Krishaun Williams (b. 1974) makes drawings of panoramic scope and dramatic energy, with a bright, otherworldly color palette. His subjects are varied - reefs teeming with iridescent corals, eagles swooping through canyons, cityscapes that suggest a bubblegum-bright take on Italian futurism. The work walks a line between careful observation and imaginative abstraction. Feathers and scales seem as sturdy as wrought iron, rock formations shine as if they’d been rubbed down with vaseline, clouds and sky pulse with radioactive hues.
Lately, Williams has returned to a favorite theme : dragons. Williams’ dragons aren’t evil beasts to be vanquished, but benevolent forces of nature, pulling their power from the sun, the earth, and the cosmos. “I don’t know why they’re not around anymore. God intended for them to live with us - but unfortunately it didn’t happen that way.” Williams says that part of his work’s purpose is “preserving lost kingdoms” - a through-line that connects these mythical creatures to the marine ecosystems that Williams draws, imperiled as they are by climate change.
Williams grew up in Chicago’s Southside neighborhood of Brainerd Park. He was drawn to art from the start; he recalls scribbling dragons in notebooks at the age of six. As a teenager, Williams participated in the Department of Cultural Affair’s Gallery 37, a 90s program in a downtown vacant lot that brought together artistically-inclined Chicago youth (and the founders of Project Onward in the process). He began a program at the Columbus College of Art & Design, especially enjoying his work in the college library. The stacks of books were portals for Williams, from the Michelangelo’s vision of heaven to Frank Frazetta’s barbarian underworlds. In 1996, Williams needed to put his studies on hold on account of mental health struggles. Returning to Chicago, Williams was able to connect with Thresholds, a non-profit supporting the health, housing, and employment of IL residents with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems. Now on firmer footing, Williams was able to complete his art degree at the Columbia College of Art, graduating in 1998. Williams is a veteran Project Onward artist - though he’s only recently come back into our orbit, he was an artist at our former studio in the Chicago Cultural Center, from 2009 - 2011.
When he’s not building worlds with pencil and brush, Williams is a dedicated caretaker of freshwater fish. Though he was forced to downsize from a tank of 50 gallons to a still sizable 29, Williams looks after various cichlids and plecos. They are inspiring muses for Williams - “When I'm drawing fish, I’m learning more about fish, connecting with them, learning about the structure and biology as I draw.” This sensitive eye towards nature mixed with an eclectic visual imagination define Williams’ evolving artwork.