Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see people with copious amounts of tattoos on their arms, legs, and head. But, it wasn’t that long ago that these permanent adornments were only found on a very specific group of people – prisoners. Tattoos back then were markedly different than their modern counterparts, and some were preserved for posterity in formaldehyde. The tiny pieces of history are an eerie but a fascinating look at the past.
The designs of early tattooing were much simpler than they are today. Instead of the needles we’re familiar with, prisoners would use crude tools like razor blades, broken glass, paper clips, or wires. Ink was substituted for pencil refills, charcoal, watercolor paints, or crayons and mixed with water, fat, or urine.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a study of the prisoners’ tattoos began in the Department of Forensic Medicine at Jagiellonian University, and researchers wanted a way to document their findings. While photography might have been the simpler (and more obvious) solution, prisoners’ tattooed skin was removed and preserved.
The extractions, encased in glass, are small curiosities that don’t really look like tattoos at all. Removed from the context of the body, they are symbols for crimes like burglary, rape, and prostitution. (Via Scribol)
Before he was the Prince of Pop Art and arguably the biggest art star on the planet, Andy Warhol was one of the most sought-after graphic illustrators in Manhattan. Years before he designed two of Rock and Roll’s most iconic album covers, Warhol was responsible for a series of recently recovered Jazz record covers for Count Bassie, Thelonious Monk and Moondog.
Rendered in his then-trademark ‘blotted line’ style (a technique Warhol mastered before screenprinting, where a single line of heavy, beaded ink was drawn on one sheet of paper, and then pressed against another which created a blotted monoprint), these whimsical and funky covers graced some of the best jazz albums of the 1950′s. The quality of Warhol’s highly trained freehand drawings separated him from other commercial illustrators of the day, but one of his many secret weapons was his mother’s gorgeous script writing, seen heavily in the looping, colorful script featured on The Story of Moon Dog (above). Warhol employed his mother’s lovely writing to essentially double his work-load, a precursor to his loose-authorship creative policy that would become commonplace later in his Factory days. (via dangerous minds)
In January 26,2012 we posted about NYC based artist Akira Horikawa’s 1000 Drawing Project. Then, he was almost half way done with the challenge; today, we can say that he is finished.
For the past six years, Horikawa has been posting on his Tumblr in hopes that he could, in some way, catalogue his “happenings, dreams and emotions.” In pocket-sized sketchbooks, he effectively but weirdly tries to evaluate his thoughts, values and experiences through simple but insightful and humorous drawings which topics range from sex and love, to existential questioning and everything else in between.
You can visit his Tumblr blog, where you will find the rest of his drawings!
Artist Randy Ortiz has been tantalizing the eyes of illustration fans for years, illuminating concert and movie posters both professionally and as creative tasks for a great imagination. While past work emphasized ink line work and detailed black and white charcoal drawings, recent work has become more colorful, with flat background colors which perhaps surprisingly emphasize the darker thematic weight in the mystical figures and composition.
The self-taught Canadian artist uses evolved techniques to illicit a near-Surrealistic response from his often-human figures, draped in masterfully rendered drapery and fabrics. Despite the often serious undertones immediately noticeable in his work, the obvious sense of humor is evident (mutant visual remixes of Drake’s oft-mocked album cover seen below for example). In other works hooded figures clamor over each other, all reaching for a disembodied hand holding a small heart talisman representing love, or mystical-triangle-eyed cats eye floating balls of string. With Ortiz’s visual narratives and painting style evolving at a rapid pace, he is definitely ahead of other illustrator/artist to watch.
Professional illustrator and graphic designer Marcello Barenghi has a long and successful career rendering visual narratives and designs. But recently his drawing demonstrations have given the Milan-based draftsman a new following, as his Youtube video series routinely tops over a million hits per video.
