Considering Complexity and Ritual, an Imaginary Universe Emerges from Psychedelic Digital Illustrations
Luis Toledo has a knack for building ethereal universes. The Madrid-based artist, who works under the moniker Laprisamata, digitally illustrates otherworldly scenes and composite characters formed from vibrant blocks of color, patterns, and mundane objects, like pineapples and leaves. “I am interested in working on the complexity of human beings and animals, working against the medical anatomy atlases that try to simplify living beings. Nature always develops complex shapes, and I try to imitate that,” he tells Colossal.
Psychadelic in style, the collaged renderings are part of a larger narrative relating to the rites, rituals, and beliefs of the Blue Desert, Toledo’s imagined world. He explains the fictional universe:
Most of these artworks take place in the Blue Desert. The Blue Desert or The Desert of the Blue Men is the place where the Iberians will live, an ancient sea where priests make rituals and sacrifices, and where the three-eyed skull and black felines are venerated. Land of Esperpentos where elms used to grow and where some olive trees, acacias, almond trees, and thyme now survive.
Toledo created many of the pieces shown here during lockdown, while he was confined to his apartment with little access to nature. “I needed the characters in my works to be located in large open spaces where there was nothing to prevent the sky from being seen,” the artist writes.
Eventually, Toledo hopes to compile these illustrations and develop the characters’ narratives in a graphic novel or book, an endeavor you can follow, along with more of his kaleidoscopic works, on Instagram and Behance.
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Fascinated by the transient expressions and feelings of his subjects, Uli Knörzer attempts to capture a moment in time. The Berlin-based illustrator draws richly detailed portraits that are simultaneously revealing and elusive. By positioning each subject against a solid backdrop, Knörzer eliminates the contexts that inspire their particular looks and moods. “Because a tilt of the head and look to the side or a smirk could be just that but by putting it on paper, detached from their surroundings, that fleeting moment can be charged with a completely different meaning. All of a sudden someone very outspoken and extroverted can appear very introspective, etc,” he shares with Colossal.
Always focused on idiosyncracies, Knörzer says his choice in subjects is particular. “It’s always the side scene, someone in the background, or a backstage moment that draws my attention, and I imagine what their ‘deal’ is, so I love to put them front and center,” he says. He then sketches the subjects entirely with colored pencils, highlighting the texture inherent to the medium.
Many of the deflty rendered portraits shown here are part of a commissioned project for Highsnobiety that centers on Black hair. Having previously worked on a variety fashion and journalistic endeavors, Knörzer received direction on styles and runway looks from the magazine and was able to determine the rest. “I had the freedom to draw people the way I saw them in those clothes and with that hair. And that’s how I like it the most,” he tells It’s Nice That.
Knörzer’s background includes a lifelong love of portraiture—he shares that he would draw his teachers as a child and enjoyed paging through books of Tomi Ungerer’s work—and a degree in graphic design and typography from HfG Offenbach. Explore more of his figurative illustrations on Instagram.
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Full of extraordinary creatures, the illustrated series The Creative Specimens seamlessly combines species into unusual hybrids. Similar in color, each organism is bizarre in form. The feathered head of a bird is placed on a tortoise’s body, octopus tentacles sprout from the bottom of a cactus, and speckled coral comprises a deer’s antlers.
Adobe’s 99U Conference spurred the collaborative project as a way to offer a visual language encompassing various creative careers and passions. Inspired by the biological classifications of Charles Darwin and his contemporaries, New York-based art director and graphic designer Mark Brooks digitally rendered the organisms by referencing vintage illustrations. He then passed the project to Joanmiquel Bennasar, an illustrator living and working in the Balearic Islands, who recreated the creatures in watercolor.
