KitschGlitch

KitschGlitch

The 90’s were indeed a garish time. Instead of a little introspection, reevaluation, or a lateral move; we as a society took Herring, The Memphis stile, and the MTV of the 80’s and cranked it to 11. It’s hard to say though whether this is actually suppose to be 90’s or 80’s. The yellow, blue, purple is definitely 90’s, but the metallics put this design clearly in the 80’s metal or blank VHS camp. The deign itself is somewhat reminiscent of a Judas Priest album cover. It’d be interesting to know which decade the artist was going for.

In any case the name for this work is a bit of a misnomer. Gradients and garish colors are actually in vogue at the moment and have been for some time within the world of fine art; just ask Felipe Pantone. The shapes themselves aren’t too unusual to see either, Therefore it doesn’t seem like this is really “kitsch”. It seems like the lines cutting through the rest of the shape are suppose to supply the “glitch” of this work, but without distortion/ shifting of segments from the surrounding shapes this can’t really be called glitch either. The desire for alliteration is probably to blame here. “Ambiguous Nostalgia” might be more apt, or something about how style is cyclical or parasitic in nature maybe. Regardless it’s a fantastic abstract that would actually require a lot of patience and technical knowledge to pull off in most software.

Design by: Roberlan
Price:  $19.90 @ Redbubble
Colors: White, Black, Grey, Blue, Light Blue, Maroon, Purple

Jelly

Jelly

This image is fairly straight forward mashup of two influences: neoclassic tattoo style and an excerpt of a famous print of jellyfish by naturalist Ernst Haeckel. There’s not a whole lot to say about the image other than the size is unusual for this print and works well.

It’s surprising how often one comes across Haeckel’s works or mashups thereof on apparel websites given how few people have ever heard of him. His jellyfish print could very well be the most appropriated biological drawing in the entire canon. To what extent this can be attributed to his skill versus this one particular subject is hard to say. It would seem though that Wolves, Owls, Lions are out and Jellyfish and Octopus are in.

What does that say about are time? It’d be interesting to think that zeitgeists have spirit animals; it would also be interesting to figure out how one might keep track. Perhaps the number of appearances on larger apparel store clothes; maybe every year ask tattoo artists what animals are the most requested. Certainly there are trends, but pos-covid a dolphin, butterfly, or big cat would seem a little- out of step or inane. It could be that creatures that float or sit serene to nearly vacant connects with how people are feeling in the context of their lives post-Trump/ -covid. Pug’s seem to be having a good year as well it would seem, so who knows.

Design by: J Barnett
Price:  $21.59 @ Curbside
Colors: Grey

Death Blooms

Death Blooms

Many artists have a preferred scale to work at; part of this is familiarity and habit, but certain media, certain styles, and certain subjects work better, or sometimes not at all, at specific scales. In order to support oneself as an artist though it is essential that artists experiment with different scales as larger sizes sell less for more and medium vice versa. Still, it isn’t practical to make a 20 foot lithograph, and Guernica wouldn’t have 1/12th it’s power at 11.5 x 25.5 inches. One of the nice things about the digital tools is that it has allowed artists to simulate different media at any scale and today a 2D artists is only limited by resolution and the availability of subjects to manipulate.

When making a digital collage though one is effectively working outside the constraints that originally lent character to the physical version; one has effectively eliminated the limitation of scale, incongruous lighting/ hue, and availability of materials. The incongruities that these issues caused was what gave them a unique character when compared to prints, illustrations, and paintings of the past. This tends to lend digital collages artists a distinct characteristic that one doesn’t see in the art of their forebears.

This image isn’t a painting, and it doesn’t feel like it would ever have been a collage. It feels “mixed media”, but it is definitely too modern in its tone, aesthetic, forms, to be anything but contemporary. The word that best seems to describe all of the components, and the work as a whole is “incongruous”. This isn’t to say that the work feels confused, but rather, that the work has a shifting uneasiness about it that makes it all the more captivating.

