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

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

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

Not a God

Not a God

Even with the teeth, even before the ‘thematic’ conventions of hentai entered the public consciousness, long tubular forms are difficult to render without inadvertently suggesting something- suggestive. You add brown as a color to the mix and that’s another avenue of debauchery; upon reflection, the inclusion of a rainbow within the context of either could be construed as yet another layer. This design is amazing. It’s graphic horror, then perversion, and neither all at once.

The image is so well executed. The metallic texture, the ambient light and shadow are masterfully done. Having three heads on one side and two on the other should leave the image feeling lopsided but it doesn’t. The inclusion of a dodecahedron possessing an all seeing eye ads intrigue. Is the rainbow zero, the snakes five, the eye twelve, with the base forming an infinity symbol; who knows? The interplay of the rainbow, monsters, and eye is excellent in establishing conflicting tones within the work. The rainbow is fun and innocence, the snakes brutality and violence, and the eye solemnity. You look at the form and question whether it’s rising, falling, or stationary. The design does well in establishing tension and uncertainty. Is the rainbow really a halo? Between the possible halo, numerology, the ‘all seeing eye’, and the vaguely seraphim-esque imagery is this suppose to seem religious, or just like a mass of phallic shapes? The word ‘ecstasy’ would work in either case.

Design by: witnesstheabsurd
Price:  $22.38 @ Teepublic
Colors: Black, White, Light Blue, Pink

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

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

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