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.