The woman as a whole seems sad, but then you look at her downward gaze and see contempt; you reevaluate, “is that ennui”, but there’s a skull shooting out of her head. Is the skull death, or a representation of mental illness? Both interpretations could work, but there’s something of a violence in the skull that isn’t there in the woman’s face. Is the skull screaming, in motion, is it animate or inanimate? Who’s to say. What strikes me about this initial impression though is that while the title is ‘Death Blooms’ and there are flowers all over the picture, I can’t help but think of fungus and rot…perhaps mold while looking at this image. In terms of execution, it feels like the girl and the skull would be a wheat paste design, the flowers in the foreground feel like an illustration, the back circle feels like origami paper and a picture of a kumiko screen. The limited pallet ties it all in together while reinforcing the overall mood of the piece. It has an interesting overall silhouette. Its ambiguity gives it broad appeal. I think that this image is one that a person could live with and look at often and never be sure of the conclusion they draw about what’s going on, while retaining a certain feeling from it like what is held in the eyes of the female figure.

Design by: Kingnamu
Price:  $20.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Black, White, Grey

Nesting Doll

Nesting Doll

There’s something about a negative. You can take an image and easily invert it and the result are objective and yet there’s something ominous and inherently subversive feeling about the resulting image. “Nesting Dolls” is like that in a way- and to an extent. On the face of it it appears to be the idea of an x-ray performed on a nesting doll, but the skeleton isn’t actually that of a human; caricatured or otherwise. There’s something beckoning cat and ghoulish about the resulting of the image. One needs to look no further than the upside down heart to see that there is intention behind the incongruities of the image.

Maybe it’s not a nesting doll at all but something more akin to the monk enshrined in a buddhist statue. Are the swirls a nod to anime conventions? The Blue and white feels like a bit of a nod to Chinese porcelain, perhaps not as the blue is a bit dark for that. It’s a rather ambiguous image. It works well as a shape and in conveying a mood, but if there’s an overlying idea behind the image it’d be hard to guess. An overlay of skeletons, suggesting the many layers you’d find in a Russian doll, might help clarify things; then again that might have made the image a bit to busy. This image feels like one that you have to take as is. It is well constructed and visually interesting, but trying to make heads or tails of its messaging is a losing battle.


Design by: Ali Gulec
Price:  $19.90 @ Redbubble
Colors: White, Black, Grey, Blue, Light Blue,

All Spaced Out

All Spaced Out

Ormiston has this great vintage collage aesthetic. The texture, the tonality makes the image feel as though it were cut from a National Geographic from the 70’s while the solid backdrop modernizes the image. It’s like macrame and houseplants in a chic converted industrial loft. Unlike most of his other images within his oeuvre this one doesn’t rely on a central figure to pull everything together, or not quite anyways.

The absence of a figure with a space scene superimposed creates a more dynamic point of focus… it allows the figure to be timeless in a way that no human figure can actually be. It feels somewhat Ziggy Stardust or “Moonmen“, somewhat reminiscent of Baldessari or Richard Hamilton. The shadows are a very nice touch, alongside the color shift in the leg section that seem to suggest stocking, and possibly nudity, one can tell that Ormiston is an artist that pays close attention to detail. Normally the rectangle itself would be an issue. The rocks serving as satellites around the central figure/ the void add a dynamism that allows the image to work as an apparel design. Honestly if there’s one complaint to be had with the artist over the image is the fact that he hasn’t explored a whole colorway line with this idea. Different models, different voids, different satellites to break up the rectangles of different colors. This image is simple, perhaps deceptively so, however it is no more complicated then it needs to be and works far better than it has any right to given its simplicity.

Design by: James Ormiston
Price:  $21.97 @ Redbubble
Colors: Grey, Black, Blue

Let’s Sacrifice Toby

Let’s Sacrifice Toby

Steven Rhodes designs are sort of everywhere. The designs are on all the major print on demand sites and can, at this point, even be found in places like Hot Topic and Spencers. A further testament to his popularity is the fact that as a t-shirt designer there are actually a number of interviews of him available online. Which begs the question what is it about his style or strategy that has made him so popular?

