Top 12 Contemporary Drawing Artists You Need To Know — CAI (2024)

Introduction: What is Contemporary Drawing?

Drawing is the foundation for almost all artists. It is often the first lesson at art school or the starting point in the form of a sketch or a study for a monumental painting, sculpture, or installation. However, today, drawing has conquered its place among the other types of contemporary art as a high art form. Before we take on the top draughtsmen, let’s take on contemporary drawing an sich first.

Contemporary drawing consists of the artistic practice of drawing from roughly 1960/1970 to today, predominantly working on a paper surface using dry media such as graphite, pencil, charcoal, chalk, or wet media such as ink, bister, sepia, markers, pastel or watercolor.

The distinction between painting and drawing can often be fluid, as both art forms work on a two-dimensional surface. However, painting predominantly uses wet media such as oil paint, acrylic paint, or spray paint on canvas, wood, or metal as its surface. For further reading on the subtle differences between painting and drawing, feel free to read our more extensive article titled Explained: Drawing versus Painting.

In any case, many artists switch between these two media. However, several contemporary artists have dedicated their lives entirely to the medium of drawing. As a result, we are pleased to present a reasoned selection of the world’s most influential contemporary drawing artists in this article.

Often, multidisciplinary artists implement drawing into their artistic practice. For instance, Ciprian Muresan uses drawing in his neo-conceptual multimedia practice. However, we have excluded these artists from this list, only selecting artists primarily focusing on contemporary drawing.

For further reading in print on contemporary drawing, we highly recommend the publishing series by Phaidon titled Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing.

12. İnci Eviner

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We open our list with a Turkish female visual artist, none other than İnci Eviner. Born in 1956 in Ankara and currently working and residing in Istanbul, Eviner was trained as a painter at the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts but has always used the medium of drawing as her starting point.

Her impressive oeuvre, spanning over four decades, is the result of an ongoing exploration of the subject as an entity of change. Her intriguing yet fragile structures of webs of images and mark-making negotiate the imminence of death but also take on the intimate scrutiny of the female body. From her drawing-based practice, she also takes on new media, mimicking the labyrinthine vision of her drawings.[1]

For further reading on İnci Eviner, we strongly recommend the monographic publication Inci Eviner.

11. Jorge Queiroz

Born in 1966 in Lisbon, Portugal, where the artist continues to work and reside, Jorge Queiroz takes on the aforementioned dissolving distinction between painting and drawing and transforms it into a diachronic dialogue of both media. His drawings depict self-fictionalized scenarios marked by personal imaginary elements and intimacy. He develops his own universe, marked by extravagance, the enigma, and even alchemy.

Queiroz’s works do not have narrative linearity, nor are they inhabited by organization or hierarchy. The contemporary artist subverts the figure’s relationship with the background or the interior versus the exterior. The mesmerizing drawings indicate how painting and drawing are intertwined or can contaminate and influence each other.[2]

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10. Toyin Ojih Odutola

We open the top ten with Toyin Ojih Odutola, born in 1985 in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and currently residing and working in New York, the United States of America. She is best known for her multimedia drawings in which she explores the malleability of identity and visual storytelling.

It is clear that Ojih Odutola has a strong interest in skin topography. The Nigerian artist has a distinctive mark-making style, using basic drawing materials. Think of pencils, ballpoint pens, charcoal, pastels, and more. Doing so, she achieves a layered visual language in which the composition reinvents and reinterprets the traditions of portraiture, crafting new narratives inspired by art history and popular culture.[3]

For further reading on Toyin Ojih Odutola, we highly recommend the monographic publication Toyin Ojih Odutola: The UmuEze Amara Clan and the House of Obafemi.

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9. Sandra Vásquez de la Horra

Born in 1967 in Viña del Mar, Chile, and currently residing and working in Berlin, Germany, Sandra Vásquez de la Horra is best known for her drawings influenced by film, botanical and zoological illustration books or textbooks, but also fairy tales and her personal background. We encounter the influence of Latin-American magic-realist literature, combined with the traditions and myths of her Chilean origins.

She deals with borderline experiences, ghosts, creatures of myth, demons, fear, and death, but also poetry and femininity. In doing so, universal themes such as religion, mythology, the bizarre, and more are a continuum throughout her artistic practice, in which she searches for both personal and universal experiences on paper.[4]

For further reading on Sandra Vásquez de la Horra, we highly recommend the monographic publication Sandra Vásquez de la Horra.

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8. Anni Albers

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Next, we have no other than Anni Albers, born in 1899 in Berlin, Germany, and passed away in 1994 in Orange, Connecticut, the United States of America. Albers is considered one of the most influential abstract artists of the second half of the twentieth century, alongside her husband, Josef Albers.

She pioneered graphic wall hangings, weavings, and designs but shifted her focus from 1963 to printmaking and drawing. She creates numerous abstract motifs strongly related to weaving and textile. Doing so, as no other artist had done before, Anni Albers blurred the line between a traditional craft, such as weaving, and high art in abstract drawing.[5]

For further reading on Anni Albers, we highly recommend the monographic publication, Anni Albers.

7. Marcel van Eeden

Born in 1965 in The Hague, Netherlands, and working and residing between Zurich, Switzerland, Karlsruhe, Germany, and The Hague, the Netherlands, Marcel van Eeden is a draughtsman working primarily in monochrome on paper. His oeuvre is a project to represent people, objects, and events before his day of birth, creating compelling visual narratives from disparate sources.

