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.