Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Wildly detailed drawings that combine math and butterflies

By Liz Stinson, Wired
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
Rafael Araujo creates hyper-detailed drawings of nature using principles of geometry. Rafael Araujo creates hyper-detailed drawings of nature using principles of geometry.
HIDE CAPTION
The science of art
A master of geometry
A structure emerges
Constructing the image
Order in complexity
Symmetry of nature
Beauty of precision
Attention to detail
Three-dimensional wonder
Visual complexity
Science of art
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rafael Araujo creates stunning geometrical illustrations
  • He uses trigonometry and dot sequences to create da Vinci-esque drawings
  • Each illustration takes him more than 100 hours to complete

(Wired) -- Rafael Araujo's illustrations are bewilderingly complex - so complex that you might assume the artist uses a computer to render the exacting angles and three-dimensional illusions. And true, if you were to recreate his intricate mathematical illustrations using software, it probably wouldn't take you long at all. But the craziest part of all is that Araujo doesn't use modern technology to create his intricately drawn Calculations series - unless, of course, you count a ruler and protractor.

Read more: Mind-blowing portraits made of test tubes and pushpins

The Venezuelan artist crafts his illustrations using same skills you and I learned in our 10th grade geometry class. Only instead of stashing those homework assignments deep into the locker of his brain, Araujo uses these concepts to create his da Vinci-esque drawings. In Araujo's work, butterflies take flight amidst a web of lines and helixes, a shell is born from a conical spiral, and the mathematical complexity of nature begins to make sense.

Rafael Araujo creates remarkable drawings, like this shell, using principles of geometgry.
Courtesy Rafael Araujo

He says perspective and angles have always come naturally to him. "When I was young I began drawing perspective almost out of the blue," he recalls. "I loved three-dimensional drawings and liked to find out ways to locate dots in the space." Before computer-assisted drawing, there were artists like M.C. Escher, who Araujo counts among his biggest influences. "When I first saw M.C. Escher, I was speechless," he says. "His artwork was so akin to my geometrical taste."

Read more: Origami - perfect blend of math and art

Working on an old drafting table, Araujo began drawing his own perspective illustrations, eyeballing the trigonometry to plot dot sequences that would allow him to create curved shapes like double helixes and cones. If you look closely at Araujo's drawings, you'll notice each of the main shapes sits within a line-drawn square or rectangle - he began adding this to his works after realizing these scaffolding boxes created a more reliable way to correctly position the dots. "There is naturally a learning curve," he says. "And as problems are solved, you become more adept and, again, daring."

Painting is very similar to cooking. You've got to be always careful!
Rafael Araujo

As Araujo became more confident in his skills, he began adding ink-drawn butterflies, insects and shells to the canvas and painting them with acrylic in order to add visual complexity to his work. Each illustration takes him upwards of 100 hours, and that's if he doesn't mess up. "Painting is very similar to cooking," he says. "You've got to be always careful!"

Read more: These shimmering LED installations transport you to an alternate universe

Even with the added embellishments, his work is restrained and exacting. But that scientific honesty is also what makes his illustrations so visually compelling. Scientists and mathematicians often say there's a comfort in their work because they know there's always a right and wrong answer. It's the same with Araujo's art.

There's little gray area to be debated when it comes to angles and lines, and somehow that reliability and predictability translates into something beautiful. "I love Pollock, and enjoy very much casting paint onto a canvas without rules," he says. "But you've got to make it to appear, if not "beautiful," well done, and that is difficult."

Read more from WIRED:

Swirling Time-Lapse Nudes Capture the Allure of Bodies in Motion

How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet

Ghostly Photos Reveal Subzero Shortcuts Through Post-Soviet Cities

Cyanide Mixed With Photoshop Creates an Insomniac's Nightmare Fantasy

Subscribe to WIRED magazine for less than $1 an issue and get a FREE GIFT! Click here!

Copyright 2011 Wired.com.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Style
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1455 GMT (2255 HKT)
After surviving Vichy prisons and Nazi concentration camps, Brian Stonehouse became one of the most prominent fashion illustrators of his age.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
Award-winning photographer Phil Stern captured everything from the battlefield to Hollywood Boulevard. These are his most iconic images.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0216 GMT (1016 HKT)
The Sony World Photography Awards has released a collection of some of the competition's most beautiful entrants.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Zaha Hadid Qatar 2020 stadium
Are sports stadiums modern-day cathedrals? Leading architects say arenas will soon become our most important social spaces.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Whether you think stuffed animals are cool, beautiful, or downright disturbing, this is taxidermy like you've never seen it before.
December 4, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Studio 54 has become synonymous with the glamor and excess of the late Seventies. These rare images capture its debauched side.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 1325 GMT (2125 HKT)
It's official: London's getting another landmark. This time it's a stunning plant-covered bridge partly inspired by Leonardo DiCaprio.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 0747 GMT (1547 HKT)
1947 Ferrari 125 S, Enzo Ferrari Museum, Modena
For fans of Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Pagani, this corner of Europe is a petrol-powered promised land.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 1013 GMT (1813 HKT)
Victoria Beckham and Emma Watson were among the designers, models and taste-makers recognized at this year's British Fashion Awards.
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 1648 GMT (0048 HKT)
Duncan Campbell's It For Others, which features a dance inspired by Karl Marx and examines African art, has won the prestigious art prize.
December 1, 2014 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
Simon Beck decorates snow-covered lakes and mountainsides with massive geometric designs using his footsteps as his implement.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1524 GMT (2324 HKT)
Houses that melt, float and flip upside down? Alex Chinneck's playful architecture sparks the imagination and begs for a photo-op.
ADVERTISEMENT