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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Surrounded by Feathers, Birds Clutch Their Bleeding Hearts in Christina Mrozik's Monochromatic Illustrations
Just as they’d carry a seed to a new location, the birds in Portland-based artist Christina Mrozik’s latest series tightly grasp pulsing hearts in their talons. The graphite illustrations intertwine masses of feathers and avian body parts with the still bleeding organs, suggesting that they recently were ripped from the chests to cause their descent.
Coraticum—cor means heart in Latin—is an exploration of reconstruction, one that’s defined by bringing the heart outside the body. “It represents the beginning place from which feelings unfold, the center, the seed. I see this as the place before the stem or the root, before the flower or the honey,” they say. As a whole, the series considers the difficult emotions necessary for transformation. Mrozik (previously) tells Colossal the project was born out of personal upheaval in their life, which they explain:
I had been undergoing a major rearrangement in my relationship, rewiring my brain’s response to chronic pain and learning about the history of trauma on my nervous system. The way I moved internally was under massive rearrangement and self-scrutiny, and I was doing my best to find where to put things. Then quarantine hit and it felt like the work of rearrangement was happening externally on a global level.
Each monochromatic illustration is connected to a specific step of the reconstruction process: “The Eye of Recollection” to memory, “Safekeeping” to self-preservation, “The Ten Intuitions” to desire and instinct, “Colliding in Reverse” to letting go, and “Untethering Permissions” to questions about authority.
Coraticum is currently on view at Portland’s Antler Gallery, which will be sharing virtual tours of the solo show in the coming weeks. You can find prints, pins, and books of Mrozik’s surreal compositions in their shop, and follow their work on Instagram. (via Supersonic Art)
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From his Brighton-based studio on the seafront, Mark Powell (previously) pieces together crinkled book pages and postcards laden with travel dispatches. The vintage collages serve as backdrops for the artist’s oversized portraits of older folks, whose pensive stares and deep wrinkles are rendered gently in ballpoint pen. Often magnified, the subjects complement the weathered, ephemeral surfaces that span multiple feet. “I’m currently working on a series of larger works because they have much more impact on the viewer, more confronting yet comfortable I’m hoping. It is also much more tricky because by just using a ballpoint pen no mistakes can be made, and it would be a terrible shame to ruin a map, document, or letter that has survived hundreds of years only to be destroyed by me,” he shares with Colossal.
Each enlarged illustration—which sometimes depicts famous subjects, like Basquiat and Hunter S. Thompson— takes about a month to complete, and Powell generally works on more than one simultaneously. Recently, he’s started to slow down his artistic production as he shifts away from creating for dozens of shows every year. “The past two years, I’ve taken a step back from shows slightly to allow that evolution space to breathe. It has meant that the quality of the work has increased immeasurably (still much room for improvement of course),” he says.
Powell’s detailed illustrations will be included in an upcoming show at Hang-Up Gallery in London. Until then, dive into his repurposed projects on Behance and Instagram, and check out the available prints in his shop.
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Compiling more than 500 cards, a new book sequences an incredibly diverse array of metaphysical decks from medieval to modern times. Tarot is arranged in order from the Major to the Minor Arcana and examines the meaning behind the varied illustrations, considering who created them and when. From a whimsical, black-and-white rendering of The Lovers by Madison Ross to French occultist Jean-Baptise Alliette’s pastel series, the compendium explores the collaborations between mystics and artists that have been happening for centuries. Many of the pieces included in the 520-page book are being shown outside their respective decks for the first time.
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As widespread lockdowns swept the globe earlier this year in response to the threat of COVID-19, intimacy became fraught. For artist Käthe Butcher, the loss of an embrace or casual peck on the cheek was incredibly difficult. “The pandemic affected everyone differently. I always thought I am not that kind of person getting scared or/and paranoid easily, but in March I did. I panicked and felt very alone, which was one reason why I left London at the end of March to go back to my family. It was definitely the right decision,” she tells Colossal.
This desire for connection culminated in “A Hug In The Garden,” an emotional rendering of two women holding each other. Their botanical garments swaddle their individual bodies, and singular stems poke out from their sleeves, adding a bit of whimsy. Similar to her other drawings—explore a larger collection of Butcher’s work (NSFW) on Instagram—this illustration visualizes emotional depth and intimacy.
Replete with floral motifs and delicate lines, Butcher’s pieces generally focus on one or two figures, who are simultaneously confident, carefree, and elusive. Rendered in thin, inky lines, the women portray a range of experiences, moods, and personalities. “Femininity can be everything and nothing. It’s individual. For me personally, it is something elegant yet strong,” she shares with Colossal.
Currently, Butcher is in the process of leaving London permanently for her hometown of Leipzig, Germany, and has been reflecting on the role of artistic practices in the current moment. “As for a lot of artists, this situation was and is still blocking a lot of creativity. It’s draining. Like wading through mud. But at the same time, it feels like the beginning of something new, bigger,” she says.
To purchase a print of the artist’s tender renderings, peruse what’s available in her shop.
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According to long-held superstitions, a horde of black cats certainly indicates impending misfortune, but for Kamwei Fong, a mass of the furry creatures is actually a fluffy utopia. Containing felines in various emotional and physical states—drowsy, peeved, and deep in slumber— “Wonderfurryland” features a diverse kitty population defined by their rotund bodies, splayed limbs, and puffed tails. Fong even inked cat-shaped environmental fixtures, like a moon, sun, and mountain, into the black-and-white landscape.
Having an idea for the delicately rendered illustration for years, the Malaysian artist (previously) tells Colossal that it took him more than a month to detail the proper density for each animal. “Despite the long hours of effort and exhaust(ing) tons of micro-pigment ink pens, Kamwei finds the working process therapeutic and enjoyable, to see every bit of his creations being added day by day to complete the whole painting,” a statement about the project says.
To follow Fong’s upcoming kitty-centered illustrations, follow him on Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.