Jelly

Jelly

This image is fairly straight forward mashup of two influences: neoclassic tattoo style and an excerpt of a famous print of jellyfish by naturalist Ernst Haeckel. There’s not a whole lot to say about the image other than the size is unusual for this print and works well.

It’s surprising how often one comes across Haeckel’s works or mashups thereof on apparel websites given how few people have ever heard of him. His jellyfish print could very well be the most appropriated biological drawing in the entire canon. To what extent this can be attributed to his skill versus this one particular subject is hard to say. It would seem though that Wolves, Owls, Lions are out and Jellyfish and Octopus are in.

What does that say about are time? It’d be interesting to think that zeitgeists have spirit animals; it would also be interesting to figure out how one might keep track. Perhaps the number of appearances on larger apparel store clothes; maybe every year ask tattoo artists what animals are the most requested. Certainly there are trends, but pos-covid a dolphin, butterfly, or big cat would seem a little- out of step or inane. It could be that creatures that float or sit serene to nearly vacant connects with how people are feeling in the context of their lives post-Trump/ -covid. Pug’s seem to be having a good year as well it would seem, so who knows.

Design by: J Barnett
Price:  $21.59 @ Curbside
Colors: Grey

Death Blooms

Death Blooms

Many artists have a preferred scale to work at; part of this is familiarity and habit, but certain media, certain styles, and certain subjects work better, or sometimes not at all, at specific scales. In order to support oneself as an artist though it is essential that artists experiment with different scales as larger sizes sell less for more and medium vice versa. Still, it isn’t practical to make a 20 foot lithograph, and Guernica wouldn’t have 1/12th it’s power at 11.5 x 25.5 inches. One of the nice things about the digital tools is that it has allowed artists to simulate different media at any scale and today a 2D artists is only limited by resolution and the availability of subjects to manipulate.

When making a digital collage though one is effectively working outside the constraints that originally lent character to the physical version; one has effectively eliminated the limitation of scale, incongruous lighting/ hue, and availability of materials. The incongruities that these issues caused was what gave them a unique character when compared to prints, illustrations, and paintings of the past. This tends to lend digital collages artists a distinct characteristic that one doesn’t see in the art of their forebears.

This image isn’t a painting, and it doesn’t feel like it would ever have been a collage. It feels “mixed media”, but it is definitely too modern in its tone, aesthetic, forms, to be anything but contemporary. The word that best seems to describe all of the components, and the work as a whole is “incongruous”. This isn’t to say that the work feels confused, but rather, that the work has a shifting uneasiness about it that makes it all the more captivating.

The woman as a whole seems sad, but then you look at her downward gaze and see contempt; you reevaluate, “is that ennui”, but there’s a skull shooting out of her head. Is the skull death, or a representation of mental illness? Both interpretations could work, but there’s something of a violence in the skull that isn’t there in the woman’s face. Is the skull screaming, in motion, is it animate or inanimate? Who’s to say. What strikes me about this initial impression though is that while the title is ‘Death Blooms’ and there are flowers all over the picture, I can’t help but think of fungus and rot…perhaps mold while looking at this image. In terms of execution, it feels like the girl and the skull would be a wheat paste design, the flowers in the foreground feel like an illustration, the back circle feels like origami paper and a picture of a kumiko screen. The limited pallet ties it all in together while reinforcing the overall mood of the piece. It has an interesting overall silhouette. Its ambiguity gives it broad appeal. I think that this image is one that a person could live with and look at often and never be sure of the conclusion they draw about what’s going on, while retaining a certain feeling from it like what is held in the eyes of the female figure.

Design by: Kingnamu
Price:  $20.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Black, White, Grey

Nesting Doll

Nesting Doll

There’s something about a negative. You can take an image and easily invert it and the result are objective and yet there’s something ominous and inherently subversive feeling about the resulting image. “Nesting Dolls” is like that in a way- and to an extent. On the face of it it appears to be the idea of an x-ray performed on a nesting doll, but the skeleton isn’t actually that of a human; caricatured or otherwise. There’s something beckoning cat and ghoulish about the resulting of the image. One needs to look no further than the upside down heart to see that there is intention behind the incongruities of the image.

