Tri-Ford

Tri-Ford

This image is exceedingly meta for those in the know. The image isn’t really a celebration of Harrison Ford or anyone of the three franchises his various images reference. It’s pure pop. The design is three reference on top of a reference on top of another reference. Besides the three IP’s there’s Andy Warhol and the silk screen he made from a movie still of Elvis pointing his gun (“Triple Elvis“). This movie still itself is from a film called “Flaming Star“.

The inclusion of some of the smudges surrounding the figure is and interesting choice. The smudges aren’t exactly faithful to the original screen print. The fact that they’re identical instead of unique suggests that while the artist’s wanted to highlight the pedigree of the work he wasn’t paying attention to the nature of the processes that made up that work. These smudges would have been accidental and as such non-uniform within the silk screening process. The restraint in color pallet and the color blocking are generally well done, but the edges of the figures make the figures feel a bit flat. The flatness of the images suggesting block print rather than that of screen. One of the more clever aspects of the work is the fact that the guns are smudged in order to make the designs more uniform. Most of this is just nitpicking in any case. The image is strong and non-descript. There are multiple layers of reference besides the gun equals virility component that Warhol was channeling in the initial work.

Design by: DSTRBO
Price:  $20.00 @ TeePublic
Colors: White, Orange, Tan

Octoride

Octoride

Normally if you see enough references or touchstones of a genre/ an era you can predict exactly who a work like this will appeal to. This work is all over the place in its use of symbolism, but in a coherent way that seems to suggest a multi-generational style. The way children take on some of the touchstones of their parents youth: the records they hear at home as kids and continue liking as adults, some fashion their parents refused to give up and they later find themselves liking; this image sort of has that vibe to it. There’s something 50’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s about the imagery all within a sand and ocean, maybe, tropical, sort of context.

The oldest thing within the piece is the shriner’s fez. The octopus and a burger would have been equally at home within the 50’s context and in later generations. The line work feels very 60’s/ 70’s with its various widths render making the image look a bit squiggly. While the colors could be either 70’s or 90’s the female figure, and the boom box are pure 80’s. The vehicle itself give the overall piece somewhat of a Tank Girl Vibe (90’s). The most current and incongruent aspect of the entire work is actually the panda which is definitely more 2010’s. This design ultimately seems to function in the same way that the decor of most of our homes, at least while young and single will: eclectic, chaotic, but somehow unified. The design feels like an intriguing encapsulation of both personal taste and experience.


Design by: Jesse Lonergan
Price:  $20.00 @ TeePublic
Colors: White, Maroon, Tan, Green, Blue,

Tubes of Wonder

Tubes of Wonder

There is no shortage of abstract works available on the various print on demand sites; even within the world of “fine art” the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of which works are celebrated can seem rather arbitrary to both those on the ins and outside of the art world. What then is the criteria by which we should judge these works in general or this work specifically? What makes this work worth purchasing or the artist worth supporting?

One of the main questions when looking at an abstract work, specifically a non-objective (not representing any discernable forms) are the context, colors, shapes, and overall composition. Of these ideas the context is usually the most nuanced and often, even among the experts, neglected aspects of an abstract work. Has this been done before/ is this work an expression of a new idea such as the first monochrome painting or the first “happening“. Since Modern art displaced classical art, and to an extant representational art within popular taste the idea and intent of artists, and the context of their formation, has supplanted skill as the metric with which art is judged; at least, that is suppose to be the idea, but does the 100th Rothko or Pollock really expressing anything new? This is all a bit of a tangent, because “Tube’s of wonder” isn’t anything new; it doesn’t pretend to be. The other criteria with which abstract work is to be judges is what ought to be brought to bear upon the design and based on those criteria this design does quite well.