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Between 1596 and 1647, art dealer and diplomat Philipp Hainhofer traveled around Europe amassing an incredibly rich collection of signatures in the “Große Stammbuch,” or “Album Amicorum.” Akin to an autograph book, Hainhofer’s register is replete with the marks of Cosimo II de’ Medici, Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, and Christian IV of Denmark and Norway, to name a few. Covered in red velvet, “Album Amicorum” was part of a larger trend to record family, friends, and acquaintances that began in the 16th Century.
Hainhofer compiled the signatures during the course of 50 years, beginning when he was a college student. As he gained religious figures and royalty as clients, he’d ask them to sign his book and commissioned about 100 detailed illustrations to sit alongside. The elaborateness of the illustrations directly corresponds to the signatory’s status and rank in society.
This week The Herzog August Bibliothek purchased the centuries-old tome—which was thought to be lost until it emerged in a London auction in 1931—for about $3.1 million. It’s the library’s second attempt to acquire the historic book after August the Younger of Braunschweig-Lünebur, who was Hainhofer’s friend, failed to buy for the Wolfenbüttel, Germany-based institution in 1648. (via The History Blog)
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A visual insights designer at Nike by day, Gladys Orteza spends her off-hours transforming otherwise dull stock market charts into brilliant landscapes. The dips and rises of companies like Ford, Tesla, Apple, and Disney become rocky gorges and distant city skylines. Prompted by trading practices pre-pandemic, Orteza began to envision buildings and natural features when diving into Robinhood. “I remember sitting on the couch looking at one of my stock charts and nonchalantly saying to my husband that these charts look really pretty and that I should recreate them as mountains on a landscape,” she says. These visualizations soon manifested into vivid, nature-based depictions.
The Hillsboro, Oregon-based artist, who’s been sharing her landscapes on Instagram, tells Colossal that much of her inspiration comes from living in the Pacific Northwest. “One day we were driving through farmland during a sunset, and the colors of the sky was so breathtaking I had to start drawing. I then got inspired by a few old trucks that were parked on people’s properties,” she says. That experience resulted in the pastel landscape created utilizing Ford’s chart (shown below) that has a vintage vehicle driving through the foreground.
Orteza also contradicts any notion that stocks and data are impersonal by adding important pieces of herself into each artwork. The moon radiating in the background of every piece represents her daughter named Lyanna Luna, and if you look closely at the nearby bird, you’ll see the creature actually is comprised of the artist’s signature.
To be clear, Orteza doesn’t expect her mountainous scenes or starry nights to influence trading decisions. “It’s not intended to help the viewer make any business decisions or give any technical analysis. It’s visual storytelling. It’s art,” she says. (via Kottke)
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In the early 18th century, publisher, bookseller, and apparent fish enthusiast Louis Renard compiled the seminal compendium of color-illustrated ichthyological studies. The volume contains more than 450 species rendered in vibrant hues that, while somewhat anatomically accurate, feature embellishments in color and characteristics. From beak-like mouths to extraordinarily patterned skins, the vast illustrations of marine life are unusual, bizarre, and sometimes psychedelic. One of the most fantastical illustrations even depicts a mermaid (shown below).
A digital copy of Renard’s work—which officially is titled Fishes, crayfish and crabs, of various colors and extraordinary figures, which one finds around the Moluccas islands and on the coasts of the Austral lands—is available in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, an incredible open-access digital archive. Overall, the library estimates that about 9 percent of the illustrations are fabricated, a detail that’s unsurprising considering the Dutch publisher never traveled to the East Indies to complete his studies. Instead, he copied 460 hand-colored copper engravings from other artists, many of which were contributed by soldier and painter Samuel Fallours who was based in Ambon, Indonesia. In a similarly duplicitous manner, the library also believes that Renard identified himself as a secret agent to the British crown as a way to sell more copies of his work.
The tome was published in three editions, and only 16 of the initial printing, which happened between 1718 and 1719, are known to exist. Thirty-four copies of the second version from 1754 remain, which is also the iteration shown here. There are just six books left from the third printing in 1782.
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