Maybe it’s not a nesting doll at all but something more akin to the monk enshrined in a buddhist statue. Are the swirls a nod to anime conventions? The Blue and white feels like a bit of a nod to Chinese porcelain, perhaps not as the blue is a bit dark for that. It’s a rather ambiguous image. It works well as a shape and in conveying a mood, but if there’s an overlying idea behind the image it’d be hard to guess. An overlay of skeletons, suggesting the many layers you’d find in a Russian doll, might help clarify things; then again that might have made the image a bit to busy. This image feels like one that you have to take as is. It is well constructed and visually interesting, but trying to make heads or tails of its messaging is a losing battle.


Design by: Ali Gulec
Price:  $19.90 @ Redbubble
Colors: White, Black, Grey, Blue, Light Blue,

The Great Goat

The Great Goat

Employing satanic imagery while avoiding the pitfalls inherent in the teenage angst connotation it often represents is a difficult line to toe. The most effective way to navigate, to proceed, seems to be hyper-realism in most cases; it’s as if the skill of the execution and the artistic maturity implied therein serves as one of the few effective wards to mainstream criticism.

The artist here pulls it off well and in spades. The detail within the goat figure is enough to make even the most accomplished engraver of antiquity hang their their head, and tip their hat in acknowledgement to the evident skill contained within the execution of this design . The background pattern points to psychedelia, to the idea of existence and vitality behind discernible reality of existence- to mysticism. This work takes something niche and fringe and through masterful execution, gives it standing to exist within the context of the fixedly mundane world we as people seem to operate in.

It isn’t enough to want to counterbalance the norm. To successfully ‘David and Goliath’ one needs to bring one’s A-game. The artist here is using satanic and “pagan” imagery; but it’s modernized by the background and in a way that suggests that the backing ideology is more than just reactive: that the ideas expand out past the conversation of opposition. The figure behind the goat that points to a sphere is perhaps tribal (for lack of a better term), but it points to a time wherein humanity was open to things not readily discernible. The darkness is ominous. it exists, but might be benign. The question of the image isn’t as much as challenge as a question: “what if evil exist’s more as a blunt and pervasive inclination, rather than a sharp pernicious instrument employed by one’s fellow man”.


Design by: RottenFantom
Price:  $21.56 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black

Dark Coffee

Dark Coffee

Of course Death Drinks out of a pentagram mug; darkness, kitsch, pop, and irony. Nothing is serious to a certain age. Style mostly falls by the wayside with time as well. The death and style of the image is therefore an affirmation to the wearer that they haven’t passed a certain and inevitable threshold. There’s a risk in an image like this is that it can be perceived as “death lite” which in the context of culture can often stray into rockabilly/ horror punk territory. It may be the case though that as these genres have become increasingly irrelevant and antiquated that a design that might reference something specific is now merely referencing something vintage; not the meaning of the subject but the feeling of a bygone era.

It’d be interesting to debate what is in fact the best depiction of the Grim Reaper within pop culture. There’s a clear answer for satan, but there’s been a lot of great depictions of Death within the last decade or so. The design is very reminiscent of Boneface‘s work on the Queens of the Stone Age’s album “Like Clockwork”. One of the more interesting challenges as an artist is to convey emotion without facial cues. The tilt of the head fells wistful, but somehow there’s an awkward giddiness to the skeletal structure. There’s something- “awkward kid on picture day” that is surprising to find in a picture of Death; perhaps that’s the appeal of the image: the acknowledgment that death might in fact be as mundane as anything else.

Design by: Kooky_Love
Price:  $20.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Green, Blue, Black

All Spaced Out

All Spaced Out

Ormiston has this great vintage collage aesthetic. The texture, the tonality makes the image feel as though it were cut from a National Geographic from the 70’s while the solid backdrop modernizes the image. It’s like macrame and houseplants in a chic converted industrial loft. Unlike most of his other images within his oeuvre this one doesn’t rely on a central figure to pull everything together, or not quite anyways.

The absence of a figure with a space scene superimposed creates a more dynamic point of focus… it allows the figure to be timeless in a way that no human figure can actually be. It feels somewhat Ziggy Stardust or “Moonmen“, somewhat reminiscent of Baldessari or Richard Hamilton. The shadows are a very nice touch, alongside the color shift in the leg section that seem to suggest stocking, and possibly nudity, one can tell that Ormiston is an artist that pays close attention to detail. Normally the rectangle itself would be an issue. The rocks serving as satellites around the central figure/ the void add a dynamism that allows the image to work as an apparel design. Honestly if there’s one complaint to be had with the artist over the image is the fact that he hasn’t explored a whole colorway line with this idea. Different models, different voids, different satellites to break up the rectangles of different colors. This image is simple, perhaps deceptively so, however it is no more complicated then it needs to be and works far better than it has any right to given its simplicity.

