Handmade Sketchbooks Teeming with Colorful Calligraphy, Diagrams, Sketches, and Travel Ephemera by José Naranja
José Naranja creates beautifully detailed sketchbooks by collaging elements of photography, writing, stamps, and his own precise drawings of everything from poison mushrooms to a bird’s eye view of his dream studio. The ex-aeronautic engineer began working with sketchbooks after he discovered pocket-size Moleskine notebooks in 2005 and realized they were the perfect vessel to document his daily experiences and develop his wildest ideas. After 13 years of using the same style of notebook, Naranja now crafts his own by hand.
“It creates a special link between my journals and me,” Naranja told Colossal. “Drawings of calligraphy are just useful tools to express ideas They are the visible layer in the whole notebook as a piece, a mandala, and it’s the final artwork. Every detail in the process should be taken into consideration because I give the best effort. At the moment they have given me back only good news.”
The sketchbook artist also sells edited copies of his best work in a compilation called The Orange Manuscript, which you can find on his website. You can see up-to-date sketches and follow his travels (which happen nearly year-round) on his Instagram.
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Photographer Joana Choumali‘s photographic series Ça va aller translates to “It’s going to be fine,” a common phrase used by people in Côte d’Ivoire to casually reassure each other, even after a deeply traumatic event. Choumali started the project less than a month after the March 2016 Grand-Bassam terrorist attack, when three gunman opened fire at a beach resort an hour away from her home in Abidjan. The images in the series are all taken on her iPhone, and appear more like snapshots rather than portraits. She wanted the subjects to look natural, as if she was scanning the city.
“Three weeks after the attacks, the atmosphere of the little town changed,” said Choumali in a statement about the series. “The sadness is everywhere. A ‘saudade,’ some kind of melancholy. Most of the pictures show people by themselves, walking in the streets or just standing, sitting alone, lost in their thoughts. And empty places.”
Choumali explains that she began embroidering the images on printed canvas as a way to cope with her own sadness. The meditative process has now become engrained in her daily practice as a way for the photographer to relax and concentrate. The brightly colored threads serve as the sentiments she cannot express verbally, and a way to witness and acknowledge the denied trauma of the Grand-Bassam people.
“This work is a way to address the way Ivorian people deal with psychological suffering,” said Choumali. “In Côte d’Ivoire, people don’t discuss their psychological issues, or feelings. A post-traumatic [shock] is considered as weakness or a mental disease. People don’t talk about their feelings, and each conversation is quickly shortened by a resigned “Ça va aller.”
Select pieces from Ça va aller will be exhibited later this spring at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in New York City. You can see more work from the Ivory Coast-based photographer on her website and Instagram. (via It’s Nice That and African Digital Art)
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In her newest artwork, Valerie Lueth has grown intricately intertwined roots and branches to form a 4-color woodblock print titled ‘BRANCHING.’ Lueth, who owns and operates Tugboat Printshop (previously) in Pittsburgh, hand-illustrated one key block and three additional color blocks to combine black, yellow, blue, and grey in the formation of the tree. To create the tree’s subtle shifts in tone and shape, Lueth first drew and carved the key block on 3/4 inch birch plywood. Next, she transferred the image via press onto the three color blocks, and hand-drew and carved each of the three color blocks. Finally, using very precise alignment, Lueth printed all four blocks sequentially on one sheet of paper to create the complete artwork.
The artist describes BRANCHING as “an image of generation and growth,” and it scales thirty inches tall and twelve inches wide. The print is currently available for pre-order on the Tugboat Printshop website. Lueth also shares her works in progress on Instagram.
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German seamstress Agnes Richter (1844–1918) was a patient at the Heidelberg Psychiatric Clinic during the 1890s. While held at the asylum she would densely embroider her standard issue straitjacket, stitching the object with words, phrases, and diaristic entries in deutsche schrift, an old German script. The layers of language make it difficult to distinguish a beginning or end to the writing, and only fragmented phrases have been deciphered from the jacket such as “I am not big,” “I wish to read,” and “I plunge headlong into disaster.”
The object is a part of the Prinzhorn Collection at the University of Heidelberg Psychiatric Clinic, named after collector and psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn. The collection contains over 5,000 paintings, wooden sculptures, sketches, and other art-based ephemera from patients at the hospital, collected by the psychiatrist during the early 20th-century. This vast collection of work made by psychiatric patients has had a major influence on a modern understanding of “outsider art,” or the artwork created by self-taught artists who have had little to no contact with the mainstream art world.
Over a century later, the jacket remains a powerful item, a lasting object that showcases how one woman transformed a sterile and impersonal garment into a rich record of her life’s journey. (via #WOMENSART)
Update: Sources vary as to whether this article of clothing was Richter’s straitjacket, a regular jacket, or part of a non-restrictive institutional uniform.
