those strong splashes of pink make everything very bold and a bit psychedelic. This'll make a great print, if Threadless starts considering putting some of their most wall-worthy pieces on prints, but it is no less wearable as a shirt. And I hope to be wearable-ing it sooner than later.

Still at Threadless, we see shades of DBH in YONIL's "Center of the Universe (Heart is Where the Home Is)." I'm pretty certain I've even seen this at DBH before, and that begs the question: how did it not print? It fits their print style to a tee! It's incredibly bold, and incredibly big. It takes on their love for splatter, but does it in a sensible way, as though debris and detritus was erupting from the ground as the hands burst through. It makes for a haunting, creepy image, with the hands articulated dramatically, almost grotesquely, but in a way more detailed than your average silhouette work. The house that the demonic hands are encircling is detailed in a more conventional way, standing as a smart study of a building. My favorite touch is the semicircle around the house, though... those colors cut through the stark black that makes up the majority of the print like dish-soap through grease. They're fresh and vibrant and juicy (cmon, you can't not associate them with fruit), making them powerful enough to draw the eye and lessen the overall dominance of black. Overall, the piece is just very well composed, to me, and as always, I hope one site's oversight is another site's huge gain.

Leave it to Threadless superstar Laser Bread to bring us one of the most interesting photo-collage pieces I've seen in recent memory this week, showing off the sort of out-of-the-box thinking that has garnered him so many Threadless prints. The piece is "Hawk & Lion," and technically that's exactly what we're getting, except we're being presented with a deconstructed version. The execution becomes almost an optical illusion due to the black-and-white photography, especially with the resized and rotated images. Each circle looks like it's culled from the same photograph (with the possible exception of the very center of the hawk piece), but the variations in sizes and specific locations make it hard to get more than a vague image of the two predators, even with extended examination. Besides being a total eye-ruiner, though, it just looks... way attractive. Especially on a nice white blank, the photographic imagery would shine simply, and the way the core samples were taken and then re-arranged shows a very keen eye for design... so much is done so simply, much as how blog favorite "Cornerstone" takes simple sampled texture strips and combines them with such an eye that makes it much more than the sum of its parts. It's photo-manipulation done right.

We close this week much as we opened. It's from Teextile. And it's from TobiasFonseca. It's rare we'll post the same damn artist twice in the same week, but as I said above, the dude submit like 100 designs this week. This one is also an oddity, but is far more focused on the illustration than the former. It's called Bunny Key, appropriately enough, since it involves those two very things. The bunny, to be fair, is more of a jackalope than anything. It's antlers form the key part, with vintage looking keys hanging on them. For some odd reason, the bunny's eye is even a keyhole. I shudder to think what sort of insanity one would unlock with the right key combo. It's still a bit adorable... well drawn bunnies always are... and inhabits the shirt wonderfully. And again, I'm torn on the colors, though here I definitely have a much stronger preference for that lavender.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a run down of that "plus" part of last week's Contest Watch... we've got some great woot updates for a change!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Back in Season

Your friendly neighborhood blogger was perhaps a bit more excited than he had any right to be when he popped by Uneetee today. Y'see, I saw a t-shirt that I blogged in the first Contest Watch of November. Over nine months ago. And it just printed today. So you can imagine my reaction was a mixture of excitement, total surprise, and sheer confusion at what is going on over at Uneetee if they can take 9 months to print a tee.

The zombie resurrected from the dead is Againstbound's "Heading South for the Winter," which is really as good a zombie as any to resurrect, with the autumn season coming next month. It's a simple little drawing made to fit the full tee... its charm is largely in its simplicity as well as its oddity. I mean, we're still talking a tree on a bicycle, and it's still shedding humanoid leaves. The concept, odd as it might be, along with the style of drawing, sets this apart from the plethora of other tree tees, as it's a genre often relying on photo-filters and sheer lack-of-concept. But to be totally honest, the tee becomes more about a hope inside me than about the tee itself. It's a hope that some of Uneetee's other great subs might find themselves being picked up for printing, even though it has been so long. It doesn't make me like the tee less, but it does imbue it with symbolism that goes deeper than itself. Blah blah blah. Long story short, pick it up now, before the leaves fall and its price rises.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Schoolyard Brawls (also sales)

When it comes right down to it, $10 is always a good price for a good tee. To the cheap it might sound like a birthright, but for the rest of us, it makes sense why some outlets require a $15-20 price point to stay afloat. Nevertheless, in the real world, getting the same product for less is always better, so it's good news to see that Shirtfight is offering a $10 "Back-to-School" sale this week (until August 14).

