pen ink portraits by toyin odutola pen ink portraits by toyin odutola
jul 29, 2012

pen ink portraits by toyin odutola

‘uncertain, yet reserved’ by toyin odutola acrylic ink and pen ink on board 20 x 30 inches 2012

nigerian artist toyin odutola has recently extended her meticulously detailed artworks, created using only pen and ink on paper. the sketches began as a coping mechanism for the young artist adapting to a constantly changing living situation, growing up in various american cities, where, through the act of drawing, she would be able to access a certain mental stillness and articulate her thoughts through intricate portraiture. the pieces are not only a personal reflection but also an illustrative appreciation and ode to the language of the face, communicating through her style the power of a person’s eyes, expressions and features.

odutola says of her work: ‘where some may see flat, static narratives, I see a spectrum of tonal gradations and realities. what I am creating is literally black portraiture with ballpoint pen ink. I’m looking for that in-between state in an individual where the overarching definition is lost. skin as geography is the terrain I expand by emphasizing the specificity of blackness, where an individual’s subjectivity, various realities and experiences can literally be drawn onto the diverse topography of the epidermis. from there, the possibilities of portraying a fully-fledged person are endless.’

‘I had her, and then I lost her’ (capturing maebel, brooklyn, NY.) diptych pen ink on paper 14 x 11 inches (each) 2012

‘I had her, and then I lost her’ (capturing maebel, brooklyn, NY.) detail pen ink on paper 14 x 11 inches (each) 2012

‘untitled (brothers of some kind)’ diptych pen ink on paper 14 x 17 inches (each) 2011-12

‘untitled (brothers of some kind)’ detail Pen Ink on paper 14 x 17 inches (each) 2011-12

‘untitled (dotun. enugu, nigeria)’ pen ink on paper 14 x 11 inches 2012

‘it’s not so bad, is it?’ pen ink on paper 14 x 11 inches 2012

‘the view from behind’ pen ink and coffee stain on paper 13 3/4 x 10 3/4 inches 2012

‘untitled sketch (fish heads)’ pen ink on paper 8.5 x 11 inches 2012

via hi-fructose

  • bravo!

    an artist that uses their hands

    dbkii says:
  • Brilliant and uncanny and almost eerie in her ability to create a “felt” sense of who her subjects are-
    so intimate, so other-worldly, so every day and so exceptional.

    Agasta Adroite says:
  • ovewhelmed i think that is amazing

    kitumba johnmary says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

art news