Graham Yarrington’s unique and minimal use of color opens the door to a hopeful world in the eerily dark landscapes he composes with ink and water on paper. His mostly monochromatic work, splashed shockingly with color, looks into his own soul and visually reflects the world around him.
While variations of grey and black ink take precedent in the gorgeous but haunting forests depicted in most of Yarrington’s pieces, the Brooklyn-based artist always finds light in the darkness. His inky Miyazaki-like creatures walk drudgingly through his paintings, but are precisely and purposefully sprinkled with blobs of color that offer light in a sea of darkness. We were able to speak with Yarrington about the transformation of his work and understanding the light and dark sides of life.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from and how did you become an artist?
I’m from Rochester, New York and I’ve always loved to draw. I suppose I’ve become an artist simply by spending as much time as possible being alone and creating, regardless of what might be going on in my life.
Are you still living in Bed Stuy? Could you describe the art scene in Brooklyn right now?
I am still living in Bed Stuy, and have no plans of leaving anytime soon. I don’t particularly feel like I’m involved in any sort of art scene, but I can safely say that there is an immense population of all kinds of artists in Brooklyn. Just knowing that there are so many talented people around me at all times can be so inspiring and invigorating. It can also be a bit soul crushing at times.
In your past work there are cartoonish designs that seem like a contrast to your current work. Can you tell us a little bit about your creative evolution?
I would describe my current work as an attempt at bringing abstract emotions that have always been important to me into existence through some type of narrative played out through a series of foreign and somewhat disturbing landscapes.
In 2014, I was just getting out of a very difficult relationship. Then about a week after that ended, I was in a minor bike accident and ended up with a fractured bone in my drawing wrist. I was out of work for a month, and suddenly had a lot of time to myself. It was difficult to grip a pencil, so I started doing some really loose work with ink and water. I used that time to explore my mind and test out new methods of making art, and after many hours of practice I was able to come up with a semi-reliable technique for producing the images I had been looking for.
You uniquely employ color, especially in your darker works. What does the use of color mean to you?
Color plays an important role in my work. I like to think of it as the lights in my dark forest. In the past few years I’ve become painfully aware of the darker and lighter sides of life, and it’s important for me to stay aware of the existence of each.
What does your workspace look like?
My workspace is a disaster. I usually find myself fighting against the clock, and I always seem to wreck my space in doing so.
Who are some other artists and illustrators that influence you?
Moebius, Michael DeForge, Patrick Kyle, Brecht Evens, Simon Hanselmann, Antoine Cosse, Sam Alden, Robert Hunter, Charlie Immer, Jon Klassen, Kandinsky, Matisse, Al Columbia, Jonas Wood, Ken Price, Raymond Pettibon, Alexander Heir, Stanley Mouse/Alton Kelley to name a few.
What are you working on now?
I actually fractured my knuckle on my drawing hand at work, so it’s pretty tough to paint right now. I’m working on a storyboard for a short comic, and hoping that by the time the storyboard is finished my hand will once again be in working order.