There have been a number of developments within pop culture over the last ten years that might explain the popularity of Rhodes’ Designs. First “Geek” culture became more mainstream, why this happened is anyones guess: Marvel, Star Wars, The Big Bang. As millennials grew older and struggled to hit any of the traditional milestones of aging e.g. stable careers, homeownership, kids; a prolonged adolescence and sense of bitterness and futility developed which Rhode’s designs seem to perfectly embody. The designs are bathos, irony, detachment, and cynicism; all the hallmarks of what millennials became and maybe what Gen Z will have to begin with.

The designs themselves are very well doneThere somewhat reminiscent of the work of Frank Kozik or other artists that pulled more from the 50’s and 60’s, but tiny details such as the clothing or the shading of the hair place the designs firmly in the late 70’s early 80’s animation/ illustration style. It’s a sort of less is more/ we’re on a budget look from a time when standards were so much lower and results were sometimes the better for those expectations.


Design by: Steven Rhodes
Price:  $20.00 @ TeePublic
Colors: White, Grey, Pink, Light Blue

Lifeful Skull

Lifeful Skull

All there’s really to say is that it’s well done and kinda amazing. It could hint at a larger worker, an update for the memento mori. As it stands it’s very- of its time with the geometry framing a cutout in overlapping gradients. The one piece of the work that is unusual is the color grading of the skull; it works well, but the resulting texture is rougher than you would ever see on a commercially done work of art. The roughness of the effect gives it a retro/ dada era collage feel; though the color pallet is very clearly late teens early 2020’s. The image is compelling in that it feels simultaneously flat and 3-dimensional. The effect is somewhat like that of cel shading, but breaks the effect in too many areas to seem passable in that way. The image sort of works as an optical illusion if one looks at it long enough. Realistically though this image isn’t about anything but not everything needs to be.

Design by: Ali Gulec
Price:  $19.07@ Redbubble
Colors: White, Grey, Black

Bettie

Bettie

As has been said before on this site it’s usually very- difficult to pull off a design of a naked or scantily clad woman on a t-shirt. Tattoos are fine for some reason, women who wear these design are accepted, but for men in generally wearing these designs generally gives off a weird incel-escque err. It’s hard to say with confidence whether or not for men there is, or could be an exception. If any depiction of a woman could potentially serve though then it would have to be one of Bettie Page.

Page is not merely an iconic pinup model or sexual icon of the 20th century. Her legacy as a female model of the 1950’s is at this point that of sexual empowerment. For women and for men. As a woman Page was very clear as to what she would and would not do and she was known to be uncompromising in a time where society would have had no sympathy for her plight. By modeling S&M clothing she helped expose mainstream America to kink. As a model she could be both fierce and vulnerable, an idea that society today still sometimes struggles to convey.

The design itself is very well done. The black and white source material has been adeptly colorized. There’s something a bit Frank Franzetta about the coloration. The background texture reminds me a bit of Final Fantasy X. The facial expression is what ultimately makes the piece. In any case- for her work, for her legacy, if not for the strength of this design itself this might be a shirt worth picking up.

Design by: Chris Wahl
Price:  $22.00 @ TeeFury
Colors: White, Grey

Jung at Heart

Jung at Heart

Generally when a work is purported to be deep you can assume whatever’s said is somewhat disingenuous in that it is more likely to be justification for the asking price rather than an essential part of the composition. Maybe it worked differently in the past; when supplies were expensive and output was low, when you had to buy and mix you own pigments and painstakingly reach for realism, maybe then artists took their time and thought thematically as well as compositionally.

Artist today, and probably in the past, as a group and in general don’t sit down think of a theme or message and work from there; because it’s not a helpful place to start. What artist generally do is I want to paint ‘X’, and in some cases, I want to say ‘y’, but the form, follows function (x follows y). These stories artists make up about their work is for the buyer/ the consumer. While a painter needs to paint for the audience, if they’re to have a unique voice, then they will need to predominantly paint for themself.

