Thursday, November 26, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of November 19

We at SingulariTee hope three things today. First, we hope that you don't mind the severe pretension of the Royal "We". Second, we hope you all had a wonderful and filling Thanksgiving (or if you're not American, a wonderful and filling Late November Dinner Of Your Choice). And of course third, we hope these wonderful shirts are brought to life somewhere down the line. Before we get to that, though, I'm sure TOSOMB would be thankful if you'd go score his resub of an old Contest Watch piece, Two Novels Collide. Aside from that, enjoy the new crop.

Shirt.woot's latest derby bandage is an expanded fog, which so far hasn't proven to be very worthwhile at all, being that their biggest problems are lack of quality control, rampant vote-fraud, and inconsistency, all of which are simply hidden more and longer in the new system. Of course, it helps less to know that, even with nine blocks in the fog, the best stuff seems destined to never find favor. Take La Corvid Nostra, by Taninniver. While not perfect (some of the roughness around the "spotlight" area just seems off to me), the meat of the matter here is really attractive. The gray-scale illustration really takes the "family" theme seriously, with the idea of both a family (all the birds being of the same biological one) and the idea of "the family" in Mafia terms. These are some brutal birds, and portraying them as mobsters makes this quite smart outside of thematic elements as well as a smart way to portray the theme. I like the noir style on the birds themselves especially, characterizing them perfectly... it's a Rookery destined for Murder. Bird humor, there. I think this has a lot of potential elsewhere... obviously woot only likes the large black birds when they're awfully done.

Another rougher piece comes from Threadless, which you should DEFINITELY check out starting at Midnight Central (more on that and other Black Friday specials around that time tonight). The first of the pieces from there this week is The Rabbits, by shuyi. There's something loveable about a smart one-color print... something classic and crisp and always in style. This is a perfectly lovely illustration, too, even if it has the sort of imperfection I love in a piece... the feeling that it was quite truly made to reflect one's own drawing style, not to be a flawless vector. This piece truly benefits from that, because it makes the stunning optical illusion all the more impressive. It's a mind trip for sure, but the execution is just too perfect, with the contours of the rabbits melding into the animals themselves. It works so well that it is easy to have your eyes fooled at first that the creatures are fully formed, and then on next glance the jumble takes over. It's a smart piece, and would be a definite conversation starter, if you happen to like smart conversations. Or, potentially, confused ones. Either way, this looks like it'd make a great tee. We can only hope Threadless agrees.

Much more in the Threadless vein is Chengui's "Water Louvre." The concept is a little blurred... is the shark visiting a human museum to marvel at the wondrous art inspired by his sea home, or is this an underwater collection of the greatest oceanic art known to man and fish? The man in the background certainly suggests the former (as does the sharks air tank, and really, the fact that the paintings aren't soggy), but I like that the palette allows the other option to infiltrate and boost the dreamlike nature of the piece. Having both concepts evoked makes this feel all the stronger, to me, though simply having the shark, the lone color in the scene, come so far to gaze upon Poseidon is a pretty wearable payoff to me. It's attractive and creative, and it speaks to the lengths people will go to to experience true, passionate art. Which for me, is always a nice thing to remember.

Of course, it can't all be classy, intellectual concepts... Raid71 proves that the opposite isn't so bad, though, in his A Walrus is a Vampire Seal. Many of you probably already know I'm biased for this with the black-on-red scheme. SingulariTee Bingo Players, mark your card... Drinking Gamers, take a shot. Hell, maybe take a second for that catch-all category of "absurd humor." With all the current vampire hype, it's nice to see them taken down a peg in this, whether intentional or not. One cannot take this walrus seriously in his cape, with that super-dour expression on his face. The skulls beneath him, and bats by the side, make this even harder to not laugh at, as overwrought as the imagery is. This is the pinniped that seriously does not get that he looks ridiculous. He's the goth kid at Sea Mammal University, and his morose and macabre getup and demeanor are simply not as mysterious or threatening as he thinks. Which says a lot for a 2000 pound critter if it still can't manage threatening. The whole situation simply smacks of ridiculous, and it makes me incredibly happy to see things this bizarre, especially since it is indeed rooted in real-life imagery. I heartily laughed at the concept, I love the one-color design, and I like that there's nothing out there like this. Go Team Walrus!

Finally, back to woot, for more proof that a big fog just makes for more disappointment: there's really not much excuse at all to see Walmazan's "There's Nothing Like Family" anywhere BUT in the top 9, yet here it is (I generally eschew selections from the fog, as that seems like an unfair print advantage, but with the new system this may fall by the wayside eventually). Anyway, back to the piece, and all it has going for it. It's ostensibly cute, as the designer's style tends to be (and as always, the "cute" voters left this in the dust... go figure). The colors feel retro, and look gorgeous together. But the thing that slams this out of the park is just how SAD it is. It's beautifully so, because it takes the viewer time to really get it. At first glance, it's all about the funny, and how couldn't it be with the characterization of each of the octo's imaginary friends (especially the Groucho glasses)? We see the protagonist just smiling away at her meal, and give it no thought. And then it hits us how lonely she must be, and it becomes an aching portrait of that. There's so much hidden pathos that elevates this from simply being a cute, cartoony joke shirt. Not that it is bad as that... not at all. Just that it's one of those perfect storm designs that should have blazed the charts. We tend to find a lot of those at Contest Watch. We can only hope that someone else out there will see the same. And also own a shirt site to do something about it. More sites with integrity of quality? That would be something to be thankful for.

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