Gráfica Chicha (Sharpie Art)

The drawings on this post were inspired by a design style know as “gráfica chicha” (more on that later). I used this style as an exploration into neon colors with solid black backgrounds. For this set I used my own design ideas and patterns, and attempted to keep designs simple without a specific theme. These designs can also be considered “Sharpie art”, but in my drawings I did not use the common permanent marker, instead I used water-based markers and incorporated highlighter/neon markers.

This post is titled “gráfica chicha” because this was my main source of inspiration for all the designs. This style became popular in Peru during the 70’s and was used primarily to advertise music events. This art form  incorporated the use of bright colors with contrasting black lines, similar to the colors found on traditional Peruvian textiles. This trend has seen a recent rebirth and has become popular in other parts of South America. More info and links at the bottom of the page.

For this set I decided to use photo paper as I had plenty of it and though it would make the designs stand out. I began using opaque paint markers but that did not work well with my paper (HP Glossy Photo Paper).


Although paint markers worked well to cover dark areas, the paint would smudge even after drying. Perhaps I needed better paint markers.


I happened to find some flip-chart markers (Sharpie brand) and after some initial test they seemed to work best. I quickly purchased more markers, including highlighters, and was ready to start.


All of the designs are were done basically the same way, with dark colors first, then filling with lighter colors. This is normally not the way most drawings are done; usually  one goes from light to dark. Since this paper did not smudge with water-based markers it was safe to work backwards.


95% of my designs are free-hand, with no copying, tracing or pencil guidelines. I usually have some idea in mind, based on a previous sketch, and begin drawing directly on the paper. If a mistake is made there is no going back, but one way to fix it is to make the lines thicker. I did that a few times.



I keep filling the drawing. Every line is decided on-the-fly, and  I do what I think would balance the drawing best.


In order to keep the theme in mind I decide to cover a large portion of the area with black marker. Now, sometimes this feels like a huge waste of marker, but the final results are usually satisfying, so I continue.


After completing all of the black area I select the bright colors for the drawing. For this set the fuschia/magenta color was my favorite, not only did it stand out well it also covered the area smoothly. This was not the case for all bright colors.


Here is the completed drawing. Note that my camera was not able to pick up all of the neon colors nicely. I tried to adjust slightly on my editing program but I still don’t think it accurately reflects the real colors, however, it’s very close.



More examples:

















I hope you enjoyed this set, as it was a lot of fun to work on. The bright colors really stood out over the black backgrounds, and the wide-tip markers made drawing quick and easy.  It took about two weeks to complete all of the drawings on this set. While most of them are just okay for me, there are a few that I can see being framed. I will probably continue more Sharpie art, but my next project will probably be strictly black-and-white. I hope this gives you ideas for your designs. Good luck, and ’till next time.

Samples of Grafica Chicha (Google images)