Artist uses Crayola markers for inventive portraits

Seattle artist Tom DesLongchamp captures human complexity using the simplest art tools.

Most everyone has used Crayola markers to scrawl on construction paper.

But artist Tom DesLongchamp discovered a new way to use them – creating inventive, professional portraits.

"People will be like, 'Those are great, what do you make those out of, is it watercolor?'" he said. "I use Crayola markers, just the simple fat ones that kids use in school."

First, he pencil sketches a subject's face.

Then he uses paper cutouts to mask areas of the sketch, and uses his fingertips to smudge marker ink onto the drawing.

From a distance, the portraits bear an astonishing resemblance to the subjects. Up close, the intricate details reveal DesLongchamp's fingerprints.

He invented the technique almost by accident, while sketching co-worker Mike Wurn during lunch breaks.

"Mike has a lot of character, he's got great glasses, his mouth is really distinct, it has a special shape that's just funny and interesting to me," he said. "I just wanted to add color in some way and I looked around the office for a marker and I found this old red marker that was kind of half dried up."

So he smudged the half-dried ink, and found his perspective.

DesLongchamp's "Daily Mike" series grew more refined and soon he was creating portraits of other people, from family and friends to celebrities making news.

He started posting his portraits online and they went viral. That lead to editorial gigs and commission work.

But he refuses to let his work feel like a job, and still prefers choosing his own subjects.

"All the portraits have to come out of a sincere desire from my heart to honor a person," he said.

In October, DesLongchamp will have his first art show in Pioneer Square at AXIS.

You can see more of his art on his website.

He also maintains a popular Vine account, with more than 61,000 followers.

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