The colors of the work are pleasant- perhaps, Miami/ LA, 90’s, or tropical. The gentles washes of color contrasting nicely with the hard edges of the shapes. The shapes themselves offer interesting easter eggs for those that care to look and suggest: Klimt, Miro, futurism, and horror vacuii in various places. The composition is both tight while managing a loose feel in terms of composition and is again reinforced by the contrast of color and form. Lastly what is interesting about the piece is the use of circles and lines, specifically the fact that if you put a number of circles above a line you will end up with overlapping faces with shifting expressions depending upon how you pair the circles. The image is good at a distance and more interesting and nuanced from up close. It is busy without screaming for attention and still maintains a certain level of harmony overall and for this reason, rather than some context dependent or contextual statement, “tubes of wonder” serves as an excellent example of a (non-objective) abstract work within the context of apparel.



Design by: JettJag
Price:  $22.88 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, Dark Grey, Dark Blue, Tan, Brown

Now more than Ever

Now more than Ever

There’s a lot going on in this piece, and it’s a testament to the skill and creative intuition of the artist that everything seems to come together at both the macro and micro levels within this work. The use of digital and realistic elements combine to give this image a graphic style and sense of abstract realism. The design is nebulous in a finding shapes in the clouds sense, but it is also impactful, bold and crisp in a way that gives the image power.

This image is balanced in a way that is not immediately perceptible upon a first glance. Upon an initial viewing much of the image seems soft and undefined. The clarity image starts with the outline and the sharp edges that feel reminiscent of Chinese or Japanese Calligraphy. If one looks into the image they will eventually notice that the clouds and mountain elements are actually photographs, and that this is in fact a bit of a collage piece. What keeps this image from feeling jagged though is the use of gradients to blend and soften the image while creating a vibrant sort of dreamscape that is ultimately punched through by the void that appears almost like a halo of the mountain there placed like a figure within the piece. There is something about the shape, and the wispiness it contains. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Goya’s “Saturn Devouring his Son” or Blake’s “The Ancient Days“. On that scale there is an abstract figure sitting hunched over and in mourning. Close up there is a figure looking into an eclipse, a void, and realizing the scale at which they live their life within the context of the universe.

The fun cool colors are deceptive. You’re not on a beach at sunset. The whole image in fact is deceptive. It’s not purely digital, it’s not abstract or representational. What you choose to see and feel from this image, the amount of choice you have and the overall beauty of the composition is what makes this design great.

Design by: Adam Priester
Price:  $24.04 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White, Grey, Creme, Light Blue

Bloom

Bloom

The use of Greek and Roman statues has seen a huge uptick in the past decade thanks to the rise of Vaporware and its aesthetic. While the statue here may be said to be the primarily element and the gradients at the bottom might suggest a further connection these are where the similarities end: one in form, one in technique. Outside the gradient there isn’t anything to suggest the digital which is a key component to that medium. While this image was almost certainly created via digital software it maintains a traditional collage look which is refreshing in how out of fashion it is- within the world of fashion. Supposedly Collage as a website aesthetic is on trending in 2021. Whether it will stay with the nerds or trickle down to the plebes is anyone’s guess.

The color pallet is interesting; the red, blue, yellow; combined with red, white, and green doesn’t seem like it should work. It’s only the clever use of zoning and negative space that prevents the clash. You don’t really see this image all at once and the midway isn’t, but seems like the marred section of the body which jumps your gaze to another section instead of allowing it to wander. The big circle round back anchors the piece in space while the smaller one prevents you from missing the arm. It’s very well thought out.

Design by: Boldndelicious
Price:  $22.00 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White, Grey, Tan, Light Blue

Surreal Death Moth

Surreal Death Moth

Plenty of images of the death’s-head hawk moth as it stands; the reason to highlight this one in particular is the inclusion of the body-horror elements i.e. melty flesh + eyeballs. It’s very Hellsing, but the geometry gives it a more modern character. The skulls on the tips of the wings area a a nice touch; they look more like something you’d see on the prow of a ship than anything you’d expect to find on an insect. This image is over the top in the best possible way; The skull with the saliva between its teeth, the ol’ eye of Sauron, the thorax looks more like the underside of some goth kid’s claw ring than a section of an insect, and then there’s the demonic horns up top. This image is ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ in terms of demonic imagery. Without the geometry to level it out this image might not work. The choice to shade the triangle adds depth, as if the moth were flying over a chasm instead of pinned to the wearers chest… it’s clever. The image does a good job of balancing detail and negative space. The image works at a distance and close up. It’s a solid piece that says “demonic” without being off putting, which isn’t always the easiest thing to pull off.

