One of my favorite things about Instagram is when illustrators share their work in progress. I love seeing the process! Amber Davenport, a self-proclaimed “pattern lover,” shares her paintings in the midst of being created—including the her current palette. The acrylic pigment is used in busy jungle illustrations featuring loads of florals and creature friends. Their dizzying combination of color and painted texture makes them a joy to look at and begs you to spend some time with them.
Molly Fairhurst gets back to basics in her expressive illustrations. Concentrating on form and the gesture of her subjects, the paintings have an energy that draws you in, be it one of her 1,000 Tigers or portraits of people in action. In my favorite of her illustrations, you get the distinct feeling that you’re coming into the middle of something exciting.
Last year, illustrator Rachel Jo gave herself an assignment. “I decided to challenge myself to do a painting a day for a month in November 2016 to really get my style to show some consistency,” she tells me in an email. “The proportions of my figures were really wonky and my color palette was all over the place.” The 30 days were “difficult but rewarding,” and it’s been a big help in her current endeavors and overall career.
Does the middle of the week got you down? If so, escape to the dreamy illustrations by Camila Ortega. Clad in cotton candy pinks and tranquil blues, her characters greet you with a relaxed smile and sleepy gaze. They occupy a space that’s neither here nor there—the place where our subconscious thrives.
Illustrator Olaf Hajek is known for his gorgeous paintings that are a feast for the eyes. One his more recent series is called Black Antoinette, and it imagines Marie Antoinette—the infamous Queen of France—as a woman of color. The regal portraits pay homage to his subjects’ beauty as well as the splendor of the natural world. As their hair reaches towards the sky, it’s completely composed of flowers, birds, animals, and fruit. Each illustration is visually overwhelming (in the best way) and begs you to admire all of its fine painted details.
Last week, I featured the work of Isabelle Feliu as part of my list of 16 fantastical fashion illustrations. Since then, her paintings have been on my mind. Combing women of all shapes and sizes, she outfits them in fabulous fashions from real-world designers like Vivetta and Gucci. The clothing is contemporary, but the Isabelle’s style of watercolor paintings is reminiscent of artists long ago. Matisse comes to mind—especially in the gesture of Isabelle’s figures, as well as her use of bold, flattened shapes.
Inspired by wildflowers, roootree (aka Kaori) illustrates their colorful beauty onto porcelain plates, cups, and saucers. My favorite pattern—a mixture of tall grasses and bright buds—seems undoubtedly inspired by this meadow of wildflowers. Kaori has translated the endless rows of flowers into layers of color and texture. Using a combination of tight drawing and diffused shapes, she creates the feeling of depth. It’s as if her illustrated ceramics are actually made of a field of blooms.
Kaori sells her wildflower ceramics on Etsy.
Artist Celan Bouillet creates “little worlds full of animals, greenery, and adventure.” The colorful, highly-detailed pieces feature places that are everywhere and nowhere. Sloths, giraffes, tropical leaves, and peacocks—all painted at the same scale—occupy the same composition. They are, however, so carefully arranged while together, they never fully interact. This is Celan’s design. “These mixed media pieces are highly detailed and manipulate scale along with pattern to create complex narratives,” she writes.
To produce these pieces is an exercise in meticulousness. Every branch, rock, and animal is painted gouache on paper which is then cut out and placed on a background. Celan’s compositions are so seamless that at times, it’s hard to tell—but her in-progress works on Instagram showcase her beautiful process.
Celan sells her work as large limited edition in her Etsy shop, The Bayou Botanist.
If you’re in the midst of winter, Becky Blair’s landscape paintings are a beautiful escape from dreary skies and frigid temperatures. Fusing realism with abstraction, she layers colors, textures, drawing, and printing to create imagery that are like vivid dreams. These reveries are inspired by her extensive travel through India, Australia, and Europe, and she, in turn, “reflects the experience, rather than the visage” of a place. Through her paintings, we are part of these moments, too.
Once again, Kirsten Sims has captured an incredible energy in her paintings that recall the spontaneity of pencil sketches. Her latest series was created for the Turbine Art Fair in Johannesburg, and they feature vibrant outdoor and indoor scenes that act as a yin and yang—the beauty of solitude, as well as the hustle and bustle of large groups. Each is lively in its application of paint; the colors swirl and mix on canvas, diffusing and abstracting the illustrations. It’s as if they represent one long, fantastic dream… or better yet, a memory!