Monday, December 6, 2010

Bearing With Me

One of the worst bits of being so absent blogwise is that I am left in the dust with Contest Watch predictions. Not that all that many pieces have printed lately that I would have predicted, mind you, but this Monday comes with a pleasant surprise at Threadless, and not just the $9 tee sale that y'all should be checking out if you read this in time.

No, Threadless has added a new alum to their roster, and unlike normal, it is with a design that has both a timelessness as well as the trademark humor Threadless was known for (that is to say, original, clever, and not based off the presumption that no one will sue if their characters are used illicitly). Welcome, then, MJ. As one of the most consistently original shirt designers out there, not to mention a literal apparel maven (have you guys honestly not been checking out Compete-Tee-Tion or Teemagnet yet?) it is well deserved.

"The Eating Habits of Bears" is really a two-punch joke, told with the first and third bear, but it's funny, the rule of three really works, because even though the "herbivore" joke is a throwaway, it winds the punch back for the final blow. Even so, it's a wisely chosen throwaway... "herbivore" is the obvious choice, and also has humor potential knowing that bears are anything but, and with the other bears consuming their fair share of animal-shaped snacks, a "candy vegetable" makes plenty of sense. Smart designing, made smarter by the simple but attractive graphics. A good humor shirt should indeed be simple to get, smart, creative, and hypothetically relatable, like a good joke is. Comics who play to an audience and give them what they expect are certainly popular, but the ones who really become legendary are more than a gimmick, more than their race or gender or beliefs, but truly a humorist that transcends all that. This is that sort of humor... perhaps not so lofty as some, but of the tried and true stock of the greats, using imagery familiar to all of us, not just one hardcore group of fans. I wouldn't be surprised if this tee finds itself reprinted regularly for that reason... it simply hits all the right notes of Threadlessness.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winter Whimsy

This is a good winter if you're an Edgar McHerly fan.

For starters, as we all know, Edgar fans are preternaturally wiser than most, so that's always a positive, but furthermore, there is simply such a surplus of great Edgar magic to snatch up. His comic, The Invisible Hairsuit, has slowed to a temporary stop lately, but it comes with the trade-off of five Edgar-tastic shirts in the store (my favorite is Family Problems, which printed stunningly). This is great news, as Edgar is clinically under-appreciated on the tee circuit, so having him strike out on his own ensures a source for at least occasional spurts of Edgar genius to make it to fabric where they belong (ERMcH, if you're listening, might I suggest gems like "Grrrrrrrrrrrr rrrrrrrrr....," "Lon and Mr. C visit God," or "Notes from the Underground," not to mention long-lost classics like "I Like Books").

But for the next few days, you're even more in luck, because Tilteed is featuring one of Edgar's greatest hits, Old Man Winter. It's just in time for the holidays (and would hopefully make a great gift), but it's also perfectly timed for the season. Wear it on snow days with a sweet hoodie (perhaps a Dead Head one, wink wink nudge nudge). Sport it in the middle of summer to help people think cool thoughts, or on that first-or-last ski trip to remember how fun the winter can be. Stretch it over a frame and hang it over future holidays. It's a versatile, whimsical masterpiece that really captures the magic of a holiday gathering, the smell of burnt firewood on a crisp day, or just how great it is to enjoy yourself. But you can't enjoy the tee unless you snag one. It's only available until Tuesday afternoon, so don't be left out in the cold. Seriously, you'll either freeze, or old man winter will get you. I think it's safe to say you don't want to toy with fate like that.

Monday, November 22, 2010

First Time Long Time

A wise man once said, "fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice... you can't get fooled again." My good friends, I feel I have fooled you tenfold with my long absences, and fooled many of my good constituents as well. You may, perhaps, give thanks, however. 'Tis nearly the holidays, and what sort of promoter of all things awesome and t-shirt would I be if I was not around to guide you through this tumultuous time? Remember, an educated consumer is a consumer which doesn't buy unlicensed, non-parody work. I have a tee review and a couple missed site review opportunities in the works, so good things will, hopefully, be coming your way, if I can get some steam back in the last days of the year.

Today is a good day to come back, because it also marks the return of one of the more intriguing of seasonal lines, the Ropeadope Collective. Ropeadope seems to focus most on music on their downtime, but this is the second tee series they will be releasing, with such names as Bootsboots, Qetza and Wotto in their new lineup, so you know they're serious about the tee game too, despite the waggish name. For me, it's a little bittersweet, as more of their designs seem to be focusing on the brand (even if the fine folks at Seibei have contributed a swell one), but it also has incredibly sick designs such as Mike Friedrich's Discowl, which is as funky as they come. I have a bit of a weakness for purple, but that pink and lime-ish, muted neon color scheme knocks it out of the park. It's "hip," for what that's worth, in a retro way: it's a color scheme 20, 25 years old, but coming back in vogue, coupled with timeless, slick illustration. If these guys are going to keep taking directions like this, I am going to keep waiting for awesome new lines. Check 'em out now before the cyber-monday rush... they seem to even have stray sizes from a few of last season's designs.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The secret to all design is the element of surprise. Surprise is tricky, though. The only surprising thing about shoving a reference into an irrelevant punchline, for example, is that so many people do it. Something has to jump out that makes you look twice. Something has to grab you in a more subtle and unexpected way. And today, we shall see how a lesser meme can accomplish this.

For starters, the word "lesser" goes a long way. It turns that reference into something easy to not get, which is a huge benefit for a design. A.mar.illo's (M)anteater has always benefit from this. "Fuck you, I'm an Anteater" is, for the most part, a relatively isolated phenomenon built purely from a completely understandable source: An anteater on his hind legs, front legs outstretched, looks like he's saying "come at me, punk!" Take a society obsessed with captioning animals, and the result is, well, the interweb'll happily show you. Still, it is the relative obscurity of the meme itself which does a lot of saving. If I can look at a piece and not immediately hone in on the reference, it means my evaluation of the piece is far more unbiased, and an unbiased view is what we should all strive for. It'd save us from hundreds of poorly made pac-man tees, at least.

But further than that, when you take something more obscure, and use it simply as an Easter egg in a more composed piece, you're left with a piece that almost fully erases that original spark. This isn't a piece about a lol-anteater anymore, but a concept in which a huge, Godzilla style anteater eats humans. That pose, made famous by the meme, fits in naturally, as a bad-ass anteater simply would take that stance. This is so important... good parody needs the reference to have a clever purpose, but great reference use makes it so natural that it stops being about that popular reference, but it creates a world for all possible viewers. Unlike even the best Mario shirt, which relies on knowing much about the character, this reads the same whether you know the reference or not.

Still, for someone like a.mar.illo, the thing that makes any of his work so great is his personal style. That's what snagged this a reference in a long-ago contest watch segment, and that's why I still love it. The anteater is distinctively him, but the buildings are some of my favorite things with his work. The perspective goes askew all over the place. It almost feels like the buildings are making way for the anteater, and that bent perspective makes the whole image feel all the more dramatic and otherworldly at once. It lends a sense of discomfort but also a sense of whimsy. There's a fine line at times between style and wrong, and a.mar.illo always falls on the style side. He knows how to work that quirky perspective so it jars the eyes in the best possible way. And those style choices make one focus on the design itself. It's all about putting yourself into your work, and this piece has plenty of personality to it.

