Thursday, May 13, 2010

Contest Watch: Week of Boutdamntime.

It's been a while, and as such, we'll ease you into the content with some old pieces looking for a new lease on life. Since it's been so long, there are enough "resupport" designs up for votes RIGHT NOW that you really need to jump on it and get to that support. We've got two tees I'm totally jonesing for up in the Tilteed contest: I love fhigi's "Deer Xing," but what I'm really excited to see is iQuitt's "Went Lookin'"... I may be a curator, but loving a tee isn't enough for a contest win, so any support you could toss those two would be grrrrreat. On the other side of the coin, DBH has snagged a couple great ones into their contest, including "Abyss" by Gabrielng. The real winner of the week, however, is Thunderpeel's "Sanguine Parliament," shown above. There is a part of me that would, if I had the money, buy the rights to this tee, whatever the cost, simply to print myself a copy. It's that epic, and its all but MADE to be a DBH print. But really, all four of these deserve some hardcore ink.

The resubs of the moment are really strong on the artistry and creativity side, so I'm actually pretty happy to be able to cut that richness with some fun craziness compliments of the ever-diverse world of Threadless. While much of the most fun work there these days seems to be heavy on the "HEY LOOK ITS POP CULTURE" side (and light on the "I understand parody" side), there's always something shining through that not only doesn't take itself seriously, but DOES feel creative. It doesn't hurt that this week I can take up the "holy crap Threadless print amarillo" stump once again with his lovely two color "Prairie Guardians." It's undeniably cute (though the "cute" brigade tends to be against anything that actually looks real. Or wearable), but it takes the adorable posture of the prairie dog and turns it stoic. That pose always does look like a lookout post, so the concept works automatically. It also enlarges it ludicrously, making the tiny critters well larger than a big ol' bison. Any time you have that sort of role reversal, there's a spark that goes off in your imagination that makes one want to know more about this world. Is this why seldom is heard a discouraging word when you're home on the range? Because these guys will definitely lay the smack down. And chew on freakin' everything. But more important for the medium is how attractive it all looks... there's a vintage feel and a realism that are both key to this working. It's all pretty comforting, really, like an old book, despite the unsettling nature of ACTUALLY seeing a massive prairie dog. It also is perfect colorwise, because the lack of colors prevents this from looking like a step above tourist fare ("Visit the prairie! It's boring and homey!") and instead looks classier. It allows the fun of the concept to take on a seriousness without becoming overbearing.

So now, another dose of artistry from Design by Humans... a site for which this was an excellent week for quality work, even despite yet another artist series (as big of a Stone Temple Pilots fan as I am, I'm not really that stoked to see a week of potential awesome, unique winners replaced by band merch. I can get that at STP's store, not DBH's). My favorite of the not-previously-reviewed tees there is without a doubt A Fallen Warrior, by Starman. Another two-color design, an unintentional theme this week, this is all about its sense of movement, even though the subject matter is decidedly immobile. The hair and the blood flow attractively across the tee, odd as that statement may sound, but even the body, slumped and severed, conveys the movement of that crumpling of the body. Is it scientifically realistic? I don't particularly care, but the slump of the body is a wonderful detail. Also wonderful in detail is the armor and the sword, which actually seem to be a matching pair... again, it's the little details that make one go "hmmm"... was this a suicide, or an ambush, using the warrior's sword against him (or possibly her, given the hair and proportions... I see no reason toward either except personal bias). It adds to the intrigue, which in turn adds to the power of the image. Great, iconic, and classic in its own way.

To finish this week, however (and yes, I know we're short, but I'm just happy to have something to say for once... it's been a while), we take another fun spin. This is hardly classic at all artistically, but it is, in many ways, classic as a t-shirt. Unicorn Carnage by Jasper Grinsdale is its own animal (har har, pun unintended), yet is clearly appealing cross-demographic. Unicorns attacking each other is simply the sort of concept you almost immediately know will be successful, or at least should be, and you know the creator, regardless of inspiration, drew this with that fact in mind. Still, it should be a pointed example of how one can find an idea that is almost a surefire success within ones own head and from one's own hand. Part of this works on simplicity... the linework is unfilled, unshaded, and while competent, it is not meant to be the last word on horse anatomy either. This simplicity helps maintain an attractive flow and doesn't overwhelm the viewer in the milieu of violence. It conveys that chaos, and it pays off to really look close and not get lost in the lines, but there's enough clear elements to convey the purpose, while much of the other linework, while being quite nice to look at up close, does more to convey the titular carnage without turning the viewer off. As for the second color? It's probably the single most unique (and one of the most appropriate) gimmick choices possible: a pink glitter ink for the blood. Sometimes gimmicks are painfully pointless, or truly bring the wearability down, but the small pink accents don't overpower the design, and the glitter is a conceptual home-run. The idea of unicorn blood's magical properties, as well as the unicorn itself being a magical creature, makes it less about the specialty ink and more about a smart minor detail that takes the piece to another level. It doesn't hurt that the unicorn has been appropriated into the gaudily girly Lisa Frank empire of the '80s, making that glitter all the more tongue-in-cheek. This is just an incredibly smart piece that should be all the wrong choices, yet ends up highlighting how one can take the reins on seducing the consumer while still being original and creative. It may not be fine art, but it IS a fine example of how there is so much depth to still be explored, even in populist art. Just because it's hugely audience-friendly doesn't mean it has to be devoid of inspiration. May more designers listen to this tee's example.

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