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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Allison May Kiphuth (previously) shrinks the expansive landscapes found throughout the eastern United States into picturesque dioramas brimming with natural life. Through layered watercolor and ink renderings, the Maine-based artist creates a mix of quiet forest scenes and ocean habitats often under a dark, nighttime sky. She then stacks the outfitted wooden boxes, blending the marine and land-based pieces in varying positions that create new ecosystems with every combination.
Although Kiphuth derives much of her subject matter from the area around her home, she shares that experiencing new scenes is essential to her practice. “I haven’t been outside of Maine in over a year, and while this landscape is usually so expansively beautiful to me, without the contrast of other landscapes for perspective, it’s been feeling incredibly small,” a feeling that’s amplified by her living and working from a tiny home that’s just 8 x 20 feet.
The artist will have work at Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia in May and has a solo show slated for August at Antler Gallery in Portland. Limited edition prints of the piece above are available from Nahcotta. Get a glimpse into Kiphuth’s process and views of the scenery she references in her works on Instagram.
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Whether rendered as a snapshot of the ocean floor or a few drops of water under a microscope, the densely inhabited paintings by Robert Steven Connett (previously) are brimming with vitality. The Los Angeles-based artist probes the planet’s bodies of water, unveiling a range of flora and fauna that populate the mysterious and sometimes psychedelic ecosystems with exacting detail.
From jellyfish and seaweed to microbes, the organisms memorialize Earth’s dwindling biodiversity. The onslaught of news concerning the climate crisis informs how Connett understands the urgency of his works—they evoke Ernst Haeckel’s illustrations but diverge from the German biologist’s drawings in color palette and foreboding elements—which serve as both earnest studies of aquatic creatures and “a tribute to life as it was before the great extinctions began.”
Even so, Connett shares that he focuses on the immense beauty and his curiosity about the natural world. “I don’t want to sully the pictures I paint with death and ugliness,” he says. “I’m afraid the news of the real world will supply plenty of that.” He explains further:
In the shadow of a withering planet, I create worlds that are lush and thriving. I hope my work can encourage and uplift those who are disheartened by the climate crisis. However, creating a memory of a time when our world was stable is not enough. We all must do everything we can to lessen the causes of the crisis.
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French illustrator and author Isabelle Simler deftly renders the liminal time surrounding dusk through a poetic exploration of Earth’s rarest color. The Blue Hour winds through the natural world on a journey to spot the pigment, from a bluejay resting on ice-coated branches to robin’s eggs to midnight skies and ocean depths. Simler focuses on “this time of day, when daytime animals enjoy the last moments before nighttime animals wake up. This in-between where the sounds and smells are denser and where the bluish light gives depth to the landscapes.”
Arranged like a color chart, Simler’s richly cross-hatched drawings display myriad nuances in time, species, and scenery of our ocean-blanketed planet. Because the pigment isn’t naturally occurring—plants, insects, and animals that appear blue are simply reflecting that portion of the spectrum rather than emitting it—the illustrations spotlight the uncommon specimens that populate the world with indigo, turquoise, and azure.
The Blue Hour is available on Bookshop along with a few of Simler’s other illustrated titles. Currently, she’s working on Topsy Turvy, a book that focuses on mimetic insects, which you can follow on her site and Instagram. (via Brain Pickings)
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Populated with low clouds, oversized peonies, and birds covered in fish scales, Thanh Nhàn Nguyễn’s dreamscapes merge fantasy and tradition in a celebration of Vietnamese culture. In his series, Season of Life, the artist digitally renders demure figures who wear áo dài, a long, split gown that’s tied to ideas of feminine beauty. The women are enveloped by the magical environment and depicted with pale tendrils grasping their ankles or cloaked by a fiery, plant-filled mass.
“I have relied on the color of flowers and leaves, the surrounding nature combined with the motifs from the Vietnamese culture where I was born,” Nguyễn writes. “What’s important (is) the fact that they come from the feelings inside me—the emotions inside each of us.”
Nguyễn recently moved to Can Thơ, which is in southern Vietnam, and shares a collection of his ethereal works on Behance and Instagram. Prints of Season of Life and other illustrations are available from Society6.
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Step into Claudia Bueno’s aquarium-style installation at Meow Wolf’s new space in Las Vegas and experience the slow, oscillating movements of natural life. “Pulse” is comprised of countless white line drawings that are meticulously intertwined and superimposed on 60 glass panels. When illuminated, they mimic scores of nautilus spirals, coral, vines, and botanics that sway and throb in glowing masses.
“This is what ‘Pulse’ is, a way of creating animated volumes using layers of drawings that build up. I have been refining this technique for the last six years, understanding how these forms can also have a moving quality when the light system is applied,” the Venezuela-born artist says, noting that the idea for the project grew out of a visit to Yellowstone National Park.
During the course of eight months, a team of women painstakingly painted the glass panels at Bueno’s Idaho studio. “The repetitive/meditative quality of the work lent itself to provide a very special healing space for us as we drew fine lines for hours and openly shared and supported each other,” she says. No matter the scale of the project, Bueno begins with a single dot that she duplicates, expands into lines, and eventually into intricately developed patterns, which she explains:
It seems like it doesn’t matter what size, materials, and tools I am working with, the same kinds of patterns manage to manifest themselves over and over, building on each other, gaining both complexity and simplicity at the same time… It has been an interesting brain challenge to visualize a stack of 2D drawings that then become 3D and move. It’s my own version of a non-digital, hand-drawn time-lapse or animation.
Although much of the installation’s work is complete, Bueno shares that she’s creating smaller sculptures, jewelry, and other works to coincide with the larger project. “Pulse” is set to premiere at Meow Wolf’s satirical sendup of consumerism, Omega Mart, which the Santa Fe-based arts group (previously) will soon open within Area 15 in Las Vegas. Until then, watch the video above by Adolfo Bueno and find more of Bueno’s light-based works on her site and Instagram. Video by Adolfo Bueno.
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Editor's Picks: Photography
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.