All of this is to say that while Jung is in the title seems like an easy shortcut to give this work substance that it doesn’t need. The image works well. It’s interesting because of the use of color, texture, and geometry. The artist almost certainly didn’t compose this with Jungian symbols in mind and it would be shocking if they were well versed in Jungian psychology at all. It’s ill advised to take the shortcut of association to provide a piece meaning. At the same time this type of posturing pervades the art world and makes its participants all the more insufferable. The image works, it’s strong as a design and within the context of apparel. It’s beneath the work to reference Jung. The image doesn’t need it.

Design by: OrdinaryFox
Price:  $20.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Grey, Dark Grey

Critical Culture

Critical Culture

This work, and indeed the entirety of this artist’s untitled series, does a good job of toeing the line between ancient and modern. The Image possess a bold simplicity like the monochromatic works of Frank Stella, but with the addition of representation form. This all raises the question: in a world of $20 shirts, will people pay nearly 30 for simplicity?

There’s something about this image that feels ancient. Perhaps the closest example of ancient art might be the geoglyphs that make up the Nazca Lines, particularly the “spider”. The boldness of the shape suggests a carving or a relief work. The heft of the black shapes contrasted with the delicacy of the white lines suggesting a grand scale. There is something modern in this design as well; modern in the sense of late mid-century abstraction or more recently, in the “super flat” and simplistic corporate art style. When looking at art is alway interesting to notice the tool marks, or how the tool used shaped the image. In the case of this image you can see the rectangles that served as the building block for the overall shape, the rounded corners that Apple seems to have made ubiquitous; watch any tutorial about pictographic logo design and this composition will instantly make sense. All of this is to say while it need not have been a digital artwork, it doesn’t seem like it could have been anything else, which is what fundamentally makes it modern- or contemporary.

It’s strange how pricing works, “Supreme” shirts sell for hundred, but that is only by the grace of brand cachet. Without that brand identity could their shirts or this one sell at such high prices? There is of course the “price-quality effect” of perceived value, but that will only get a brand or artist so far on its own. People want to get their money’s worth, beyond marketing psychology, the tendency might be said to be that in looking for simplicity we hope for it to be deceptive e.g. a non-assuming pair of bespoke dress shoes. This type of simplicity allows the owner a certain feeling of superiority, of being “in the know”. While this is a great design, and again a great series by the artist, at this price and on a print on demand platform it’s hard to see sales going through the roof.

Design by: avenear
Price:  $28.22 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White, Grey

Oxygen

Oxygen

Some images work as a narrative, some play upon the viewer’s associations, the work of GDBee is, by and large, tonal. There are a number of elements within the work who’s incongruities seem to ad interest to the image not by playing up a potential story of “how did they get there?”, but instead would have someone ask: “do all these elements and the potential contexts they imply speak to the nuance of feelings that the figure is experiencing?”

Tonally this work begins and ends with the figures eyes and expression. Whether it’s sad, resigned, depressed, or tired is hard to say. It seems like an expression one would associate with the color blue, or perhaps sunsets, or that sad after work feeling you can find yourself in on some evenings. This isn’t quite right, firs and foremost is the use of teal within the helmet. Without that color the sunset pallet idea would work. Then theres the red highlights that are more suggestive of a nightclub than anything else; maybe an ambulance or police car, but those would probably clash with figures demeanor. The way the figure is positioned is more of what you’d expect of someone sitting on a step than floating through space; the house slippers kind of add to this idea and would suggest the space setting is more metaphorical for the figures current emotional and/or psychological state.

