Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Just a Little Faith

It is inevitably a shock to wander back to this long forsaken corner of the interwebs and see that this sad little blog has had activity daily, into the tens of people. Tens of people is a LOT of people viewing a blog which was ostensibly dead even before a year ago.But so it goes, and so I am glad it has gone. It is with gratitude that I acknowledge this, because it states that somewhere out there, people do not accept what I have, in many ways, accepted. Tee design is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Oh, don't get me wrong, people will still be hacking out and hoarking up the latest Game of Who-Blood designs for Hunger Potter Day, because people are sheep, because the economy sucks and people have no shame as to how they make money in desperate times, and because a culture which is anti-education is even more strongly anti-art, of necessity. But it's safe to say true shirt design, the artistry, the cleverness, that you, dear reader, would browse this blog for, is clawing for breath under the rubble. At best. And so, for what would I blog? To sell you some piece of junk to keep up my profile in the scene? To show you the least worst sell-outs in the grand scheme of voting trends? To drive sales on the one day a season that woot feels it's appropriate to sell a well designed shirt? Piffle. I have early onset carpal tunnel to prevent.

It was at a whim, then, that I browsed over to Threadless on their current back to school sale. I have ignored a number of their recent ones wholesale, knowing what I'd see. And for the most part, it was what one expects, a sea of parody work that barely crosses the parody threshold (I'm not sure what artistic statement is made by drawing Charlie Brown in Link's outfit. Probably "I can haz 2K?") peppered with the ironic non-humor which has taken over the once trademark Threadless humor. But then, I actually did make a purchase with some referral points I had lying around. Moreover, I found a shirt that could breathe life into my weathered cynicism.

Budi Satria Kwan is better known to the tee design world as radiomode. He's not the least controversial designer out there... many readers who cut their tee-design teeth at shirt.woot remember countless designs aimed at combating the charmless design which wins big there with equal staleness. Budi plays the game, for better or for worse, and I cannot fault anyone for being tired of those who play the game. But it is perhaps all the more powerful to see Watering (A Life Into Itself) from him than from anyone else for that reason. It is not perfect: bits read a little clippy, and the concept of nature from nature is something we've seen here numerous times, but it's also one of the trends that has always worked because beauty is never overrated. You can refresh that theme a million different ways, and while your artist may be tired, the theme itself still has potential. There are only so many ways, by comparison, to make the same "computer mouse" joke. Stick around the deal-a-days and you'll be able to buy all of them by 2015.

Once you hone in on nature, however, you just have to execute, and radiomode does so here, building serenity out of the elements... an animal so fully at peace and at rest that nature can flourish from it. The cutaway on the deer's back is a perfect foil for the build-up of trees, with those first branches continuing the natural curve as the outline comes into a valley. The blues in the deer's face echo that life, the water it's drinking coming into it, enlivening the dark silhouette, helping the greenery grow. Tiny considerations, possibly not even conscious on the part of the designer, but so integral to the completed piece. There aren't a whole bunch of tees being printed today that show that sort of sensitivity, those tiny details that make the whole design. There aren't a whole bunch of tees printed today that you could wear around anyone and they'd get the feeling of it. In a culture where reference is king, this is refreshing as a cool drink of pure water. And maybe, just maybe, it's part of a very slow revival. Those of us who believe in artistry can only hope.

1 comment:

Benny said...

Welcome back! I'm glad I'm not the only one who's been disappointed by the internet's t-shirt offerings for the past few years. Thanks for pointing out a gem, and please continue to do so if/when you spot others.