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

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

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

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

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

Surreal Death Moth

Surreal Death Moth

Plenty of images of the death’s-head hawk moth as it stands; the reason to highlight this one in particular is the inclusion of the body-horror elements i.e. melty flesh + eyeballs. It’s very Hellsing, but the geometry gives it a more modern character. The skulls on the tips of the wings area a a nice touch; they look more like something you’d see on the prow of a ship than anything you’d expect to find on an insect. This image is over the top in the best possible way; The skull with the saliva between its teeth, the ol’ eye of Sauron, the thorax looks more like the underside of some goth kid’s claw ring than a section of an insect, and then there’s the demonic horns up top. This image is ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ in terms of demonic imagery. Without the geometry to level it out this image might not work. The choice to shade the triangle adds depth, as if the moth were flying over a chasm instead of pinned to the wearers chest… it’s clever. The image does a good job of balancing detail and negative space. The image works at a distance and close up. It’s a solid piece that says “demonic” without being off putting, which isn’t always the easiest thing to pull off.

Design by: vonKowen
Price:  $22.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Offered/ works in 24 different colors

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

Mickey Skull

Mickey Skull

It’s easy to turn an icon and make a decent image. Often the familiarity of the subject is enough to coast in terms of style, detail, artistic merit. Mickey and Marilyn have been favorites for a while. There is after all the whole “low-brow” art movement, not pioneered, but perhaps best exemplified by Ron English. When viewing an original artwork that incorporates pop culture, or perhaps more accurately, subjects that might be deemed as ‘Modern Iconography’ a certain degree of skepticism should be deployed, because it’s a shortcut that can hide a lack of originality. The question then is whether or not this image feels lazy or underdeveloped. The honest answer is: a bit. Not enough to disqualify it, but there are bits and pieces among the good ideas within the piece that should give a viewer pause.

The main issues within this design are: the guide lines of the face and hands and the drips on the bottom of the figure. The horizontal guidelines on the face are not round enough to suggest a sphere. While these would work, and probably were used to draw the face, if you’re going to leave them in then the artist should choose to refine them in a way that makes them more visually impactful. The Lines on the hands don’t seem like they were used for anything; rather, they seem like they were added to make the guide lines on the face make sense. What would those lines on the hands actually be used for? Yes they both connect to the center of the second finger but that wouldn’t actually help. Lastly there’s the drips at the bottom of the image. It’s difficult to create that ghostly incorporeal appearance without blending, but at the same time one must alway be weary of ‘mind in the gutter’ interpretations of shapes and forms. It takes long enough to notice the flaccid silhouette that the design still works, but it is there.

The decision to elongate the skull and remove the lower mandible was smart. For whatever reason the elongation of form somehow is always ghoulish. The inclusion of the dollar sign may at first seem like low hanging fruit, but there’s something very “Hank Rearden’s cigarettes” that goes past capitalism and enters the desiccation planes of libertarian ideas for some reason, which makes it interesting. The signature button is a nice touch; sometimes you gotta respect cockiness. It does work as a stylistic element within the piece. What the hand gestures mean is hard to say; visually they seem to help in establishing a column going up off the body, and curves the ears going down into a spike; authority and violence by way of corporate hegemony within the artistic field.

Design by: JocBox
Price:  $12.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Grey

Punish The Wicked

Punish The Wicked

This design on a grey shirt is essentially a neoclassical tattoo, of a morbid subject, rendered on a canvas the color of a corpse. It wouldn’t work as well as a tattoo on a living person as it does in its current state; living pigment would detract from the starkness of death/ of the skull. The artist has taken a style, a tradition, a subject and transposed it on a medium to enhances the image; it’s all very clever.

As for the image itself it’s fairly versatile for skull imagery. The design could work for goth, Metal, punk, Skater, Biker. While all these subcultures share a certain fascination with skull imagery as symbol for death or danger, they all have their own- unique tinge to how they use the image. An oversimplification might be to say that: Goth is sad and leading, metal is power and anger, punk is aggression and futility, skater is more danger and reckless, where biker might be power and nihilism. This design does a good job, as far as these multiple subcultures are concerned, of threading the needle. Perhaps in part, because both skulls and tattoos run through all movements.

The image is cold and volatile. It’s like a California beach with sailor imager and its pallet the color if an ice-e, and yet the long hair and skull transport you somewhere remote and unforgiving. Where this image belongs in space is pleasantly ambiguous, regardless or as a result, its an incredibly well placed, executed, and… conceived design with a lot of versatility.

Design by: JonCottamArt
Price:  $20.00 @ Threadless
Colors: Lemon, Grey, White

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