illustrating walls

By Carolina Arán

History tells us that the first artistic manifestations of humanity were awakened on the walls of a cave. In the 21st century we no longer have to look for these paintings in secret places, art has exploded on walls around the world and we can find murals around any corner. Graffiti, mural painting, urban art… Different perspectives and nomenclatures to try to dissect a common, global and unstoppable universe: contemporary muralism.

The current panorama of muralism boasts of an unbeatable health, and it rises as one of the movements that will define the art of our times in future books of History, walking in parallel with the illustration. There are numerous illustrators that have conquered walls, muralists who have come to paper, and artists who combine both media and whose work is not understood except under the union of the two facets. This last case is the one of creators such as Pat Perry, American and travelling illustrator and painter, who depicts his intricate work, based on humanity and its relationship with the world, both in illustrations and in impressive murals of great dimensions.

Similar is the circumstance of Saddo, Romanian illustrator and muralist with influences of pop surrealism, and founder of one of the first collectives of urban art in his country. These are artists who move both in the field of the legal work (murals and illustrations by commission) and in that of the free and lawless intervention (murals in public spaces without commercial purposes or licences).

In this same ambivalence works the Mexican Edgar Flores «Saner», one of the most prolific artists of the last decade; illustrator, graphic designer and creator of murals that inherit the prehispanic symbolism of the muralist school of Mexico.

In Spain we find within the same legal-argumental framework the recognized collective Boamistura, multidisciplinary team of urban artists that intervenes public spaces around the world with the social intention to employ «art as a tool for change,» according to his own words. In addition to their street work, Boamistura brings his studio work to the paper with screen printed illustrations and original drawings.

Also in Spain and within the same dichotomy in the legal framework stands out the illustrator and urban artist Aryz, author of beautiful illustrations and impressive murals that bridge between graffiti and pop surrealism, with a distinctive use of drawing and color.

From Brazil and working in a similar situation we find the Pandolfo brothers, known as Os Gemeos, who revolutionized the language of graffiti with their social theme and their tender and colourful aesthetics. These twins make up one of the most recognized figures in the international landscape of urban art, and they also develop their work in media such as illustrated books and illustrations for press publications.

The work of illustrators of education and job, not so closely linked in principle to urban art, who have been unable to resist the charms of the intervention of public and private spaces, has also reached the walls. Such is the case of the Spanish illustrator María Herreros, whose genuine style has jumped from paper to murals for festivals, brands, events and commercial spaces. Or the Spanish Ricardo Cavolo, one of the most renowned illustrators of his generation, whose commissioned murals for big brands and festivals have become a continuation of his work on paper.

From the United States the scientific painter and illustrator Jane Kim has taken her environmental advocacy message to wonderful large scale murals, in which she embodies the natural world with the profusion of details proper to her work in the illustration for science.

Also with demanding intentions works the Mexican illustrator and painter Ulises Culebro, head of illustration in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, which has translated its commitment to social and political reality from printed paper to striking murals for institutions, fairs and charitable causes. Continuing with the illustrators who have made the leap to the wall we find the Canadian Ola Volo, born in Kazakhstan, whose multicultural work reinterprets the folklore of Eastern Europe in large format murals, in public and commercial spaces.

On the other side of the same coin there are working urban artists whose main artwork, centered on the street, maintains connections with the world of illustration. This is the case of the French graffiti painter and artist Miss Van, originally known for her urban production, who has been able to transfer the evocative and voluptuous essence of her female characters from the walls to editorial work and serial illustration.

The intervention of spaces is also the natural habitat of the South African Faith XLVII, creator of beautiful and skillful large scale murals, which began as an illustrator, graphic designer and painter before conquering the walls of half the world. The work of the American Jeff Soto, also formed as an illustrator, is closely linked to graffiti since his adolescence, and features of urban art have been fused with Lowbrow influences, both in murals and paintings, or illustrations for editorial collaborations.

A whole ocean of drawings and paintings floods the streets of the human territory while the illustration invades our homes and media, in a common current that awakens in us an aroma of artistic revolution. Urban art and illustration, terms considered by the academic sphere as alien to Art with capital letters and that are, however, the wings that the art of our century unfolds to elevate us and rise above the crisis of the industry.