What does floating in space or being submerged in water and then indifferent mean and is there a difference in how we think we’d experience them? The water is the helmet and its coloration, while space is obviously the background. Space may be said to be more “empty” or “isolated”, whereas water might be said to be more “insulated”. One can’t initially see this image and pedantically ponder this immediately because of three other elements: The escaping air, The ring of light, and the weird fog in the background of the circle. The air is almost a liquid, it’s in a cutesy style that is a bit incongruous with the rest of the work; This may suggest youth, or femininity, or just be a purely decorative element. It’s hard to render a gas leak in an image and this may have just been GDBee’s best guess at a solution. The light ring is almost certainly decorative; it adds dynamism to the image and is reminiscent of the Nasa Logo, but probably shouldn’t be read as having an interaction with the figure. Lastly there is the haze, which is honestly a bit baffling. It doesn’t seem to be glitch, it isn’t the right shapes or color for atmosphere, but perhaps the red hides the white lines that were originally the steps the figure was suppose to be on… In any case, the silhouette of the figure, of the circle work great; this is a remarkably well done piece with a strong enigmatic mood to it.


Design by: GDBee
Price:  $13.00 @ Teepublic
Colors: Black, White, Grey, Light Blue, Pink

The Pipe

The Pipe


Generally speaking when it comes to apparel, pop culture mashups tend to be lazy garbage. Most of the time there is no rhyme or reason for the cross pollination; what does Abbey Rd, Demon Days, or Bohemian Rhapsody have to do with Sith Lords? Sometimes “artist” will go a little further and change the style of characters in adapting them to unsuitable/ unrelated content such as when an artist portray Rick and Morty in the style of Calvin and Hobbes while crossing the river in one of the ladder series most iconic images. These types of mash ups add and suggest nothing thematically or artistically; They’re just lazy. They must work though because sites like teefury essentially run on them.

This image is different. Mario is famous for reinventing, or reframing its characters. Officially Mario has had 7 jobs; unofficially the number is somewhere around 26. This is a very adaptable IPO. Mario has already done horror via “Luigi’s Mansion”. Could you then merge “The Ring” with Mario? Absolutely. It’s an interesting idea and might actually be a good solution if you wanted to make a second attempt at live action, because let’s face it, goombas aren’t going to work outside of a cartoon world. Ghost peach and murder though, that’d be interesting. The fact that it’s a gameboy sets you up for a child vs monster, “It” scenario. The image works because there’s actually an interesting idea and therefore a reason behind the merger.

Design by: Naolita
Price:  $22.00 @ Teefury
Colors: Black, Navy, Grey

Cat and Raven

Cat and Raven

It’s just a figure- two figures why highlight such a design? How many pieces of apparel do Hello Kitty, Pikachu, or Mario appear on? They all stand for different things and all are symbols of a much larger framework, but they all can stand alone, if perhaps in a diminished stature. If one sees an image and decides that it could potentially serve as the vanguard for an expansive IPO why not take note?

The interesting thing about this image is the similarity one can see between the head of the cat and those of ‘Funko Pops’. Those figurines though are static and lifeless; just because the primary element of a figure is blocky doesn’t mean that the figure in totality need be. The cat doesn’t fit in that universe, but the influence is clear. A minimal and dreamy place can be gleaned through the suggestion of the shape and its rounder corners and lines. There’s something dreamy and minimal about it. How the bullet shaded “raven”, that looks more like one of those- symbiotic alligator birds, is hard to say.

Sometimes an art style is enough to suggest a narrative. When combined with apparel the image, and the hinted at narrative is enough to suggest a certain disposition on the part of the wearer. This image feels: curious in a conflicted way; both naive and sophisticated, minimal and calm in a potentially messy and violent way. It’s ‘Spirited Away’ but in the future as represented in our more modern times.

