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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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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Expressive Portraits, Line Drawings, and Foliage Are Superimposed into Rich Illustrations by Ana Santos
At the center of Ana Santos’s practice is a commitment to discovery. The Salamanca-based illustrator fuses multiple mediums—her work ranges from watercolor, ink-based drawing, and digital painting to embroidery and ceramics—into portraits superimposed with clusters of foliage, birds, and small, black-and-white renderings, a technique she’s developed through experimentation. “Enjoying the process is very important and being open to error has given me unexpected results, which I really appreciate,” she tells Colossal.
Santos begins the layered works on paper, which she then scans to complete digitally in Photoshop. The resulting portraits are expressive and complex, weaving in elements of emotion, fantasy, and nature. “I don’t like to explain or give a concrete narrative to my work,” she says. “It seems magical to me that the viewer is open to a free and personal interpretation and that the viewer feels that it is their own.”
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We’re ushering in the Year of the Ox later this week, an occasion Felicia Chiao (previously) kicks off with an illustrated homage to the horned bovine. Rendered with gilded details and Chiao’s signature aesthetic, the drawing is the latest in the California-based illustrator’s collection of works marking the Lunar New Year. Each of the five pieces, which she creates with Copic marker and gel pens, relies heavily on red, a traditional sign of luck and prosperity for the upcoming year, along with layers of flowers, tassels, and a fantastic depiction of the animal.
Chiao tells Colossal that she’s celebrated the Lunar New Year with her family since childhood, which informed her first drawing, “Year of the Rooster,” back in 2017.
My family is Taiwanese, and so the Lunar/Chinese New Year is a big deal. I am very Asian American so I can’t say I’m the most traditional, but I grew up hearing all the zodiac animal stories and superstitions, and I wanted to make a drawing of my animal year back in 2017. It was a fun way to nod to my cultural background.
Prints from each year are available on Society6, along with a massive collection of Chiao’s fantastic illustrations. Head to Instagram to see more of her drawings featuring imagined worlds and emotional characters.
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For Christoph Niemann (previously), all it takes is a halved apple or pliers lying around his studio to spur a quirky drawing featuring the random object. The illustrator is known for his Sunday Sketches, a weekly drawing series, that play with scale and position. Imbued with humor, the cleverly arranged compositions turn a red pencil into a megaphone or a splayed book into a cat’s whiskers.
Although Niemann usually lives in New York for part of the year, he’s been working from his studio in Berlin since the onset of the pandemic. “I’m spending a lot of time just drawing—cityscapes, animals I saw at the zoo (one of the few places that are still open to visit), and turning these drawings into silkscreens and linocuts,” he tells Colossal.
Prior to lockdown, he was visiting cities like London and Tallin creating visual essays, and although he misses travel, he’s enjoyed the increased focus and routine of recent months. “Since March last year, I’ve been at my drawing desk almost every single day. The things I do depend on input and inspiration. But craft, attention to detail, and routine are hugely important, as well. These latter aspects benefit a lot from having such a plain and steady schedule,” he says.
Niemann’s recent projects include a vibrant cover for The New Yorker and his newly released book, Pianoforte, which speaks to his experience learning to play the piano as an adult. You can pick up a copy, which is an extension of this interactive feature that ran in The New York Times Magazine a few months ago, in Niemann’s shop, where he also sells originals, prints, and some of his other books. Follow his Sunday Sketches and other illustrations on Instagram,
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A Jazz Band Improvises an Entire Track in One Take for an Animated Music Video Honoring the Brushstroke
The process behind most music videos begins with an audio track that an artist reacts to and pairs with a corresponding visual, an undertaking Vincent de Boer knows well. The Netherlands-based artist has been working with the jazz quartet Ill Considered since 2017, listening to the band’s largely improvised melodies and creating abstract animations, alongside stills for its 11 album covers, to match.
But for their most recent collaboration, “The Stroke,” the group flipped the traditional workflow. With the help of his creative partner Hans Schuttenbeld, de Boer hand-drew 4,056 frames that range from dark, geometric shapes to gangly creatures to scenes that morph from one trippy composition to the next. Honoring the simple, unpretentious lines of each sweeping mark, the artist bills the completed animation as “the story of a brushstroke: a trace of a movement performed by the artist with his instrument, the paintbrush,” he said in a statement.
Once complete, de Boer shared the project with Ill Considered, who recorded an entirely improvised track on its first viewing. The resulting music video matches the jazzy riffs with de Boer’s shapeshifting sequences in a cohesive conversation between the two artforms.
You can purchase an LP of “The Stroke,” which is packaged with 12 of de Boer’s original artworks on the cover and inside, on Bandcamp, and see the full process behind the animation, including the painstaking drawing process and actual recording session, in the video below. Keep up with de Boer’s latest projects on Instagram and Vimeo.
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