Tucson-based artist Albert Chamillard (previously) spends hours, if not days or weeks, crosshatching cylinders, sliced cubes, and three-dimensional arrows. Rendered on vintage ledgers and graph paper, each geometric shape relies on the density of the artist’s pen markings to create works that appear to stand straight up off the page.
Chamillard describes his process as absorbing, often occupying him for hours at a time as he meticulously draws line after line. “A much longer process is developing the drawing in pencil first so it looks ‘right,’ meaning it fits within the page and balances the shape and looks like it belongs there,” he says. “Composition is a huge part of my work, and if it doesn’t fit on a page correctly, I won’t bother finishing it.” Despite being non-representational, the works also hold information like a diary or journal. “When I’m drawing, I thinking about everything else in my life, and usually title them in a way that conveys that snapshot of time for me, so I can look at my older drawings and know roughly what was going on.” The artist hopes to convey the necessity of devotion and patience in creative work.
Each monochromatic drawing has a meditative and hypnotic effect, and Chamillard’s fascination with light and shadow began in 2017 when he started rendering three-dimensional shapes. Since then, though, he’s shifted his intention. “I am currently focused on drawing fabric, specifically folded fabric, and translating it into drawings using the same crosshatching technique I’ve been using 6 or 7 years,” he says. “I’m also experimenting with larger drawings comprised of multiple sheets of ledger paper.”
Often sourcing his materials from thrift stores and yard sales, the artist tells Colossal it hasn’t been as easy to obtain old notebooks in recent years. “They have since become much more difficult to find, so I rely on Etsy if I want a specific one, and I’ve also had the benefit of strangers on Instagram sending me ones they find (If you have an old ledger you want to see go to a good home, please contact me!).”
To see more of Chamillard’s volumetric drawings, and perhaps to share some of those papers you’ve got piling up in the attic, head to Instagram.
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French artist Steeven Salvat (previously) cloaks his beetles and butterflies in an elaborate armor of rotational gears, jewel-toned gems, and muted stained glass. He tells Colossal that the heavily adorned insects merge his passion for nature, history, and science. They’re “an ode to exceptional craftsmanship and luxury houses. I want to showcase a full range of beetles species wearing some highly detailed goldsmith work, gemstones, mechanical gears, and luxury watch dials—in the style of entomologists’ studies,” Salvat says.
The artist soaks each piece of his 300 gsm watercolor paper in black tea before rendering his ornate pieces with a combination of watercolor, China ink, and white ink. “The smallest piece took me more than 30 hours of work, painting and drawing thousands of black lines with 0.13 millimeter Rotring pen,” he writes.
Salvat has two more insects currently in the works and plans to exhibit a few at DDESSIN 2020. Follow the ongoing series on his Instagram, where he also shows progress shots and deeper insight into his process. Check out his available prints in his shop.
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Although many of us won’t be flying over Leysin, Switzerland any time soon, French artist Guillaume Legros, who’s better known as Saype, has painted a hopeful new work on a grassy hillside that’s best seen from the air. Across 3,000-square meters, “BEYOND CRISIS” shows a little girl with a hand-drawn farandole circling around her. She peers across the mountainous region toward the horizon.
The expansive piece is Saype’s encouraging response to the ongoing threat of COVID-19 worldwide. “During these times of pandemic, a majority of the world population is confined. Although we are all affected, we live different challenges or struggles and I choose to paint this fresco entitled ‘BEYOND CRISIS’ close to home to share with you an optimistic message and a breath of fresh air,” the self-taught artist wrote on Instagram.
Saype explores themes of humanity through existential philosophies, he said in a statement, by inviting “us to wonder about our deep nature, our spirit, our place on earth and in the society.” The artist began working on grassy landscapes in 2015 as a way to merge his penchant for land art and graffiti, which since has inspired an artistic movement. For his massive projects, Saype uses paint derived from natural materials like coal and chalk.
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Mattias Adolfsson’s (previously) impeccably detailed illustrations demonstrate his propensity for a controlled frenzy that borders on the chaotic but never quite passes the threshold. The Swedish artist creates fantastical drawings of city blocks, bizarre collections of writing utensils, and intricate menageries of deceased animals that merge science fiction, whimsy, and the absurd. While some of the muted artworks feature a central narrative, like the sea-bound ship below, each of his incredibly intricate pieces are impossible to consider with a single glance, in part because they cover the entire sketchbook spread. For more of Adolfsson’s sprawling illustrations, visit Instagram or Behance, and head to Etsy to add one to your own collection.