This is one of those odd "curated" but not "limited" prints at Tilteed, which means that while the $12 pre-sale is fast approaching the end, you can still pick it up for eternity and such in the catalog. Still, I think we all like $12 more than $18, so hurry if you're on a budget.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dead Buried Hart

Design by Humans: I love you guys, I really do. Sometimes you lapse into a sort of self-parody with the designs you select, but even as you've softened your edge over time, you're still one of the riskiest sites. You've got an amazing blank for your product and a strong print reputation. In the list of sites I'd love to see thrive for years to come, your best work keeps you in the running.

But I don't get this "sale" thing.

Sure, I love that I can get any shirt in your entire catalog for $12 until Monday, especially with all the super strong pieces you've released in the last month or two. Yes, I know that it provides a nice build-up (and a sales cushion) for the 10K finalists and winner to be announced this coming week. Certainly I know that sales bring sales, and a slightly higher-end shop can use them to tempt more frugal customers. But sales also mean no new tees at DBH land. Which is either worrisome in that great talent and tees don't get printed, or frightening in thinking that maybe you guys really need the sales. So while I am all for saving money, I worry 'bout you guys, guys. We cool? Good.

Because seriously, I've gotta say, this is probably THE BEST time to buy some DBH swag. Over the summer some bolt of inspiration came up out of nowhere, and especially in the last month or two we've seen winner after winner print. Winners like After Death, by TobiasFonseca. It's an incredibly classy one-color print, one of the more powerful takes on the "life from death" concept with a great style...it looks almost pieced together, but not in a clip-art way but in a way that gives the idea of being given a whole bunch of little white stones and arranging them into this art. The flow and arrangement really honors the idea without making it tacky, clunky, heavy-handed, etc. It actually takes a tired concept (life in death), and a tired juxtaposition (antlers as trees) and makes it look like you'd never seen it before. And that's what great art and great design does.

Oh, and did I mention it was $12 til Monday? Because if not, I should probably mention you can also save an additional 10% with code K4XZYZ. That's good until October 7, so even if you're holding out for the 10K winners, don't be afraid to use it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just Enough Support

Why create art?

Well, for starters, it is cathartic. Pure art, regardless of form or canvas, is a bit of a release. It's like a discussion where you get that weight off your chest... it just feels right to let it out.

There's a joyfulness about it too. Some people get absorbed in the self-importance that can come with the minor fame art can bring, but others are simply in it to make themselves happy and hopefully do the same for others.

But what I love to see, especially in terms of the shirt world, is art which exists to evoke emotion, and I think we see this in Fleck's new Threadless print, Zenobia. It speaks to a fragility and a reality that even the mightiest things may be held up by mere twigs. Like a tragic hero, the city herein looks regal and well-built, but below the surface that could not be less true. At any moment the city's construction may be its undoing, and that carries an emotional heft just in the lines and buildings. The image has a tension of being temporal, by looking ancient and by looking frail. Still, if you're not into the search for deeper meanings, I can't think of many pieces that use the shirt canvas more perfectly, anchoring the design to the chest area, but filling the area artfully... I love how it flows from the chest to shoulder, with the bottom seam anchor sparse enough not to distract. The linework itself could be an illustration from an old history book. And the pops of red in the flags are perfect highlights. This is the sort of thing which, at any given time, is always on the cusp of being ignored and not printing. It's art because it can be. It's understated despite all the detail and size. And that seems to get lost in the shuffle. It's heartening to see an example of the opposite.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Print Review: S2S Nation

A little bit ago, I received a request from Canadian brand S2S Nation to review their product. They're a new-ish contest site with a couple differences from the rest of the pack. For starters, you vote on three criteria, perhaps the most important three: Quality, Creativity, and Likelihood of Purchase. This eliminates the questions most people have to ask when voting on a design: does my vote mean I want to buy this, or just that I think it's a creative piece? This is well done, but boring... or else a great concept with a poor execution... how do I score this? Of course, we all know the average voter will simply score all 5s for their favs and get grumpy they had to put in so much effort, but the fact remains, it's an interesting idea to quantify all three separately rather than forcing a user to average on his own. Still, while this is a potentially groundbreaking idea, what S2S is really banking on is simpler: a bamboo/organic cotton blend tee for their blanks. Bamboo, as they say, is super-soft, incredibly sustainable, simple to grow plenty of pesticide free, naturally better for soil than other crops... yeah, these are some o' them hippie folks who want to promote improving the environment. A shirt from S2S, ideally, causes less environmental impact than your average clothing production. It's an idea I can get behind, and an idea that doesn't really have any cons. S2S is hoping that it is something we'll find to have plenty of pros.

All the good intentions, however, won't save you if the product sucks, so where do they stand on that? From a logistical standpoint, S2S Nation is indeed a starter company. They have a number of pieces that show definite promise, but they also would probably be ecstatic if you decided to head over and sub something amazing, because that would almost assuredly help their catalog. At the moment, for my money, their strongest tee is The Creator, currently on pre-order. I ended up being sent another strong one, Broken Melody. Besides coming from Canada, which is fun to start with, my tee was slipped inside this tote bag, which is a fairly useful extra. Apparently these totes are made from recycled bottles. See? I feel greener already!

You can see for yourself... even with my crappy camera, the tee still looks stunning printed. The mesh-work came out clean, the print feel is fine... whoever's screening these is doing a solid job. As for the tee itself? I'm going to say the folks at the bamboo clothing plant are over-selling their product a little... so far I have not purified my body, learned to caber-toss, or spoken with woodland creatures (which I think are all claims I've seen bamboo make before). Still, this is definitely a comfortable shirt. It doesn't break my top-3 blanks, but if it's not as soft as the pitchmen would like you to think, it doesn't change the fact that it is noticeably softer than your average tee. It's also a bit of a heavier shirt, but it doesn't feel it on your body. This could be an excellent thing for those who find American Apparel to be too thin. Finally, can I just say that I -love- the cut? I asked for a large, based on the sizing charts, though I normally wear XL in most blanks. This delivers. To me, I'd say it fits like a large-and-a-half, comfortably between L and XL, but as always, checking the sizing charts will suit you better. And best of all, these things are preshrunk, which seems like such a freaking obvious step to me. Solid print + solid shirt goes a long way toward equaling a solid company.

The big question, though, is this: is a bamboo tee worth the $35 base price? I'm going to go with a resounding "maybe." I would say it's the sort of thing you should make a splurge on once, see how you feel about it, and then choose from there. I can see certain people loving bamboo, especially if you're willing to spend a little extra to support the environment, and while it's a bit spendy for my blood, the right design could certainly twist my arm to go full price. It's like spending more for a "green" lightbulb: between the environmentally friendly (and therefore more expensive) construction and the knowledge your product will last longer than the average product, the price stops seeming quite so high. Right now, however, that's not a concern we need to worry about. If you're interested in trying out S2S Nation, they're currently offering all their tees at $25 as an "End of Summer" sale, from now until an unspecified future date. If there's a tee in their catalog that you're loving, I certainly cannot think of a reason why you shouldn't try them out. S2S seems pretty dedicated to quality product, and those are the sorts of tee sites we need to see more of out there.