We don't talk a lot about Shirtfight lately because, quite honestly, I feel a pretty dramatic disconnect between what they usually print and what I usually like, but sales are a time when we all can get together and say "yes, I love this!" For me, the piece that Shirtfight has been tempting me with that I juuust can't justify at regular price is Carry On, by Mathiole. I love the realism of the businessman's body surrounded by the flat chunks of solid color in the electricity and word balloon and such. Not to mention, holy gold foil is there a lot of gold foil here. Yet, and I think this is what really started attracting me to this, it's bright and shiny without being especially tacky, as foil is wont to do. The bold gold accents act more like just any old ink, adding a lot of flavor and contrast, but doing so in a way that respects the illustration. Past that, there's something about a non-chalantly headless illustration that is visually arresting, and while the phrasing of the speech bubble itself could be a lot smoother ("Carry the Good Music On" is a mantra I agree with, but one I wish was said a bit differently), I really enjoy the way the comment is tied into the boombox itself. The electricity, likely representing the sound and, ergo, the music, comes from both the speakers and the man's head, tying the two together, and where the gold foil drives home the fact that the boombox is blasting "the good music," the harmony of those sound bolts, as well as the other gold embellishments which not only flow from the radio but snake around the man, implies that he is one with that music... that it is inside him, as good music can inhabit us all. And if that's too deep for you, HEADLESS DUDE WITH GOLD BOOMBOX! What more needs saying?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Contest Watch Plus: Week of July 30

Welcome to another extra special contest watch: the now familiar Contest Watch Plus. This week, of course, "plus" stands for "Please Love & Up-vote Shirts". And this week, there is every reason to do this now now now.

The stakes are higher than ever this week because of Design By Humans' huge yearly promotional contest, the DBH10K, which has picked its top 20, and will pick a top 10 based SOLELY ON VOTES. I have nothing but contempt for this method of print selection, since it never fails to bring fame and fortune to not the best shirt, but the most accessible and often most mediocre. It doesn't praise the best designers, but the designers with the most fans and the best promotional skills. It's a method geared toward sales, and never quality. Which is why I am pulling so strongly for Againstbound's "The Ominous and Ghastly Mont Noir." It is none of these things, and will be hurtin' to make the cut to top-10. But it so deserves it. Besides standing apart in the wilds of photorealism and rainbow lightscapes and other nonsense that not only dominates this top 20, but also is what people mock when they're poking fun of the DBH aesthetic, it's simply attractive. The huge monolith might not be your first thought when you hear "attractive," but there is simply so much going on and it attracts your eyes. The shapes and colors add a lot to the visual appeal, and the piece has a life of its own that softens the otherwise hard edges of the tower. Part of what I personally love, though, is it's almost like an Againstbound Greatest Hits... it takes many elements I love about his work in general, and combines them all in one package while also adding a little something new to the mix. I feel that deserves to be rewarded, and I see no better way than by helping it get to at least the top 10.

Also ringing in my head for the 10K is the stray's Umibozu, which I feel has a very strong chance of being a dark horse into the top-5. This is pretty much a DBH staple design... it's big and it's bold and it's above all creative. It really treats the tee as a canvas, utilizing every inch to bring the image and the story it conveys home. It's a great vignette, too, combining a whimsy and wonder with a fear and dread. The creature rises out of the water as if a threat, with his shadowy body and immense size spelling doom for the ship, but at the same time he seems concerned and curious, and though he is in shadow, he is surrounded by light, as if he's simply a gentle giant, to be seen as a wonder, not a threat. The juxtaposition gives the scene a lot of potential directions, and that helps make it so appealing. Not that the expert use of lighting hurts either. If you're in love with either or both of these guys, don't just vote now (but do vote)... check next week and make sure to vote again if they make it: the votes reset, remember.

