Meet Bandoola, an Asian timber elephant the British Army enlisted in WWII. Purchased as a calf, the lumbering creature was shipped to a teak plantation where he was forced to drag and push logs across the landscape to construct bridges and other structures. Bandoola’s life, while fictionalized by London-based illustrator and author William Grill in his forthcoming children’s book, is based on the true story of Elephant Bill, a soldier who worked with the animals in forestry camps during the war.
In Grill’s illustrated retelling published by Flying Eye Books, Bandoola encounters veteran James Howard Williams, and the two forge an unusual friendship when they’re tasked with leading refugees and 70 elephants from Burma to India. The tale explores themes of animal cruelty and care and conservation, using textured drawings in pastel tones as a soothing complement to the story’s otherwise harsh realities. In a conversation with It’s Nice That, Grill explains that he achieved softer lines by tilting his pencil on its side, and similar to a lithograph, he drew individually colored layers for each scene before putting them together. “My drawing style is somewhat naive and simple. I try to tread a line between observation and impressionism,” he says. “I would say my visual language is observational but has some underlying character and emotion to it. Hopefully, it comes across as warm and not cold.”
Bandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue is available for pre-order on Bookshop, where you can also find Grill’s previous books The Wolves of Currumpaw and Earth Verse with similarly colorful drawings and nature-based themes. Head to the illustrator’s Instagram for behind-the-scenes looks at his process.
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Continually fascinated by the potential of the human figure, Mexico-based artist David Álvarez (previously) illustrates richly textured scenes with a dose of fantasy and surrealism: a bird’s perch transfixes a character who’s sprouted a branch nose, a man writhes on the ground as he grows from a gnarled stump, and a Cheshire cat lifts a blanket to unveil a moon hidden beneath. Underlying many of his works is “the expressive force and the gesture of the human body,” Álvarez tells Colossal, themes that are rendered through highlights and dense markings in graphite that add intrigue and mystery to the monochromatic depictions.
The illustrations shown here are a mix of personal projects and commissions, and “Cage” is slated for the cover of Álvarez’s forthcoming book about overcoming prejudices and stereotypes called Bird Woman. You can follow his black-and-white works on Instagram, and shop sketches, prints, and originals.
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In Vorja Sánchez’s ghostly dreamworld, spectral creatures plunge from the sky with long, wispy appendages that grasp onto the landscape. The Barcelona-based artist and illustrator (previously) disrupts otherwise peaceful photos with the massive forms that haunt unsuspecting hikers and farm animals as they peek out from behind a hill or congregate in airborne groups. Prints of the playfully illustrated phantoms are available in Sánchez’s shop, and you can find more from the series on Instagram. (via Lustik)
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In the hypnotic portraits of Argentinian artist Sofia Bonati (previously), women find themselves embraced by backgrounds of black-and-white linework, foliage, and abstract geometries. The feminine characters often have rosy cheeks and earnest expressions, and they seamlessly meld with their patterned environments, which sometimes conceal the outlines of their figures and accentuate their unique facial features.
Now based in Oxfordshire, Bonati will show some of her dizzying drawings in a group exhibition with Wow x Wow this December. You can explore more of her works and recent commissions on Instagram and Behance, and pick up prints and other goods from Society6.
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In Pat Perry’s Sensemaking, there’s no rubric for telling a story. In quiet scenes framed through roadside vantage points and performances of costumed figures and contemporary symbols, the Detroit-based artist (previously) considers the deeply American tendency to configure the world with single, flat narratives. Perry takes an opposing approach, though, and instead layers his pieces with contradiction, complexity, and unusual details that reflect the current moment.
Rendered in subtle color palettes, his drawings and paintings pull from the visual lexicon of Midwestern life (i.e. children playing on pipe abandoned in a field or a lone figure sitting at a card table on the sidewalk), although they contain imaginative twists and nuanced social commentary: swimming pools sit below an underpass, banners display Craigslist ads, and fleeting social media trends are printed on large posters. “These paintings and drawings offer a joyful glimpse into an invented world; one that’s closely related to the one right in front of us; one that we so often struggle to see clearly and make sense of,” a statement about the series says.
In a lengthy essay published by Juxtapoz back in August, Perry elaborates on the impetus for his latest works, which center around a broad theme of flawed logic. He revists his attempts to understand the world through the lens of his religious childhood in Michigan and later, the anarchic ideologies that guided his early adult years, and the two conflicting narratives profoundly impact the artist’s approach today. “Chapter Three of my life so far has had something to do with recognizing that truly lessening suffering maybe has less to do with understanding the world, or playing an oversized role in it. It may not be about constantly ‘using my voice,'” he writes.
Sensemaking, which features dozens of new paintings, charcoal drawings, and works in acrylic and pen, is on view from October 6 through November 16 at Hashimoto Contemporary in New York, and you can follow Perry’s work on Instagram.
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Nearly a century since it began, the Great Depression is still largely associated with the iconic imagery that’s come to define the era. Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” and Walker Evans’s portrait of the distinctly tight-lipped Allie Mae Burroughs are two foundational shots that establish the period’s visual record, and they accompany the approximately 175,000 photographs also commissioned by the U.S. Farm Security Administration during those years.
While vast in number, this collection is understood today as being limited in scope, particularly in relation to its failure to reflect racial diversity, because the head of the FSA from 1935 to 1941, Roy Stryker, effaced images he felt didn’t align with the agency’s goals. When he wanted to reject a photo and prevent its dissemination, he would mark it with a hole punch, an erasure that Tulsa-based artist Joel Daniel Phillips evokes in his striking series Killing the Negative Pt. 2.
The ongoing project reimagines intimate portraits and wider shots from that period as meticulous graphite and charcoal drawings and oil paintings in shades of red. Monochromatic and ranging from small portraits to life-sized renderings, Phillips’s works complicate the narratives expunged from the historical record by focusing on a wider and more diverse swath of the population. “When the black voids of Roy Stryker’s hole punch are placed front and center, the reality of just how much power that a single, White man had to shape the narrative re-frames and re-defines the entire discussion,” the artist said in an interview about the first part of the project.
Included in Killing the Negative Pt. 2, which runs from October 9 to 20 at Hashimoto Contemporary’s new Los Angeles gallery, are glimpses into both rural and urban life with large-scale paintings of an older farmer, young girl outfitted in a frilly dress, and a panoramic shot of a migrant family and their makeshift living quarters. One smaller work (shown below) recreates a selfie that FSA photographer John Vachon snapped “in a hotel room mirror while on assignment. He took several of these, and apparently, Roy Styker (the head of the FSA) particularly hated this one, since he punched it twice,” the artist writes.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.