Design by: vonKowen
Price:  $22.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Offered/ works in 24 different colors

Dungeons and Isometric Dragons

Dungeons and Isometric Dragons

What’s going on with Dungeons and Dragons? Why is this IPO still relegated to the moldy basements when “nerd culture” has already blown up over the past 5-10 years. While video games have come a long way it’s still things like D&D, Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress and the more “primitive games” that best serve as vehicles for user creativity. It seems like the founders should be better equipped to tap into this social acceptance of nerd culture, but they aren’t; the D&D has an imdb rating of 3 point 7./? How is it possible for a franchise that exists upon it’s ability to allow for creative narratives going to green light a script that’s that poorly written.

The image itself is amazing to the point that there appear to be a number of counterfeits even within the site it’s featured on. Good job Redbubble. The image works on the macro scale in that the sectioned column of a shape works well with the human form. It’s actually more difficult than you’d think to do a column on a shirt without it ending up looking phallic. Upon closer inspection there is the promise of an interesting story or an epic confrontation upon each level of the image. The color pallet though is what really makes this image special. Very few designs can work upon any color background and of those that do almost all of them will have to be black and white. The fact that this image has as much color as it does and still pulls this off is astonishing and a huge accomplishment. Isometric nostalgia and fantasy appreciation aside this is an amazing image that anyone should be able to appreciate.

Design by: Citysuarus
Price:  $24.21 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White, Grey, Yellow, Blue, Red, Green… any of 16 really

Flowers #01

Flowers #01

Generally speaking the inclusion of the word “love” within a design, never mind an overabundance of botanical elements within that same design, will tend to garner an image the indefensible, the reprehensible label of “hippie shit”. This design though is not “hippie shit”, primarily because the outlines on the flowers that make botanicals ‘pop’ steers the image away from the watercolor territory that is generally too soft, or earthy to be chic. While it is true the ‘love’ element in a square shape is somewhat reminiscent of the same painting turned statue by Robert Indiana from the 60’s, it also brings to mind logos like those of NeXT Computers or, more recently, Uniqlo.

The flowers allow the image to be both soft and electric while coming to within a razors edge of naive and soulless, hippy and corporate. The image comes closer to corporate though in spite of the message. The collage/ cutout design has been growing in popularity in the world of graphic design; what perhaps saves this image is how busy it is in terms of color and form as advertisements and packaging typically opt for a more borne down pallet to control the focal point of an image or perhaps to simplify production.

So where do hippies and corporate detachment intersect? What does this image remind you of? Give you a clue: Think old (hippie boomers), rich people playing at culture while trying to be hip. If you guessed “modern art museums” you win a prize! Ok, not really but doesn’t this just scream “MOMA Gift Shop!”? (Side note, all of these symbols: !?, ?!, ?!? are called ‘interrobangs’, which is awesome.) The image is a fusion of ‘fine art busy’ and corporate Minimalism. It works though. If anyone is going to be able to design something that balances artistic poverty (earthiness) and rich people predilections its institutions that profess to celebrate fine art by appealing to the affluent.

Design by: OlgaBerlet
Price:  $20.00 @ Teepublic
Colors: Black, White, Army Green, Red, Navy

The Catch

The Catch

While puns are said to be the lowest form of humor, the visual pun is at least better than the lazy pop-culture mashup that prevails in the world of graphic tees and has any number of websites dedicated solely to those designs e.g. Bohemian Rhapsody meets star wars, Abbey Road meets Dr Who. Most Visual pun shirts rely on text, or feature a cartoons who’s simplicity in form may be taken as either an apology for, or conspiratorial wink by the wearer for the banality of the joke. In short, most pun shirts lack any artistic value.

