Today’s article is a journey through the IRIS, from hyper-realism to abstract expressionism. In our exploration of how visual arts have been reproducing the human eye, we will focus on the work of a selection of young artists, who have succeeded in capturing the mystery of the most fascinating organ of the human body and, incidentally, have … caught our eye.



It’s fascinating to see how much information the eyes provide on a person’s emotional state. When we meet someone, we notice the eyes first. When we speak to other people, we look into their eyes. Eyes express an unspoken language and tell us what we need to know about a person. This is why visual arts of every time and school have taken a particular interest in portraying the complexity and beauty of the human eye.


Many illustrators have devoted their art to give representations of the human eye with all the sparkle and intensity of the real thing. After thoroughly scanning some of their work, it is still incredibly difficult to tell whether they are photographs or not. However only a few talented artists have been able to go beyond ‘photo-realism’, to attain what ‘art’ has to offer, using their techniques as a foundation, not as an end.

One of such artists is JOSÉ VERGARA, from Texas, who draws close-ups of the human eye with an hyper-realistic level of detail. This talented young artist creates his stunning drawings using only coloured pencils and gel pens, a process which he says takes him 20 hours of work per eye. His portrayals show the eyes in vivid detail, each eyelash and pore of the skin meticulously crafted. Perhaps the most mesmerizing aspect of the images are the colourful and luminescent irises which expertly catch the light and appear to shine back at the viewer. In some of the works, tiny reflections of the outside world can be made out, lending depth and soul to the renderings. We are intrigued by VERGARA’s depictions of eyes, which capture a certain ineffable mystery just beyond their incredible detail.

The complexity of the human eye is also an inspiration for Cuban artist DARIAN MEDEROS, who finds in drawing eyes the perfect challenge to his passion for details. His hyper-realistic style demonstrates a relentless pursuit of perfection though he knows perfection is an impossibility. One of his favourite quotes is from Leonardo Da Vinci: "Art is never finished, only abandoned." MEDEROS portraits look so natural and lifelike, it is almost impossible to discern them from an actual photograph of the individual. They say you know what you are doing if you can create or learn something and then deconstruct it. Some of MEDEROS’ work does precisely that. The closer you get, the clarity of a portrait becomes the antithesis of the initial intent. As he once said “What I’m trying to do is to preserve the image, but I have a technique that uses a series of layers to change the process. When you get closer, it turns into abstraction. It is a lot of fun to take a few steps forward and a few steps back. Whatever mood you are in you will enjoy it.”


ARMIN MERSMANN, born in Germany and now residing in Michigan, creates incredibly realistic eyes in graphite pencil. To the porous, wrinkle-filled faces to the glossy, captivating eyeballs themselves. Even the tiny hairs from the eyebrows are exacted with intricate detail and each have its own story to tell. His artworks are alive and they speak to us in a language that words alone cannot express. His interest is the aging skin and the breadth of textures within the human face that gives a hint of a life lived. While the detail present in his drawings makes them look incredibly realistic, there is still some intangible quality that sets them apart from a simple photograph or portrait. As the artist once said, “I find a good rendering is a drawing of what a person sees, I find a work of art is a drawing of what others don’t see. I look at small particulars of a person that cannot be seen or deciphered by the cameras, I delete, enhance, elaborate, exaggerate, alter and reinvent, and I do this by filtering this vision through my own psyche. Photo-realism itself does not interest me in the least; realism does, details and textures do, ultimately seeing what others fail to see, until they see it in my work.”


Differing greatly from the works of others, Ukrainian artist PAVEL GUZENKO renders his eye illustrations using his skills as an impressionist artist. This young artist truly manages to capture the glimmering gaze of the human eye with an impressionist technique and a rich colour palette. Each shimmering orb depicts a remarkable reflective surface, truly capturing the sparkle in one’s eye. GUZENKO’s quick brushstrokes seem not so much concerned with fine detailing but aim at capturing the sparkle and dynamism of the image. The resulting images are thus very rough, with GUZENKO’s process pretty much laid out on the canvas for everyone to see, but that’s what’s so refreshing about these pictures. And though he doesn’t get the refinement of say airbrushes in his pieces, the eyes he creates are still perfect in their coarseness. 

