Land of the Freehand: Markers Color California


Under banners of colorful artwork that hang from the second-floor railing of Creativity Explored, a visual-arts center for people with developmental disabilities, Dan Michiels has spent two days a week for the past five years hunched over his painstakingly precise marker masterpieces.

It’s here at this center in San Francisco’s Mission District that the virtually unknown artist translated his inspirations—Led Zeppelin album covers and patterns drawn from nature—into the repeating ropy tessellations and saturated-color forms that Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo tapped for her Fall 2013 collection (she recently sent them down the runway as highly tailored suits bursting with oversize rosettes and 3-D pleating).

Michiels starts each creation with a series of freehand lines—“No rulers!” he says—drawn with a black felt-tip artist’s pen. He filled this California silhouette with increasingly detailed waves of color, laying indelible Sharpie markers to paper with a deliberate hand and only a vision in his head to guide him. If he makes a mistake, “I start all over again,” Michiels says. “But I didn’t mess this up.”

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