One of my all-time favorite quotes is, “Don’t think outside the box, think like there is no box.” Well today, that quote applies to a box of magic markers and the philosophy behind artwork by the artist Tom DesLongchamp. Tom’s work? Creating gorgeous portraits with Crayola magic markers.
A Seattle-based artist and Rhode Island School of Design graduate, Tom can recall first drawing when he was 2 years old. His mom called his work, from his toddler days “walking windows” as they were drawings of window panes with faces and body parts. Tom explained to HelloGiggles, “It was never difficult for me to find faces in inanimate objects. I’ve always been very sensitive to faces and symmetry in general. My mom still has the walking windows drawings. She might have all my childhood drawings, actually.”
Decades later, Tom has moved on from his walking windows to another equally creative endeavor: marker portraits.
Tom stumbled upon his totally rad and original technique when fortuitously an old half-dried red marker was the only thing available while he was in the middle of randomly sketching a co-worker. This co-worker, Mike Wurn, would become the focus of Tom’s “Daily Mike” series of sketches and soon Tom graduated onto sketching other friends, family, and celebrities.
Tom’s process consists of pencil sketching a person’s face, then masking parts of the sketch with paper cut outs, and smudging marker ink onto the drawing with his fingertips. The result is a portrait that looks incredibly like a watercolor painting from afar, but on really close inspection the fingerprints and marker work become clear.
His favorite thing about these portraits, and ours as well, is finding vulnerability in his subjects and making that vulnerability beautiful. We can say with certainty that he masters that.
“The ideal I’ve always held for these portraits from the beginning was to be able to have a honest conversation with a person, take their photo myself, and create a portrait based off of those variables. The more I can connect with my subjects, the more life that is breathed into the portrait,” Tom said. However Tom does also draw people he’s never met. Somehow, he still creates that intimacy.
For anyone who hasn’t already fallen in love with Tom’s talent, you might want to interact with him on social media. Why? He loves surprising people with portraits based off of selfies they’ve posted online, which is exactly what he did for his friend Meghan Doherty (above) when she posted a selfie on Twitter that he thought was fantastic. He’s also quite likely to pull this move if he meets you randomly in person and is inspired, which according to him has led to some great friendships (and great art).
If you’re in the Pacific Northwest region Tom’s first art show will be in Seattle this October where he plans to showcase 30-40 pieces along with some surprises. If you’re not, you’ll have to (sigh) resign yourself to spending hours on his website, or following him on Twitter or Instagram or Vine. All equally worthy, we promise.
(Photos via the artist Tom DesLongchamp)