Unlike most designs that feature a pun, the one found here is not the whole of the composition. You could remove the mouse and the blood and still have a strong design. The mouse, the red, and the pun are more the finishing element of the piece. The cat has been rendered extremely well, so well in fact that it adds humor to the joke. The eyes being the same color as the moon is a subtle detail and a nice touch. Overall there is something- lupine or old-monster-movie about the image; even without the blood. The shirt, while probably not to everyone’s taste is great in that it takes something “low brow” and makes it seem sophisticated.

Design by: Niceblood
Price:  $20.00 @ Teepublic
Colors: Tan, White, Grey, Light Blue

Turbo Bunny

Turbo Bunny

This design seems to be a cross between the forms and style of Wassily Kandinsky and the bright, somewhat jarring use of colors as pioneered by the Memphis Group; this design isn’t simply a mishmash of the two, rather it’s a near miss at imitation in both cases.

The Pallet is too bright for Kandinsky, the lines are too clean and the use of polka dot, or polka dot used to suggests form as in the ears, would be out of character for the artist. It’s interesting to see contemporary artists borrow from pre-existing styles and ponder how the ease with which digital software can now render patterns/ precise lines and shapes influenced their work. Were some of these processes more labor intensive would they still be in vogue? Would the artist of the past or modernism in general look as crude, as primal as it did pre-1960’s?

Most Decades in western advertisement had their color pallets. The 70’s were more earthy; with yellow, orange, and green being prominent. In the eighties it was bright variations on the primaries, particularly CYM. Moving into the 90’s though the color pallet broadened and intensified. There could be a number of reasons for this, advancement in color technology would be the obvious one. One key difference between This work/ the 90’s and the Memphis Group is that the ladder tried to give the eye somewhere to rest from the jarring colors. There was usually black and white to function as negative space and float the shapes. Where neutrals weren’t employed the pallet would be minimal (3-4 max).

‘Turbo Bunny’ on the other hand is too frenetic in form and color. What makes the design work though is that the design is ultimately sparse. If one were to take the silhouette and imagine the circle to be a gem, and the other main shapes as precious metal there to hold it as in a small pendant. Not every piece of jewelry needs to be a statement piece. If one were to say this in the context of a graphic shirt you’d assume they were talking about subject; in the case of ‘Turbo Bunny’ it’s that the image feels light as a small pendant while remaining substantive.

Design by: likeomgitznich
Price:  $19.90 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White, Grey, Tan

Fairy Knight

Fairy Knight

This design truly surpasses the typical soft and dark contrast of pastel goth and punk; in doing the design stands as an example of what the style might achieve were it to broaden its conventions. The circular rainbow is typical of the style, but excluding the dark saturated blue and the black within the figure that is something else entirely, the rest of the colors break with the style in a subtle but significant way.

Typically to remain graphic in nature Pastel goth/punk images will bolster the design with outlines. Not only is that not present here, but the washes of the cape and scythe have been enhanced so as to create an oil on water effect that adds a toxic undertone to this effigy of death. The figure itself stands out in terms of value in a way that stamps it upon the more decorative elements of the piece.

What ultimately makes this image interesting is the use of value to create layers and varying weights within the image. The use of texture to create a hierarchy of interest and emotion. The wings as elements point to the greeks and Hermes, Seraphim, and (in their coloration) parrots. Pastel as an aesthetic is here challenged and expanded by light saturated washes. Pastel seeks to lighten the macabre through color, here it is made ethereal and pernicious through the masterful execution of shape and transitions.

