Black Markers: "My tools change all the time. I could be painting with acrylic or working on my Wacom tablet, but I usually have some black marker with me — Posca, Sharpie, Pentel — to improvise with in my dead time. These are the markers I've been using lately, and on them I have drawn some of the characters starring in this story: one orange, a gym towel, a dog, Maite (my girlfriend), and me."

Antonio Ladrillo, Graphic Artist

In the googly-eyed character world created by Barcelona-based graphic artist Antonio Ladrillo, you might see shades of Cartman, or maybe the Lowly Worm from Richard Scarry’s Busytown books. But though the 36-year-old artist counts among his influences illustrators like Olle Eksell, David Shrigley, and Bruno Munari, the one thing he returns to over and over again is Super Mario Brothers, the NES videogame created in 1985 by Japanese artist Shigeru Miyamoto. “It’s fascinated me for years, but I only started to value it as something artistic when I was older,” says Ladrillo. “It perfectly combines my main interests: rhythm, color, shape, and space. I often go to it as a way to find some aesthetic pleasure.” It should come as no surprise then to anyone familiar with Ladrillo’s drawings that, like a videogame artist, he can't help but constantly imagine his characters in motion. “So much so, that for a time I couldn’t draw anything that wasn’t moving because it looked unfinished to me,” he says.
More
Gruzis in his studio, in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. He bikes there from his apartment in nearby Carroll Gardens six days a week. “I made art all the time as a kid,” he says. “I was an only child, so I just shut out the world and hung out in my own space — which I still do today, all day every day. I never really planned on being an artist, but I couldn’t really think of anything else I wanted to do, and I don’t like working for other people.” The two paintings in the foreground typify his aesthetic, which is inspired by the likes of Memphis, Saved by the Bell, and Patrick Nagel. The one on the left is actually part of a series painted over digital prints of cheesy beach tees he bought in Florida.

Evan Gruzis, Artist

Evan Gruzis explored altered states of awareness a few years back, and while he was wigging out, managed to scrawl down such revelatory thoughts as “there once was a movie, it was amazing”; “welcome to the temple of showers, please take a shower in one of our many showers”; and “no bother, it’s just the remix.” Having rediscovered the notes recently, he turned them into a series of works on paper by scanning and enlarging them, cutting out the individual letters, then sweeping over the cutouts with the flat, ’80s-style gradient that forms the background for many of his works, including semi-photorealistic still lifes and geometric abstractions inspired by Saved by the Bell and Memphis. Rather than using an airbrush — “blasphemy!” according to the 31-year-old artist — Gruzis builds up the gradients in meticulous layers of India ink, spreading upwards of 20 separate washes across wet paper with soft squirrel-hair paintbrushes until the effect is practically flawless. “It’s about taking a moment that isn’t even remembered and turning it into this layered, highly crafted, highly rendered thing,” he explains of the acid notes, the kind of process that keeps him locked away in his studio six days a week. “It’s about taking meaninglessness and glorifying it. That’s another way of putting what I do: Making absurdity seductive, and making the seductive vapid, so you get caught in this feedback loop.”
More