Based in Los Angeles, ADRIAN GOTTLIEB is a figurative and portrait painter, specialised in painting techniques developed from the Renaissance through the early 20th century. The artist's vision is so penetrating and profound that it seems as if he sees into the souls of his sitters. Working exclusively from the live model and shunning the use of photographs, it is in his figurative compositions that GOTTLIEB excels, especially in infusing the two-dimensional surface with a luminous vitality; a palpable energy that is unique to his work. The eyes depicted by GOTTLIEB have a unique delicacy that he bestows upon his subjects. They betray complex layers of understanding  - all encoded within the mystery of their eyes.

PAOLO DE GIOSA is a young Italian figurative expressionist painter who is known for his beautiful portraits drawn on the paper of old books and newspapers from the 50s. His best known works see part of the facial traits dissolve like they were trying to escape the face that held them. In a rare interview to, he calls this theme “absence”: once the portrait is finished, perfect in every detail, he willingly maims, disfigures these beautiful faces, leaving the artist as the sole witness of what was once just perfection.


San Francisco-based painter EMILIO VILLALBA creates abstract portraits in oil paint inspired by the precision of master works from the past, as well as the contemporary human condition. The paintings of this Californian artist feature eyes as agents of entropy, crowning jewels in faces and heads that melt and devolve before the viewer. VILLALBA’s works are destabilising: the viewer finds himself observing a totally white canvas, on which are painted ever-watching eyes and other pieces of body. Disfigured objects, the eyes in his paintings stare back at the viewer "without apology for their misshapen-ness, lilting wrongly toward an on-looker in fierce, guiltless apathy, more landscape than figure."


Norwegian artist HENRIK ULDALEN is a self-taught artist whose creative production revolves around classic figurative painting, presented in a contemporary disposition. ULDALEN describes himself as an "expressionist painter trapped in the body of a neoclassicist painter" and you can actually see several different influences intermixing in his work, but the result is magic: dark, ethereal, otherworldly atmospheres, with elements of surrealism. ULDALEN’s eye explores the dark sides of life, nihilism, existentialism, longing and loneliness, juxtaposed with fragile beauty. Despite his realistic approach, photographic accuracy is not what he seeks to achieve. The pieces have a hypnotising and bewitching quality, and this seems to have become somewhat of a signature for ULDALEN.


Based in South Australia, JOSHUA MIELS is a contemporary portrait artist who looks to capture the vulnerability of people and the emotions that people try to hide from others. Spending countless hours adding layer upon layer of oil paint using the impasto technique and powerful brush strokes, MIELS produces artworks that are not only striking but deep and powerful. This young artist’s representation of the eye is able to materialise the emotions, capturing the feelings and the vulnerabilities of the people and transforming them into amazing works of art. Many of his paintings, which are created by thickly applying paint with a palette knife, address the disconnect between the exterior personality people present and their interior worlds. MIELS' work focuses on the mental health struggles many face in their day-to-day lives, specifically males, who he depicts throughout his abstract works.


There is an undeniable uniqueness in the human eye that has attracted countless artists, even to the present day. Our creations, like the eyes depicted by these artists, feature small and big differences that make them truly unique. We cherish the multiple imperfections of natural leather, augmenting them with added texture and detail. Like these artist, we hope to have every viewer feel differently and bring out the personal emotions through our creations.


editorial team.


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UNTAMED STREET is a contemporary men’s and women’s footwear brand, born from the union of London creative spirit with the Italian art of shoemaking. Our design code is inspired by modern and progressive arts, monochrome photography and urban landscapes. Bold and unapologetic, we blur the boundaries between art and fashion, embedding techniques used by painters and contemporary artists and fusing the artistry of luxury with the ethos and aspirations of modern city life.

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