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Some meals leave an impression—you might remember the cherry pie your grandma always made or a multi-course dinner consisting of toast and caviar, a mound of shaved truffle topping pasta, and wagyu tartare. Rather than solely rely on his memory to envision the fare he’s enjoyed, though, Japanese chef Itsuo Kobayashi has been painting and describing in detail the dishes he’s eaten for the past 32 years in a series of notebooks and standalone works.
While an interesting look at Kobayashi’s nourishment, the detailed projects are also a growing collection of outsider art. N. Kushino, who runs Kushino Terrace gallery in Fukuyama, Japan, and represents Kobayashi, tells Colossal that the artist begins by writing detailed passages of what he eats before going back to create his appetizing illustrations.
What stands out is that all of these drawings feature an overhead perspective so that all of the ingredients of the food Kobayashi depicts can be seen. Furthermore, in the blank spaces in his compositions, the artist writes the names and prices of, and his opinions about the food and the ingredients he portrays. He adds positive descriptive words about his subjects, such as “delicious,” so that he may provoke good memories when he later looks at the drawings.
For many years, Kobayashi cooked at a soba restaurant and provided meals for schools until he was diagnosed with alcoholic neuritis, a debilitating condition that reduced his mobility. Now, the artist mostly works from home, ordering take-out often and continuing to detail his meals at length. Since he started the creative project at age 18, Kobayashi has produced more than 1,000 illustrations. “For him, painting and living have the same meaning. The disease (makes it) more and more difficult to walk, but he does not stop painting,” Kushino says. Most recently, Kobayashi has begun shaping pop-ups in his works featuring bowls of tempura seafood and piles of noodles.
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Ectlectrc Pencil: Lost Collection of Pencil Drawings Reveals Trials of Patient at Missouri State Hospital No. 3
Harris Diamant knew he discovered an important piece of outsider art when he came across a hand-bound book of drawings for sale on Ebay in 2006. Listed by a bookseller in Lawrence, Kansas, the collection was comprised of 238 crayon and colored pencil illustrations on ledger paper by a then-anonymous author and was sold to a collector minutes after being posted. Diamant reached out to the buyer to share his contact information in case the person decided to sell the work. Soon enough, he purchased the entirety of the cardboard, cloth, and leather-bound book that held a hefty five-figure price tag.
The series is titled Ectlectrc Pencil—a misspelled version of Electric Pencil—and features lightly-pigmented drawings from a patient at Missouri State Hospital No. 3, a moniker that often tops the pages. On the cover, a thin-lipped woman with coiffed hair holds up a bouquet of flowers. Other pages include a brown lion with a bird swooping overhead carrying a banner saying “Cat Rag,” while another depicts a rocky gorge with a train running above it. The portraits throughout the work are detailed similarly: most people have large eyes and are dressed in clothes indicative of the early 20th century. Each page is numbered in the top corner.
After multiple unsuccessful attempts to sell the entire collection, Diamant brought the drawings to the 2011 Outsider Art Fair in New York, where the project garnered attention from The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Art on Paper. Firmly planted within the tradition of outsider art, the Electric Pencil project somewhat resembles the work of Henry Darger, the American writer and artist who worked as a Chicago hospital custodian while creating hundreds of drawings and watercolor paintings that were discovered after his death. His pieces now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As talk about the unknown artist’s identity grew—Diamant even hired a private investigator to look into the project—so did interest in the collection. According to a 2012 report in Riverfront Times, a 52-year-old woman soon contacted Diamant about the artifact. She was the niece of James Edwards Deeds Jr., the collection’s creator.
Born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1908, Deeds frequently was abused and mistreated by his father. When he was four years old, the family moved to McCracken, Missouri, where they ran a successful farm. By age 25, Deeds’s parents sent him to the Marshall School for the Feeble Minded, an outmoded component of a system that sequestered people with a range of educational and social capabilities. Three years later, he was committed to the state hospital in Nevada for the rest of his life.
Housing more than 2,000 patients at its greatest capacity in 1950, the state hospital was situated on 500 acres and was an active farm that patients worked throughout their stays. In a conversation with Colossal, Diamant mentioned that four pages in the book, including the cover and title of the project, refer to ECT or electroconvulsive therapy, a procedure that sends small electric currents through the brain in order to cause a seizure, which alters the brain chemistry and can aid in mental illness. The frequent mention of the therapy points to the effect it had on Deeds as he underwent standard treatment from doctors at the time.
