This image is exceedingly meta for those in the know. The image isn’t really a celebration of Harrison Ford or anyone of the three franchises his various images reference. It’s pure pop. The design is three reference on top of a reference on top of another reference. Besides the three IP’s there’s Andy Warhol and the silk screen he made from a movie still of Elvis pointing his gun (“Triple Elvis“). This movie still itself is from a film called “Flaming Star“.
The inclusion of some of the smudges surrounding the figure is and interesting choice. The smudges aren’t exactly faithful to the original screen print. The fact that they’re identical instead of unique suggests that while the artist’s wanted to highlight the pedigree of the work he wasn’t paying attention to the nature of the processes that made up that work. These smudges would have been accidental and as such non-uniform within the silk screening process. The restraint in color pallet and the color blocking are generally well done, but the edges of the figures make the figures feel a bit flat. The flatness of the images suggesting block print rather than that of screen. One of the more clever aspects of the work is the fact that the guns are smudged in order to make the designs more uniform. Most of this is just nitpicking in any case. The image is strong and non-descript. There are multiple layers of reference besides the gun equals virility component that Warhol was channeling in the initial work.
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.
Normally if you see enough references or touchstones of a genre/ an era you can predict exactly who a work like this will appeal to. This work is all over the place in its use of symbolism, but in a coherent way that seems to suggest a multi-generational style. The way children take on some of the touchstones of their parents youth: the records they hear at home as kids and continue liking as adults, some fashion their parents refused to give up and they later find themselves liking; this image sort of has that vibe to it. There’s something 50’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s about the imagery all within a sand and ocean, maybe, tropical, sort of context.
The oldest thing within the piece is the shriner’s fez. The octopus and a burger would have been equally at home within the 50’s context and in later generations. The line work feels very 60’s/ 70’s with its various widths render making the image look a bit squiggly. While the colors could be either 70’s or 90’s the female figure, and the boom box are pure 80’s. The vehicle itself give the overall piece somewhat of a Tank Girl Vibe (90’s). The most current and incongruent aspect of the entire work is actually the panda which is definitely more 2010’s. This design ultimately seems to function in the same way that the decor of most of our homes, at least while young and single will: eclectic, chaotic, but somehow unified. The design feels like an intriguing encapsulation of both personal taste and experience.
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.
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.
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.
While puns are said to be the lowest form of humor, the visual pun is at least better than the lazy pop-culture mashup that prevails in the world of graphic tees and has any number of websites dedicated solely to those designs e.g. Bohemian Rhapsody meets star wars, Abbey Road meets Dr Who. Most Visual pun shirts rely on text, or feature a cartoons who’s simplicity in form may be taken as either an apology for, or conspiratorial wink by the wearer for the banality of the joke. In short, most pun shirts lack any artistic value.
Unlike most designs that feature a pun, the one found here is not the whole of the composition. You could remove the mouse and the blood and still have a strong design. The mouse, the red, and the pun are more the finishing element of the piece. The cat has been rendered extremely well, so well in fact that it adds humor to the joke. The eyes being the same color as the moon is a subtle detail and a nice touch. Overall there is something- lupine or old-monster-movie about the image; even without the blood. The shirt, while probably not to everyone’s taste is great in that it takes something “low brow” and makes it seem sophisticated.
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.
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.
The Show ‘Cowboy Bebop’ does not suffer a lack of good t-shirt designs. One of the hallmarks of the show was the way in which it blended genres and styles such as noire, scifi, westerns, or jazz. Over the years this genre bending has proven fertile ground for designers and Cowboy Bebop provides artists a lot to work with. Of all the shirt designs I’ve seen ‘3-2-1- Let’s Jam’ has always been my favorite.
Compositionally this work Reminds me a lot of the movie posters done by Drew Struzan [Blade Runner, Indiana Jones, The Empire Strikes Back] with its stacked figures and distortion of scale. This makes sense as the poster would have preceded the shirt, and likely would have been influenced by the history and nature of that media, but it’s surprising just how well most of Iaccarino’s poster designs translate to t-shirts. Those who use the rectangle of their canvas, by cropping specific elements for the purpose of creating balance within the composition, as is done here, will struggle along the borders of their work when it is transferred to apparel. Thankfully Iaccarino has chosen to avoid what is, in my opinion, the cardinal sin, of slapping a large rectangle on this shirt. This never looks good and I don’t know why anyone does it. Through the use of shrewd editing has managed to avoid this pitfall, and the silhouette of the design is very strong.
In terms of color, the design utilizes that pared down palette that seems to be in fashion with the ‘limited edition movie poster‘ set. The palette while perhaps being a little closer to cyberpunk in its saturation comes across as more of a personal take on the show’s ‘space noir’ art style then a perfectly faithful reproduction.
So what the hell is “Showa“? Apparently its a period in Japanese history that spanned 1926-1989 and was marked by the reign of Emperor Hirohito. As westerners, the significance and nuance of this demarcation might be lost. The militarization, the post war occupation, and the ultimate rebuilding of Japanese society and its economy into one of the world’s great superpowers seems like it ought to be one of the more, if not the most, turbulent times within the countries history. These figures, beginning with Godzilla and steadily multiplying, the Kaiju were an allegory for the destruction of the nuclear bombs that devastated the country alongside more conventional horrors and ordinances unleashed by America. The unnatural mutated forms that the kaiju represented were perhaps the beginning of a cultural dominance that Japan. While Japan’s soft power game at the government level might be no better no worse than any other nation, the infiltration of Japanese culture, art, and sensibilities into western culture is second to none. Japan like any other nation has a rich history, but the modern adaptation and their proliferation- no one does it better. This design, the stylized celebration of Japanese innovation works so well, because it points to the creativity and adaptability that exist within the Japanese market. One can only wish that America or any other country could be so adaptable and experimental.