Visual Arts — September 8, 2016 12:41 — 0 Comments

Allen Forest: Ink and Noir

Allen Forest creates thoughtful, distorted images of people he encounters. And we wanted to show them off. So, below are ten images followed by a little Q&A with the artist. Enjoy!


JU: What moments of inspiration helped create this work?

AF: I was captivated by Vivian Maier’s photographic work and I decided to do a series with my own interpretations of her characters in her city settings. Eventually I went out and shot my own in Vancouver using different locales and the people there. I was particularly interested in candid situations and expressions, no posing. So I did candid camera. I walked into groups of people and pointed my camera left, right, up, down, all the while holding it non nonchalantly at waist level. Many of the photos did not come out, but those that did were fascinating. So I drew from them; the body language and private thoughts behind their expressions were amazing. I called another series of these “All the World’s a Stage: Random Actors,” since the whole approach is completely random and by chance—I never know what I will end up with. When drawing, I change the composition in the photos or the characters to suit the paper and medium. They really are just a jumping off point to create stylized character studies.

JU: How long have you been doing black and white ink drawings?

AF: I have been drawing in ink for about 3 years. I like my black and white work as much as my color work in oil or watercolor. There is something very simple and powerful about ink, much like film noir with its high contrast lighting really creates a dramatic look.

JU: How do you think this particular series fits into your overall artistic career?

AF: It is a phase I need to go through in my evolution as an artist. The series “City Life” and my other related series in black and white: “Berlin in The 1920s,” “New York Noir,” “Femme Noir,” “Nick and Nora Noir,” and “Real Characters” are solidifying a particular visual style I have been playing with for awhile. The style elements are a cross between Ben Shahn, Robert Crumb and William Steig.  I want to evolve this into a looser more semi-abstract approach as time goes on, at least that is the plan—but you never know which way you may end up going. It seems as soon as you say one thing, then the opposite happens.


Born in Canada and bred in the U.S., Allen Forrest has worked in many mediums: computer graphics, theater, digital music, film, video, drawing and painting. Allen studied acting in the Columbia Pictures Talent Program in Los Angeles and digital media in art and design at Bellevue College (receiving degrees in Web Multimedia Authoring and Digital Video Production.) He currently works in the Vancouver, Canada, as a graphic artist and painter. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University's Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation's permanent art collection. Forrest's expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on canvas.

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