But if even $25 doesn't tempt you, I do have one last comment on bamboo to share. I've often heard bamboo described as self-cooling. You're shaking your head in astonishment, because it sounds like absolute crap. But let it be known, I've been wearing my tee the whole time I've been writing this review, and I'll be damned if there's not an odd yet not unpleasant draft in my tee. Art and comfort are two important factors in tees for me, but it is not too late to add "mysteriousness" to that list.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Breath of Fresh Air

In a world of shameless ripoffs, the thing I am most excited about when it comes to this whole curating gig I've got going is getting to show off the stuff that isn't. There's a lot of lip-service toward original and attractive, creative and skillful, but very few people willing to stand up and make a difference. So even if it is often a much smaller contribution than I'd ideally prefer, I love being able to do a little something for people who are breathing new life into art, instead of walking tired ground.

The most recent Tilteed Limited speaks to this pretty literally. It's a piece by fan favorite at Tilteed and friend-of-the-blog theinfinityloop, called Breath of Life. The whole of the piece is artful... the whole idea of creation is easily paralleled. Really, though, the piece is ripe for metaphoric parallels... the moon and the tides correlate, but water makes life possible (and indeed makes up the better part of most life forms), and music can indeed be said to enrich our life as well, as the moon blows powerfully on his horn. There's a haunting beauty to this for that reason... it can resonate with anyone who values life or the arts, but is vague enough that any person could find their own meaning. But the stark white-on-black makes it all the stronger. The horn seems to shimmer, and the details are all the more impressive given the single color scheme. I've always gotten the feeling of a crisp fall or winter evening when I look at this design. It's peaceful, with a little chill, a little darkness, and a little beauty. I hope you all will get your own magic out of it as well.

As with the moon, and all Tilteed limiteds, Breath of Life will eventually phase out to the next cycle (approximately 67 hours or so from now, by my count), so picking up a copy ASAP is in your best interest. $12 is a small price to pay for something that evokes a mood other than "I'm in the mood to watch old cartoons and play videogames."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dogs Bark + Hoot

Design by Humans, as I'm sure is not remotely a shock to you guys (even as rarely as I update lately), is in the midst of its 10K contest. Top 8 was announced on Monday, and while I had the best of intentions to get you a Top 24 post last week, it's appropriate to discuss now anyway, because Monday's shirt was, to me, fully worthy of that $10,000. So we'll get to the contestants later. First, it's time to gush.

Sanguine Parliament by thunderpeel is the sort of tee that makes a cynic like me excited for graphic arts again at a site which is struggling with its identity as one of the last bastions of true design, creativity, and boldness. DBH doesn't want to fully enter that realm, and some weeks that shows more obviously than others, but there just aren't many places willing to take these sorts of risks. This just isn't "marketable," or "familiar," but it is amazing. It takes full advantage of what vector art does best, with slick, smooth design that doesn't feel cloying and cloned, but also an absolutely delicious palette. The white and pink and yellow on feels like some sort of futuristic Neapolitan ice cream, and this might sound odd, but with the drips and such up above, it even evokes cool and creamy. It looks like ice cream tastes. Put that in your weird description pipe and smoke it. The layout, too, is choice. I love how the owls morph into the wolf, giving their ominous glares more power, and making their chubby, cute bodies more vicious for the more powerful predator they are framed by. The echo of the wolf-head, the similar but distinct owls, the flow of the drips... all motifs that are incredibly pleasing to me and cohesive with this slightly odd idea. And who can forget use of blank? This is a big, bold print, but it is totally breathable with all that black being used. And most important, it is simply unlike anything else. People so regularly laud the familiar, and sometimes even use uncreative as a positive, or a quality which evokes no response. There are constantly examples of people pushing forward in all art. There's no excuse to recycle. And it's a boon when any site takes the bull by the horns and is willing to print something of that nature.

Sadly, even at 24 level there weren't any pieces AS exciting as Sanguine Parliament, but most of my favorites were, as ever, leveled. However, I would definitely suggest you vote for a few of the top 8, and help then get printed next week: I am a big fan of the execution and concept of buko's Unleashed Imagination and the stellar illustration put forth in alvarejo's The Perfect Murder, and I encourage you to give them your support. However, to me, $10,000 is about something totally worthy. Something skillfully created. Something dramatic and striking. Something unique and daring. Something that I've never seen before. There simply isn't a single design in the top-8 (nor were there really any in the top-24, despite having high-hopes for a few to go further) that embodies this more than Yonil's "We Did This To Ourselves." It's currently in distant third against some promotional giants. Votes allegedly count less this year, but let's not kid ourselves, we need to fight to prove it's the right choice. I simply cannot see another tee that would deserve the honor more. Any prize this large should truly favor innovation over certain other factors, or else why would anyone bother putting in their A-game for such a huge prize?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Playing Koi

When I started college, I took an Italian literature in translation course that simply opened my mind. I'd seen a handful of Italian films throughout my study of the language in high school, but it all clicked with the literature course. Other cultures have these beautiful, unique expressions of art, compared to our American, Super-bombastic, Summer-Blockbuster, Mega Seller mindset. There's a certain understatement to the Italian work. Comedy is more fun, drama is less heavy-handed, literature tends to have a certain magic to it... surely the translator's hand must be recognized, as well, but it's too pervasive and too different to be all their fault.

I will be the first to admit that these days, I don't read or view films near as much as I'd like to, but I still love the different perspective that especially European arts seem to bring to the table. I've noticed it's the French who seem to excel at this in the tee world... using sketchbook flair and handmade sensibilities, it's so different from what is, once again, the often over-produced stateside counterpart. And that's why I'm so happy to be able to showcase Billy, by babatai. It shows off how a personal piece of art can inhabit any canvas if you really consider it. I simply love the medium being used, and love the mood and realism created with those simple tools. This isn't any 3D rendering nonsense. It's not slick vectors. It's something which was likely created almost entirely in a sketchbook. It's neutral and natural, and it really elevates the tee to something more. One other thing our friends across the pond are great at is fashion, after all.

As ever, Tilteed Limited designs are available for 3 days only. Spread the word, and don't forget to grab your own!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tee Otters

If I could sum up the graphic tee experience, I wouldn't. When I use a summation, it is always a matter of what shouldn't be. It is a treatise on those few things which debilitate the art into being one more disposable product. It's like a college essay. There's no limit to right answers, but there sure as hell are wrong ones too.

One thing that I am pretty sure of, though, is that all art requires a sense of the imaginative, and the current Tilteed limited design truly understands this. I'm a bit biased, of course... it was one of my first Contest Watch features in the long long ago... but I don't think that bias changes anything. See Otters, by Ninety, is just magical. It's the crux of what imagination is... one observer, one dreamer, seeing something spectacular, and the rest of the world ignores it as folly. The design is drawn with a sense of whimsy but a strong execution as well. The concept is just adorable. The colors? The blue used for the water is perfect. That blue has had me addicted ever since seeing this two years ago. In short, however, the design simply speaks volumes about how things should be. Most people don't see anything but where they're headed. They want things to be simple, straightforward, and easy to ignore. They want to walk their path, and forget anything else. And those people miss a building full of otters. There are truly special things out there in the world. Look for them, because once you find one, you'll be 100 times happier with it than all the populist mediocrity you thought meant something.