Design by: Witnesstheabsurd
Price:  $22.38 @ Teepublic
Colors: White, Black, Tan, Grey, Blue, Red, Pink

Pop Foliage on Yellow

Pop Foliage on Yellow

Typically within the world of apparel it’s only brand centric designs and patterns that are allowed to be decorative. One could argue that a random character or image unaffiliated with a brand, and absent a logo would not qualify as branding, but even within the absence of name or logo, a random image if distinctive enough would still serve to tie and align the brand and wearer to a certain- disposition. A skull, gun, unicorn, an owl, they each have their own connotations.

While this design in its title contains the word ‘pop’ the image isn’t really. Pop is defined by digestibility, mass production, familiarity, short hand, and association. This image isn’t that. Rather the image uses some of the stylistic conventions of advertisement while remaining well outside the realm of visual shorthand that advertisement traditionally has relied upon.

Here ‘Pop Foliage on Yellow’ doesn’t carry the iconographic baggage that other images might. The image, silhouette, and color scheme have to be taken at face value. Sometimes that’s more than just enough, it can actually feel refreshing.

Design by: Dominiqueveri
Price:  $21.55 @ Redbubble
Colors: Grey, White, Black, Blue

Rainbow

Rainbow

Shirt design featuring the bust of a dark skinned woman, in anime style, and with multicolored/ fauvist style hair

The hair gives the design its energy. Theres something Fauvist about its jarring shifts in color, maybe late 80’s- early 90’s in its wild pattern. The colored outline that starts in the hair and works it way over the shoulders gives the image a fun youthful expression. Perhaps in the way that cyberpunk has grown to dominate our visual representation of the future, by channeling elements from the same decade the artist has tapped into futurism without having to be as explicit.

The bottom half of the design is more dreamy, more retro, and comforting. The head and the body, what is revealed and hidden are complimentary, but one is not as bold as the other. Thematically it ads interest. Compositionally it ads contrast, but not so much as to take the eye from the focal point.

Then There’s the face and more strikingly the eyes. The Blending in the skin is dramatic rather than naturalistic. The artist definitely tips her hand as far as the work being digital, which is not a bad thing. Expressiveness of stroke wont normally blend this well/ softly in a physical medium. The distinctly digital aspect of the face and eyes is what makes this image contemporary. It’s too bold to be a museum or an academic piece, but it feels too complicated and nuanced to be commercial. Lastly there are the eyes with their highlight approaching lens flairs. Very well done in terms of depth and expression. The Framing of the eyes with the bow and hair is masterful.

Whether or not the placement and scale of this image is hard to say. Teepublic is one of the few sites that doesn’t use a model to preview their designs. It’ might be a little big and too much on the stomach, rather than centered on the ribs. Regardless, GDBee has made a great design, and her entire oeuvre is worth a glance or follow.

Design by: GDBee
Price:  $20.00 @ Teepublic
Colors: White, Tan, Black, Navy, Grey, Hot Pink, Teal

Funki_Fractal

Funki_Fractal

There’s something interesting about a design, a style, an approach that feels like it shouldn’t work, but ultimately does. Sometimes the surprise of something working that shouldn’t can even elevate the result within our esteem past that of what could be achieved by an established artist.

This design shouldn’t work, it does. Webgrrl’s storefront is scattershot; not in terms of style, but quality. She has managed to produce a number of solid works, such as this design, but there’s a lot of work that feels… sophomoric. When you see a design called “funkifractal” you think: ‘…amateur redbubble artist and someone who doesn’t care’. This image isn’t even a fractal. Most probably she thought that that would be a more searched term than ‘Rorschach’. The Lack of pride in her work, professionalism, or self-awareness should indicate that this is an artist without potential; but that is absolutely not the case.

The image works, and it works in most colors, which isn’t easy. Creating this symmetry with the two red orbs and a red one below while managing to avoid Pareidolia isn’t easy. The black splotches are graphic and bold, while the green filagree feels inchoate- amateurish and somehow early internet, the green and the red taken together could easily be perceived as gauche. Somehow the design works and again, it shouldn’t, but that only makes it all the more impressive.

