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,

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

Bird X-Ray

Bird X-Ray

So apparently this is how Big Bird is operated; presumably the other arm is pinned to the body of the suit or a secondary puppeteer is used while the puppet is stationary. Seems like a missed opportunity for a napoleonic hand in the waistcoat, which surprisingly is not the name of a sex act yet. There’s something that’s very- sports apparel about this image. It’s probably the limited pallet and the super-flat design. In that way this image feels as though it subverting both Sesame Street and professional athletics at once. Anything cartoon related, even when subverted is hard to pull off without coming off as a bit immature. Granted prolonged adolescence is one of the biggest hallmarks thanks to the dumpster fire of an economy that young people today are inheriting, but still… The Sports look, for better or worse, seems to add a bit of maturity to this design by way of the drinking and profanity that seems to go hand in hand with athletic spectatorship. While this design works as a shirt not having it as a patch or sticker feels like a missed opportunity; with the sports idea in mind there is also an opportunity of using a lot more colorways if one weren’t absolutely attached to the notion that Big Bird has to be yellow to be recognizable.

Design by: Captain Ribman
Price:  $22.00 @ Teefury
Colors: Green, Black, Navy

MIA

MIA

There’s a certain cultural tipping point with source material past which it is difficult to seem original or generate interest for a design. Pulp Fiction, Mickey Mouse, Marilyn Monroe are all so pervasive within American culture it’s hard to rep them in fashion without seeming- basic. Although in the case of Movies and characters there seems to be a cooling off period; today people are unabashedly wearing Nirvana shirts again, which would have been a serious faux pas perhaps 10 years ago.

Samotnjak has made a series of skeleton based movie images all of which are solid. The reason for singling out this one and not the skeletonized version of the ceramic scene in ‘Ghost’, the Walter White, or Harley Quinn is primarily the lettering, and the novelty of seeing a Mia that isn’t lying on the bed looking up from her book. Both the phrase “I said goddamn, goddamn” and the bold font (Impact?) are so distinctly Tarantino. The fact that you’d have to know the movie to know what Mia just did, and the fact that the expletives are obscured means that you a kid might get away with wearing this to school, which is hilarious. The black, red, and yellow scream danger in a way that is surprisingly hard to achieve when using skull imagery. Usually these types of image lend themselves more to a tone of foreboding rather than that of an urgent threat.

Design by: Samotnjak
Price:  $12.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Black

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

That’s Life

That’s Life

“That’s Life, That’s what all the people say”, There’s a reason why the dancing scenes of ‘Joker’ resonated with so many people. You don’t need to have had the trauma or suffered mental illness to recognize what it looks like to find where abandon meets catharsis.

Youth today, and for awhile now has become more difficult and perhaps as a result more protracted; as a result you try and find the moments you can to feel free, to feel light and unburdened. It’s the search to feel good, because it’s going to be a long time before you are good in fact. The funny part is when you finally reach that stability, the calm and security, the wild times of scraping by will be what you miss then and thereafter. This sentiment, among a handful of others, was what made the movie more than just another comic book movie. It is also here within the design, a single frame.

The use of Type superimposed over an image, as is done here, is fairly rare. The blending of words one character into another is also fairly unique. The art style of the figure (etching) is also a bit unusual for apparel. Taken together, the design does a good job of distilling its source material down into a unique and powerful design.

Design by: samotnjak
Price:  $28.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Black

Bones and Botany

Bones and Botany

Bones and Botany works in that it is pleasing at the macro level and curious upon closer inspection. The saturated colors and bold outline means you can see what the design fundamentally is from across the room, and upon closer inspection you get to notice the charming little details that E Moss has left: the hummingbird, the bat in the ribcage, the mouse on the elbow.

It’s surprisingly difficult to pull off a design that will work with any color tee, admittedly some color combinations are clear standouts, but the predominance of white within the skeleton, the breadth of color within flora and fauna, and the overall saturation come together to pull it off.

Certain elements such as the flower in the pelvis or the moth on the skull shouldn’t work, but the multitude of detailed anchored by the central form somehow allow them to exist without drawing attention; when you finally see them it’s less a compositional choice to be evaluated than an intriguing surprise of “how was that not the first thing I noticed”, sort of an easter egg effect squeezed into a compact composition.

The design is noteworthy in that it doesn’t fall into the common vanitas category of skull/ skeleton images; the plants and animals seem more like something drawn by a naturalist than a dour painter of dead things in a dark room, which is. refreshing

Designed By: E Moss
Best colors: Redbubble offers 16 colors, any will work for this design.
Cost: $19.90 @ Redbubble