If you're in love with the sheer charm of this piece, you've only got a limited time, as with every Tilteed limited you might fall in love with. Don't miss out, and tell your friends. Great art should be celebrated. No matter what the canvas.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tee-vel Knievel.

Monday! Monday! Monday! saw the release of the latest Tilteed limited design, and it's pretty stellar, if I do biasedly say so myself. For myself, of course, there's an added bonus because I love the backstory, if there is any. Gimetzco, the designer, is known for his yeticorn character, and I'd have to say, ...Vs Komodo Canyon is probably my favorite of his adventures so far. What I love about it is how it takes this comic/promo poster style and smashes all the normal flaws of bringing it to a tee. The borders are gone, for starters... you can see the basic shape of the "poster" this would have been, but the shape is nevertheless organic, so it doesn't look constrained even while reveling in the assumed canvas. The text looks gorgeous. It's not a case of inappropriate, unnatural fonts slapped together. Every letter makes sense stylistically. Nothing looks too heavy-handedly synthetic. The placements of the text (and even the images) feel natural, like you'd want them to be on a flier. Even the colors fit. They go well together (red + blue = green, even if the blue is really just a bluer green) while being bold enough to capture the eye, but the way they're set up, and the three-color usage really help, again, sing praise to classic concert posters and such. It looks like something you should screenprint. But in the end, it's all about being a ridiculously fun design. This does, of course, tie back to the style concept. These sorts of daredevil events always ratchet up the drama and excitement to get you to come in. Even without that, though, it's such a fun idea as to be irresistible. The thrill of fast engines and big cars, the danger of huge dinosaur-esque lizards, and the mystique of a one-horned furry protagonist combine into a story you can't help but want to learn more about. Admit it, you'd buy this comic. I know I would.

Like all Tilteed limiteds, and like all special events, this tee WILL disappear 72 hours from its debut (we're looking at the under-60 hour mark as of this posting), so I cannot recommend enough that you check it out and pick one up before it's gone. $12 will get you the whole shirt. But as is customary in these situations, you may find you only need the edge.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Contest Watch Extra: Week of August 19

It's been a while, lords and ladies. Yknow what's happened in those days? Most importantly, Cameesa's closed and the DBH10K opened. There's probably not a lot we can do about the former (I'd recommend flooding their inbox about any balance you might have sunk there), but the latter comes with a decided action: VOTE. With a huge prize, there's lots of great work, and just as much absolutely awful work. Thankfully votes aren't the final deciding factor, but showing your support can't hurt. We've got a number of past Contest Watch pieces fighting it out at DBH lately because of it, so definitely give some love to:

Kakolak's "The House Smoker"
Sweetnsour's "pandahorsetank"
Thechild's "Nature's Embrace"
Jameses' "Nobody Wants to be a Lonely Gingerbread"

And for those of you who want to branch out a bit Euro, check out LaFraise, where theinfinityloop has subbed "I'm, Alas, a Salami."

Speaking of both theinfinityloop and the Design By Humans 10K, I feel I should direct you all to a piece that deserves the attention, yet is not doing that well on the charts. Her "Sailor's Warning" is probably one of the best tees I've seen in a long time. It's incredibly intricate... it feels like a paper cutting, a big swatch of red paper carved with an x-acto knife. The flow is stunning... it fills the tee brilliantly, and the mythic creatures swell and swirl in the sky. But the color is what makes this pop so brilliantly. The red is a bit tamed, which makes it less in your face than it could be, but still allows for serious contrast and a beautiful combo. It's odd, with all the rage of the colors and the fury of the sea monsters and such inhabiting the air, the bottom still feels peaceful and beautiful. I find it rather hard to understand what could be unappealing about this design, but seeing some of what has over 200 votes, it's probably because people just don't have a remote idea of taste.

Threadless has big things going on too, of course. In case you didn't notice, they've been in the midst of a big ol' $10 sale. It's been extended 'til the new batch of tees goes up on Monday, so it's not too late to grab a favorite or three. But really, I'm sure I'm not the only one among y'all who is finding fewer and fewer new Threadless tees to fall in love with, so let's focus on the purpose of these blogs: the new stuff. I am kinda loving this piece from aman, for starters. It's called shadows, and it's definitely shadowy, but also a bit mummified. What I love about character pieces like this is that they are creepy with charm.There is little question that there's something bizarre and unsettling about these characters, their skin opening up to an oozing blackness, but then there are those faces, the spindly limbs, that give them a sort of innocence which keeps one looking and intrigued. It's almost like a trainwreck, except much more attractive... still, you can't help but feel like you cannot look away, even despite that unsettling nature. I'm a big fan of the lines. I like lines, and these give a fingerprint mystique, looking at all the wrappings, following them... lines can be hypnotic like that. But I'm also a fan of smart geometrics, like the dual diamond behind the characters. Not only does it give one more element of greyscale, but the way it's kinda painted-on gives it a cryptic symbolic nature. It feels like a masonic seal or some other mystical gem, calling these shrouded half-dead creatures up to rise again. And that simply drives the whole shebang homeward to me. It's an element that not only ties the design, but adds a bit more story.

Back to DBH and the 10K, it shouldn't be overly surprising for me to state that Wotto, one of the most prolific tee designers on the web, has entered the fray. But what I'm really intrigued by is what he's entered with, namely this last piece. Wotto is the sort of guy you can't help but respect and root for, but for me he's also the sort I don't always love everything he puts out, especially since his iconic doodle collages can require one to be picky, just in the interest of not buying every single one. What I love about this design, entitled Image176, is that it takes everything we know about wotto's work and makes it different. This is still collage, but the style being taken on here is certainly different, edgier, more "collage" than a bunch of charming doodles are. It's far more serious, the colors are killer, and the text hits that sweet spot where it works in aid of a mood instead of becoming too clunky and self-aware to be wearable. It's a definite contender, as far as I see.

Now, you might be seeing a bit of a theme, and unintentionally, there is. DBH10K gives way to spooky and charming gives way to DBH10K, etc etc. So taking up the spook side at Threadless is Monster? by Jublin. Again, there's that subtle, dark, basic palette, again we should be scared, but there's a charm and a wonder that leads us to look deeper. That charm is potentially printable just at first blush... it's a smiley monster coming in from your closet (or so it seems). Kinda creepy, but with that smile, kinda inviting too. Maybe you want the monster to come in. The imperfect doors and old fashioned wallpaper put a lot of charm into the otherwise barren room he's entering. But the thing that truly sells this for me is the excellent use of negative space. Yes, the monster himself is negative space, but the framework is simply swarming with beady-eyed monstrosities. And this is, again, where that balance of creep and charm takes place. You want to love the monster in the middle, with his simple grin and furry nature. But then you have all the others staring at you, blank eyed and serious. They're invading the room, and honest, we the viewer get a little uncomfortable. It's an ominous counterpoint to the blissful new entry. And it's some excellent use of negative space, and some smart framing. It's choices like that which make a shirt truly wearable, and while I worry about taking a really bold stance on color similarities (even though light-on-dark normally succeeds), the overall piece just works. And working is something far too many tees don't seem to care to do.