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Elusive Spanish artist Pejac (previously) travels the world creating street interventions, often integrating natural elements into man-made structures through a combination of stenciling and trompe l’oeil painting. His most recent projects have brought him to New York City for the first time, where he has created two arboreal artworks in Bushwick and Chinatown.
Pejac formed Fossil, in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, using a brick-sized stencil to spray paint carefully placed shadows on a brick wall. This illusion of bricks sinking back and surging forward creates a pixelated tree. Chinatown’s Inner Strength is fully hand-painted, depicting a cherry blossom branch growing out of a security gate and surrounding by flying swallows. Pejac, who often addresses humanity’s fraught relationship to the natural world, describes his newest artworks to Colossal:
Taking a sturdy structure and familiar urban element as a base, Fossil is proposing a hypothetical fatal future in which the only memory of nature is the fossilized appearance of a tree on a brick wall. Opposing the first work, Inner Strength is an empowering piece portraying another hypothetical future in which nature breaks the barriers imposed by the hand of man, recovering the lost ground along the way.
In addition to his outdoor work, Pejac occasionally creates editioned prints using a variety of techniques ranging from lithography to screenprinting. You can follow the artist’s travels on Instagram and Facebook. For those in New York, Fossil is located at 27 Scott Avenue in Brooklyn, and Inner Strength can be found at 2 Henry Street in Manhattan.
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San Francisco-based paper artist Kanako Abe creates elaborate, stylized portraits of animals and children using Ise-katagami, the traditional Japanese paper stencil technique for patterning kimono fabric. Abe learned Ise-katagami in 2012 and her creative interpretation treats paper as the finished product rather than simply a material in the process of image-making. The artist’s silhouettes of youth are also reminiscent of the Western tradition of creating silhouette portraits of a child’s profile. Abe fills these youthful outlines with plant tendrils, blossoming flowers, and moonlit forest scenes.
As seen in the photos below, many of Abe’s works are small, not much larger than the artist’s hand. However, she does occasionally venture into larger territory, as with her life-size wolf and bear paper cuts. Abe most recently exhibited her work in a solo show at the Little Lodge in San Francisco. You can find more of the artist’s work on Instagram. (via Scene360)
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Earlier this month in the city of Valencia, Spain, the annual five-day Falles Festival hosted the construction and burning of some 400 sculptures in neighborhoods across the city amidst fireworks, parades, and enormous bubbling skillets of paella. The festival is so large it requires year-round preparation. Neighborhoods raise money to hire artisans to build each falla, and plans are made for eardrum shattering pyrotechnic displays called Mascletà that occur daily at 2pm.
For 2018, the Falles Festival invited Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel (previously) to build the Falla Mayor, the largest and last falla to be burnt during the celebration. With the help of renowned falla designers Pepe Latorre and Gabriel Sanz, as well as a monumental effort from his team at Ink and Movement, the team submitted a winning design that incorporates the artist’s trademark colorful geometric style. Okuda says the 25 meter (82 foot) piece loosely addresses the relationship between people and animals, while incorporating various symbols the local community might find familiar.
“I’m inspired most by surrealist Salvador Dali and by Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Okuda shared with Colossal. “I mostly describe my work as surrealism.” In an interesting twist, Dali designed and built a falla during the festival in 1954. Instead of indulging in surrealism’s darker side, Okuda’s work seems to shine a bright, happy light on the creatures and figures who populate his multicolor murals and canvases.
The festival may date back to as far as the Middle Ages when carpenters and woodworkers burnt wood scraps at the end of winter to celebrate the spring equinox, though it is now generally known as a celebration of Saint Joseph. In its present day form, the trash heaps have morphed into elaborate artworks that feature celebrities, various current events, and even abstract conceptual sculptures. Caricatures of political figures like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-un appeared frequently this year. Two years ago the event was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
During the festival Okuda also opened a large retrospective of work titled “The Multicolored Equilibrium Between Humans and Animals” at the Centre de El Carme in Valencia. The expansive exhibition gathers paintings, sculptures, photos, and video works from the last 20 years. The show is free, open to the public, and runs through May 27, 2018. You can follow Okuda on Instagram, and pickup some of his original works in the Ink and Movement Shop. Video courtesy Chop Em Down Films.
The annual Las Fallas Festival ends with a grand display of fireworks and the burning of hundreds of elaborate sculptures in neighborhoods all over Valencia. Okuda’s Falla in front of city hall was the last to go up in flames after midnight to the cheers of a huge crowd that had waited in the street for hours. Swipe for fire photo. Thanx to @diegobarrachina16 and crew for the best balcony view! @okudart @inkandmovement #streetart #fallas2018 @instagrafite #lacrema
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