Design by: Freeminds
Price:  $22.00 @ Teefury
Colors: Grey, Black, Blue, Navy

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

Bunny of Leaves

Bunny of Leaves

In the same way the embroidery tattoo trend of a couple of years back caught peoples attention this image’s idiosyncratic use, or illusion of material on an unsuited canvas is captivating. There’s always the question of how and why certain animals are anthropomorphized in the way that they are; A fox, perhaps because of the similarity in hues to that of autumn leaves would seem to be the obvious choice for this composition. Is the grey mold, should we take the shapes to be comprised of a man made material merely mirroring nature. The dead eyes and whiskers might suggest that. The eye’s realistically aren’t merely dead, they aren’t blended and don’t interact with the form. The eyes almost feel like Pareidolia made evident. It’s as if the artist saw it and is here sharing the experience. Nothing this perfect it likely to be found and that’s without the unnatural coloring that takes sometime to actually appreciate. The image is an assemblage of leaves, but there aren’t bits and scraps lying around a digital space. The intrusion of the unnatural elements (the eyes and whiskers) might then suggest that we neither see or appreciate icons, archetypes, symbols, within nature. It is only through the reshuffling and manipulation, through the re-contextualization of our devices that we can see, and fail to recognize meaning in our environment.

Design by: NemiMakeit
Price:  $22.00 @ DesignbyHumans
Colors: White, Navy, Blue, Black, Grey

Speed is Relative

Speed is Relative

Fuck yeah! Can this please exist in reality and it does really needs to. If a bear, a lion, and a tiger, can be besties why not a tortoise and a sloth? It’s hard to imagine a symbiotic relationship between these two species, because it seems like the sloth would just get a free ride, but the quiet, serene contemplation that the image seems to represent needs to exist. The image does well in that the color scheme is consistent and the image itself possesses enough novelty to make it worth one’s attention. The wearer might identify with the “turtle and the hare allegory”, (yes, this is a tortoise, but still) or it might be the meditative, chilled out posture of the sloth. In a world of social media, and ever fragmenting attention there’s something nice, maybe noble, about creatures that enjoy a slower pace of life. Has the Dalai Lhama condemned social media, or is he a willing participant? Nevermind, and fuck that. This shirt is worth highlighting because the idea of slowing down and deliberate action is something that is steadily being eroded away in modern times. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not, but the older way of life certainly still has value and might inform our decisions and our views moving forward; that is what this design seems to represent.

Design by: MUsarter3D
Price:  $25.00 @ Designbyhumans
Colors: Black, White, Grey, Light Blue

Mouse Explosion Cheese

Mouse Explosion Cheese

Packaging and character design are two criminally under appreciated forms of art, but if one were going to make a vinyl figure out of this character they wouldn’t have to do much of anything to use this image for the box. The character design is interesting, if admittedly a little impractical looking. The fashion design is certainly unique; somewhere between medieval armor, cybergoth, and 90’s rave wear. Ren Wei Pan seems to have developed a whole series of these anime pinup girls in animal themed costumes. With a little bit of world building there’d probably be an interesting story.

The reason ‘Mouse Cheese Explosion” was chosen as oppose to the 10-15 others in her store is that of all of them this was probably the least risqué. In thinking about that one might ask why it is that men generally wont wear shirts with hot, naked to semi-naked, women on them, but they will and regularly do get tattoos of naked women. Perhaps it’s that they can be covered up in most instances./? There also doesn’t seem to be this hesitation of female nudity on shirts for women themselves, though it’s admittedly not super common. With enough artistic merit, as is the case here, maybe it wouldn’t matter in any case.

Design by: Ren Wei
Price:  $20.00 @ Teepublic
Colors: Black, White, Grey, Red, Pink, Green, Purple, Blue, Light Blue

Someone Loves Me

Someone Loves Me


Kraaaaaaaaaaaang!!! Since Nolan’s Batman hit there’s been this drive towards realism within cinematic adaptations of comic books, which is all fine and good; the Adam West era of comic book depictions just wasn’t going to fly in these our modern times. There is something to be said, something of value contained within the exaggerated/ stylized, and surreal depiction of comic book characters that was there in the 90’s. Heath Ledger’s Joker, Tyler Durden, while perhaps representations of toxic masculinity are powerful examples of how outlandish characters could subjugate realism and thereby become iconic by personifying certain archetypes, but it wasn’t tell ‘Suicide Squad’ and Harley Quinn, train wrecks that these movies were, that you got to see outlandish style in both character and in form. The 90’s era of cartoons, the era that this design references was a time of caricature, but not out of laziness. The characters ‘Rock Steady’ and ‘Bebop’ were the creators trying to point people towards culture… and sell an imperial buttload of toys. There’s none of that in the Michael Bay adaptations, because Michael Bay is a a fundamentally a mouth breathing philistine. What you may ask does any of this have to do with this design?