Finally, let's finish at DBH. There's been a lot of darkness this week, so let's finish off with exuberance. Should be simple. Enter Reilly's High 4. Starring one of the most happy of cartoon hands ever to be seen, this is one of those gems I love bringing in to show the world just how perfect simple can be done. Simple isn't about boring or stupid or poorly made. It's about just what it says: simplicity. This piece takes on two really simple concepts: the lack of fingers on a cartoon hand, and the awesomeness of a high-five. Well, ok, the title is really the main hint to the former part, but using the cartoon style helps highlight the latter. High fives can be pretty cheesy, but the honest among us know that a good one never FEELS cheesy. Even with a jump, skip, squeal, or any such flamboyant addition. This is a total ode to that feeling of epic camaraderie. Anyone who has truly needed the high-five for their own purposes knows what this glove feels. A tee that can capture a feeling like this is something worth supporting, especially if it takes such a great executional route to get there.

And to finish off, we have one more creepy thing we can't look away from: the shirt.woot double-take derby. As always, the actual prints are all but guaranteed to be yet another slap in the face from absolute mediocrity, but there is always a certain hope: Editor's Choice, when a week of dailies become a week of prints that should have printed. Of course, the woot overlords are just as fallible as their "esteemed" constituency, but even so, it can rarely get -worse-. If woot wanted to put me out a good $40, this would be a great way to do so: ilovedoodle's beautiful Solar System, thatrobert's minimalist The Poet's Weapons, tgentry's one color marvel Flight, and capedcrusader514's modern and bold Bird in Space.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Crazy 'Bout Elvis

There's something about classic graphics that makes them just perfect for a tee, and that is what the latest Tilteed Limited is all about to me. Be a Good Boy, by keuj, just has that classic feel. Possibly it's the halftones, which make the design look a bit more like the heyday of comics. Used properly, halftones can either create a skillful blending of colors, making your palette far wider than it would seem otherwise, or else add a vintage effect to the piece. There is definitely some modern to it, of course. The oddness of the elements, from the cyclopean protagonist to the big-eyed bird, is something that wouldn't go over so well in older art, and I doubt this palette would have been so popular back in the day, but still, this style is the sort of thing that belongs on fabric. Not every graphic is at home on a tee, but most of keuj's work seems to be ideal for printing on pretty much anything, from concert posters to totebags to awesome shirts like this.

If you want more info, I've prattled on about the design on the product page itself. Please enjoy. As ever, however, you will only have 3 days to enjoy both this tee and my repartee before both are relegated to the annals of time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quite the Trend

I don't quite expect anything I say to make a difference in a world that has made art into pure commodity, especially as time has made the blog itself more and more sporadic and sparse. I fight to prove there's someone out there that cares, and simply hope that someday, the right people will get it. So I don't really think anything I said last week has changed anything this quickly at Design by Humans. Even so, it's a pretty nice turn of events.

The fact is there's been a run of 6-for-7 solid tees at DBH, starting with last week's rant tee and coming full circle now with yet another great one from Againstbound: "Leader of the Pack." It's great to see a designer like him getting recognition. His style has always been one of the most distinctive out there, and this piece, created to evoke Mr. B7, another underappreciated designer, really takes it to another level. The art definitely takes the best of both designers into one piece, and the purple shirt is just sweet as hell. It's bold in coloration, yet the statement remains attractive and wearable. And the fill and flow of the shirt is perfect.

The fact is that at this point, there are probably millions of shirts out there. I've scored nearly 50K at Threadless alone, and I haven't scratched the surface considering all the older entries and handfuls I've missed, not to mention those at DBH, past woot entries, emptees shirts that have never been entered elsewhere. If even 1/100th of those tees are printworthy, and we look at that minimum that I myself have scored, it's still way more than any single site can print. So it is SO important that we keep promoting and building up these designs that really matter. The ones that make you see something you aren't as familiar with. The ones that create fashion and push envelopes, and the ones that put wearable creativity at the forefront, not familiarity. It's great to see this sort of thing find its way into printing over the course of the last few weeks, and so consistently, but tomorrow is a new day, and who knows what prints then. Let's keep doing our best to make sure it's something truly worth the prize. And here's hoping "Dark Matter" shows up on schedule on Wednesday!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Make it Rain

It is nearly too muggy to write this evening, so the new Tilteed Limited tee comes as a bit of a horrible omen. I feel as if I jinxed myself by bringing it in. Overall, though, it'll be worth it, for any number of reasons. Drowning Out the Sun, by D-Roy, is a stellar summer tee for those of us who can't abide by the oppressive heat, but a sweet tee all around for its faded colors, chunky vector lines, and smart art. The colors are an obvious perk, to me... they're not overly saturated, which makes the tee feel a bit weathered and classic from the start (which I think increases wearability with many of us). The use of the tee blank, however, is incredibly smart, especially for a guy who I believe is getting his first tee print through us. With the big, full-chest print, having so much white breathing through is so important. Yet it comes off effortlessly, much like the clouds seem to be effortless with their raining. It's so commonplace that they seem nonchalant. I'm super excited to see this tee get a chance with us. We love getting a chance to bring you something new and different. We hope you'll give it some love, too.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Waiting Game

Look here, shirt sites, and listen the hell up.

We all want to see awesome, deserving tees print. It's human nature. I would rather wait years to get a chance to own a totally worthwhile tee than never see it happen. But this is getting out of hand.

Just last week, we thrilled to a totally deserving Threadless design getting what it deserved a year after submission. This week it's Design By Humans' turn. The irony, to me, is that both designs went up for voting at the other site before finally being printed by the original one. And this is where my issue lies.

Againstbound's Ominous and Ghastly Mont Noir was a top 20 contender from last year's DBH10K (going on now for 2010). Almost every top 20 was printed within the month or so after the winners were announced. This was one of approximately four not to. The layers of elements are no less awesome now, the art is no less original to the designer, the design is not somehow more printable than it always was. It's a surefire buy when I get to it. But I just don't get what took so long. Even in the worst-case scenario, by a month or two after the 10K, Againstbound should easily have had mail expressing intent to print this later. Yet it made its way to another site. In the interim, DBH printed things like Guntree and Dogfight, among the worst prints I've ever seen. So why couldn't this one be fit in until now?

The business of selling art is getting cowardly, it seems. They're afraid to print work they clearly like. And seeing pieces like this and the other from last week finally print proves that fear. These are tees they liked, as evidenced by the late printing. But waiting a year is just wrong. Waiting so long to even tell an artist you want to print their piece that they have taken it elsewhere is wrong. You need to suck it up and make the plunge. And when I see some sites printing work that is absolutely uninspired after a month or two at most, this really should be unacceptable. There have been well over 300 days to find a spot for this design to print. So while I am excited by it, and excited to wear it, it really proves just how married the design world is to the business aspect, and how scared they are about the art side. I don't want to live in a world so close-minded that this would never print, but in some ways, knowing this would take so long to do so is just as scary a commentary about both our cultural and capitalistic tendencies.

If your business ostensibly sells art, it is your obligation to sell art. Otherwise, you are only damaging the art world. And art is more important to society than your corporate savings being full.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Contest Watch: Week of July 22

This has been a pretty super week for Contest Watch... you should definitely check the last few posts for some supertown updates. And while you're at it, go check Threadless, where "The Serenade of Pangolin's Mandolin" is up for votes. This bad boy was a long-time-ago feature here, back in the days of Shirtfight, so definitely give it some long overdue love.

