The 10 Quirkiest Illustrated Tees For Spring

by Lani Irving

Spring is here! At least, in the Northern Hemisphere anyway. Whilst we might not all be frolicking in sunny fields of daffodils just yet, I love spring. Winter has dragged on for long enough and it’s finally a sign that things will start to warm up soon. As a generally cold person, it means I can wear three layers now instead of five and, some days, I don’t even need a hat and scarf. I won’t be ditching the coat anytime soon but summer is at least beginning to seem vaguely tangible — and thus, now's the time to celebrate the t-shirt trend and its infinite possibilities.

The t-shirt is a garment of vast versatility and comfort and also a blank canvas for artists and illustrators alike. There are some immensely talented t-shirt illustrators out there and platforms like Etsy and Society 6 mean that not only is it easier than ever to buy from them, but that we are also spoiled for choice. With that in mind, I’ve selected some of my top t-shirt picks to help you get in the mood for springtime. Spring, for me, has a sense of playfulness and joy that these illustrators have captured perfectly, and I hope that wearing them will instill a sense of play in you, too.

1. Red Panda By Sandra Dieckmann

Red Panda Tee, $22, Society 6

London-based illustrator Sandra Dieckmann combines beautiful observational drawing with imaginative use of pattern. One of her recurring influences is nature, with wildlife and woodland imagery making a regular appearance in her work. The combination of realistic imagery with geometric and repeat elements, as well as her eye for color lures us in, to play in her dreamlike world. This red panda tee is one of the highlights of her collection.

2. Kitty Tank By Stasia Burrington

Hand-stamped Kitty Tank, $30, etsy

Cats are everywhere. In the age of the internet, even people who don’t like cats find themselves constantly looking at them. If you do like cats, you’re in luck. Stasia Burrington has this slightly creepy yet cute cat vest, featuring five of the little beauties on the front and one on the back for good measure. Simple yet striking, I love the way their eyes follow you around the room… Each one is hand lino printed by the artist herself, so this is not just a vest: It’s a wearable artwork. Oh, and don’t forget to check out her kitty panties, too.

3. Voyages Over Edinburgh By David Fleck

Voyages Over Edinburgh t-shirt, $22, Society 6

This piece by illustrator David Fleck is entitled “Voyages Over Edinburgh,” and depicts a cluster of hot air balloons over the skyline of this beautiful city. This piece tells the story of one of the first ever hot air balloon rides in 1785 and really captures a sense of wonder and majesty. Other city variants are also available in Fleck’s online store, including New York and Paris, so you can choose your favorite. Hot air balloons always make me think of good weather, sunshine and a gentle breeze. Wear this and let all your troubles float away.

4. Pocketful Of Sunshine By Budi Satria Kwan

Pocketful of Sunshine tee, $22, Society 6

This "Pocketful of Sunshine" tee pretty much sums up the weather where I am right now. It’s not exactly warm, but we are experiencing those springtime pocketfuls of sunshine which seem to put everyone in a much better mood. And we thank you for that, Mr. Sun.

5. Vintage Steamship By Zen Threads

Vintage Steamship T-Shirt, $18, Etsy

This vintage-style Steamship illustration is available on a range of 17 different t-shirt colors to suit your style. Interesting enough to be eye-catching but casual enough to dress right down, a nautical-but-nice addition to your wardrobe.

6. Octopus La Bamba By Dark Cycle Clothing

La Bamba T-shirt, $21, Scout Mob

Continuing with the ocean theme, this Dark Cycle clothing octopus tee proclaims “I am not a sailor, I am a captain,” in Spanish, which sounds perhaps like a profound statement about non-conformity, but is actually a lyric from that catchy old number "La Bamba." Wear this t-shirt and no doubt you’ll be singing it for days.

7. Birds On Power Lines By Crawlspace Studios

Birds on Power Lines T-Shirt, $34, Etsy

This vintage feel t-shirt features a print of birds on power lines by Crawlspace Studios, distressed for that worn-in look. With a particularly relaxed drop-shoulder fit and lightly scooped neckline, this tee takes casual comfort even further and makes me dream of summer days lying on the grass.

8. Let's Run Amok By Marc Johns

Let's Run Amok tank top, $22, Society 6

Whilst it was nearly impossible to choose a single design to feature here from the delightfully weird work of Marc Johns (see the "fish with beard," for example), I love the bold simplicity of the “Let’s Run Amok” print, which has made me question the meaning of a phrase I’ve taken for granted for years. Available as a tank top and a short — or long-sleeved tee in a choice of colors — there’s really no excuse not to release your wild side and run amok this spring.

9. Lucky By Young Ju

Lucky t-shirt, $22, Society 6

Once again, another illustrator I found it incredibly hard to pick one t-shirt from to feature here, but I settled on this "Lucky" t-shirt by Young Ju. Like so much of her work, it has a very charming, peaceful quality and it’s cute with just the right amount of weirdness. This design hints at being connected with nature and the lush greens and cute bunnies definitely give it a springtime feel.

10. Wild And Free By Lisa Barbero

Wild and Free Bear Scoop Neck T-shirt, from $28, Etsy

Lisa Barbero’s "Wild and Free" range exists to remind us that we are exactly that. Whether you’re a grizzly bear or a human being, don’t let them tame you! Winter is over, come out of hibernation and be wild and free.

Images: Getty; Courtesy Brands