Ukrainian Artist Julia Pilipchatina Draws on the Centuries-Old Tradition of Porcelain Painting with the Future In Mind
In the 7th or 8th century, Chinese artisans devised a way to combine feldspar and kaolin and fire it at a very high temperature to produce the first porcelain, which was traded globally and highly sought-after for its elegant surfaces and ornate designs. The precise process wasn’t easy to replicate: not until the early 18th century did makers in Germany first achieve the right mix of materials and methods to produce the ceramic in Europe. Around the world, the bright, white surfaces of dinnerware and decorative vessels provided canvases for the painstaking craft of porcelain painting, emphasizing numerous patterned layers of colorful glaze. For Ukrainian artist Julia Pilipchatina, the craft of hand-embellishing plates connects her to a rich creative legacy and to personal stories and family heirlooms.
Formally educated as a historian, Pilipchatina is fascinated by the profound ties to ancestry and culture that tableware represents. “By choosing a unique plate for ourselves, we draw upon our own values, and—I hope—these objects remain in our families as testament to the lives of past generations,” she says. As a refugee from Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine, the artist was forced to close her workshop, leave all of her belongings behind—save for her two dogs—and start from scratch. Now in Belgium, she’s developing a series of plates depicting detailed, chromatic insects with spotted wings, serrated legs, and feathery feet. She says:
The Beetles series was born out of an attempt to overcome my fear. It’s difficult for me to approach the topic of war. It’s too painful and feels like a black hole that drags me in as soon as I focus on it. But I suppose the nature of fear is the same, and I decided to take on a somewhat safe but strong and irrational fear of insects.
While insects have long appeared in ceramic tableware alongside other popular motifs like birds, trees, and bucolic landscapes, Pilipchatina renders each critter in a style mirroring her watercolor illustrations, inspired by an encyclopedia depicting exotic, jewel-colored specimens in intricate detail. The more she studied the images, the more the creatures ceased to be a source of anxiety as she noted their elaborate patterns and found beauty in their vibrance and textures.
Each bug’s bold, saturated color emerges through the meticulous layering of thin coats of paint, or overglaze, to the surface, then firing the piece at 800 degrees Celsius. “The cycle consists of heating and cooling to room temperature, which means that one firing can last 12 hours,” Pilipchatina says. “Since the paint is semi-transparent, achieving brightness, depth, and contrast requires many layers, and therefore many firings.”
Emphasizing beauty as a reprieve from the loss of her home and the ugliness of war, the artist focuses on tenderness and fragility in the natural world and humanity’s relationship with it and one another. Combining art and utility, an elegantly crafted dish emphasizes longevity, continuity, and tradition while connecting loved ones around the table. She says, “Having an item that belonged to a grandmother or great-grandmother is of great value and rarity. Now, I am creating such objects for the future.”
Pilipchatina explores a range of decorative ceramic designs in addition to a few series of illustrations about her dogs and children’s stories. You can find much more of her work on Behance, Instagram, and in her Etsy shop.
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An Endearing Fawn Searches for the Sun in an Enchanting Picture Book Illustrated by KAA
A stunning picture book written by Joanna McInerney and illustrated by KAA follows a small fawn who embarks on a beguiling journey in an effort to chase the sun. Traveling through lush forests, groves of cherry blossom trees, wintry hills, and sunflower fields, readers accompany the young deer on his poetic journey to stop and smell the flowers.
In The Fawn Who Chased the Sun, Ho Chi Minh-based duo Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien, a.k.a KAA, envision a whimsical world that translates into flourishing illustrations. Transporting readers into an exuberant environment, KAA incorporate various patterns inspired by William Morris along with surreal elements such as oversized flora and towering frogs.
The duo first creates detailed sketches, which Quang scans and hands over to Lien to begin the digital coloring process. Highlighting seasonal shifts through different palettes, they encourage the reader to enjoy the journey through multiple perspectives as the environment changes. “We have tried so many new perspectives and colors that we never used before in this book, and every experiment brought us joy while drawing it,” the illustrators tell Colossal.
You can follow more of KAA’s work on their Instagram, Behance, and website.
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Energetic Avians Peer from Vintage Book Pages in Detailed Paintings by Craig Williams
Peering out from the pages of vintage atlases, textbooks, and field guides, Launceston, Tasmania-based artist Craig Williams assembles a menagerie of vibrant avians inspired by Australia’s vastly diverse wildlife and ecosystems. Spurred by an interest in the natural world, his past work in a wildlife park and as an illustrator with a regional museum specializing in spiders and insects amplified his interest in drawing and painting the natural world. The accuracy of scientific illustrations translated into a flourishing interest in birds, which he began to pair with diagrams, text, and sheet music to draw connections between geography, wildlife, and science.
