When painting in plein air, artist Jeremy Sams scours the landscapes around his home in Archdale, North Carolina, for a spot that rouses all of his senses. “It begins in your initial journey, whether it’s a hike through a place of natural solitude with all of the smells and cool breezes or just a stroll down a street with the melodies of urban life,” he shares.
He then paints sublime interpretations of the nearby landscape, relying on a realistic color palette in acrylic to render slightly blurred edges and the location’s generally serene qualities: overlaid by a dreamy haze, brooks reflect the surrounding trees, a small brood of chickens pecks at spring grass, and snow melts into a rocky stream.
In a note to Colossal, Sams says he’s most attracted to places layered with contrast, sometimes in the form of light and shadow or disparities in color and others when natural features are positioned alongside human interventions like pathways and barns. “Whatever it is that draws my attention, there is something truthful about the landscape that begs to be painted,” he shares. “This is one of the reasons that I do very little editing to the scene on my canvas, but I try to capture the essence of that thing which initially drew me in.”
Sams tends to photograph his finished paintings against their original source, which you can see more of on Instagram.
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In her new body of work What About the Men?, Jamaica-born, Sarasota-based artist Alicia Brown extracts and reenvisions elements of traditional portraiture. She recasts objects of cultural and social status, like the elaborate gowns and thick ruffled collars worn by wealthy aristocrats throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, by instead rendering her subjects in casual clothing like shorts and rubber flipflops with colorful latex balloons, plants, and plastic bubble wrap coiled around their necks.
Contemporary and subversive, Brown’s oil paintings are rooted in history and a reinvented use of symbols interpreted as power, control, celebration, adaptation, and survival. She explains:
As an artist from the Caribbean, Jamaica, which was colonized by Europe, presently there is still that system of classism that has its origin during slavery and colonialism in Jamaica that the natives have to navigate in order to fit into society. I have referenced the collar as an object that is European and replaced it with objects such as spoons, cotton swaps, shells, balloons, bubble wrap, and recently elements of nature. These collars adorned the neck of the models who are regular people and who are constantly going through a performance of creating an identity to gain acceptance.
Derived from a photograph of a friend, family member, or neighbor, each intimate portrait is set against a lush backdrop of foliage or in domestic scenes with encroaching plant and animal life. “Through my work, I hope to convey to the viewer to look beyond their eyes and to see themselves as the person represented in the painting, to share their world, and to come to the awareness that we share so much in common, we are all connected as beings,” the artist shares.
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Stars, Circles, and Symbols in Primary Colors Form Astrological Maps and Coded Works by Shane Drinkwater
As a child, Australian artist Shane Drinkwater (previously) was fascinated by maps, astronomical charts, and ciphers. “This possibly relates to my dyslexia: images and shapes had a strong attraction whereas words on paper were a difficult subject,” he tells Colossal. “I found maps on paper quite appealing, coloured shapes and unraveling a code to find a path in the real world.”
This cartographic interest permeates the artist’s current body of work, which features dots, stars, dashes, and concentric circles arranged in vast systems and imaginary cosmic charts. Rendered in acrylic on paper or canvas, the hypnotizing works rely mostly on neutral tones similar to that of weathered parchment combined with reds, blues, and yellows. This influence comes from medieval illuminated manuscripts, which used “primary colours for maximum visual impact,” he says.
Drinkwater, who was born in Tasmania and currently lives in Queensland, has pieces available at Cavin-Morris Gallery, Pulp, and Copenhagen Outsider Art Gallery, along with a solo show slated for June at Boom Gallery in Victoria. He recently collaborated with the clothing brand indi + ash to create patterns for some of its garments, which you can see more of on Instagram.
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In Unseen Roots, artist Megan Aline fills silhouettes with brush, autumn foliage, and tall, skinny trees that span from torso to crown. Her solo show at Robert Lange Studio in Charleston consists of dozens of acrylic works that expose a small glimpse of a landscape hidden within each figure. “As we become increasingly disconnected from the natural world, I think the memory of nature becomes even stronger inside each of us,” the artist shares. “If you only spent weekends in the woods or summers at your grandmothers or you have a park you visit from time to time, it becomes the quiet space inside you that you can escape to even when you aren’t there.”
To render the contemplative works, Aline paints inside a stenciled silhouette on panel, which creates crisp outlines of each figure—she shares videos of this process on Instagram—and visible brushstrokes in pastel and neutral tones comprise the paintings’ backdrops. “As an artist, I spend a lot of time reflecting inwardly as I paint outwardly,” she writes. “I like the idea that we have an ‘inner landscape,’ a map created from emotions, ideas, and sensations collected throughout our lives.”
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Through delicate washes of peach, aqua, and smoky gray, St. Louis-based artist Ali Cavanaugh (previously) renders watercolor portraits that lay her subjects’ spirits bare. “I’m continually searching for something complex in human expression,” she tells Colossal. “Curiosity, sadness, wonder, hesitation, peace, and acceptance all in one glance.”
Cavanaugh paints her dreamlike works on wet clay panels, allowing the bright backdrops to illuminate the translucent pigments. The resulting works are introspective and intimate while simultaneously harnessing the universal experience of the sublime. “I want the viewer to look at one of my portraits and say, ‘What are they thinking?,’ and also at the same time say, ‘This is so familiar and is exactly how my loved one looks at me when they are vulnerable,'” she says.
If you’re in New York, you can see Cavanaugh’s portraits through January 28 at Salmagundi Club. Otherwise, shop available originals on her site, and keep an eye out for future print releases on Instagram. She also shares videos chronicling her process and tutorials on some of her techniques on Patreon.
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In Late Bloomer, Los Angeles-based artist Seonna Hong wades into landscapes filled with amorphous swatches of color and marred by climate disaster. Her acrylic, oil, and pastel works are on view through February 5 at Hashimoto Contemporary in Los Angeles in an introspective solo show that considers her place in an ever-evolving world. Set against abstract, blurred backdrops, Hong’s distinctly rendered animals and anonymous subjects navigate distorted terrains of once-familiar architecture and natural landmarks.
Many of the stylized compositions evoke traditional Korean landscapes from the Joseon period—these are known for their asymmetrical forms, vibrant brushstrokes, and skewed perspectives—that contemplate the human-nature relationship by placing miniature figures among formidable environments. “I’m a second-generation Korean American that is surprised to be making identity-based work but realizing I’ve been making it all along. I’ve spent my entire life between the push and pull of being Korean and American, never feeling quite Korean enough or American enough,” Hong writes on Instagram. “I’ve realized the inherent connection between my work and my history, a belated but cherished revelation.”
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