This design references a time when superheroes, supervillains were too fantastical to exist in reality. There were the powers, but there was also the style. Somewhere between the aesthetic sensibilities of WWE and Devo, Krang and his automaton exist and really should be f#$%king things up; that level of style, energy, knowledge or nostalgia ought to be harnessed in modern animation. This design is somewhere between blueprint, cutout, and 90’s in substance and early 60’s in style and references a bygone sensibility in which more things were possible.

Design by: Yema Yema
Price:  $22.00 @ Teefury
Colors: Purple, Black, Grey, Navy

There’s Always Light

There’s Always Light

There are a lot of amazing digital artists that do well in terms of the old rectangular canvas format, with the rise of NFT’s the art form is really starting to get the recognition is deserves within that framework, but apparel design is something else. Sites like Society6 are primarily art print site, which means that they don’t ask people to modify works before trying to sell them as apparel; This is a huge mistake and it undermines the quality of the work as large rectangles are ill suited to the human body, male or female. Ninjajo is someone who seems to understand that the format should inform the design. ‘Theres Always Light’ could clearly fit and work within the rectangular format, but in adapting it to apparel and cutting out the rectangular framing he achieves a design that compliments the human form.

The design is much more nuanced than would be expected upon first glance. The rendering in painterly, with large swaths of color suggesting an application via pallet knife rather than brush. Even with the circle’s gradient, there is so much texture and sectioning; From a distance it might look lazy in the way that digital tools have come to allow artists to be, but it isn’t. Look closely and you can see the attention to detail in this background, this framing device. There are hours of work in this shape that most artist would just phone in. The silhouette of the shape is great. The weird 80’s call back swooshes with the halftone on the back are amazing, even if incongruous to a certain extent.

What’s nice about the image is that it seems to fall within the gritty realism camp of scifi speculation; things like ‘District 9’, or ‘Mad Max’. For all the millions- billions of dollars that go into Nasa, the rovers, are future in terms of space exploration look more like souped up erector sets then the space age sleekness that companies like Ferrari or Apple try to inspire within their designs. It’s nice that the wires are coming out the back of this design. It seems to imply a grittiness, a struggle, that adds weight and realism to the image.

Lastly and somewhat of a personal indulgence is the potential conversation starter that this image represents, Namely: In a distant future we may have the option of being uploaded into the cloud, downloaded into robotics, augmented by machines, or have the option of living forever in biologically human forms and which will people want. It’s an interesting question and each method has its merits. The image is great in that it subtly speaks to a future that we all know isn’t going to be as neat and tidy as our current media wants to portray.

Design by: NinjaJo
Price:  $21.55 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White, Grey, Maroon

Electric Street

Electric Street

Technical drawings are suppose to be precise in a way that precludes the expression of human emotion. This Design certainly has the precision, but still there is a definite and underlying expression. Looking at infrastructure, where the plan meets reality, in our daily lives and overtime the reality of existence slowly carves its way into the best of municipal intention.

This design doesn’t entertain the march of time ; there’s a definite feel to the piece, but it isn’t one of wear and tear. The electrical wires, the portrayal of the underlying infrastructure beneath the substrata boldly states the turmoil and chaos of modern existence. The shapes at the bottom are almost a sickly oil as violence seeping into the earth. Historically the slums of cities were placed downwind so that the rich didn’t have to live in the shadow of the byproducts of their wealth. This image is the spot. It’s where the underbelly of progress lay sick and noble in its complexity. Nowadays we don’t even see this.

