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!
Illustrator Diana Cojocaru first caught my attention with her collection entitled Human Wings. Using water-based media, she lets the vibrant hues have a mind of their own as they bleed into one another and create a dreamlike feel. Hands are a thematic occurrence in her work, and about the series, she explains it with one single quote by Sanober Khan: “Your hand touching mine—this is how galaxies collide.”
In her Beyond project, Diana was inspired by a passion for flowers, hidden messages, and again—hands!
Diana’s current project started as a challenge to herself.
“I’ve always considered that I’m not able to draw portraits, with everything I’ve created so far revolving around abstract concepts,” she tells me an in an email. “Even though my style is a clumsy one, I want to bring my illustrations into the fashion area and to communicate through the clumsiness itself that every woman has a beauty which is often hidden behind peculiar features, far from the stereotypes.”
I’ve written here before about my penchant for 100 days projects, and artist Samantha Russo has recently completed one that’s full of color and pattern—plus, it’s all contained in her sketchbook. Page after page, she uses paint, markers, and pastels to create vibrant abstract compositions that experiment with scale and texture.
If you’re looking for a project to start 2017 (or finish 2016), this seems like a good one. It makes you focus on play, and I’m sure that elements from these pages will be incorporated into Samantha’s work somehow.
Illustrator Chloe Bristol is a background painter for Disney Junior and Cartoon Network, but she also creates excitement in the foreground of her works. Crafted with a cinematic touch, these vignettes introduce us to many stories and characters whose scenes beg us to fill in the blanks. I would love to see them as animated GIFs—it’d add to the mystique that Chloe has so expertly crafted with setting and color.
And a couple of portraits, just for fun:
We all have our own ways of achieving ~zen~, and for me, it’s witnessing the beauty of grandiose natural landscapes. The vast, seemingly never-ending horizon reminds me of just how big the world is, dwarfing whatever worries occupy my brain. Maggie Chiang captures this feeling with exquisite snapshots of open spaces. Inky and drawn textures mimic desert scenes, rapid waters, and gray skies. In every image, the Earth looks magnificent and makes me want to find the nearest hiking trail!