Canadian illustrator Pencil Fingerz is making his mark on hip hop

Pencil Fingerz Davis Graham

(Pencil Fingerz)

The hip hop core community has changed significantly from what it was, during its sudden birth in the ‘70s.  As with all great cultural movements, hip hop evolved as it made it’s way from a niche – a few men beat boxing and emceeing in the streets of South Bronx – to finding a global audience through radio play giving a popular voice to black artists and changing the landscape of music in a way that still resonates today. As Kanye West declares he’s the biggest rockstar on the planet, rap has replaced pop music, brands are shelling big dollars for product placements in songs, and every pop starlet from Ariana Grande to Selena Gomez has sought out a rapper for a feature to edge up their sound.

Hip hop and rap’s ability to connect people through little more than bass and lyrics has attracted lifelong fans (and brands) from different environments and all corners of the planet. Everyone’s trying to cash in on the culture, whether it’s Hillary Clinton dabbing to Fetty Wap on the Ellen show or fast food chains tweeting about rappers feuding online. Social media has made it possible for anybody from all over the world to participate in the culture but true fans of the genre are now able to connect and actually influence their favourite artists. 


(Andre 3000 drawn by Pencil Fingerz)

One of these lifelong fans is Pencil Fingerz, a digital artist, illustrator and painter who resides in the rural Canadian town of Chilliwack. While his environment is more suited for country music than rap, his portfolio includes: a music video for CJ Fly, tour posters for Yelawolf and Mick Jenkins, and album covers and more for Rittz. One of Pencil Fingerz longest ongoing collaborations is with The Underachievers and was sparked after Issa Gold spotted Pencil’s portrait of Andre 3000, with roses sprouting from his mind. 

Pencil’s exposure to rap began by chance when he first found a stray Eminem CD on the ground. It was that serendipitous moment that ignited a respect for the culture. After Eminem, he fully immersed himself into early 00’s hip hop, and often reflects on this era, with portraits of artists, like Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Since then, he’s honed both his artistry as well as his appreciation for hip hop and has injected himself into the culture, by producing art for some of his favourite artists.

Since meeting Issa online, Pencil has collaborated with The Underachievers to produce covers for their Cellar Door, Evermore: The Art of Duality albums and their latest mixtape, It Happened in Flatbush. Under Issa’s instruction, he’s even drawn himself into the artwork for the latter, shown smiling and laughing, amongst the rest of Issa and AK’s inner circle. Not bad for a young kid working from a small town in Canada.

pencilfingerz, underachievers

(It Happened in Flatbush cover art by Pencil Fingerz)

He’s amassed quite a following on his Instagram, where he posts lifelike portraits of public figures like Chance the Rapper, Will Ferrell, Audrey Hepburn and Pickachu, replete with a blunt in his hand.  With talent, a Wacom tablet, a bit of Photoshop, and a rich portfolio of  illustrations of all the rap gods from the golden era and beyond, Pencil Fingerz has since become quickly sought after, for up and coming artists looking to incorporate his signature pencil drawings into their brand. 

We spoke with Pencil Fingerz, on our radio show and discussed his favourite works, his creative problem solving with Chance the Rapper’s management and his collaboration with Complex magazine.

Pencil Fingerz Underachievers cover

(Evermore: The Art of Duality cover art by Pencil Fingerz)


Paris based illustrator Carine Brancowitz on art and adolescence


Carine Brancowitz

Carine Brancowitz

Her illustrations first caught our attention in Grazia and since then, we’ve been enamoured. Her work, drawn with ball point pen, is a labyrinth of detailed patterns, inked with vibrant hues.

She often draws adolescents as they mill about during all too ordinary situations. Sometimes they’re eating or laughing or sitting or sad. Carine’s precision helps bring her subjects to life. Her work is full of depth as she contrasts detailed subjects against flat backgrounds,  perfectly capturing the moods of her teens. Her skill is all in the subtle nuances, the way a thousand tiny lines of hair can be strewn against a girl’s bright eyes.

Carine’s pieces are layered with different styles, with her lines being just as interesting as her subjects. Her illustrations are so complex, yet simplistic, that one can’t help but wonder “how does she do it?”

We met Carine in her workspace in Paris to gain some insight into her process. Her studio, a spacious white walled apartment in the 5th, was sated with drawings, in various stages of completion amidst her colorful array of pens.

We brought with us many assumptions:  that she has a divine level of patience (she doesn’t), that she must carefully preplan her illustrations (not really) and that she’s been to the Eiffel Tower (not once).

Carine possesses an unassuming sort of charm; she’s graceful, but not loud about her talent (everyone’s good at something) and as we sat with her on the floor sifting through her pieces, we were overcome by a surge of nostalgia as we remembered the happy sickness of our youth, in the faces of her subjects.

And as with youth, our experience with Carine was fleeting. Before we parted we asked her to share with us her thoughts on adolescence, illustration and the effect of globalization in art.

Habemus Pizza

Habemus Pizza


When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

Around 7 years old, really early.
I felt it. You don’t really choose to be an artist.
This is a seed deep inside you,
you choose to water it or not.

Why did you choose illustration as your medium?

I’m not fond of messy places.
I treasure living in a clean and empty space,
and don’t want to be confronted to the chaos that painting materials involves.
Stains everywhere and so on…
Moreover sometimes I travel a lot. You need to be “light” and flexible.

From where do you draw inspiration?

From everywhere.
There is a constant flow;
a line in a book,
a talk-show on the radio,
a person in the metro,
inspiration is generous. Continue reading