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

Vampire

Vampire

This image seems pretty straight forward. You see the fangs, and the fangs, and the skull without a lower jaw and you think ‘metal’. It’s a reasonable assumption, but there are elements that push it- if not outside the genre, than to opposite corners, its subcategories and their individual stylistic elements. Within Here you can see Black Metal, Goth Metal, perhaps Rockabilly, certainly horror punk. Sometimes these differences in sound or art style are subtle other times they’re more pronounced.

The Skull is the most obvious ‘metal’ element within the image, but it’s the texturing that really makes this feel like a ‘metal’ shirt. The line work and shading on the women though is more- manga than anything. The form itself is pinup, hence the rockabilly/ horror punk suggestion. The fact that the crescent moon is stamped on the image that contoured to the form is interesting; as is the fact that the moon is waning rather that waxing. This might be because Westerners, at least, seem to like objects to point right instead of left within compositions. Whether this is true in Russia (where they instead write right to left) is uncertain.

The lip bight is one of the more enigmatic elements of the image. Is it for the skull or for someone something else that the women is looking are way for. The rectangle here works because it is horizontal instead of vertical, which allows the former to succeed where the ladder nearly always fails. Past that the shape actually adds interest to scene. It’s a bit of a fourth wall break, because it forces us to ask “how are we seeing this and through what”. Is it a tv, a mirror, a window, it’s hard to say. It’s hard to find a design that’s both dark and post-modern.


Design by: Tony_kei
Price:  $20.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Black

Ghost

Ghost

The synthesis here of Hollywood Glamour via a photo of Lauren Becall, and the deployment of Body Horror is inspired. Why isn’t this a film? Among the tinfoil hat communities of the internet there’s all this talk of Lizard people running around and pulling the strings; why not take that idea and place it in the romanticized and glamorous context of prewar Hollywood? Familiarizing the public with the censorship that the Hayes Code represented and the misguided steps that the temperance movement took could be explained and dramatized in a powerful way that could illustrate the dangers of conservatism and censorship within society.

The image itself is violent, somewhat seductive, and overall unsettling. The use of the pink lends this a dreamy danger, sort of a siren’s song component. The eyes though are nearly reptilian in their blueish green. The disdain and question written on the actresses face is one of asking: “do you still want what I represent”? The evil in the glamour, the colored highlights, this is a black and white image of the past that grows into ones nightmares. It’s horrifyingly beautiful and the story it suggests: a synthesis of the gilded age and the golden age of practical effects is a compelling idea.

Design by: DroopBomb
Price:  $12.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Black, Grey, Charcoal, Brown

Toshio Saeki

Toshio Saeki

There’s a certain allure to the morbid. It’s not new or modern, it’s as old as basic artistic aptitude. What is interesting and what might be distinct within the cannon is violence paired with indifference; it’s s&m before the term, the words, and the underlying power dynamics they represented paired with mortality (supposedly “the great equalizer”). If you’ll indulge this writer, there’s something gloriously lo-fi about this image. The fact that this term isn’t more commonly used in the context of visual art seems to be a huge oversight. When you hear Daniel Johnston’s Music and see art the connection is obvious. His art was not merely “outsider” art and neither is this design.

Within psychology there’s something called the ‘TAT‘ (Thematic Appreciation TEST) where a subject is shown a number of images and asked to supply the context. Based on the stories the subject concocts the administrator is suppose to glean things about the persons psychological state. This image seems to be- not straight forward, but not to complex; that is until one sees that the nail going through the man’s skull first past through the woman’s hand. So many questions. Who the hell held the nail for her? The ambiguity is what makes it interesting.

While the style doesn’t need to be minimal in the way that is in order to function, the simple style lends it a bored ‘fantasy doodle’ sort of quality that ads depth to the image. The man, or maybe the boy appears to be wearing a Japanese school uniform whereas the woman seems look and be dressed as a young adult woman. The style of the image seems to break the fourth wall and tell us of a bored school boy drawing this image as envisaged by the real life creator of this design. One can therefore speculate on the scene, and the artist who’s notebook and sun-conscious we’ve been given a peek into. The design is great for the deceptiveness of its simplicity, besides the overall merit of its composition.

Design by: Fruitjuice
Price:  $25.00 @ Designbyhumans
Colors: White, Light Yellow, Light Blue