Best Pirates

Best Pirates

Pirates or the pirate theme isn’t as trendy now as it used to be. Maybe that’s just the passing of the Caribbean franchise, who knows, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the archetype isn’t still fertile ground as is proven by the artistic merits contained within this design; granted, one can’t see this design and fail to note the influence of “We Bare Bears” on the overall composition, a detail which does imbue the design with a certain level of modernity. The whimsy inherent in the choice of characters, the subtle details that add personality to each figure all culminate in a sense of not just motion, but of an enticing still frame of a narrative that the viewer is left to contemplate.

The art style is unique, sort of “negative paintings one might associate with ancient greek pottery”. This would be a relatively unique style for the animated narrative the design seems to suggest. The image seems to perfectly straddle the line between childish roundishness a la pixar, and more angular forms one might associate with more adult animation. In looking over the portfolio of Obinsun, one can clearly see an artist well suited for children’s book illustrations; most of their work seems to suggest a narrative and act as furtive ground for one’s imagination. The style is somewhat reminiscent of “Emily the Strange” or “Neurotically Yours“. If you’re a fan of non-sense, randomness, or flights of fancy this may just be the shirt for you.

Design by: Obinsun
Price:  $21.55 @ Redbubble
Colors: Light Blue, Red, Yellow, Purple, Orange

Crystal Seer

Crystal Seer

The whole kawaii ghoul look seems to be in vogue at the moment. This design is very much in keeping with this american animation style and wouldn’t look particularly out of place in shows like: “Adventure Time”, “Kipo”, “Rick and Morty”, or “Midnight Gospel”. Everything from the skull, to the floating form, to the fangs, and above all else the double face of the figure, a subtle wink to the proclivity of drug users towards children’s shows, is in perfect step with the zeitgeist. The double face also serving to highlight the anger, via the fangs, and the dumbfounded expression (the smaller mouth) with which young people feel as they face the void of modern life.

Whether this is a look a sort of convention that will become outmoded remains to be seen, but for now it’s going strong. One thing that is unique about the image is the color pallet. vaporwave seems to sort of have the market cornered on pastels, but pastel goth as an aesthetic has a lot of potential, just no clear champion at the moment. Brando Chiesa always comes to mind, but he doesn’t have the reach. Crystals/ geodes also are also a motif that seems to have gained in popularity in culture and goth culture in particular over the past few years. Not sure if that’s just “Steven Universe” or if there’s something else to that. The image works well, although more detail couldn’t have hurt. Still it’s a good shape/ design, in keeping with the times, and just ambiguous enough to say something without saying it loud enough to paint the wearer into a corner; for that reason we recommend the design.

Design by: Obinsun
Price:  $25.20 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White, Maroon, Red, Blue, Green, Purple

Lotus

Lotus

The fusion of religious imagery is tricky because one always runs the risk of incurring the crystal/ hemp/ patchouli oil stigma of new age naiveté with the introduction of one to many symbols. This design seems to pull it off while coming dangerously close to falling apart aesthetically and thematically.

A lot of bands will play with religious imagery, few have the depth to pull it off sonically. One good example that was the band Godspeed You Black Emperor who’s post-rock and ambient sound produced a certain tone that this work seems to be trying to hit i.e dark and expansive. Their long time artist collaborator Okkervil River did a cover for their album “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven” that somehow feels very similar to this work. This image isn’t necessarily trying to say anything, it’s more of a mood piece. The black is heavy and contains grit, whereas the white outer circle is more incorporeal if not kinetic. There’s the natural form of the flower agains the geometry of the dome, or its beauty against the threat posed by the snake. It seems like a small miracle that the whole thing doesn’t come across as a sperm when one looks at the silhouette, but somehow it pulls it off.

The image is balanced and off balance; it’s like you looked at a picture of an explosion, you could be forgiven for thinking it had an exact shape. The religious imagery here is also ambiguous, or possibly illusory. The Lotus could be Buddhism, Hinduism, or neither. The crescent could be Pagan/ Wiccan, Islamic, or mundane; the fact that it is waxing (curve to the left) instead of waning (to the right) points to it being secular. It seems as though every religion has something with snakes, but maybe not. This image narrowly misses any number of things, and emerging from a contextual minefield of religious and cultural associations its all the more impressive for having thread the needle.

Design by: Hector Mansilla
Price:  $19.90 @ Redbubble
Colors: Blue, Light Blue, Red, Green, Maroon, Yellow, Purple, Orange

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

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

Synchronize

Synchronize

Sometimes we choose a design based purely on aesthetics, sometimes it’s more the affiliation (I’m a fan of x), but other times a design can be aesthetically pleasing and simultaneously unassuming or ambiguous in a way that invites conversation without forcing the wearer to pledge any loyalty. This design has multiple elements going for it. Within this design our elements pertaining to: mid-century modern patterns, the ‘minimalist art style’ of popular video games and cartoons, science fiction, art history, and sacred geometry; That’s a lot of contextual heft for a design that at first glance would merely seem decorative.

Upon first viewing this pattern one might think of the Jetsons. There’s a definite space age/ early 60’s vibe to the design; but why? The answer is the lack of outlines as well as the space theme. while the block colors is within the realms of cartoons, no cartoon of the era was done without outlines. Today this style is called “minimalist art style”. This style can be seen in everything from ‘Samurai Jack‘ to video games such as ‘Journey’ or ‘Thomas was Alone’. While you don’t see it in the animation of the late 50’s, early 60’s, you will see it in the prints and patterns of the era.

It’s unfortunate that this style seems to have been saddled with the ‘minimalist’ moniker as minimalism, within the American context, will generally be though of in terms of: a pretentious modern art movement, zen buddhism, and Japanese interior design; all of which are completely unrelated to the works being done in contemporary animation. A better term would be ‘Cutout’ as in cutout paper, such as those done by Matisse in the the 40’s, and those works in the same tradition that now fall under the label of ‘paper craft’ within the context of fine art today.

More than anything the celestial form seems reminiscent of the art style contained within the classic scifi film ‘fantastic planet‘. The airbrushed detail at the top sets it apart from most of mid-century art. The inclusion of a mandala or random piece of sacred geometry enhances the uniqueness of the piece for its incongruity. Why the juxtaposition is hard to say. The two images work together aesthetically, but the underlying meanings of the association is a bit vexing. If you are a fan of scifi (‘SF’ is supposedly the term that distinguishes the noob from true fans, but…) , animation, mid-century whatever, or sacred non-sense this might just be the shirt for you.

Design by: Evan_Luza
Price:  $12.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Black, Dark Grey, Maroon, red, Navy, Blue, Purple

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

Nomad

Nomad

scifi dystopian shirt purple

Nomad‘ as a design is masterful in its ability to tease a narrative and instantly establish tone.

The desolation most would associate with a camel ride through the desert is offset by the whimsy of the dirigible camera, the playfulness and incongruity of an air freshener dangling from the rider’s parasol. Her expression is that of determination amidst a dystopian future. The saturated early evening palette, and the novelty of her companions taken with the context of the image seemingly suggests a rich and beautiful life of struggle.

The silhouette is interesting and works as a standalone image, but also adapts well to apparel. The Color scheme is limited, well coordinated, and provides an abundance of detail.

Designed By: ElinJ
Best colors: Purple and Yellow || Also: red, and neutrals.
Cost: $19.99 @ Redbubble