Van Eeden’s practice is marked by this endless and absurd task of self-generating, driven by his desire to draw everything before his existence. Doing so, a cast of fictional characters emerges, questioning the authenticity of autobiography and the experience of history and its documents.[6]

For further reading on Marcel Van Eeden, we highly recommend the monographic publication Marcel van Eeden: Drawings and Paintings 1992-2009.

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6. Marc Bauer

Marc Bauer, born in 1975 in Geneva, and currently residing and working in Zurich, Switzerland, is a contemporary artist who primarily focuses on drawing but is also occupied with wall installation, film, and, recently, paintings. He takes on cultural and historical developments, creating narratives in a precise and recognizable drawing style. He unravels our collective, social and political heritage with his drawings to comprehend reality in all its complexity.

Found images are the starting point from which he departs with a pencil, crayons, pastels, and chalk. He combines drawing from found imagery with drawing from memory, creating a combination of reality and fiction, however, depicted in a similar representation. By doing so, Bauer invites us to wander in and witness an alternative existence formed through the subjective lens of the artist’s own experiences.[7]

For further reading on Marc Bauer, we highly recommend the monographic publication, Marc Bauer.

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5. Andrea Bowers

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Born in 1965 in Wilmington, Ohio, residing and working in Los Angeles, Andrea Bowers has built an international reputation over the past two to three decades with drawing. Bowers, who received her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts in 1992, has taken the art world by storm since the turn of the millennium.

She combines her drawing-based practice with video and installation, taking on social issues. Think of women’s and workers’ rights, climate change, and the immigration crisis. She is best known for her fascinating works using graphite on paper or her more monumental pieces using an archival marker on — often found — pieces of cardboard.[8]

For further reading on Andrea Bowers, we highly recommend the monographic publication titled Andrea Bowers.

4. Vija Celmins

Vija Celamins is a highly established artist, born in 1938 in Riga, Latvia, and currently residing and working in New York, the United States of America. She is best known for meticulously rendered pictures of ocean waves, desert floors, and night skies. Throughout her career, she favored graphite on paper above painting since the late 1960s to depict these structures of natural imagery.

Even when she took on painting once more in the 1980s, drawing and printmaking remained the main media within her practice. One could describe her works as Photorealism; however, it seems there is much more going on than simply replicating reality. There is an aura of an enigma, a connection with abstraction, and an imbued value in her works’ physical presence.[9]

For further reading on Vija Celmins, we highly recommend the monographic publication Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory.

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3. Jorinde Voigt

We enter the podium with the Berlin-based artist, born in 1977 in Frankfurt, Germany, Jorinde Voigt. Her drawings have been linked with musical scores, notational thought models, or even scientific diagrams. In art, Voigt finds a way to express her personal and subjective experiences of the world visually, translating them into her distinguished visual language.

By manner of an exact and coded system, Voigt creates marks on her surface, using various dry media such as pastel, graphite, ink, or even gold leaf. Doing so, she gives form pictorially of natural and psychological phenomena. Her visual method takes over when language fails to describe the world’s complexities.[10]

For further reading on Jorinde Voigt, we highly recommend the monographic publication Jorinde Voigt: Pieces for Words and Views.

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2. Matt Mullican

In the second place, we encounter the American artist Matt Mullican, born in 1951 in Santa Monica, California, residing and working in New York City. As with our previous artist Jorinde Voigt, Matt Mullican is interested in discovering models to explain our perception of reality. In doing so, he developed a system of symbols, most often pictograms and colors, to take on and question the structures of our world.

With his system of symbols, Mullican aims to portray the human condition in various states and all its aspects through different combinations of symbols. Each character has its specific value. For instance, blue stands for the everyday world, yellow for the world of ideas, green for the material world, red for the subjective world, and white and black for the world of language. These five colors of the five ‘worlds’ serve as a system of order for the artist.[11]

For further reading on Matt Mullican, we highly recommend the monographic publication Matt Mullican: Subject Element Sign Frame World.

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1. William Kentridge

We conclude our list with arguably one of the most important artists today, William Kentridge. Born in 1955 in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the artist continues to work and reside, Kentridge is best known for his ink drawings and prints and even animated films resulting from these ink drawings.

The expressive character of how he applies his medium on the surface distinguishes Kentridge as a true virtuoso artist, blessed with enormous talent and a critical mind. Doing so, he takes on African history, reconfiguring fragments of the past, achieving a greater understanding of his collective past and himself.[12]

For further reading on William Kentridge, we highly recommend the monographic publicationWilliam Kentridgeby thePhaidon Contemporary Art Series.

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[1] AWARE, Inci Eviner at consulted 14/07/2022.
[2] Bruno Múrias, Jorge Queiroz at consulted 14/07/2022.
[3] Jack Shainman Gallery, Toyin Ojih Odutola at consulted 14/07/2022.
[4] Sprovieri Gallery, Sandra Vásquez de la Horra at consulted 14/07/2022.
[5] David Zwirner, Anni Albers: Biography at consulted 14/07/2022.
[6] Sprüth Magers, Marcel van Eeden at consulted 14/07/2022.
[7] Galerie Peter Kirchmann, Marc Bauer at consulted 14/07/2022.
[8] Andrew Kreps Gallery, Andrea Bowers at consulted 14/07/2022.
[9] Matthew Marks Gallery, Vija Celmins at consulted 14/07/2022.
[10] David Nolan Gallery, Jorinde Voigt at consulted 14/07/2022.
[11] Mai 36 Galerie, Matt Mullican at consulted 14/07/2022.
[12] Julien Delagrange,The Most Famous Painters Today,consulted 14/07/2022.

Last Updated on January 2, 2024

Top 12 Contemporary Drawing Artists You Need To Know — CAI (2024)


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