Outside of the 10K, I'd also like to note a piece that, unlike the excess of much of what is up for the big prize, does what it does simply and starkly and that's all it needs: "The Japanese Maple," by Riffmaster18. It's really not something that seems like it would take that long to put together, being as it is a tree and colored bars, but the fact is it really becomes much more. The placement is spot-on to help it avoid looking boxy and flat, and selfishly I hope it will spell the doom of that horrible little brand-mark they slap on the back of each shirt, though I know better. The tree is unimpressive on it's own to me: I like that it's bare and how it branches out, but it's just a tree. The bars give it an almost mod spin that makes it really attractive though. The palette is great, and the varying lengths and widths of color create a sense of movement. Also smart are the gaps in that motion, allowing the bars to punctuate the tree, not over-saturate it. It's definitely graphic design as opposed to strict "art", but the finished product looks solid to me, so I'm past quibbling over trivialities.

While the DBH competition has understandably been the focus of the week, oddly enough, there's a lot of competition even over at Shirtfight as well. Besides a reworked Territory Dispute, there are a number of great and deserving pieces vying for recognition... enough that it's almost hopeful that one may print. I've got my money on "Like Water Through My Hands..." by FatPigeon. I know it's a bit of a futile hope, but I can't help but feel that the design is made for the tee medium. It's very feminine, to be sure, with the soft colors and copious flowers, and the arms and hands, with their proportions and porcelain coloration, feel almost childish or cherubic. Taking that direction, however, makes the piece beautiful... it feels incredibly classic, stylistically. I mention porcelain because in some ways it feels like this could be a sculpture or figurine, but with the smooth form flecked with the pale colors of the flowers and water, giving it a natural calm. The many hands flow like the well-rendered water, cascading down the piece. If we're being honest, it is one of those rarest of shirt gems: the tee you and your grandmother could wear together. But that speaks much more to the skill in bringing this together and the timeless power the image holds... it's a masterpiece for its subtlety, and is far more subtle and gentle than many shirts, especially the rest of the Shirtfight collection.

Of course, there are some places and people not known for subtlety, and while Threadless (who astute readers will know are in the midst of their Back to School sale) often revel in both bold and subdued, Alexmdc pretty much only has one volume: flashy. The man's linework stuns regularly, and his colors almost glitter. This is as true as ever with his Tree Frog. It's weird as all get out. The frog is growing a tree from his mouth. It is sitting on a cloud while the tree grows up into water. And lord knows what's going on with that moon-compass in the background. The great thing here, though, is that the weirdness is so damn evocative... everything is well drawn, and it makes your eyes drawn to it. You want to drink in the fantasy-scape, and enjoy every intricacy and oddity. The contradictions of water to sky, flora growing from fauna, and even the contrasting styles from the simple clouds and rainbow to the hyper-detailed frog and tree are all a pleasure for my eyes, but what really catches me are the cross-sections here. Something about the style makes those slices enchanting to the imagination. I know, if oddity isn't your thing you'll never get it. That's fine. It means I won't need to buy mind as quickly. But it certainly won't be the first time frogs have created a totally unique and artistic dreamworld.

So now, of course, is the time to get to that "Extra" part: the shirt.woot double-take derby. The chance for woot voters to screw up once again what they screwed up the first time. It is no secret among woot designers that entry into this exclusive club is good for two things alone: a free tee coupon, and the chance at a coveted Editor's Choice not, when woot staff comes in and saves some lucky tees that would otherwise have been lost to the depths of design limbo for being too well done or else too creative.

