Thursday, January 14, 2010

Contest Watch: Week of Jan. 7

I can't even begin to describe how out of it I've been the last few weeks, and sadly, so too has the contest world been. There have been good shirts, but not really enough that was great enough to blog. Today, we have some solid work from some old and new friends. First thing's first, tho: fans of Omnitarian's Cactus With a Fez (a predicted print at woot's last doubletake) can go support it at Cameesa, while those of you signed up at Design By Humans should definitely go give your love to Caesium-137 by ninthWHEEL, as well as ginette's stellar and must-print Tipi Man.

Design By Humans has actually had a handful of strong pieces come through lately, and one of them is BootsBoots' Transcendental Tourist. There's a lot I love about this, from the colors (which are subdued and consistent, yet clash just enough to create a spacey haze around the piece) to the composition, which is just symmetrical enough to feel right in place without being identical. The character here is pretty much the winning element to me, some sort of elephant squid umbrella mummy robot, apparently. That he (it?) is so distinctive lends a lot of appeal, making a design chock full of attractive weirdness. Good enough for me. To me, this feels like I'm getting to see what the designer is really capable of. It's interesting how different sites will get the gears turning differently. Definitely one to shop around if DBH passes it up.

Threadless is, unsurprisingly, the site with the might as usual. It shouldn't be very surprising, I suppose: when you're the biggest contest site out there, you get the most quality being submit on any given day, which is good and bad for us. It's good in cases like The Zombie and the Butterfly, because the size and prize of the site brings us such diverse work. rcaldwell70 brings us a wonderful piece with this, a little elegant, a little creepy, and all awesome. Here, size definitely matters. The full-shirt print makes a huge impact to start with, but it also highlights the intricate linework on the hand. Smaller, and all those amazing strips and swirls would be lost. It also helps highlight the delicateness of the butterfly. The overall illustration is big enough that the butterfly is ever visible, yet still dwarfed on the fingertip of the zombie. The spare palette creates a lot of interest, as well. With only two colors, the design needs to really carry itself, and this one truly does. With all the detail, you don't feel remotely cheated on color, especially with the splash of it given by the butterfly. To me, the one "thing" about the piece is that this doesn't really scream zombie: it's a bit more mummified looking. Still, that is to its benefit. The zombie tee has grown passe, and this is well crafted enough that a generic decaying hand would come across as almost insulting to the viewer and the design itself. You still get the juxtaposition of horror and beauty, of death and life, but it's not hammering you over the head, and that's where the art lies here. People love to argue that "it's just a shirt," but a viewing a piece like this, with its strong wearability and impeccable execution, it is sheer foolishness to not assert that a tee can, and arguably should, be its own form of artistic canvas.

For all the good mentioned above, though, Here Comes the Rain highlights the bad. Which should not be taken to state that the shirt is bad... quite the opposite. Still, the flipside of getting such unique, skilled, printable work is that you also get plenty of work which, by virtue of having so much stellar competition, simply has a low shot at ever seeing fabric. Especially in a case like this: this piece by newcomer same.same.different has a great, unique style, is hip and wearable and indeed, as their handle suggests, it is a bit different while also looking totally classic. I love the fact that each man lined up, umbrella at the ready, is just slightly different... they look cloned at first, but they seem individually rendered at a closer glance. The issue, though, is that this is far too unique to have a great shot at printing. That's the bittersweetness of the Threadless factor: you get so much great stuff to talk about, yet for some of the best, you'll never get to talk about it again, because it simply won't be a voting powerhouse, nor will it make waves against so many other high-quality designs. Still, it should remain to be noted that this piece, in its one-color, hand-drawn style, simple yet slightly oddball concept glory, is deserving of garnering that elusive print. It is all I can do, readers, to alert you to this awesomeness and try to alter the inevitability of the print cycle. If nothing else, it should pique your interest if it ever appears elsewhere, and in the business of printing awesome shirts, that is certainly a step in the correct direction.

Sitting somewhere in the middle of the two is Drowning out the Sun, by designosaurus text (which, if I may, guys, start thinking about your handles before you create them. It doesn't effect my vote, but hoo boy). Like our previous piece, this thrives on the concept of rain, yet in a totally different style. Unlike the previous pieces, the design does not utilize a limited color scheme, but the color scheme it DOES go for feels much more conservative than it is. The colors are soft, which probably goes a long way toward that illusion, as does the excellent use of negative space. I love the style here, completely different from the others: the thick lines convey the cartoony whimsy of the scene (I love how the cloud arms are constructed). It's topically a bit dark... rain is always a gloomy subject, even without trying to commit solicide, yet the palette and style makes this an eminently sunny tee. That aforementioned negative space usage also makes it incredibly wearable, breaking up the full front print. You almost believe the ludicrous claims the designer makes on his comp: why certainly you'll have fun times in this shirt! It's a fun shirt! Not only that, it could be a great spring and summer shirt, with its palette and style and topicality. And again, that's a great thing about Threadless... you get such a diversity, and some of the best there is in any given style.

We finish off this week at shirt.woot, which had a pretty ludicrous derby theme of ancient egypt. That said, I see no reason why Drakxxx and Draike's Rise of the Scarab King shouldn't be on the forefront of being picked up elsewhere. The linework, as always, is solid, and the coloring was quite worth the wait. It shines with regal blues and golds, and the piece overall looks just perfect for a clothing line. I could see it fitting in at just about any emptees-style indie line, and being a big hit. There's not a lot more one can say there: excellent work well done.

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