Just as a ceramicist would smooth the harsh edges of clay, Martin Satí renders the supple contours of a subject’s face with sweeping motion. Thick drops of color form the light of a cheekbone or eyelid crease, and the swirling lines that overlay the Seville-based illustrator’s portraits add a dynamic element. Through implied movement, the expressive works capture the subjects’ energy and momentary expressions.
Satí shares that his practice, while digital, similarly molds facial features as a sculptor would. Despite using impalpable tools, he says that his “material is like semi-liquid and is difficult to model but at the same time is very rich in movement and liveliness… I work with this material, which I usually call ‘Silicone Pie,’ as an artisan works with ceramics. I am modeling the colors with lines of movement until I achieve an optimal level of detail.”
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Despite their uncanny elements, the black-and-white worlds of Stefan Zsaitsits (previously) deftly encapsulate the ennui and angst of modern life. The meticulously cross-hatched scenes depict solitary figures in states of psychological stress as they wrap their bodies around docks, cry profusely, and find themselves stuck under a thundercloud. Some of the lethargic, anxiety-ridden figures literally are overwhelmed by the atmosphere or shown putting on a happy face.
Zsatisits recently compiled 21 illustrations in a collection titled Wherever, which is available for purchase on his site. All works are 21 x 21 centimeters and printed on 350 gram/meter² cardboard. Explore an extensive collection of his earlier pieces on Instagram and Behance, where he also shares a behind-the-scenes video of his process.
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Subversively Elegant Portraits of Indigenous People Drawn on Repurposed Ledgers by Artist Chris Pappan
In his mixed-media portraits, Chicago-based artist Chris Pappan draws on the tradition of ledger art, a practice that flourished among Native populations throughout the Great Plains from around 1850 to 1920. Rooted in narratives, the renderings depicted the ways of life of Indigenous people and the nuances otherwise left out of mainstream conversations. “The mid-19th Century was a tumultuous time for the Indigenous peoples of America; the doctrine of Manifest Destiny brought deep pain and suffering but it also introduced new modes of expression,” says Pappan, who is a citizen of the Kaw (Kanza) Nation and of Osage, Lakota and mixed European heritage.
Using graphite, colored pencils, ink, and water-based media, the artist illustrates black-and-white portraits on a variety of intentionally sourced materials, like municipal ledgers and mining certificates. One artwork (shown below) features five mirrored figures imprinted on Boy Scouts of America neckerchiefs that offer commentary on the destructive practices of the youth organization by recreating appropriated imagery. A similar piece, “Of White Bread and Miracles,” evokes the illustrations in the manual Here Is Your Hobby: Indian Dancing and Costumes, which the group often used to teach its members. “The book is an example of cognitive dissonance as it erases any vestiges of contemporary Native people and homogenizes all Native American cultures while making casual remarks such as ‘…get a local Indian to teach you singing and dancing if you can…,'” Pappan writes.
Despite invoking historical references, the artist imbues his figurative renderings with visions for the future. The lowbrow movement—particularly the melding of technical ability with taboo subject matter—influenced much of his earlier work. More recent projects have honed in on issues of systemic racism and appropriation of sacred objects, which Pappan hopes inspires viewers to question their own complicity. “I’ve always felt it important to understand boundaries (or rules) so that one can break them and then be able to redefine culture in our own terms. (Native American) Culture is living, and we have the responsibility of its continuity,” the artist says. He expands on the idea:
Through the medium of indelible ink, I am asserting our identity and our continued existence in the face of attempted erasure and negating the centuries of racist misrepresentations… In the re-appropriation of an object that may have been considered sacred to some, I hope to impose a sense of what Native people feel when we’re confronted with sacred objects or the bones of our ancestors displayed as macabre entertainment for capitalism.
Pappan is represented by Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe. If you’re in the Chicago area, his ledger art is on display in the windows of 1100 Florence in Evanston through December 4, and “Scout’s Honor” is part of the group show, The Long Dream, which is on view at MCA Chicago through January 17, 2021. Otherwise, stay up to date with his subversive projects on Instagram and his site.
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Steeven Salvat (previously) evokes the glass-covered entomological studies of rare butterflies, beetles, and moths with an additional layer of protection. The French artist armors the singular insects with precious gemstones, silver and gold filigree, and rotational gears. Even elements of luxury watches, like Breguet’s Reine de Naple and an intricate dial from Vacheron Constantin, cloak the critters’ outer shells.
In a note to Colossal, Salvat writes that the growing collection of drawings is an “allegory for the preciosity of biological systems. A way to drive attention to our smallest neighbors on this planet—we need to preserve them because they are worth much more than all the gold and jewels I dressed them with.” Each intricate drawing is rendered with China black ink and watercolor and takes at least 50 hours to complete.
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Through an eclectic array of illustrations and photographs, ten Canada-based artists are collaborating in an effort to boost awareness of mental health struggles. Life on the Line is a new public art campaign spearheaded by Twentytwenty Arts that recently installed 200 posters across the Toronto TTC Subway. From portraits to abstract renderings, the vivid works will be on display through January 16, 2021.
Each piece is informed by the artists’ own experiences with mental health issues, including depression, agoraphobia, and anxiety, among others, that the storytelling platform Unsinkable will share throughout the coming weeks. “We hope that this campaign will bring people joy and comfort in an otherwise stressful and anxious time (especially if they have to be on public transit!),” Megan Kee, the director and founder of Twentytwenty Arts, tells Colossal.
If you’re not hopping on the subway in Toronto any time soon, 50 limited-edition prints—which are signed and numbered—of each of the works are available in Twentytwenty Arts’ shop. Seventy-five percent of all sales will be donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Family Outreach and Response Program. You also can follow Twentytwenty Arts’ outreach efforts on Instagram.
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Painted on Vintage Postcards, Flora and Fauna Celebrate Farming Traditions and Wildlife of the Midwest
Twenty-seven years ago while studying at the University of Illinois, illustrator Diana Sudyka (previously) retrieved a bundle of postcards from a dumpster. The ephemeral correspondence revealed a relationship between farmers and workers from the Harvard area and a man named John Dwyer, either their accountant or investor who lived throughout Chicago, Cicero, and Berwyn. Dated from 1939 to 1942, the short letters generally contained information about livestock sales and farm expenses.
Now based in the Chicago area, Sudyka repurposes the envelopes as canvases for her watercolor and gouache paintings of flora and fauna native to the Midwest. “I have a strong attachment to the envelopes for various reasons, not least of which is that I was born and raised in Illinois, and spent a good deal of time in rural areas of the state,” she shares with Colossal. The penmanship, patina, and markings on the paper all inform her decisions to reflect a particular shrub or beetle duo amongst the remaining postmark and stamp. “I am drawn to the beauty of the handwriting on the envelopes, and the variation in the inks used,” she says, also noting her affinity for the assembled artworks of late artist Joseph Cornell.
Through delicate depictions of squirrels and long-legged herons, the illustrator connects her own experience enjoying the region’s bucolic settings with the decades-old content of the letters. “I often think about the wildlife that I saw as a child in those rural areas, unaware at the time of how much agriculture had already altered the land. And now as an adult, so much of both wildlife and those family farms are gone. The envelope paintings are my homage to both,” she says.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.