This time around, there are some wooters rumbling about hopes of seven ECs: the next derby is one to procure new bag designs for woot's shipments, and it simply makes no sense to SELL the bags during the normal weekend shirt spots. I'm certainly hoping for more as well, but without reading their mind, I shall simply note four tees I feel the editors would be foolish to miss: EdgarRMcHerly's "Air," a stunning piece from a blog favorite whose brilliance is rarely appreciated with a print, Frostbiter's "Rose-Colored Glasses," a shirt that stands out not only for its smart execution and popping colors, but for being the sort of underdog design woot loves to pull out at least once an EC cycle, "Steampunk Operatica" by Drakxxx, which deserves a spot simply for being possibly the most screwed over design in woot history, losing the steampunk derby, where only one winner was even arguably on theme (and it doesn't hurt that the lines are, as always, amazing), and Omnitarian's "Float On," with it's glorious palette, fun style and concept, and pedigree as a former contest-watch fave. We will, of course, bring you updates on any awesomeness that comes to pass with the ECs next week.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Keeping it Light

Sometimes, after a long day of being angry at everything, it's nice to kick back with something light. It's easier said than done: I'm rarely a TV watcher, most of my "relax" music is still pretty damn cerebral, and my DVD collection has a not-insignificant chunk of as-yet unwatched foreign classics. Recently, I've been lounging with a copy of Madame Bovary, some light summer reading if ever I've heard it. Yes, the ol' gray Adder is a party animal like that.

But what about t-shirts? Believe it or not (and I'd like to think regular readers would believe it), some of my favorite tees are simple but attractive... amusing and odd in equal measure. So lately I've been totally enamored with Lights On, an orange oddity from Palmercash. The site insists it is a "vintage red," and perhaps it is in a different lighting (I don't wear glasses for nothing), but my monitor is insisting orange. Not that it matters to me either way... it's still on "the list". The bold blank is indeed part of it, but the whole piece is just brilliantly weird. It is apparently a lampshade with legs, or possibly being worn by a very unfortunately proportioned man, shouting a mantra as though he was a superhero or motivational speaker. Some people seem to be totally averse to things they don't "get", but for me, not having a clue as to the why or what of this piece is why I am so drawn to it. I love looking at the simple but distinctive illustration, and muddling through what is going on. It almost feels like it could be iconic, the logo of some long-forgotten brand, and somehow that gives it a charm that no real brand could muster. But what it comes down to is that this is the sort of thing I can turn my brain off to and enjoy. Some people prefer the generic and populist because the familiarity allows them to enjoy without thinking. For me, I'd much rather have something that is so illogical, thinking becomes a waste.

Oh, and if you happen to be a girl, you can pick up the ladies' style right here. I know, it's annoying when websites section off male and female collections like that, so I'm happy to lead the way. You know me, I aim to please my readers.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Threadless Goes Back to School

We're perhaps a bit early for Threadless' normal "back to school" sale, by around a month, but nevertheless the site is bringing it to us for the next two weeks, until the 17th. Shirts are starting at $8, so it's definitely worth checking out, especially if you're rocking an unpopular shirt size. And as always, it's best to snag these things early... you never do know how fast something will sell out, especially if it's new to the sale racks.

One of the most exciting things about this sale is that, unlike many recent ones, Threadless has discounted EVERYTHING in the catalog. Which means you can even get brand new tees for a discount, like Ivejustquitsmoking's "Hoot! Night Owl!" It's really one of my favorite new shirts, surprising when I'm neither a huge coffee drinker nor a big fan of photo-collage work. Still, this is just so spot-on and creative. Besides the fact that many people find it hardest to "quit smoking" when they're having coffee, there are a number of other great connections of content... the cups with the beans, bringing the coffee pretty much from beginning to end of its brewing journey... but also and more importantly the idea that a nocturnal creature like an owl might need that extra kick of energy like we humans do, and juxtaposing that image with our own alertness salvation. The colors and shape work brilliantly and super-attractively together. And really, I'm simply impressed with the textures and shape. I don't know how the designer put this together... whether he created the image from a bag of coffee beans and some of his own cups, and photographed the end result, or if he built the whole piece from bean photos and some stock cups, but whatever the case, the end result looks authentic and you can tell that there was a lot of time spent executing this so perfectly, along with the great concept to go with it. It leads to a photo-real piece that used the technique without looking like a gimmick. To me, this one is a must buy. So must-buy it before it sells out.