The dehumanizing tendrils of industry are all tucked away within the urban landscapes. It’s left to the scale of our buildings now, clean monoliths, edifices of glass and granite to imply we feel nothing because everything is smooth to the touch and easy on the eye. In the past the jumbled electrical lines, these signs of industry might have led us to feel indignant, mystified by the forces that governed our lives. All of that is hidden now; We can’t see the chaos, we can only see the towers and exist within their shadows.

Design by: NinjaJo
Price:  $12.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Grey, White

Mickey Skull

Mickey Skull

It’s easy to turn an icon and make a decent image. Often the familiarity of the subject is enough to coast in terms of style, detail, artistic merit. Mickey and Marilyn have been favorites for a while. There is after all the whole “low-brow” art movement, not pioneered, but perhaps best exemplified by Ron English. When viewing an original artwork that incorporates pop culture, or perhaps more accurately, subjects that might be deemed as ‘Modern Iconography’ a certain degree of skepticism should be deployed, because it’s a shortcut that can hide a lack of originality. The question then is whether or not this image feels lazy or underdeveloped. The honest answer is: a bit. Not enough to disqualify it, but there are bits and pieces among the good ideas within the piece that should give a viewer pause.

The main issues within this design are: the guide lines of the face and hands and the drips on the bottom of the figure. The horizontal guidelines on the face are not round enough to suggest a sphere. While these would work, and probably were used to draw the face, if you’re going to leave them in then the artist should choose to refine them in a way that makes them more visually impactful. The Lines on the hands don’t seem like they were used for anything; rather, they seem like they were added to make the guide lines on the face make sense. What would those lines on the hands actually be used for? Yes they both connect to the center of the second finger but that wouldn’t actually help. Lastly there’s the drips at the bottom of the image. It’s difficult to create that ghostly incorporeal appearance without blending, but at the same time one must alway be weary of ‘mind in the gutter’ interpretations of shapes and forms. It takes long enough to notice the flaccid silhouette that the design still works, but it is there.

The decision to elongate the skull and remove the lower mandible was smart. For whatever reason the elongation of form somehow is always ghoulish. The inclusion of the dollar sign may at first seem like low hanging fruit, but there’s something very “Hank Rearden’s cigarettes” that goes past capitalism and enters the desiccation planes of libertarian ideas for some reason, which makes it interesting. The signature button is a nice touch; sometimes you gotta respect cockiness. It does work as a stylistic element within the piece. What the hand gestures mean is hard to say; visually they seem to help in establishing a column going up off the body, and curves the ears going down into a spike; authority and violence by way of corporate hegemony within the artistic field.

Design by: JocBox
Price:  $12.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Grey

Colorful Architect

Colorful Architect

There’s something to be said for simplicity. While the Bauhaus Movement generally gets its due in the world of furniture, architecture, and luxury items such as watches and apple products; within the wold of graphic tees it is severely underrepresented. Of all the artistic movements within wester canon Art Nouveau in general, and Alphonse Mucha in particular, receives the lions share of imitators.

The hallmarks of Bauhaus are a streamlined simplicity with a focus on utility, craftsmanship, and ease of mass production. The lego bricks within the design, and as a product in general, are in keeping with its credo. The CYM + black pallet speaks of modernity in a way that Mondrian couldn’t have foreseen and will now never capture with his pallet of black, white, red, yellow, and blue. Much like the image suggests CYM is the foundation of print and packaging. It’s odd, upon reflection that no one has thought to update Mondrian’s Neo-Plastacisist works. Lastly there is what the brick will be if they do in fact fall into place, which is a shape that calls to mind a piece of architecture that those of the bauhaus might approve of, or at least begin with in planning a structure. The design is a tribute. What makes it’s interesting is how subtle it is for such a bold design.

Design by: Bacht
Price:  $25.00 @ Designbyhumans
Colors: Black, White, Light Grey, Light Blue

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