With stop-motion demonstrations showing how Barenghi renders commonly found objects ranging from crumpled snack chip bags, Euro coins and more challenging objects like mirrored silver teapots, viewers can watch how a master draftsman achieves his trademark photorealistic results. Although few students of pencil, graphite and airbrush will ever achieve the results Barenghi does, they can at least see the unlimited potential of the blank page when the artist demonstrates each step by step video. (via gizmodo)
The work of Dillon Boy (né James Dillon Wright) emerged from a street art and graffiti background, combining pop culture, branding, advertising, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to take these sources further than they were intended. This evolution (or devolution) is evident in his series DIRTYLAND, where the artist takes the ever-popular childhood icons of Disney’s princesses and removes their context, and clothes.
In works which collage smut magazine backgrounds with spraypaint stencils, drips and graffiti scrawls, these princesses become transformed representations of our combined high and lowbrow society, and take aim at the falsely marketed ideas of perfection and innocence. In an exclusive talk with Beautiful/Decay, Dillon talks about the series. “Most of my audience were kids when these princesses ruled their world, so now that they are all adults (and sexually active) they are all ready to hang paintings of naked Disney chicks all over the house. [laughs]. No for real though, I believe it’s my job as an artist to question the very things around me and to continuously break down the traditional and more conventional ways of making art. It is my intention to raise or lower your eyebrows in one way or another.”
This reappropriation of pop culture icons is nothing new, but seems to be happening at a rapidly increasing pace (Beautiful/Decay has recently featured several such reimaginings of pop culture symbols), indicating that artists are remaining relevant to many audiences by constantly questioning what we collectively see daily. Dillon Boy (surprisingly?) notes that he has not seen much in the way of criticism of his DIRTYLAND series, and that is his job as an artist to take things one step further. “Well, one thing is for sure, we live in a sexually charged culture. Walk outside and you will quickly find a billboard or an ad in a publication showcasing a woman as a sex object. Sex sells remember. I simply used the pure, untainted characters of Walt Disney to convey that message. But that’s obvious, I’m not doing anything that hasn’t been done before… but I’m ready to do it again!”
When artist Amanda Burnham first moved to Baltimore, Maryland, she didn’t know anyone. So, she spent a lot of time in her 7th floor apartment that had interesting views of the city. The time spent observing and recording her surroundings later informed her temporary, site-specific installations that are a patchwork representation of Baltimore. Burnham draws and paints street signs, fire hydrants, architecture, and store fronts, piecing them together in a manner that’s fractured yet cohesive. Taking elements of a neighborhood (or neighborhoods), she fashions her own view of the city, creating work large enough for a viewer to walk around and between. In an interview with Dwanye Butcher of Visual Baltimore, Burnham explains why she chooses to work this way (and why she reuses paper and boxes):
The idea of things being layered and pieced together is important to me. I see this city, and really all cities, as these giant ad-hoc organisms – collectively authored, chop-a-bloc, joints exposed – an ongoing melange of edits, adjustments, negotiations. I hope to suggest that with the deliberately collage-y, visually dense, maximalist aesthetic of my drawings. I also love paper and what it does when treated as an object – the shadows it casts, the way tears and cuts are line. Most of the paper I use is really cheap stuff – low grade drawing paper that comes in rolls, kraft paper, packing materials. Boxes. That’s important because I’m not rich, but also because I see it as conceptually significant – resourcefulness is an ethic I sometimes see evidenced in the forms of the city, and it’s one I really respond to.
Burnham not only takes the outdoors indoors, but creates a whole new environment in a matter of a few days to a week. Lighting, astro turf, and electrical tape craft an ambience that’s unique to the city.
We are a society mesmerized by extremes. In our fascination with art this generally translates into obsession with magnitude, scale and sheer quantity, while our consumption tendencies of technological objects tends to swing the opposite, manifesting in compact phones-computers-everything else in one hand held device. The works featured here are as mind blowing as the compactness of current computer software programs, packing so much detail into such tiny confines. All of the works here are created on standard matchbooks, with the painted or drawn imagery measuring in at no more than four inches of length on any given piece. Joseph Martinez, Mike Bell, Jason D’Aquino and Krista Charles all demonstrate immense technical skill in their matchbook art.