Polish tattoo artist Joanna Świrska (previously) stipples fur and inks subtle gradients to create fanciful scenarios of backpack-wearing kangaroos, cycling cats, and whimsical masses of tangled flora and fauna. Working as Dzo Lama, Świrska is known for her delicate illustrations that mix playful elements with the style of vintage botanical renderings, particularly the bold, black fern that recurs in her tattoos. Her ink-based pieces often cover an entire thigh or upper arm with precise lines and pockets of color.
Świrska tells Colossal that while her style is largely derived from nature, she also draws on the works of Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Gauguin. “I like to combine non-obvious colors and create new combinations. I approach the form the same way. I like contrasts such as light-heavy, hard-delicate. A tattoo is an extension of our personality, and we, as humans, are multi-dimensional,” she says.
Based in Wrocław, Świrska currently runs Nasza Tattoo Shop and is working on opening another location in a mountainous enclave of Jelenia Góra. She sells prints, mugs, and stickers of her illustrations on Etsy, and you can follow her travels and information on available bookings on Instagram.
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Melbourne-based artist Josh Dykgraaf has a discerning eye for matching two seemingly disparate elements. In his ongoing Terraforms series, autumn leaves become feathers, magnolia petals wind into scales, and plumes form fins that swish through water. Each illustration merges flora and fauna into an entirely new fantastical creature, and a single piece can take days to complete, with the pair of Tawny Frogmouths, for example, clocking in at 55 hours and more than 3,000 layers.
“My process for how I pair natural textures with animals is usually a bit like cloud gazing—like as a kid, did you ever stare up out the clouds and make out different forms and shapes among them?” Dykgraaf says, noting that he takes all of his own photographs of the source materials on hikes or walks around his neighborhood. Once he returns to his studio, he painstakingly collages the extraordinary creatures, coating a closed beak in bark or an echidna in regrown brush following the East Gippsland fires.
In the coming months, Dykgraaf is shifting to a portrait series focused on Indigenous people around the world. His digital works will be included in The Other Art Fair in Sydney from March 18 to 21 and the virtual edition, which runs March 23 to 28. Until then, see a larger collection of the intricately constructed creatures on Behance and Instagram, and pick up a print from his shop. (via designboom)
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The First USPS Stamp Designed by an Alaska Native Artist Features a Trickster Raven as It Steals the Sun
When it’s released later this summer, a new stamp from the U.S. Postal Service will illuminate a piece of Indigenous culture that’s long been associated with an escape from darkness. Titled “Raven Story,” the history-making postage features an iconic animal rendered by Rico Lanáat’ Worl, who is the first Tlingit and Athabascan artist to be featured by U.S.P.S. Awash with twinkling stars, the stamp portrays a black bird grasping the sun in its beak as it breaks from its human family. The motif is based on the story of “Raven And The Box Of Daylight,” traditional Tlingit lore about the trickster animal bringing the stars, moon, and sun to the universe after a series of heists.
In a statement, Worl shares that the raven is a prominent figure in Tlinglit culture, and the stamp depicts the pinnacle of this often-recounted tale. He writes:
Raven is trying to grab as many stars as he can, some stuck in his feathers and in his hands or in his beak. Some falling around him. It’s a frazzled moment of adrenaline. Partially still in human form, as depicted as his hand still being human, as he carries the stars away. I think it depicts a moment we all have experienced, the cusp of failure and accomplishment.
Worl lives in Juneau, where he works with Sealaska Heritage Institute and co-runs Trickster Company, a design shop focused on Northwest Coast art, with his sister, Crystal. To coincide with the USPS launch, he plans to create pins, prints, and other goods featuring the design, which you can follow on Instagram. (via Hyperallergic)
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Fantastical Cartoons, Robotic Pets, and Vibrant Architecture Populate Digital Illustrations by Ori Toor
In Ori Toor’s Gibberish universe, it’s not uncommon to see bulbous cartoon creatures, leaves sprouting from pockets of machinery, or tunnels wrapped in rainbows. Set against solid backdrops, the digitally rendered dreamlands are teeming with fantastical elements and whimsy as Toor plays with scale and shape, planting a yellow pyramid or robotic cat on varying planes. Each drawing evolves naturally, a process Toor likens to creating a “Rorschach painting and trying to figure out what you’re seeing and then continuing work. I’m not sure what I’m trying to convey until the piece is done. I think mostly it’s me trying to feel safe in the world.”
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Write for Rights: An Illustrated Campaign for Amnesty International Aims to Free People Who Are Imprisoned
A new campaign for Amnesty International exemplifies the power of the pencil in a moving series of illustrations by Bristol-based Owen Gent. Led by creative agency Cossette, the initiative was was designed for Write for Rights, an annual effort striving to free people around the world who are imprisoned unjustly. In the last two decades, it’s proven highly effective and boasted a 75 percent success rate after helping release 127 people.
Set on bold backdrops, Gent’s illustrations each utilize an oversized pencil that stands in for a spotlight, camera flash, boat’s wake, and sound booming from a megaphone, representing the issues facing this year’s targets—read more about Melike Balkan, Özgür Gür, the El Hiblu 3, Khaled Drareni, and Nassima al-Sada on Amnesty International’s site. The poignant renderings serve “as a reminder that even the smallest gesture can have a huge impact—it can change lives,” Cossette says.
Write for Rights is the world’s largest human rights event that generates millions of letters sent around the globe each year. You can find out more about this year’s efforts and how to join on the organization’s site.
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Packed with texture and depth, Song Kang’s ink-based drawings begin with “I wonder…I wonder how this will look compared to that, or I wonder if I can mix this and that,” she says. The Atlanta-based illustrator renders rich labyrinths populated by elements from land and sea that are depicted in an otherworldly manner: candy-colored liquid drips from a bonsai, fish and butterflies coexist in the same dense ecosystem, and a maze of M.C. Escher-style lizards sprawls across the page.
Each illustration is infused with ideas of evolution and the connection inherent in nature, themes that present themselves in both subject matter and Kang’s process. Often prompted by a loose idea, she starts with a sketch and works organically, drawing the intricate and minute details from one corner to the next. Her process is intuitive, which she explains:
In one moment, I feel like I’m building a distinct environment one crosshatched pebble at a time. The next moment, I’m clueless with only an impulse and a gut feeling to add something somewhere. One of these spontaneous decisions was choosing to add color. I was always using black ink, avoiding bright colors out of habit and uncertainty. But during quarantine, I found several colorful ink pens and became curious to see how it would look in my texture-heavy, fine-tuned crosshatched style.
Kang’s work is currently part of Wow x Wow’s Mindweave, a virtual group show that runs through February 26, and originals, prints, and smaller items are available in her shop. To see more of her meticulous process, watch this recent tutorial with Art Prof and head to Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.