Sunday, August 8, 2010

Laurie Lipton Pencil Alchemist

Alchemy, possibly derived from the Arabic word al-kimia (الخيمياء), is both a philosophy and an ancient practice focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold, investigating the preparation of the "elixir of longevity", and achieving ultimate wisdom, involving the improvement of the alchemist as well as the making of several substances described as possessing unusual properties.

Laurie Lipton is the Mistress of the Pencil rendering the macabre, the surreal and the esoteric. Her drawings range from the darkly whimsical, the grotesque and sometimes bordering on the political. She was born in New York but now resides in London where she creates her dark visions in her own style partially inspired by Flemish artist Van Eyck and German artist Albrect Durer. Her drawings are lavishly detailed and laboriously rendered with her own unique vision.

Much of her work revolves around skulled figures, fantastical landscapes and often steampunk elements that she conjures together rendered in pencil like an alchemist playing upon those dark, dreamlike reminders of our mortality. Her work pulls no punches and is sometimes brutal in its imagery and makes no apologies. Yet even with this pervasive horror she renders so skillfully there is an eye for beauty even in the most grotesque. She is like the artist at the crime scene of our nightmares capturing that we often turn our head away at but are also compelled to witness. Her work is simply sinisterly eloquent.

Which brings me to alchemy. It was through her commissioned work concerning alchemy that I became a fan. Having worked with colored pencil I can tell you that it is one of the hardest mediums to master, yet Laurie Lipton commits pure magic with them. Alchemy of course was the study to discover the philosopher's stone, change base metals into gold or find the elixir of life. Alchemy has a deep and broad history blending chemistry with the esoteric. In recent years it has been discovered that even Sir Issaac Newton was obsessed with alchemy leaving behind hundreds of papers on the subject. In China alchemy was the predecessor of modern medicine creating tinctures and there is no doubt that alchemy laid the foundation for modern chemistry.

Alchemist created visual metaphors for their rituals and experiments often using either gods or creatures from myth to convey certain procedures to reach a desired goal. But alchemy was not just limited to the elements it was also a spiritual path that sometimes bordered on the gnostic and alchemists were concerned with the unseen spiritual world about them. These metaphysical aspects were often rendered in cryptic symbolism that became in a way their periodic table. Laurie Lipton's colored pencil renderings captured this essence and resulted in some very elaborate drawings.

The following pieces are from her SPLENDOR SOLIS series

Recommendation: Alchemy and Mysticism

Personal Note: Thanks to the Spooky Vegan for her blogger award.


  1. thanks for this...I hadn't seen her colored pencil drawings...but I have long been a fan of her black and white 'skull renderings'. she is, most definitely, a superb and very singular artist!

  2. Most certainly, She has stood in awe of God.