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

Bleeding Heart Colors

Bleeding Heart Colors

To work with a cliche generally means that an artist is either exceedingly confident or ignorant. In our times of bathos to risk the sincerity and shorthand of hearts and eyes is to risk one’s reputation. Cliches within art and design represent a hill, a mountain of mediocrity and sentiment one has to push a boulder (of taste and craft) up in order to traverse. The use of visual shorthand that hearts and the human eye represent risks undermining any design regardless of how masterful the execution, which is why it is so impressive when someone finally manages to do it.

This design doesn’t seem to come from nowhere however. Daft Punk has already dawned black outfits for a decade while using colored LED’s in their helmets. Their look was that of sophistication and fun, which this design seems to want to emulate. The shading of the heart is well done and would have to be. While wearing a heart is difficult to pull off, the use of a black heart should want to suggest something else about the wearer then what this design actually achieves.There is no angst in this image. By subverting the black heart trope the artist actually manages to use it as a stepping stone to further the impact of the design.

The image would still function if it were nothing but red bleeding from the heart, but by using CYM in the pallet, the artist manages to both suggest club going, as well as graphic design knowledge for the wearer. The image is toned down, it’s handling subtle and nuanced where something more overt would clash with the force of the trope. Not every item in an outfit can be a statement piece. The artist seems to have had this in mind when designing this work and managed to make it work.

Design by: Tobe Fonseca
Price:  $25.00 @ RiptApparel
Colors: Black, Dark Grey, Navy, Red

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

Modern Lotus

Modern Lotus

Perhaps pcb boards are a little outmoded at this point; yes we still use and rely upon them, but in the era of computer chips and nano technology that allow electronics to be infinitesimally compact they feel less and less relevant. ‘Modern Lotus’ points to that connection between pcb and art deco. A connection that was never truly made within the artistic community. They both relied upon geometry, simplicity, and both interacted with negative space in similar ways.

This design seems to join a bygone aesthetic of the the 1920’s with a modern, technical, and perhaps spiritual inclination of minimalism of ‘less is more’ within contemporary society. The design isn’t minimalist in itself, rather the design, however complex and through gilded and technological reference, points to complexity beneath the surface. It is both western decadence in form and (through the eastern symbolism surrounding the lotus) simplicity in aspiration.

One can read into what they want as far as Globalization, or eastern manufacturing for western consumption. The image is strong enough to stand independent of all that. It would be surprising in fact if the artist thought that far, as more often than not it is the critic not the artist that thinks in terms of meaning when approaching a work of art; still, there’s plenty to think and feel about this design if one can find the thread.

Design by: ecologyink
Price:  $22.38 @ Designbyhumans
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

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

Daisy

Daisy

The power of this image is in the ambiguity that this art style lends to the subject. Though the image was probably made digitally it is very reminiscent of a certain method of spray painting that, seems to not have a name, and is done on paper and involves stencils, fire (sometimes), and the texturing and manipulation of the paint while it’s still wet.

The stile is well suited to the subject matter; how things are rendered providing hints as to how the creators or perhaps the viewer is suppose to feel about the various components of the image: the bomb has a very clear outline and no depth, it’s impactful and unambiguous, The plants seem represented in the negative, and cut into the ground in an unnatural way, but upon leaving the ground they become diaphanous and calm; The little girl framed by the sun- maybe the moon, is indistinct in a way that adds a nice ambiguity; is it danger, a memory, nostalgia that is there; lastly the bubbles, sharper in their rendering than the bomb itself, maybe the idea is that that is what we’re suppose to keep; but the question then is what does that mean about how the scene ended.

Design by: dandingeroz and dzeri29
Price:  $22.40 @ Threadless
Colors: Black