Design by: James Ormiston
Price:  $21.97 @ Redbubble
Colors: Grey, Black, Blue

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

Durrer Rabbit

Durrer Rabbit

As someone who enjoys and studies art history it’s always nice to see someone wearing a fine art shirt that isn’t Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, De Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, or Margritte’s “The Son of Man”. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of these works, but among the initiated: basic is basic. The idea of “basic” is an interesting one; you can be edgy in the mainstream or too mainstream within the margins.

This image, which we’ll call an image because it’s not the companies’ original work and therefore shouldn’t be called a design, is not mainstream; but within the annals of classical art is in no way obscure. Seeing the image raises questions about balancing one’s representation of niche and mainstream interests, while presenting one’s identity to society at large. There seems to be a spectrum: the mainstream, the obscure but inoffensive, and the obscure and offensive. The middle is known and permitted; the left is unknown, but accepted, and the right would be unknown and unacceptable. On a one to ten this image might be a three or four. The wearer would get credit among the art aficionados, without alienating those not in “the know”. If you wanted to move more towards the one space, the left side of the scale Hendrick Goltzius might be your man. To move towards the right, maybe John Heartfield, or Takato Yamamoto.

In any case it’s nice to see Durrer represented. Past that it’s nice to see this image that feels like more of an acknowledgement of the late master’s skill, rather than some of his more ‘death themed’ block prints which are simply appreciated today because of the trendiness of their imagery. Durrer, and print artists in general, really haven’t gotten there due within mainstream culture, and perhaps the art world at large. Maybe, wear the shirt, support the cause; or wear it because it is and always was a beautiful design.


Design by: NA
Price:  $12.00 @ 6DollarShirts
Colors: White

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

Black Hole

Black Hole

Designs like these are not particularly easy to write about. They are what they are. They don’t feel like ornament, nor like pattern or colorway. You can try for deeper meaning but for the most part you like this design either for the shape or color, or for the resulting mood. The design is sort of a subtle note- a tone poem in visual form. One thing that the image is clearly not however is a depiction of a black hole; If anything it looks like a feeder ring you’d see on an aquascaped aquarium.

So what to say about the image… The reddish pink works well; it’s enough to suggest blood, something primal, without slipping into goth kid territory. The stars are actually more colorful than they have any right to be and it adds a bit of glamour to an image that might otherwise succumb to melodrama. The texture is quite good, very subtle. You can see the areas of clouds that were sampled versus areas that were brushed in, but the transition is subtle enough that it feels more like an effect than a product of limitation.

A better, more accurate title might help with the piece. Then again the current title is probably more searchable than any alternative one might come up with. Perhaps something more Damien Hirst, more obtuse would be good. In any case if you’re in the market for a moody abstract teetering on the precipice of goth look no further.

Design by: Jorge Lopez
Price:  $20.73 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black

David With Skull

David With Skull

“David with Skull” is a diamond in the rough. While it obvious is a specimen vaporwave and synthwave aesthetic and leans heavy on their stylistic vernaculars it nevertheless manages to stand on its own while avoiding some of the major pitfalls that its contemporaries often fall prey to.

The vaporwave conventions that the work uses are: statue from antiquity, stature cut into sections, the inclusion or overlay of thin geometric shapes. The color pallet is patent synthwave. What the image does differently is the pink and grey wavy stripes at the top of the figure, The vaporwave blue on the skull that diverges from standard synthwave coloring. The image can just as easily be said to be notable for the conventions it ignores: The lack of a framing rectangle, the absence of a grid, and above all else is the potentially problematic inclusion of Kanji for no apparent reason.

Past the conventions the image is interesting in that it actually feels as though the artist is acknowledging the story behind the statue, rather than just using it to take up space. The pink over the eyes ads intensity and seems to suggest rage. The skull could either represent David’s mortality or David as an agent of death in his upcoming fight. The setting sun, suggests a western style showdown and is then reinforced with the downward pointing triangles. One of the things about vaporwave is often that it feels like a non-descript mess of things meant to relax via the mindlessness of paying attention. This work doesn’t feel like that at all.