Williams carefully chooses the pages for their connection to each specimen, such as a map of Tasmania that provides the background for a green rosella, a species endemic to the island. “There will always be a relationship between the bird and the page,” Williams tells Colossal. “[It is] sometimes direct, like the use of the field guides, but even these pay homage to the work of the artists and researchers who create these guides both presently and in the past.” In another piece, a peregrine glides in the foreground of a dictionary’s architectural illustrations, recognizing how the falcon has adapted to urban environments by using tall buildings as nesting places instead of cliffs.
In addition to historical connotations, Williams explores the physics of sound and light. Music pages reference passerines, the order of perching birds to which songbirds belong, emphasizing “the use of song by the birds for breeding, socialisation, territory control, etc., but also bringing our relationship with music and song to these recognisable birds that frequent our gardens,” he says. “Other examples include using old physics textbook pages on light, relating to the color in birds as well as light wavelengths in terms of iridescence, or sound wavelengths in terms of song.”
In collaboration with the podcast “The Science of Birds,” Williams paints a species mentioned in each episode, which are available for sale on the podcast’s shop with half of the proceeds donated to BirdLife International’s conservation efforts. You can find more of the artist’s work on his website and on Instagram.
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Figures and Events Are Transfixed by Time in Pep Carrió’s Extensive Daily Visual Diaries
In 2007, Madrid-based artist and illustrator Pep Carrió’s expansive diary project began as a challenge with a simple premise: to draw something every day. No matter what materials were at hand and without any predetermined theme or subject matter, he took a game-like approach to see if he could accomplish filling an entire Moleskine datebook throughout the year. The numerous editions that have followed feature a dazzling array of scenes fashioned from marker, pencil, tempera, pen, ink, collage, and found materials.
Carrió’s stream-of-consciousness process has led to a collection that ranges from abstract flora to silhouetted and patterned figures to surreal vessels and landscapes. Originally, the volumes contained one drawing each day with complementary images on facing pages, but in recent years, the artist has begun to more consistently fill the entire spread with a single image, creating bold compositions that play with the symmetry of the book and the confines of its edges. Imagery of sprawling tree branches, obscured faces and masks, and bodies in precarious circumstances strike a metaphorical chord, exploring human society and psychology. His method of completing a drawing each day is itself an exercise in memory, as the diaries have accumulated records of the artist’s thoughts over time and unfurl into a personal archive.
Carrió currently has work on view as part of From Spain with Design traveling throughout Spain during 2022 and Play with Design at the Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporánea in Valencia through October 23. You can find more information on his website and follow the visual diary project on Instagram.
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Cinematic Journeys Illustrated in Hand Painted Maps by Andrew DeGraff
Maine-based artist, illustrator, and pop culture cartographer Andrew DeGraff creates detailed maps that outline the movements of major characters in iconic movies. Made by hand using gouache and ink on paper, each of DeGraff’s maps are meticulously planned and can take up to 1,000 hours to complete.
DeGraff has been working as an illustrator for 15 years. He began his “Cinemaps” series in 2011 and has since published a book that includes art inspired by Back to the Future, King Kong, The Shining, Pulp Fiction, and other classic movies. Speaking to Colossal about his process, DeGraff said that it doesn’t matter if the film is a favorite that he has seen several times, or if it is one that he is less familiar with—the approach is the same. While carefully watching the movie a few more times, he deconstructs each scene and character journey (which are color-coded in the maps) to create a flowchart. “Then I start building my reference file from film stills, behind the scenes shots of the sets, location shots, Google Earth—even LEGO recreations if [they’re] helpful,” he explains. He then creates a blocking sketch before going in with pencils and paint.
“The smallest ones are 50–80 hours, and the largest go up to 600–1,000 hrs,” DeGraff said. “It’s often tedious but meditative work and I’ve come to love it. And I get to listen to a lot of audiobooks and music while I work since I don’t have to fully concentrate while I spend a day painting 800 trees or something.” To see more of DeGraff’s attention to detail in painted trees and movie landmarks, follow him on Instagram.
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Playful Illustrative Characters Span Brightly Painted Walls by Joachim
Belgian street artist Joachim paints vibrant murals that look as if they were torn from the pages of a very large children’s book. His illustrative style brings humor and color to walls and structures in cities across the world. Joachim first discovered graffiti and street art as a six-year-old child in Antwerp. As an adult, he began experimenting with various styles both on walls and on canvases as a way to grow and develop his own aesthetic, separate from the work he had done in art school.
From 88-foot-tall underpass pillars in Austria to one-story quickies, what connects each of the artist’s murals is his use of bold lines, dynamic poses, contrast, and the playful spirit that he infuses into every piece. Two recent murals in Antwerp, where much of his art can be found on walls throughout the city, were made in collaboration with local schoolchildren. Joachim created the outlines of a stylized horse and bull, and then kids held their (gloved) hands up to be spray painted, their silhouettes creating the textured surface of each animal.
To see more of Joachim’s fun paintings and for updates on the two currently-secret solo gallery shows that he is currently working on, give him a follow and a like on Instagram and Facebook.
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