A moth-human hybrid, striped coral, and a smoking frog sporting a tracksuit inhabit Cat Johnston’s fantastical ecosystem crafted from paper, textiles, and sculpy or epoxy clay. The playfully bizarre creatures are inspired by monsters, mythology, and folklore, evoking deities and magnifying the strange qualities of plants and animals. Johnston created many of the lifeforms shown here shortly after moving to San Francisco and exploring the environment. “I was blown away by all the strange and lovely cacti and succulents and the animals I saw there (hummingbirds and pelicans and raccoons!) and wanted to create a landscape of plants and creatures that felt as alien and magical as California did to me,” she says.
Currently living and working in Portland, the illustrator and model maker first worked with paper for a stop-motion animation she did with Andersen M and Tundra studios and has been creating with the material since. She’s in the process of crafting two more characters, which she’ll be sharing soon on Instagram. You also might enjoy Roberto Benavidez’s piñatas and the felt storybook creatures by Cat Rabbit.
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Polish tattoo artist Joanna Świrska (previously) stipples fur and inks subtle gradients to create fanciful scenarios of backpack-wearing kangaroos, cycling cats, and whimsical masses of tangled flora and fauna. Working as Dzo Lama, Świrska is known for her delicate illustrations that mix playful elements with the style of vintage botanical renderings, particularly the bold, black fern that recurs in her tattoos. Her ink-based pieces often cover an entire thigh or upper arm with precise lines and pockets of color.
Świrska tells Colossal that while her style is largely derived from nature, she also draws on the works of Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Gauguin. “I like to combine non-obvious colors and create new combinations. I approach the form the same way. I like contrasts such as light-heavy, hard-delicate. A tattoo is an extension of our personality, and we, as humans, are multi-dimensional,” she says.
Based in Wrocław, Świrska currently runs Nasza Tattoo Shop and is working on opening another location in a mountainous enclave of Jelenia Góra. She sells prints, mugs, and stickers of her illustrations on Etsy, and you can follow her travels and information on available bookings on Instagram.
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Melbourne-based artist Josh Dykgraaf has a discerning eye for matching two seemingly disparate elements. In his ongoing Terraforms series, autumn leaves become feathers, magnolia petals wind into scales, and plumes form fins that swish through water. Each illustration merges flora and fauna into an entirely new fantastical creature, and a single piece can take days to complete, with the pair of Tawny Frogmouths, for example, clocking in at 55 hours and more than 3,000 layers.
“My process for how I pair natural textures with animals is usually a bit like cloud gazing—like as a kid, did you ever stare up out the clouds and make out different forms and shapes among them?” Dykgraaf says, noting that he takes all of his own photographs of the source materials on hikes or walks around his neighborhood. Once he returns to his studio, he painstakingly collages the extraordinary creatures, coating a closed beak in bark or an echidna in regrown brush following the East Gippsland fires.
In the coming months, Dykgraaf is shifting to a portrait series focused on Indigenous people around the world. His digital works will be included in The Other Art Fair in Sydney from March 18 to 21 and the virtual edition, which runs March 23 to 28. Until then, see a larger collection of the intricately constructed creatures on Behance and Instagram, and pick up a print from his shop. (via designboom)
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Say goodbye to the days of buying succulents only to watch them wilt and shrivel. Just flip open a pop-up book by photographer Daniel Gordon, and find a collection of forever-perky shrubs and greenery sprouting from the pages.
Published by Aperture, Houseplants features quirky still lifes of potted vegetation and fruit that Gordon developed using photographs found online, a process that’s central to his overall practice. The obviously constructed forms, which were created by self-described paper engineer Simon Arizpe, juxtapose the realistic nature of the plants with saturated colors and unusual depth, resulting in scenes that are distinctly informed by the internet and the melding of digital and analog techniques. “The seamlessness of the ether is boring to me, but the materialization of that ether, I think, can be very interesting,” Gordon says in a statement.
To add the sculptural greens to your collection, pick up a copy of Houseplants from Aperture or Bookshop, and explore more of the Brooklyn-based photographer’s vibrant, collaged projects on his site and Instagram. (via Juxtapoz)
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In Valerie Hammond’s series of wax drawings, protection is two-fold: the artist (previously) encases dried flowers and ferns in a thin layer of wax, preserving their fragile tissues long after they’ve been plucked from the ground. In outlining a pair of hands, she also secures a memory, or rather, “the essence of a gesture and the fleeting moment in which it was made.”
Centered on limbs lying flat on Japanese paper, the ongoing series dates back to the 1990s, when Hammond made the first tracing “partly in response to the death of a dear friend, whose beautiful hands I often found myself remembering.” She continued by working with family and friends, mainly women and children, to delineate their wrists, palms, and fingers. Today, the series features dozens of works that are comprised of either hands tethered to the dried botanics, which sprout outward in wispy tendrils, or others overlayed with thread and glass beads.
Although the delicate pieces began as a simple trace, Hammond shares that she soon began to overlay the original drawing with pressed florals, creating encaustic assemblages that “echoed the body’s bones, veins, and circulatory systems.” She continued to experiment with the series by introducing various techniques, including printmaking, Xerox transfers, and finally Photoshop inversions, that distorted the original rendering and shifted her practice. Hammond explains:
The works suddenly inhabited a space I had been searching for, straddling the indefinable boundary between presence and absence, material and immaterial, consciousness and the unconscious. For me, they became emblematic not only of the people whose hands I had traced but of my own evolving artistic process—testimony to the passing of time and the quiet dissolution of memory.
Hammond’s work recently was included in a group show at Leila Heller Gallery. Her practice spans multiple mediums including collage, drawing, and sculpture, all of which you can explore on her site and Instagram.
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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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Editor's Picks: Photography
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.