Reports printed in Riverfront Times from the state hospital described Deeds as “psychotic, disturbed, boisterous and delusional.” Doctors diagnosed him officially with schizophrenia.
On the ward, he is hilarious, sings and runs around on the hall…Worked for the state of Arkansas for a man he did not know. States he only committed one crime and that was murder, and did not think that amounted to very much. Said they told him at home he was crazy, but he does not think so, but his mind is not quite right since he got hit on the head with a stick. He is in no way depressed, is much pleased at being here, says he is worth twenty or thirty million dollars. He states that he is most popular with the girls, that they are all running after him. When asked how (illegible notation) he states that he was just born that way.
While committed to the institution, Deeds crafted scenes of circuses replete with animals and performers, in addition to what seem to be depictions of the expansive hospital. Page 33 even features a yellow-eyed man sporting a top hat called “Why Doctor,” perhaps an indication of how Deeds’ understood those who oversaw his care.
Diamant also noted that the cover and many of the inside pages show signs of wear, signaling that Deeds carried his prized project with him often. As his most valued possession, Deeds gifted his illustrated works to his mother to protect them from getting ruined or thrown away, but of course, that plan didn’t work out as he intended. Lost for years, a 14-year-old boy found the collection in the trash in 1970 at the Springfield town dump, and it was then passed through various hands until Diamant purchased it.
He’s been digging deeper into the story since, trying to uncover and share information about Deeds’s life and the creativity the artist fostered while confined to a life inside Missouri State Hospital No. 3. For deeper insight into the Deeds’s life and his illustrated project, grab a copy of The Drawings of the Electric Pencil.
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“ME: An Exhibition of Contemporary Self-Portraiture” asks 22 contemporary artists to explore who they are and how they present themselves. Curated by Sugarlift and Juxtapoz contributing editor and Colossal contributor Sasha Bogojev, the exhibition presents each artists’ understanding of themselves and of the history of self-portraiture. Cesar Piette’s abstract blue face resembles dripping paint partially masked by glasses, while Prudence Flint portrays a woman napping on a pink bed next to a guitar. Many of the artists created their first self-portraits in years, if not ever, specifically for the show, which includes work from Aleah Chapin, Cesar Piette, and Christian Rex van Minnen, among others.
In a conversation with Colossal, Bogojov answered a few questions about contemporary culture and self-awareness, how they influence self-portraiture, and the ways current conceptions of identity show up in ME.
Colossal: How have perceptions of the self changed since the creation of such a selfie-obsessed culture?
Bogojev: Oh, that is a tough one and I’m certain there are papers if not books written on that subject. But I do feel that a selfie-obsessed culture created more self-awareness on different levels. For this show, in particular, I feel like lots of artists wanted to fight against the popular idea of “self” or what we know now as selfie, by presenting themselves imperfect, flawed, caricatured, even grotesque in some cases.
Colossal: Could you talk a little more about the intersections between psyche, mirror, and others that you see in contemporary self-portraiture?
Bogojev: Modern-day takes are rarely realistic renderings of one’s mirror image and are often including elements that suggest qualities beyond that. Whether playing with light, formatting, color scheme, or simply going away from realism completely, they often focus on the author’s character, emotions, and such. I like to believe that this show encompasses that really well with the variety of approaches and visual languages presented.
Colossal: So many conversations about identity center ideas of multiplicity, of people not having a singular self. How do you see that relating to the face and to self-portraits?
Bogojev: Exactly! I think this is what most artists nowadays are fully aware of and that is why they struggle to find the “right way” to create self-portraits or they create multiple versions of it. Again, I feel it’s the superficiality of selfie-culture that made them extra wary of how they present themselves without jeopardizing their integrity and practice. With their artwork being the most direct and honest way of communicating with the world, it is not easy for an artist to pick one image, or even concept, as a single representation of oneself. I think this is why the artists in ME built their self-portraits by layering different visuals (Van Minnen), assembling a variety of elements (Shiqing), creating an atmosphere they connect to (Flint, Toscani, Chapin), captured an intimate moment that describes them best (Erheriene-Essi, O’Brien).
ME is on view from January 16 to 30 at High Line Nine in New York. If you’re in the city on January 21, stop by for “The Self-Portrait: Antiquity to #Selfie,” a talk by art and culture critic and author Carlo McCormick, historian and Sotheby’s VP of Old Masters Painting Calvine Harvey, and contemporary painter Jenny Morgan.
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Editor's Picks: Street Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.