Threadless mostly dominates this week, but there were a few winners that won't win over at shirt.woot, also. I'm pretty averse to featuring the fog, because even though I can predict winners and losers, it seems unfair to promote the obvious potential winners. However, there was one definite standout, and it sat outside the fog: Bird in Space, by CapedCrusader514. The theme this week was Art Titles Reinterpreted. You'd think this would be simple, given other woot derbies, but apparently people don't know what "title" means. We got a lot of pieces that simply parodied the work without looking at the title: this is one of those rare instances where someone was both able to pay homage to the piece while doing what the theme requested, reinterpreting the title. The shape and position and color of the bird recall the piece it is inspired by, but it is made literal instead of abstract. But all this aside, it's just a stunning piece to begin with. The linework is lovely, and the shading is certainly part of that. The golden hues pop against the black. There's something I love about those sorts of color schemes, with big bright colors on black spacey expanses, so this is totally my sort of tee. I hope we'll get to see it again in the future. On a tee, this time.

Now, however, we can get to all the Threadless goodies for the week, and there really have been some goodies. Let's start with tolagunestro, which is always a superb place to start. His "Fast Spin" is the sort of glorious oddity we love to see here, with the execution to back it up. There's an obvious juxtaposition of the slowness of the snail with the idea of a speedy carnival ride, but I'm much more intrigued by the gorgeous texture (if anything about a snail can be gorgeous without first covering it in butter and garlic), and the rickety yet delicate framework of the spiraling ferris wheel sort of structure. It's an original take, to be sure, and eye candy without a doubt. Not only that, but an orange blank? Sign me up. If there are two things that I would say all successful shirts have (and by "successful," I mean this in an art and not a business sense), it would definitely be original concept and skilled execution. Obviously, just about every tee shop on the planet doesn't back me up on this given many of their selections, but their foolishness doesn't take away from the truth of the matter. If someone wants something bold, unique, and attractively done, this should be the sort of tee they're voting for. Convenient, then, that such a tee would indeed be up for voting!

Of course, execution can be all about simplicity as well. Which is what I love about Mammoths Were Hippies, by Tawan. Simple, smart concept needs simple, smart design, and this goes just far enough to illustrate with charm, without overkill. The "hippie" idea is so simple and so perfect for the mammoth that it seems incredible it had never been thought of before. I'm just glad it was thought of by someone who would put it together correctly. The meeting of the minds shown here, with just enough surprise readable in the elephant's eyes, and just enough passive nonchalance behind the mammoth's shades, charms without rotting the teeth. There is much to be said for pure intellect in designing. Would that more people would just do it. There are plenty of great, future classic ideas out there. Relying too heavily on other people's work is flat out lazy when there are smaller-name designers out there who can hit home runs like this.

Even so, sometimes reference can be wonderful if done smartly, as well. Which has almost nothing to do with Fleck's "Zenobia," except that there's a part of me that desperately wants to somehow relate this to Ethan Frome. It's not wintry. The city doesn't seem to be a hypochondriac lusting over a pickle dish. I guess you could say that it's standing up on pretty flimsy legs, but that's more of a stretch than I'm willing to go. So despite the piece being inspired by Calvino (one of my faves), I've yet to read Invisible Cities, so no classic literature for me this time. But classic illustration, that we have in spades, and really, that's what we should want. This is what complexity should look like. It's structured, ordered, but not fully. There's still something fragile about it. I love the idea of the complex infrastructure being supported on such flimsy braces... it seems to want to make a statement and yet keeps quiet about it. But all that aside, the ramshackle nature of the city's support system makes the underlying story all the more interesting. I like how those lower bits are sparse and a bit scattered compared to the dense, repetitive patterns above. I love the way the illustration fills up the tee, with the bulk of the design at the chest and the dregs hanging down at the stomach. It flatters the canvas by filling it well, and flatters the body by not calling so much attention to the parts people tend to be more self-conscious about. Even the swatches of dull red, the only real pop of color here, arcs over the top of the chest. It's really quite well conceived in positioning, and visually, this is a sure-fire buy if and when it prints. It's subtle but not bland, it's detailed but not cluttered, and it's familiar without being generic. Stunning work on what should indeed be a stunning tee.

Finally, let's check out the current Loves competition: this one's about comics, and I'm not going to lie, I'm quite scared about it. I will probably be somewhere between crying and mauling if/when some HILARIOUS shirt that shows batman as a bat for the umpteenth time prints. But then, on the other hand, when designers really embrace a style, and utilize their own mind to flesh it out... now that's where the big payoffs come, and comics are a perfect venue for that. That's why I dig the Incredible 5 Senses by Gums. There's obviously a Fantastic 4 element to the team, and a definite classic comic vibe to the style, but the characters are just wonderful. What works so well is how comics have always had their own internal logic. Superman is an alien who looks like us. His only weakness is a rare alien rock, that somehow is easily obtained by earth-baddies. Wolverine had his entire skeleton replaced by super hard metal, but it's OK because he can heal himself. Galactus is THE SIZE OF A DAMN PLANET BUT SUPERHEROES CAN KICK HIS ASS SOMETIMES. So the idea that we might get exposed to all these beautiful, bizarre worlds in this contest is ever so appealing. In this comic, our heroes are our senses. With human bodies. I'm not sure what's not to love about this. The characters really are alien to us for that reason, but in the comic style, all is forgiven visually. You just want to see if Tongue can escape from The Capsicum Crusader (Milk Man to the rescue?) before time is up. It's a great interpretation because the team is readymade, but also ideal for the stylized, mutant ideal that especially Marvel heroes are known for. The execution feels natural, the colors feel wearable and authentic, and the whole package is exactly what this contest should be about. Please guys, no shirts with Spiderman as a spider. Isn't that overdone yet? The answer, btw, is yes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wet T-Shirt Contest

On the exact opposite end of the design spectrum, it would seem, as our last tee (posted what, a couple hours ago?) there's TheInfinityLoop's "Painted With Water." There's really nothing abstract about this at all... it's a pretty simple sea scene, and all the elements are pretty clear. However, the style makes the piece, and makes the concept shine through. The style is a take on the old "Paint With Water" books that were big in the 80s, allowing the art-free kids to feel like they've created something by applying water to the dried smears of color on each page. I remember how lurid the greens became against the water... it might well have been that color that kept me so interested in the creative process, ironically. Anyway, having the simple aquatic scene featured on this design totally makes sense with the style of the books, but it also heightens the concept... of course there would be water in this scene, and it brings out the life in all this life.

Long time readers know that our former Contest Watch featured designs have never fared well at shirt.woot (and long time readers probably also know exactly why they wouldn't), but I am ever hopeful this will be the time that things change. However, if not, you only have until August 9th to grab this. Today, of course, it's only $10 until it sells out or tomorrow dawns. Here's hoping the former happens.

Twilight With Talent

I imagine I am not alone in the world of art critics who feels that there's a certain "T" word that has proven the uselessness of trying to get through to the masses on issues of quality. It sort of hearkens back to being in high school, and being almost offended at the absolutely wonderful phrase "in sync" being debased into, well, a pretty useless phenomenon. So it's pretty much refreshing to be able to use the word in the context of true art.

