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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Contest Watch: Week of January 28

Ahoy-hoy, tee-totallers! Welcome to another week of Contest Watch, Awesome Shirts, and apparently Horrible Puns. Before we kick off the meat of this episode, do check these past CW features: Radiomode has redone his Curiosity Kills design, and while I liked the much rougher, simple original better, fans might want to check it out at Tilteed anyway. Also, just off its Threadless hold, jstumpenhorst's Fawn in Headlights is trying its luck at Design by Humans, where it might just do better: DBH is a stronghold of pieces like this, even despite its everyday operations leaning more toward the watercolor wolf variety.

We'll start the official watch at Design by Humans as well, with a piece I probably shoulda brought in last week, but with Hallmark beating down our doors, I think Forsaking All Others might be a brilliant piece to realize that there is never an excuse for schmaltz, unless you're cooking with chicken fat. Jewelwing takes the multifaceted approach: Love is Like an Anchor. Personally, I would complete the maxim with something about pointless weight drowning us, but the designer judiciously gives a number of interpretations, not all of which are cynical. The style is strong enough to support any of them: clean, almost tattoo-inspired vectors make this look totally at home in the DBH catalog, while the palette works for its stark contrast as well as its simplicity (there's no generic reds to symbolize love, nor blues to take the ocean theme to its tired conclusion). It's all about solid linework creating a design full of motion and power, focusing on the anchor's weighty, steadfast nature, not the oft-cliched images of romance.

Were DBH to select the last piece, it'd fit their site perfectly, but over at Threadless, it's the last week of their search for the brand new trend of 2010. Some people have suggested that simple is coming back. Others think it's about time for pushing themselves to create brilliant, original work. Still others want to see hand-drawing make a comeback. And some people are lazy and greedy and think 5 minutes appropriating someone else's now-public-domain imagery is worthy of 2 grand (and I must say, if this did occur, I'd revel in starting a site that basically printed the same tee. It's not stealing if it was never theirs to begin with, right? FAIR USE!) I fully expect to see one of a few photo-puns take the prize, but it's not keeping me from throwing print-support behind Sanguine Parliament. Thunderpeel, the designer, discusses figure/ground relationships and the like in his explanation, but when it comes right down to it, I'm for it simply for being a trend of awesomeness. The colors here are incredibold, and a little delicious (who isn't honestly thinking of ice cream or taffy right now?) and the size comes up and pecks your eyes out. The owls are composed in a lovely cartoonist style, staring us down fiercely and forming a wolf, which is echoed in the clouds. The motifs and flow are all stunning, and my eyes cannot stop gawking at this. The oddity here seems to make sense due to the design's intensity... it's so well planned that you don't ask why or what, you just marvel and drool. Or I marvel and drool. There isn't another tee like this out there that I've seen, and that is 100x reason enough that it must exist: it informs just how diverse t-shirt art can be (because again, this is legitimately art, not just clothing).

From shirt-as-art to art-on-shirt, The Lost Adventures of Captain Nemo is no less effective a piece. Pakpandir doesn't explain what the new trend is, but it should be freaking awesomeness with limited palettes: the design gives us an epic battle, all in four smartly chosen colors. I'll admit, I can be a sucker for a smartly done sea-critter piece, but even without the obvious pun potential here, the design had me at Giant Nautilus. Under-rated creature of the deep that it is, I'm loving the unique beauty of the shelled cephalopod getting to take center stage in this piece. It's stunningly illustrated and colored, and the waves froth splendidly as the rickety little steampunk sub is pretty much owned by it, creating some lovely motion and filling the tee nicely. A definite buy if Threadless knows the score enough to get this printed.

The last new trend of the year, at least as our blog is concerned, is art for art's sake, or "stuff and that," as sweet n sour asserts. His design Semper Idem certainly makes good on "stuffness" and "thatitude," too... the piece revels in artistry without bothering to have an easily discernible point, unless one wishes to believe the point is "awesome designs must exist." And with flames and cacti or possibly antlers coming out of women lost in huge beefeater helmets, or clouds and rainbows spilling out of chutes and into smaller containers, or the lovely doodle accents around the entire main piece, this certainly is awesome (not to mention an excellent use of purple). When I look through Threadless' back catalog, I see lots of work that revels in this aesthetic of stunning, thought-provoking, unique art, and I see no reason why ten years lateer, the site can't do a bit more than pay lip-service to the most creative, hardest working, most unique designers and pieces in its stable. The piece here represents what I'd love to see most this year at Threadless... a return to printing more of what is special and attractive, and maybe easing off the puns. Weekly alumni picks would be stellar. Another year of awesome April Fools tees would be perfect. Reprints of tees people haven't been able to get for years instead of the same handful of regular sellers would be phenomenal. And all of that is summed up for me looking at this piece. It could herald a new dawn of Threadless... when you're number one, the most dangerous thing to do is to get complacent and stop innovating. A Threadless where great, creative art is the number one priority could do huge things for the entire tee world.


Ending an unintentionally simple-colored week is the simplest of all: thatrobert's "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things." With a shirt.woot theme as awful as "heart," this nearly-blatantly-obvious piece stood out because it really was a perfect, simple tee graphic. It's crisp. It's instantly understandable. It's a little subversive while being a lot adorable (and somehow appealingly so... the vacant faces make them all the more unsettling, I think). It could even be iconic. There's just enough concept, just enough size, just enough color to make everything work, and it looks incredibly hot on heather gray, reason enough for praise. I love my artistic tees, and find the bias against them ludicrous, but t-shirts were a born canvas for simpler work like this. If only all simple work took the time to be effective as well, instead of just simple clothes for simple people: the world would be a better (and less hideously ugly) place.

1 comment:

Robert Lausevic said...

Thanks for the nice comments on "Heart is deceitful..."!
--ThatRobert