Robinsson Cravents Hand-drawn adventures through natural landscapes

A screenshot from an animation of a desert landscape, with large mountains, a river and greenery sprouting from the ground.

Freedom is ineffable, but you know it when you feel it. It’s certainly the immediate and predominant emotion when confronted with artist and graphic designer Robinsson Cravents’ latest series in his “Sketch in Motion” project, “Desert Cantos.” Travel across rich hand-drawn landscapes inspired by arid climates; marvel at nature’s wonders through the simple but expansive world Cravents has created and set to movement with music. Here, he explains how he makes his serene videos and why making art about mountains, trees and skies matters more than ever.

Robinsson Cravents grew up in a rural part of Colombia where, throughout his childhood, he would pick fruit straight from the trees: mandarins, mangoes, guavas. Even though he now lives a far cry from those trees, in the city of Medellín, the place instilled an enduring love for nature in him that he expresses through his work. “Sketch in Motion” is his personal animated-illustration project that provides an interlude from his established graphic design career and a virtual escape into the wilderness.  

“Desert Cantos” is the first installment in the “Sketch in Motion” series. It evokes the freedom of driving along a winding river through a semi-arid landscape with the windows down, as the views of orange mountains and scrubby shrubs roll by; or chartering a microlight to take in the vistas from the sky. Cravents was inspired by scenes of Arizona and New Mexico and the plant life found in these climates, especially the soft flowers that grow between the vicious spikes of cacti. His next piece is called “Forest for the Trees,” which moves through an airy forest of conifers and tall trees with spectacular golden leaves. “They’re all trees I loved since I was a child, but I don’t know their names,” he says. The geography is unspecified: “It’s not about the locations, it’s about the trees.” Watching the sequences of images is an experience designed to be slow and peaceful, and the light pencil sketch style chosen feels simple and human.

Join the club

Like this story? You’ll (probably) love our monthly newsletter.

Cravents has been a graphic designer for two decades but his interest in illustration was only piqued a few years ago by browsing concept art for video games. After some time, he realized he wanted to create something more organic than the styles he was seeing. “I’m not so good at drawing,” he happily admits. He remembers a turning point discovering the work of illustrator William Grill. “I thought: ‘Wow, this looks very natural, emotional and personal.’” He loved this loose, hand-drawn style, but bored by making static images on paper, he started a six-month process of achieving this tactile quality in 3D and adding motion. From the very start, Cravents intended his sketches to move and to be set to music; one element didn’t come before the other.

Cravents draws each scene by hand directly onto a tablet, selecting custom digital pencils and real textures that he uploads, but he insists on keeping the way he strings them together a secret. As far as the software he uses goes, he mentions Maya and Cinema 4D among others, but intentionally keeps the details a mystery no matter who asks. 

The ultimate aim for Cravents’ meditative animations is to encourage a love for nature in order to protect the natural world. “People are investing in flying to Mars and the moon but I believe we must invest in preserving the rivers, the mountains and forests for future generations,” he says. “My goal with this is for people to watch these videos and say: ‘I need to go swimming in a river or hiking on a mountain.’” 

Cravents make this work at a desk with two big screens and a tablet, with the many surrounding pot plants bringing a slice of the outside in. But when he gets the chance on the weekends, he visits his hometown. “I wake up, walk into the mountains and sit at a stream,” he says. “I sit down there only to be there, only to contemplate with no expectation, or to fish with my brother. When I see the mountains and the sky and take in the fresh air, I get renewed with energy.”