So let's reflect a bit on ZackOlantern's "The Twilight Rider," which is a vision in Eggplant. I have been in love with this piece for a while, with it's amazing, challenging abstractions and colors. It's like Bennie and the Jets: weird and wonderful. What I love about this sort of art is that it can really be interpreted any way you want... it's about the gorgeous visual, the totally foreign world created in the piece... it's a design that has an artistic payoff if you take the time to study it and contemplate it and just appreciate it. That's way more worthwhile than having things spelled out.

As always, this is a Tilteed Limited tee, and therefore, you've only got 3 days to snag it, so don't slack off. Tees like this just aren't common enough these days, so grab one and help slowly reverse the movement against our minds.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Intense in Tents

They say good things come to those who wait. I'm not a believer. Patience is a virtue because the virtueless want a monopoly on getting what they want. But every now and then, something good does finally pan out. And this week, after waiting a year, it is one of those times.

Blog favorite GinetteGinette gets a long overdue second print over at Threadless this week, and it is everything I could hope it to be and more. Please marvel at the wonder which is Tipi Man. They did the piece proud: the big, simple main graphic is appropriately huge, and given Threadless' printing quality, the likelihood is that even at this size, it'll still be soft instead of stiff. There's a charm in the odd little tipi character, and a shiftiness in its eyes that is intriguing. The real payoff, though, is how the simple graphic plays with the ornate background. It's like salty and sweet... the big graphic makes the belt printed flora seem far less overpowering, while all that detail allows the simplicity of the tipi to sit attractively without seeming one note or clunky. It's really smart design, and totally worth the wait... if Threadless' recent propensity for over-reprinted reprints and sell-out panderprints has finally opened the door for them to take risks on truly deserving oddities (and the overall quality this week coupled with yet another huge scoring "oh look pop culture things as real animals" print implies it might), I -might- start getting behind this whole generification of graphic art. There are lots of tees that have been overlooked out there, and while it's great to see one of my favorites finally get what it deserves, there's a long long way to go. A year is a damn long time to wait.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

We Ain't Lion.

Today marks the last day of the grand Tilteed Flip giveaway, which means the Flip cam WILL be given away soon soon soon. As such, that also means y'all should consider hurrying up the promotion on our Facebook page contest. I'm giving away tees for every hundred of you, and I don't want to be saved money. The contest will be running just a titch longer, through the end of the latest Tilteed Limited curation, so you still have time to help make it happen.

As for that latest curation? It's JimmyTan's classic unprinted tee "Grandpa". I've wanted this tee to be part of the limited catalog for a long time, and I'm superstoked to see it up finally. It's all about the facial expression here, wise and happy. The title really makes sense of it all. I think many of us can see something of our gramps in this, even if he didn't smoke a stogie, wear a monocle, or eat our dad. There's so much character that I simply can't imagine how no one picked this up yet, but we hope their loss will be your gain. I also dig the use of color... the blue accent really stands out here, while the main linework is detailed enough that there's no need for more color. If you agree, you've got under 72 hours to make it happen. And that goes for the contest as well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Give 'em the Boots

We've seen Kindred Market before in the long long ago, and thought hey, that's a pretty cool concept, but wanted to wait to see more. What concept, you ask? Well, Kindred runs a shirt contest of a different sort. Instead of printing the hottest tees, they give birth to a brand, which hopefully will then create hot tees. It leads to a decidedly mixed-bag feel to the site: you have stunning art mixed with vectormash and even slogans, but the potential is what makes the site so interesting. Instead of waiting every week for a single shirt to either be awesome or horrible, like some sites, there is a whole new brand under their umbrella to judge on quality. Which is kind of exciting.

This week, however, Kindred has brought us a line that should excite a number of you out there in tee land. Welcome friend-of-the-blog BootsBoots to their market! Boots is known for an oddball sense of humor and a quirky sense of cuteness, and the pieces up from her line's first release highlight this for sure (as well as her admitted penchant for text-text-text). Honestly, it's nice to see how completely the pieces selected for the launch speak to the designer's overall style.

Unsurprisingly, my favorite of the group is her long-unprinted Intergalactic Hitchhikers. It's an example of how cuteness can still be unique and personal in style, and it's also the most original and artful of the crop. If I had to break down the success of this to one element, I'd say "arrows". The arrows give a nice flow for the eyes to follow, and facilitate the composition of the overall design. They also bring in the color contrast that really makes this pop... the orange highlights against the blues really make this lovely and eyecatching, and unlike some halftone experiments, the glow here works as a matter of those contrasts. It adds to the otherworldly feel. I'm also a pretty big fan of the mediocrity-snarking "Lulz 101," which takes a well-deserved swipe at, well, something like 75% of the tee world, but this one always seemed to sum Boots up in an image.

I understand Kindred works in DTG printing, which isn't my ideal method to buy, but also has a screenprinter they use for store orders, which is all the more promising. I have no clue where they wholesale to, so if you're on the hunt for a solid screened design, I don't know what to tell ya, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're a Boots fan... her pieces are currently pretty damn reasonably priced, too, so it's a chance worth taking. Either way, we'd love to congratulate her on the new shop, and we hope the concept is something that not only takes off for her, but for kindred... who knows what they can offer if they start getting some serious exposure.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Don't Keep this Quiet!

Ok. We can do this a couple ways. So listen up.

Option 1 is I just talk about Reticent, the latest limited tee on Tilteed. That's easy enough to do with it's lovely colors, abstract shapes and lines, and futuristic vibe. I could certainly tell you all about how it was a former contest watch tee, and how I love designer NinthWheel's work, and yadda yadda yadda. And it would all be true. If you'd prefer that, I can do that all damn year.

Option 2, however, switches it up a bit. See, yesterday I introduced you all to the blog's new Facebook page. It's still new, fresh, and growing. But I'd like to see it grow more. So in honor of Tilteed's birthday contest, and to make up for some under-represented contrasts in the past, I'd like to offer you all an incentive for your loyal reading. I'd love to see the fan page grow, so I'm gonna give away some tees. For every 100 fans I gain between now and the end of Tilteed's flip giveaway, I will randomly choose a fan to win a Tilteed tee of their choice. That's any catalog Tilteed tee, or any current limited (I obviously can't do much of anything for past tees). And that means if I get 100 fans, I give one away, and if I get 512, I give 5 away, and if I get 10,000 fans, well, let's be honest, I'm kind of hoping that doesn't happen by the end of the month. I'm not made of money.

All YOU need to do is FAN UP ON FACEBOOK. It's easy, it's free, and sometimes you'll even get extra content. Hell, sometimes the blog ITSELF doesn't get new content! And spread the word, because every new fan we get, the more chances there are to win. So if you prefer to just hear about how awesome this limited tee is, and how you should grab it now before you miss out in 72 hours, please re-read the first paragraph over and over again. But for the rest of you, I totally think the second option sounds more fun, don't you think? You know what to do.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Contest Watch: Week of July 8

Weeks later, we have a couple things worth noting this week on Contest Watch. First off, if you love SingulariTee, and you obviously do, you can check out our Facebook page for our hopefully more frequent updates and even occasional bonuses (sales watches, bonus contest watch pieces, whatever else I can milk for extras). We'd love to see you fan us. We'd also love to see you give some love to DaleEdwinMurray's "If Thine Eye Offends Thee." It's one of the best I've seen around the circuit this year, and it's a crime that it didn't print with Threadless. We really needed another Mario shirt instead!

