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Art Illustration

Graphite Portraits Distort and Intertwine Subjects to Visualize Metaphors of the Body

April 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Miles Johnston, shared with permission

Malmö, Sweden-based artist Miles Johnston portrays subjects whose figures are in states of flux, whether through fragmented bodies, multiplied faces, or limbs contorted into impossible positions. Often depicting Johnston (previously) or his partner, the graphite portraits distort typical anatomy in a way that balances the familiar with the unknown and visualizes the thoughts and emotions otherwise hidden inside the mind.

Whether set against a trippy backdrop or quiet beach, each piece portrays the experience of the body “through a kind of internal metaphorical language,” the artist says. He explains further:

We don’t directly experience the actual biochemical facts of what is happening in our bodies, hormones secreting, weird little proteins and neurons doing whatever it is they do. Instead, we have a whole language of expressions like stomach tied up in knots, feeling empty, torn in two, burning with anger, etc… I’m aiming for this sort of naive direct representation of what things feel like instead of a literal representation of how they look from the outside.

Keep an eye on Johnston’s site and Instagram for news on upcoming print releases and his latest works.

 

 

 



Illustration

Fantastical Cartoons, Robotic Pets, and Vibrant Architecture Populate Digital Illustrations by Ori Toor

February 18, 2021

Grace Ebert

“David and the Sphinx”

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.”

Toor is based in Tel Aviv, and you can find a growing collection of his Gibberish series on Behance. Prints, masks, and other products featuring his illustrations are available from Society6.

 

“Lolopoola”

“Mirrrorrr”

“Gibberish Hubris”

“The Memory of Tommy Teacher”

 

 



Illustration

Otherworldly Ecosystems Populate Dense, Cross-Hatched Illustrations by Song Kang

February 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Evolution of Plants,” pen and ink, 30 x 20. All images © Song Kang, shared with permission

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.

 

“Butterfly Fish,” pen, ink, and acrylic paint, 17 x 17

Left: “Greenhouse,” pen, ink, acrylic paint, 10 x 17 inches. Right: “Fall Leaves,” pen, 9 x 13

“Bonsai Drip,” pen and markers, 9 x 6

“Henry’s Garden,” pen, ink, and acrylic paint, 23 x 23

“Escher’s Lizards,” pen, ink, and acrylic paint, 11 x 13

“Swamp Thing,” pen and ink, 8 x 11

“Venus Flytrap Squid,” pen and markers, 9 x 12

“Coral: Exploding Skulls,” pen, 9 x 12

 

 



Illustration

Expressive Portraits, Line Drawings, and Foliage Are Superimposed into Rich Illustrations by Ana Santos

February 11, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Ana Santos, shared with permission

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.”

Shop originals and prints of Santos’s illustrations on her site, and follow her latest projects on Instagram.

 

 

 



Illustration

Animals of the Lunar New Year Beautifully Illustrated by Felicia Chiao in an Ongoing Series

February 10, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Year of the Ox” (2021). All images © Felicia Chiao, shared with permission

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.

 

“Year of the Rooster” (2017)

“Year of the Pig” (2019)

“Year of the Rat” (2020)

“Year of the Dog” (2018)

 

 



Illustration

Quirky Illustrations by Christoph Niemann Reinterpret Household Objects in Clever Contexts

February 9, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Christoph Niemann, shared with permission

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,