Five Artists Bending The Rules

By Ben Ilobuchi on June 10, 2021

If you want to draw a human being accurately, there are many rules we’re told to follow. Rules like: ‘arms don’t bend backwards’, ‘hands have ten fingers’ and ‘people only have two eyes’. The word ‘accuracy’ has a lot of different meanings. While all those previous rules will create a scientifically accurate drawing, they may not create an emotionally accurate drawing. Shirking realism and thinking outside the box allows an artist to better depict emotions like pain, sorrow, and freedom; taking indescribable feelings from the mind and representing them in the physical characteristics of the figures.

Here are five artists bending the rules to tell their truth.

Alex Headlam ︎

You know that part in a horror movie, where the worried parent searches through all the drawings their child has done and, upon seeing the macabre scribbles, figures out they’re a psycho? Well, Alex Headlam’s work kind of looks like those drawings. This is not an insult in any way, shape or form. The free-form imagery the Baltimore-based artist is able to conjure with nothing but a pen and marker is a sight to behold. To effectively make art that looks slap-dash but still beautiful and thought-out is a feat bordering on magic. Headlam’s use of scattered focal points and clashing colours draws the viewer’s eyes all over the page without rhyme or reason, lending an extra sense of insanity and energy to his work.

 Frank Dorrey ︎

Frank Dorrey’s work is difficult to describe and even more difficult to define. Dorrey’s portfolio is a series of bright, over-saturated portrait of faces, places and things that look like the results of a bad trip. Another level to the madness is finding out how Dorrey makes his work; on an app called PicsArt on an iPhone 8s. An app that Dorrey describes as ‘like Photoshop but more streamlined.’ He manipulates, cuts, pastes and distorts his original photographs into psychedelic portraits and still-lifes that look like something from the personal collection of a mad man. Whether by a deliberate choice of Dorrey’s or not, his works are reminiscent of many other iconic parts of black culture, like the often imitated airbrush t-shirt or the gaudy and garish album covers of late 90s rap albums; lending them a familiarity that undercuts some of their more freakish qualities.

Freddy Carrasco ︎

Freddy Carrasco is a visual artist based in and working from Tokyo, Japan, whose practice includes illustration, comics, character design, animation and music. Carrasco originally started out studying animation in Toronto before going on to work in the industry but felt hampered by the nature of the industry as, in his own words, “working in animation means being part of a team.” Carrasco’s work will be catnip to anyone who’s a fan of the hyper-specific but ever-popular venn-diagram centre between manga and urban youth culture. Joining the leagues of Tekkonkinkreet, Boondocks and Jet-Set Radio as ‘stuff the cool black kid with the Cowboy Bebop shirt at your community college would probably like’.

Omar Aqil ︎

The figures in Omar Aqil’s digital art are all very pretty. Pretty weird? Yes, but also, just pretty. With sparkly doe eyes and full lips, they could be confused with Bratz dolls. However, unlike a Bratz doll, Aqil’s characters are lude and very (very) queer. Aqil instils an eccentric sensuality to the inhabitants of their drawings by twisting them into provocative pretzels with rubber-hose limbs seemingly without joints or bones. Their bodies are fluid and anything but straight. I’m sure there’s an allegory in there, but I can’t quite place it.

Shadi Al-Atallah ︎

Shadi Al-Atallah is an artist based in London, known for their large, eclectic, figurative paintings. Al-Atallah also practices as an illustrator, working on a smaller scale both digitally and on paper and has most notably been commissioned by Kanye West to illustrate the artwork of two single covers as well as artwork for a YEEZY t-shirt collection. Al-Atallah’s works burst from the page with intense dynamism, depicting dark, silhouetted characters splayed across the canvas in wild and suggestive poses. The unreality of the figures allows them to be more human than actual humans. Representing a raw animality that we often feel but don’t present—pure id; dancing, eating, and laughing without pride or pretence. 

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