We've been happy to get the chance to chat up Design By Humans a lot this week in various arenas... they've got a killer sale going on, and we still have a 10% code to get you even more savings (check our banner). But there have been scads of great potential DBH tees just itching to be talked about for a while now, one of which being a favorite we missed talking about once upon a time at Threadless. Since it's new to you, let me present ecsu's A Timeless Murder. Again, like Dale's, I'm not sure why we're even getting this chance to bring it into today's contest watch: it really -should- be printed already. It's got it all... amazing colors (the primary-colored rainbow makes for a bold accent against the dark clock housing), wonderful textures on the wood, engaging flow with the rainbow and the strangling arms, and even the concept is nice and intriguing. It could go a lot of directions, but I like thinking, given the murder in the title, that it's a commentary of the impossibility of infinity, and the way time keeps marching on, but all things end. The great thing about designs like this, though, is that it's so reliant on symbolism that anyone who cares to take the time can find something to connect with here. Great, ambitious art.

Over at Threadless, we've got some greatness as well. Mostly birds, apparently. Consider the case of Torakamikaze's Let It Out. I'm pretty sure the colors here used to be in popsicles in my childhood (huzzah blue raspberry!) so the design rocks my midsummer world on palette alone. It's got a psychedelic nature to it that makes it quite appealing, but what I love is the highly synthetic looking colors against a pretty nice looking eagle-head. Or is that a hawk? Ornithologists? Anyway, it presents a nice contrast of styles and concepts, and the "lasers from the mouth" thing is pretty super in and of itself. This hawk is intense. Or falcon. It's possible there's a vague patriotism factor making this so workable, as well... the eagle with a spin on a red white and blue palette might subconsciously make the whole piece feel all the more right. It's obviously unintentional, but the subconscious can't hurt when you're looking at art. I imagine this right here is all about the tee, which is to say, the artist created it because it looked rad, not to show off drawing chops (though it's certainly attractive), nor to put forth any deep or amusing concept (though, who knows). But at the end of the day, a hot looking shirt is enough reason for a shirt to exist. Shirt for shirt's sake. It's not trite. It's not boring. It's simple, standalone fashion-graphic. And it's destined to be a tee.

More tweet tees from Threadless are coming from the likes of alvarejo, who brings us Ready for First Class. This is definitely stunning execution, because it's a different sort of tee. It's much more about vintage details than bold graphic. The black-and-"white" illustration style hints to this already, but it's all the more obvious with the ridiculously outdated accouterments this little guy has with him. It's all pretty lovely... the sign of a truly skilled artisan... but really the best parts of this have nothing to do with concept or linework. Sure, the top hat is the first thing we notice, and it's somehow always a smile to see a critter in a top hat, but I think I like the stuffed suitcase more... what is this guy even going to pack? The camera goes even further over the top... it's so large, so gaudy, so old, that it just looks hilarious in any light, especially being worn by a pigeon. But the detail I love most is the shoes. They're so blatantly big on the pigeon that the absurdity of the whole thing is heightened all the more. These are people-clothes, pigeon! That's the best of this piece: so many similar designs fight to make the humanized creature seem totally natural, but this one revels in just how silly the whole idea is. It feels very self-aware, and that, along with stellar execution, is what sets it apart.

Of course, Threadless never has been purely about flawless execution. Indeed, for all the amazing tees I've discussed that have been up at the site, their legacy is much more in tune with such designs as bananaphone's "Dear Sir." This defines Threadless humor, which is no surprise when you consider the iconic tees the designer has brought to the site. Sure, it's easy to think of the scads of pop "humor" dominating the airwaves, but this is what built the site's humor catalog, in a very real way. The graphic is simple, which is what a graphic needs to be in a quick-and-dirty humor tee like this, but it still has its distinct style. More importantly, though, the text is legitimately funny. Or at least, I think so. It's a matter of the refined, polite request for what is undeniably a horrible deal to make. I'm personally OK with not getting my face clawed, Mr. Bear. It doesn't hurt, of course, that this flowery prose comes from that simply-styled graphic... it makes the juxtaposition all the stronger. Nor does it hurt that the tone of the text resonates with me for it's dark almost anti-humor and its sense of snark. Or that I kinda love me some red tees. But in the end, it's just refreshing to see this sort of tee still being created and still thriving. I'm pretty sure, unfortunately, that scoring will be over by the time this post comes up, but if you're into seeing this sort of thing continue to succeed, I urge you to comment anyway. Regards, Adder.

Finally, back to DBH. I tweeted about this earlier this week, but for the rest of you, you need need need to check out the scads of amazing work that went up for voting this week by beecombs. My favorite of the pieces is, without a doubt, Hive, because it looks like nothing I've ever seen before. The complex network of polyhedrons invites both the eyes and the imagination... the tube-like areas feel like transit pathways, which helps bolster the idea of this structure being a hive, but the questions come harder and faster than the answers. It's hard to say if this is a rendering of an insect abode, or some alien space station. The piece straddles the chasm of organic ore formation and wooden carpentry project as well. It keeps you wondering just what you're looking at. And as far as I'm concerned, that's fine. Maybe I don't want to know. I'm happy just looking and imagining, so long as it looks awesome.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stop Worrying/Love the Tee

We don't believe that tees need to be political, but we certainly support when someone can put forth a smart and meaningful opinion in their art. That's half of what art is (and it's why you'll find decidedly fewer real artists in certain political spheres than others). I've never understood the idea that politics should be absent from art, music, film, or any other expression of our inner selves, but then, those opinions, again, generally come from those with much to fear from such opinions. But educated opinion is the crux of artistry.

That said, we're not really sure how "The Economics Tee or: How I learned to stop worrying and let the government kick my ass" represents what its title purports to represent, but we can get behind a lot of things. It's no big secret that government has helped screw up the economy for decades, so the overall message implied is easy to support. It's a Paper Root tee, also, which means it's a super high quality product on a blank so soft I want to graft it into my skin. Can't possibly not be for that. But what so many message tees fail at is creating something attractive to go with their message. As I've said, I'm not sure how the art here -does- relate to the presumed concept, but for a tee, it's way better to have obscured concept than unwearable graphics. This thing is definitely wearable. I love the look of the illusion... it draws the eye for that "impossible object" feel, but I really love the (wait for it) rigidity of the whole thing. I know, that's normally a turn-off, but the hard lines and textures make this feel concrete, and it gives off an interesting overall visual. I also like the subtle white and red accents, which add some nice visual pops to the otherwise rocky main image. It gives it an overall more mystical or alchemical vibe to me. I certainly wouldn't put money on that sort of description being the best there is, but that's what I get, for sure. It just feels like something that could, well, find its way into the masonic and otherwise imagery we think of in terms of our currency. So maybe that's where it all fits together. But overall, it's an awesome reminder of what simple, abstract work can do to a tee blank. Namely, make it awesome.