Frenzied Symbols and Vibrant Vignettes Overlay Sam Rodriguez’s Figurative Illustrations

an illustration of a woman with purple hair and a colorful blocks and shapes overlaying her figure

“Terracotta.” All images © Sam Rodriguez, shared with permission

Sam Rodriguez sorts his works into three categories: nouns, verbs, and typography. Nouns comprises his portraits that zero in on a singular person and their expressions, while verbs takes a step back to portray figures in action. Typography is more abstract and centers on letterforms and graphics informed by Rodriguez’s early forays into graffiti.

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These classifications help the San José-based illustrator “bring order to the chaos of making art,” freeing him to focus on the stories he wants to tell. Employing bold, chromatic palettes, Rodriguez superimposes symbols, signs, typography, cartoons, and patterns atop his subjects as a means of expression. The frenzied additions visualize the sitters’ unseen preoccupations and interests, whether it be a childhood love for Dragon Ball or verdant, cabbage-like clusters sprouting from a figure’s eyes.

In addition to his personal projects, Rodriguez has worked with dozens of brands including Adobe and The New Yorker and is currently collaborating with the estate of MF Doom on a collection to celebrate the 20th anniversary of MM…FOOD. He also recently released Human 2.0: A Celebration of Human Bionics with author Patrick Kane, a richly illustrated book about the incredible advancements in medical engineering.

You can find an archive of Rodriguez’s work and follow his upcoming projects on Instagram.


a young child wears a green wolf-like headdress and cartoon characters surrounding them


a portrait of a woman white short blue hair and gold teeth smiling with ampersands, cars, trees and aliens surrounding her


an illustration of a person wearing a hat and a glass helmet filling with water. yellow and white symbols surround them

“Shelter in Place”

a portrait of a woman in red plaid with a red coif. she poses against a floral background with small faces floating around her


a portrait of a girl with small buns across her head and a range of colorful symbols on her face and surrounding her


a girl with braids and a backpack touches her glasses while another kid in the background spraypaints two large eyes. small icons like hearts and quotes surround them


an older man wearing a red hat sprouts cabbage like greens from his eyes

“Song of Wind”

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member today and support independent arts publishing for as little as $5 per month. The article Frenzied Symbols and Vibrant Vignettes Overlay Sam Rodriguez’s Figurative Illustrations appeared first on Colossal.


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