Lines and Colors art blog

Stephen Biesty

Stephen Biesty, cut-away and exploded illustrations
Ever since I was old enough to stare goggle eyed at them in children’s books, or in my fathers Popular Science magazines, I have always loved cross-sections, exploded views and cut-away illustrations.

There’s something magical about seeing the inside and outside of a complex structure or vehicle simultaneously, like penetrating the surface of reality with super-human vision.

Stephen Biesty is an English illustrator whose cut-away and exploded illustrations are among the most fascinating and well done I’ve ever encountered. Often done in ink and watercolor, his drawings project enormously complex subjects with a directness and clarity that make them immediately understandable. This is, I think, one of the less well known strengths of illustration, the ability to communicate complex ideas visually with striking effectiveness, and Biesty is a master of that skill.

While many of the cut-away illustrations you are likely to encounter elsewhere are straightforward longitudinal cross-sections, Biesty takes on even more daunting challenges, carving complex objects like steamships or locomotives into multiple slices, or joining interior and exterior views of architectural landmarks in a single Escher-like view.

Unfortunately, Biesty’s website does a poor job of presenting his work. While there is a good selection of his images in various categories, they are only presented at a modest size, with any appreciation of their fascinating detail limited to a wretched excuse for a zooming feature that restricts your view to a little floating box.

The best I can suggest is to make a Google Images search, and use the Search Tools option to set the image size to “Large“.

Biesty has authored several very popular books, the best known of which are Castle and Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Cross-Sections.


3 responses to “Stephen Biesty”

  1. Awesome work, I Iove the style. Some of them look like optical illusions with a lot of attention to details.

  2. I always loved these types of illustrations as well. And, I loved those clear overlays in encyclopedias that showed various bodily systems (showing my age – I think encyclopedias are extinct!)!

    1. Ditto on the clear overlays in encyclopedias for me (I think it was American Peoples Encyclopedia in my case, wonderful clear overlays with the internal organs laid out in layers.)