Designed By: Webgrrl
Best colors: yellow, blue, dark red/ maroon, white, and grey
Cost: $23.88 @ Redbubble

Bones and Botany

Bones and Botany

Bones and Botany works in that it is pleasing at the macro level and curious upon closer inspection. The saturated colors and bold outline means you can see what the design fundamentally is from across the room, and upon closer inspection you get to notice the charming little details that E Moss has left: the hummingbird, the bat in the ribcage, the mouse on the elbow.

It’s surprisingly difficult to pull off a design that will work with any color tee, admittedly some color combinations are clear standouts, but the predominance of white within the skeleton, the breadth of color within flora and fauna, and the overall saturation come together to pull it off.

Certain elements such as the flower in the pelvis or the moth on the skull shouldn’t work, but the multitude of detailed anchored by the central form somehow allow them to exist without drawing attention; when you finally see them it’s less a compositional choice to be evaluated than an intriguing surprise of “how was that not the first thing I noticed”, sort of an easter egg effect squeezed into a compact composition.

The design is noteworthy in that it doesn’t fall into the common vanitas category of skull/ skeleton images; the plants and animals seem more like something drawn by a naturalist than a dour painter of dead things in a dark room, which is. refreshing

Designed By: E Moss
Best colors: Redbubble offers 16 colors, any will work for this design.
Cost: $19.90 @ Redbubble

Owl Abstract Collage

Owl Abstract Collage

Mixed media, the dirty Rauschenberg style of composition is largely absent from the world of apparel. Why this is is hard to say; while this design does have specific elements that might get lost in translation is also has large and bold elements that will transfer just fine. With the rise of streetwear, the ubiquity of Basquiat, you’d think that the style that bridged abstract expressionism and pop art and acts as a stylistically antecedent to street art would be more common, but it is in actuality rather rare to see.

The composition for Owl as a whole is rather blocky. The image isn’t necessarily going for the frenetic energy that might be expected from an artist playing fast and loose with layering and assemblage; rather the owl, a symbol of knowledge and wisdom since the time in which Athena was relevant stands as a symbol for the state in which knowledge exists and is acquired in our distracted and fragmented time of awareness.

‘Owl’ represents contemporary youth and vitality in the sense that the main body is rigid by necessity, because youth and the ensuing recklessness that that entails can no longer sustained within our society of prolonged and ever expanding inequality. The youth today can’t afford to be young; not for a time as was common in the past. Today people are young into their thirties because the stability, the conditions to allow them to be otherwise have all but disappeared and the “prolonged adolescence” is rather a failure of society to allow them to find footing with the ‘adult’ world’. ‘Owl’ is a piece of our time not all knowing, but rather staring back and judging as to how so much optimism and vitality might be wasted.

Design by: NJordur
Price:  $22.38 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White, Grey, Tan

Godzilla Showa Celebration!

Godzilla Showa Celebration!

So what the hell is “Showa“? Apparently its a period in Japanese history that spanned 1926-1989 and was marked by the reign of Emperor Hirohito. As westerners, the significance and nuance of this demarcation might be lost. The militarization, the post war occupation, and the ultimate rebuilding of Japanese society and its economy into one of the world’s great superpowers seems like it ought to be one of the more, if not the most, turbulent times within the countries history. These figures, beginning with Godzilla and steadily multiplying, the Kaiju were an allegory for the destruction of the nuclear bombs that devastated the country alongside more conventional horrors and ordinances unleashed by America. The unnatural mutated forms that the kaiju represented were perhaps the beginning of a cultural dominance that Japan. While Japan’s soft power game at the government level might be no better no worse than any other nation, the infiltration of Japanese culture, art, and sensibilities into western culture is second to none. Japan like any other nation has a rich history, but the modern adaptation and their proliferation- no one does it better. This design, the stylized celebration of Japanese innovation works so well, because it points to the creativity and adaptability that exist within the Japanese market. One can only wish that America or any other country could be so adaptable and experimental.

Design by: Seaguns Shirt Salvo
Price:  $20.00 @ Teepublic
Colors: Black, White, Grey, Tan