Design by: Jay Bayne
Price:  $20.73 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White

Tri-Ford

Tri-Ford

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.

Design by: DSTRBO
Price:  $20.00 @ TeePublic
Colors: White, Orange, Tan

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

The Black Knight Rises

The Black Knight Rises

This is a pretty good mashup as there are plenty of obvious parallels between the two IP’s. It seems as though”Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is sort of in a weird known and unknown place within popular culture. Regardless of its current status it almost certainly will remain as timeless as 3 stooges or Abbot and Costello within the annuls of comedy, just with better visuals and one liners. In any case, having the black knight stand in for the dark Knight is a pretty obvious comparison; besides the similarities in names there’s each one’s absurd ability to continue fighting after the injuries they sustain over the course of their respective movies, or the misguidedness of their stated missions i.e. the bridge isn’t worth guarding and Batman would do more for society by just donating his money rather than playing vigilante. Once more the bunny and the bat symbols- terrifying.

It’s not a design that it doesn’t take itself particularly seriously and would probably suggests the same of any wearer. However in spite of the silliness of the subject, the low-hanging-fruit nature of the spoof, it is well executed. More and more low culture is becoming high culture, or the distinction is getting progressively more nebulous. For that reason and for Python’s growing age maybe this could scream sophistication if not now then in the future. Who’s to say?

Design by: Obvian
Price:  $22.00 @ TeeFury
Colors: Black

Lifeful Skull

Lifeful Skull

All there’s really to say is that it’s well done and kinda amazing. It could hint at a larger worker, an update for the memento mori. As it stands it’s very- of its time with the geometry framing a cutout in overlapping gradients. The one piece of the work that is unusual is the color grading of the skull; it works well, but the resulting texture is rougher than you would ever see on a commercially done work of art. The roughness of the effect gives it a retro/ dada era collage feel; though the color pallet is very clearly late teens early 2020’s. The image is compelling in that it feels simultaneously flat and 3-dimensional. The effect is somewhat like that of cel shading, but breaks the effect in too many areas to seem passable in that way. The image sort of works as an optical illusion if one looks at it long enough. Realistically though this image isn’t about anything but not everything needs to be.

Design by: Ali Gulec
Price:  $19.07@ Redbubble
Colors: White, Grey, Black

Bettie

Bettie

As has been said before on this site it’s usually very- difficult to pull off a design of a naked or scantily clad woman on a t-shirt. Tattoos are fine for some reason, women who wear these design are accepted, but for men in generally wearing these designs generally gives off a weird incel-escque err. It’s hard to say with confidence whether or not for men there is, or could be an exception. If any depiction of a woman could potentially serve though then it would have to be one of Bettie Page.

Page is not merely an iconic pinup model or sexual icon of the 20th century. Her legacy as a female model of the 1950’s is at this point that of sexual empowerment. For women and for men. As a woman Page was very clear as to what she would and would not do and she was known to be uncompromising in a time where society would have had no sympathy for her plight. By modeling S&M clothing she helped expose mainstream America to kink. As a model she could be both fierce and vulnerable, an idea that society today still sometimes struggles to convey.

The design itself is very well done. The black and white source material has been adeptly colorized. There’s something a bit Frank Franzetta about the coloration. The background texture reminds me a bit of Final Fantasy X. The facial expression is what ultimately makes the piece. In any case- for her work, for her legacy, if not for the strength of this design itself this might be a shirt worth picking up.

Design by: Chris Wahl
Price:  $22.00 @ TeeFury
Colors: White, Grey

Sound City

Sound City

You Can’t argue that it’s an aesthetically pleasing image. Nor can one argue that it works well within the context of apparel that the design’s shape fits perfectly as a badge upon the shirt. There is something about the messaging of the image, where form meets intent, however that feels a bit questionable.

Many designs will take and try and modernize an old style. The entirety of the 60’s style was predicated on Nouveau with the colors turned to 11; the idea being to represent the confluence of nature (as a symbol of peace and serenity) and psychedelics (“heightened consciousness” and vitality). This design takes art deco and is trying to adapt it to rock and roll. It’s an ok idea. Stylistically this works, although Deco is more aristocratic and industrialists and rock and roll was more poor and downtrodden. The idea is theoretically achievable; not all mashups need to make sense in order to work.

