As far back as the 4th century B.C., inks were made by grinding together burnt bones, tar, pitch, and other substances. They finally made more fluid the task of mark-making, and with brushes and pens, have contributed to the production of some of the finest documents and paintings in human history.
The ink pieces we see today were all produced by late 19th century and 20th century artists who share in common a unique and singular vision: these people were not trained as artists, but found inspiration nonetheless to produce unique works of art despite a host of impediments. From homelessness, mental illness and insanity, strange obsessions, incarceration, to physical ailments — all of those whose work you see featured here were produced by people who managed to make work in spite of it all. (The next time you hit a creative impasse, you might try thinking about some of them.)
Dwight Macintosh (1906 - 1999) spent 56 years in mental institutions. With very little ability to speak or communicate at all, he finally began to draw, in the late 1970s, after being admitted to the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, California. His graphic and free-flowing line quality featured, in particular, an obsession with creating giant penises on a kind of “x-ray” human figure, with a continuous script of mostly nonsensical writing. He had a visual language all his own, which may explain why his work now resides in some of the most prestigious collections in the world.
On the other hand, George Widener (b. 1962), who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, is a highly functioning “calendar” savant based on calculations he performs in his head. Give him any town or city in the United States and he will reply with its zip code. Within his world, numbers and calculations are instantaneous. And they are always correct.
Below, some examples of their work, as well as other similarly gifted, though perhaps lesser known, visual artists.