Australian artist CJ Hendry creates photorealistic black-and-white images using just the simplest tools – paper, a long ruler and black pens. The result? Stunning true-to-life images that will knock your socks off.
This is the stuff real-life fairy tales are made of. A young, unknown artist puts up her work on social media, gets discovered and is now the toast of town.
Australian artist CJ Hendry creates remarkable photorealistic black-and-white images on paper. The almost-photographic images on large sheets of paper are dramatic in themselves but a closer look reveals the stunning secret – the images are done entirely in pen and ink.
Based in Brisbane, Australia, CJ Hendry enrolled in Architecture School and fell in love with the joy of drawing by hand. Lines, rendering and hand-drawn architectural plans (she couldn’t figure out how to navigate CAD) made studying easier. In her second year, she dropped out, however her love for drawing by hand didn’t go away though.
Her years at art school previously meant that she has had some training in drawing and art. These days, though, she uses only one medium: pen
In an interview with You The Designer, CJ Hendry reveals the reason for this current preference. “Nowadays, I only use pen.
The reason for this is that I really don’t like getting my hands dirty. My nature is certainly obsessive-compulsive so anything that smudges or is not permanent freaks me out.”
This obsessive tendency translates well to her chosen format and indeed, her choice of subject. Large format drawings of luxury products – paper bags from the revered fashion houses of Gucci, Hermes, Prada, iconic items like shoes and scarves, and even the occasional skull and gun.
Hendry’s interest in luxury began in her teens when she began “buying products she could not afford.” A stint at a Chanel dress shop only fuelled that and she now invests in classic pieces that are undoubtedly expensive, but will last a long time.
This love for luxury translates naturally into her drawing. From the beginning, her work has focused on a singular object of attention, because of the simplicity of the picture and the effect the negative space around it has on it.
Her drawings are painstakingly detailed. She begins the process by selecting an object. She then photographs the object in different positions and lighting, sometimes taking more than one hundred images. The final selected image is then printed in black-and-white. Hendry then creates a grid on a large sheet of Arches paper.
After that, the backbreaking work of translating the photo into drawing commences. Depending on the size of the drawing, this can take 100-200 hours of work using only black UniPin pens. “Once I start on one that is all I do every day until it is finished. I work 16 hours per day until it is completed.”
After years of drawing small sketches CJ graduated to the larger format of the art. “They looked more like fashion illustrations rather than captivating and inspiring pieces of art. I kept on seeing stunning oversize paintings by famous artists and I really wanted to move to a larger scale. Part of me wants the viewer to see my work and be blown away by the sheer size of each piece,” explains Hendry in an interview to online design magazine buro247.
CJ Hendry’s images of her process and finished drawings on Instagram have steadily drawn a lot of interest which skyrocketed after she was ‘discovered’ by Coolhunter. They now exclusively represent her work, which are sold, interestingly enough, through Instagram.
“As soon as we post an image of one of her pieces on Instagram, it is reserved and sold in a few hours. But her current project of creating massive (1.8 x 2.4 m), photo-realistic, original pen-on-paper works of shopping bags of iconic brands – from Tom Ford and Hermes to Lanvin and Chanel – really has had us gasping for air,” says the Coolhunter.
Her first show in March 2014 was ‘The Art Hunter’ (organised by the Coolhunter) and had six pieces on display – all of which sold before the show. Today she commands as much as $50,000 for a drawing and her list of admirers (and owners of drawings) includes Kanye West (for whom she drew a bespoke piece called ‘Kash Kurrency’ with the singer’s face on a crumpled $100 note) and Gwyneth Paltrow.
For someone who dropped out of college to follow her passion, the journey has just begun. And what an exciting one it promises to be.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy Coolhunter