The problem with the design past this is when figures out who did it first. Led Zepplin’s album “Mothership“, a 2008 “best of” album already featured this art style via Shepard Fairey. When an idea of mixing an old style (Deco), is applied to an old band (Zepplin) performing in a largely outmoded style (R&R), is then rehashed a decade later what you potentially have is something that reaffirms the vapidness of the very thing the latest artist may have sought to lionize.

Why highlight this design then? Well, as was said before: it’s aesthetically pleasing. Beyond that the color gradient and it’s simulation of a metallic glean is a nice touch. That there almost appears to be a woodgrain upon the speaker cabinets paired with the clean line work provides a nice contrast. Above all else it’s a nice design and few people care what anything suggests or means. So if you like the design, go for it.

Design by: Gamma-Ray
Price:  $22.00 @ TeeFury
Colors: Black

Octoride

Octoride

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.


Design by: Jesse Lonergan
Price:  $20.00 @ TeePublic
Colors: White, Maroon, Tan, Green, Blue,

Tubes of Wonder

Tubes of Wonder

There is no shortage of abstract works available on the various print on demand sites; even within the world of “fine art” the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of which works are celebrated can seem rather arbitrary to both those on the ins and outside of the art world. What then is the criteria by which we should judge these works in general or this work specifically? What makes this work worth purchasing or the artist worth supporting?

One of the main questions when looking at an abstract work, specifically a non-objective (not representing any discernable forms) are the context, colors, shapes, and overall composition. Of these ideas the context is usually the most nuanced and often, even among the experts, neglected aspects of an abstract work. Has this been done before/ is this work an expression of a new idea such as the first monochrome painting or the first “happening“. Since Modern art displaced classical art, and to an extant representational art within popular taste the idea and intent of artists, and the context of their formation, has supplanted skill as the metric with which art is judged; at least, that is suppose to be the idea, but does the 100th Rothko or Pollock really expressing anything new? This is all a bit of a tangent, because “Tube’s of wonder” isn’t anything new; it doesn’t pretend to be. The other criteria with which abstract work is to be judges is what ought to be brought to bear upon the design and based on those criteria this design does quite well.

The colors of the work are pleasant- perhaps, Miami/ LA, 90’s, or tropical. The gentles washes of color contrasting nicely with the hard edges of the shapes. The shapes themselves offer interesting easter eggs for those that care to look and suggest: Klimt, Miro, futurism, and horror vacuii in various places. The composition is both tight while managing a loose feel in terms of composition and is again reinforced by the contrast of color and form. Lastly what is interesting about the piece is the use of circles and lines, specifically the fact that if you put a number of circles above a line you will end up with overlapping faces with shifting expressions depending upon how you pair the circles. The image is good at a distance and more interesting and nuanced from up close. It is busy without screaming for attention and still maintains a certain level of harmony overall and for this reason, rather than some context dependent or contextual statement, “tubes of wonder” serves as an excellent example of a (non-objective) abstract work within the context of apparel.



Design by: JettJag
Price:  $22.88 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, Dark Grey, Dark Blue, Tan, Brown

Contact

Contact

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

Possibilities in Order

Possibilities in Order

One of the things that is frustrating about most- all print on design sites is that they don’t have a description section wherein the artist can explain what the design is, what it’s about, or why they chose to portray their subject in the way that they did. Why Bring this up? This shirt’s design is paying tribute to a show called “Fringe” that ran from 2008 to 2013. It was fairly popular, but didn’t make a big dent on the cultural psyche the way shows like “Breaking Bad” or “The Wire” did. Looking at this shirt nearly a decade later the odds that anyone will know what the design is about is fairly small but as the wearer of the shirt you’d feel a little silly if you bought and wore it because you liked the image, only to find out it’s referencing a show you’ve never seen when someone walks up to you to talk about the show, reasonably assuming that you’ve seen it, because you’re wearing the shirt.

This design is a perfect example to bring up this industry gripe, because even outside the context of a fairly successful tv show it’s a great design. The fact that it also manages to reference a famous work of surrealist art by Renee Magritte doesn’t hurt either. The point being that it’s a strong image that looks awesome, but you wan’t to at least know what a design is referencing, if anything, before you wear it.

The design has a lot of great elements to it. Did you notice the six fingers? The way that hand is drawn is superb; it’s not too clean, nor does it feel too crude- like a sketch. The texture on the nimbus makes it feel like an old coin or a seal, and pulls it back from the figure in a subtle way. The woman within the smoke, the golden spiral on the sea horse, these are references to the show, but they serve as charming visual easter eggs even for the uninformed. Watch the show or don’t, this is still a design worth having.

