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Isometric views are a great way to get around the cropping issues when depicting a scene for apparel or print in general. You’ve got to cut the image off somewhere. This image feels like you’ve just been handed a sci-fi horror slice of cake featuring the focal point, the piece of honor for the whole desert. The use of color even feels sumptuous. The image is modern and retro and feels as though it touches on a number of decades through either form, style, or color.

Firstly there’s the space suit and ship, which is more or less in line with what was worn upon the original moon landing (60’s). There’s the isometric view (80’s). While the evil eye and body horror element is ancient, this depiction feels very early 2000’s (“Hellsing”, “Adventure Time”). The design for the glittering stars and the shading for the mist is more contemporary in feel; it’s somewhat reminiscent of the work of Mike Perry a las “Broad City”. The color pallet itself puts the work somewhere between the early oughts and now.

In looking through the various shirt websites one begins to see a lot of astronaut based images. Astronauts on skateboards, texting, playing basketball or guitar, astronaut skeletons floating through space. There have been enough of these images over the last two to three years to suggest that there is something about them that speaks to the times we are living in; pre, during, and maybe even post Corona. Is it the emptiness of space, the uncertainty, perhaps a future where more things are possible. The space suit is an interesting metaphor in that it is safe and contained and made for an environment wholly inhospitable to human existence. Regardless of what archetypal role, currently unspoken, the astronaut represents within the modern psyche, there’s no denying that it is aesthetically pleasing and represents fertile ground in the thematic sense.

Design by: MadCobra
Price:  $28.22 @ Redbubble
Colors: White, Dark Grey, Blue

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

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

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

Déjà Vu

Déjà Vu

Apparel as a canvas is generally ill suited to realistic representation. Designs typically get lost as a distance and through repeated washings so that blockier prints tend to fair better. The use of a circle as framing device solves both the issue of legibility and longevity for this design. The expressionist use of color renders the design more distinct and permanent.

As a design, ‘Deja vu’ is unusual in that it manages to be “futuristic” without resorting to the tropes of either subject (or more impressively) palette that would instantaneously establish it as a futuristic piece. The absence of neon and grit, means that this is a piece that eschews contemporary shorthand. Scifi and Dystopia more or less exist in a fog and after dark; this is a design that exists in sunrise or sunset. The design offers to expand the scope of when are thoughts of the future might exist. For that reason, for a sort of fauvist perversion of futurism this image and artist are, or should be significant.

Design by: Mario Sánchez Nevado
Price:  $22.38 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White, Grey

Vectogram

Vectogram

Normally when you think ‘less is more’ in a design you think about the extreme end of simplicity e.g. Geometric abstraction of minimalism. This Design does well in that it’s minimal in both the compositional and detailed sense without you realizing it.

At the macro level the composition works because the artists broke the rectangle until the bottom edge remained intact, and that has a fade so that you don’t even really see it. There is the figure, and while the background serves to balance the image, it doesn’t draw attention to itself. The painting style is emotive in its large and choppy brushstrokes and add power to the scene. Finally there is “shadowrunner”, honestly not sure if that’s suppose to be anything else than one of the artists names; it’s such an ambiguous, and yet appropriate title for this design that it somehow works/ doesn’t detract from the design.

What the image is or is suppose to mean is hard to say. The use of pink as opposed to red or green can generally be associated with something more on the Sf and cybernetic end of the fiction spectrum rather than magic or fantasy. The tattoo seems to add to that idea. This is however not a design that seems to demand a narrative; rather, it seems like an image that can stand on its own or lend itself out to a larger body of work.

Design by: Ninjajo and shadowrunner82
Price:  $24.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Black

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

The Bait

The Bait

‘The bait’ works fine as a larger, more abstract shape, but it’s the closer inspection that reveals the power of the image. The question is whether the ugliness of history, and perhaps of modern life, might continue into the future. When you think of the future do you think things as being clean, almost sterile as is sometimes/ often represented within science fiction?

You must know that no matter the reassuring minimalism of the presentation, the interface of the space, or devices we use, today and in all probability into the future, there is something grittier, more primal, and inequitable behind these smooth surfaces. ‘The Bait’ isn’t just an image that lays the cables bear in its portrayals of one of humanities potential futures; the hanging figure is just as explicit in its portrayal of what might lay behind a more technologically advanced future in which we try and free ourselves from the mundane concerns of how we live. Imagery like this is important, because although most people in the “developed world” at least, live better than royalty of a few centuries prior, it shouldn’t be taken for granted that comfort means equity, or respect for human life, now or into the future.

Design: by: NinjaJo
Price:  $22.40@ Threadless
Colors: White

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