Using a mechanical pencil, Detroit-based artist Nathan Reidt creates hazy illustrations of fantastical beings.
Emerging from layers of graphite, smudged all to hell into an almost luminous haze, the characters in artist Nathan Reidt's recent drawings peer out at the viewer in a trance. And if they are non-human entities, they simply exist on the page like creatures from a David Cronenberg film captured in still life. Reidt's drawings, usually not much larger than printer paper, feature incredibly fine and imaginative details, and revel in the tropes of science fiction, supernatural horror, fantasy, and Surrealism.
Some of Reidt's fictional organisms resemble the tardigrade, a micro-animal while others conjure the fantastical imagination of Guillermo del Toro or English artist Austin Osman Spare. Reidt, who grew up in California and Washington but is now based in Detroit, has been actively drawing on a regular basis since he was five years old. Originally, Reidt wanted to be a comic book artist, but ended up turning toward computer graphics, eventually landing a job in his early 20s as a CG artist at a game company. Since 2003, he has been doing CG in the film industry.
Reidt's preferred creative instrument is a mechanical graphite pencil, though about five years ago he forced himself to learn oil painting and color mixing. He thinks that mechanical pencils forced him into drawing "tiny" images and obsessing over small details. For the elaborate drawings, he has been starting with heavy watercolor paper that can take a lot of abuse, then drawing in a soft manner, exploring and slowly building up values.
"I use mechanical pencils and lay down graphite, and then smudge the shit out of everything, and then basically draw back out the highlights with erasers, and then just keep doing that over and over," Reidt explains. "I slowly pick out areas to solidify and nail down, keeping other areas vague until they are ready. The paper is really important for working that way—if you have the right paper you can still erase back to white even after all that abuse."
"It's always hard to see your own style or aesthetic as an outsider," Reidt says. "I think it mostly comes down to how I like to work and what really interests my brain. I like rendering and shading and nibbly little detail work mostly."
For his oil paintings, Reidt has settled into a two-part process. He prefers to paint in one go, wet on wet. "What I usually do is get everything blocked in and mostly finished, mixing the color for each brush stroke as I go, usually using one largish brush for everything," he says. "I let it sit and dry. After that I go in with a tiny brush and kind of stipple in little flecks of color and details until it's finished."
Reidt believes that the imaginative work he has been doing is the result of exploring his interests and motivations. This involves him going all the way back to the things he liked as a kid— Star Wars, sci-fi and horror movies, comic books, punk rock, heavy metal, and late 80s and early 90s skate art. He is also rediscovering his love of "the creature end of things," as he puts it.