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Intricate Pen and Ink Illustrations are Filled With Mesmerizing Details


Pen Drawings by Olivia Kemp

Olivia Kemp working on “Smell”

British artist Olivia Kemp is known for wielding her pen in large-scale drawings of fantastical locations. Now, she is in the midst of developing a new series of illustrations replete with mesmerizing linework centered around one place has had a lasting influence on her artwork: the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. “I spent two months drawing from paintings in the Museo del Prado as part of The Richard Ford Award in 2015,” Kemp explains to My Modern Met. “I am now putting together a solo show of works inspired by my time there and reflecting on the influence it had on my work.”

The talented draftswoman creates absorbing black and white compositions filled with detail and texture instead of color. This meticulous approach to illustration is reminiscent of Old Masters and classical drawings. Kemp tells My Modern Met, “I am currently working on a series of pieces inspired by paintings that were collaborated on by Rubens and Breughel. They are a series on the five senses that are in the collection of the Museo del Prado in Madrid. I have asked family and friends who I feel represent each sense to sit for each drawing and surrounded them [with] personal references and things that relate to the original paintings.”

Each of her compositions takes days of careful work, as Kemp’s intricate designs leave no area of the paper unembellished. While Smell features a lavish garden of flowers, Sight includes a huddled gallery of the Museo del Prado’s most famous paintings. Kemp says adding a surplus of motifs throughout these massive drawings is part of the joy in making them. “I work in pen and don’t plan out the works beforehand,” she says. “This is more fun for me as I get to imagine and add in new details to my works every day.” Due to the lockdown, Kemp continues to develop the series from home which, in spite of the difficulties, has provided her with more time to immerse herself in the project.

Kemp’s solo show will be on view at the James Freeman Gallery in London in September 2020. Scroll down to see more incredible pen and ink illustrations, and follow the artist on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with her latest creations.

Pen Drawings by Olivia Kemp

Left: “Touch,”  Top Right: “Smell,”  Middle Right: “Sight,”  Bottom Right: “Taste”

Pen Drawings by Olivia Kemp

Top: “Taste,” Bottom: “Smell”

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