Design by: ZeroBriant
Price:  $22.00 @ Teefury
Colors: Black

Botanical Pattern 10

Botanical Pattern 10

Beyond the composition, what really makes this design, and indeed all the designs within the artists ‘Botanical Pattern’, series is the unorthodox use of color. The compositions themselves also very good. Within the artist’s work there are generally a mix of flower sizes, with just the right amount of negative space. The sprig of leaves are smart compositional elements that serves to counterbalance the largest flower without competing for attention.

What makes an image like this difficult to pull off is that it’s difficult to end it at the bottom without ether being cut off (which is ugly) or appear floating (which can be distracting). You see this issue in any image that doesn’t have a framing shape, but for element that are thinner like plant stems, it will be much harder to taper or fade out the ends in a satisfactory way. The artists decision to bunch the flowers at the base seems to resolve the issue, while leaving us to wonder whether this is a bouquet or excerpt of a natural scene. Most impressive though is the balance achieved within the image. The triangular- talon shape of the composition as a whole would generally lead to the image feeling lopsided, but Lela has managed it.

The color pallet is interesting and a bit hard to place. Most likely it is Art Decco inspired. Although it wouldn’t necessarily be out of place in a Patrick Nagel painting or any of the popular cartoons from the late 80’s e.g. “Thundercats”, “He Man”, “GI Joe”, etc. Whatever the inspiration, the colors feel moody, and maybe more ‘old Hollywood glamour” than luxurious. All of which is to say that it’s an interesting work compositionally and a unique work by way of coloration.

Design by: Blue Lela
Price:  $21.06 @ Redbubble
Colors: Black, White, Dark Grey

Coral Snake

Coral Snake

For a site predicated on producing some of the cheapest shirts on the market it’s surprising how strong some of the designs on 6dollarshirts.com are. While shirts now run $9 to $12 on the site it’s still cheaper than any other site that’s been featured on this blog. “Coral Snake” isn’t a design that needs or warrants much analysis. It is what is. The colors are nice, the style is bold. There aren’t really any myths or connotations to this particular species in spite of the fact that coral snakes are apparently the most poisonous snakes in North America. With that being said here are some facts:

1. Coral Snakes have small non-retractable fangs and as a result they chew on their prey to introduce their venom.
2. The rhyme to distinguish coral snakes from their non-poisonous lookalikes is: Red on yellow (banding) kill a fellow, red on black friend of Jack.
3. They generally reach an adult size of 2 feet and can live up to 7 years in captivity.

Design by: NA
Price:  $9.00 @ 6 Dollar Shirt
Colors: Black, Navy

I Can Only Hurt Everyone

I Can Only Hurt Everyone

This design is sort of a delightful tangle of subject and form. It is fine art, pop culture, fine art commenting on pop culture in a retro, futuristic, and contemporary way. It takes into account 20th century printing, late century diy poster design, and the contemporary fascination with all things cyberpunk and glitch.

With any background in modern art the average person would see this and think Lichtenstein. Besides the glitch though, there are a number of ways in which this design subverts and modernizes its source material. The iridescent effect produced by the blending of colors is not something Lichtenstein would have done, but is nevertheless suggestive of the print media he sought to imitate. The effect being that of bleeding ink, a spill, hazards of print. The effect is futuristic, but also harkens back to the time when humans were more involved in print media, and thereby were more prone to infuse human error into the final process. The other way in which this design surpasses Lichtenstein is by overlay the women’s head on top of, and past the bounding box of the image. This is a convention that only became common within comics decades after Lichtenstein made the main body of his work.

The use of color is reminiscent of the anaglyph (3d) glasses that came out in the 80’s. Within the composition though, their use feels a bit more contemporary; rather than trying to suggest a 3d effect they seem to point to the corruption of a digital file. Glitch is a style that has grown in popularity over the past few years and is somewhat tied to the vaporwave aesthetic. Retro and contemporary the image uses warping and glitch to suggest corruption. The balance of the two effects mean that the image feels both organic and digital, fluid and static. Is the person melting or blipping out of existence; the image refuses to say whether the threat the subject seems to be facing is in or outside themselves and the use of old media draws attention to the timeliness of this concern.

Design by: Michele Rota
Price:  $21.55 @ Redbubble
Colors: White