Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"I have been influenced by everything, making my art work universal.  My focus and practice are not exclusionary in terms of time lines, cultures, ages, methods, scholarship, status or narrative.  I know I gotta little something for everybody."

Saturday, October 6, 2012

" Artmaking along with being an artist has been at the core of my life's systems since early childhood. "

Versatile visual artist Turtel Onli, owner of Onli Studios in Chicago’s Bridgeport Art Center has been creating art for more than five decades. His work has progressively pushed boundaries, depicting metaphysical concepts, religious themes, and abstractions with a strong allegiance to imagery depicting people of the African Diaspora.  Balancing commercial work, fine artistry and community building, Turtel has managed to connect his worlds through exhibitions, showcases and events. As a graphic novelist and illustrator, he furthered his accomplishments as founder of The Black Age of Comics Convention, an annual event co-produced by The DuSable Museum in Chicago. The Black Age of Comics Convention celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2013.

Turtel’s work has appeared in the 2nd World Festival of Black and African Art and Culture in Lagos Nigeria, in collections of The Cool Globes Public Art Exhibition, The Chicago Children’s Museum, and The DuSable Museum. His work has been commissioned and/or purchased by many, including such luminaries as funk legend George Clinton & P-Funk, and jazz legends Miles Davis and Alice Coltrane. His artwork and design has graced the pages of Paris Metro Magazine, MODE Magazine and Avant Garde Magazine. He has also provided artistic services to McDonalds, Motown, and Johnson Publishing Company.

 Turtel was named the Father of the Black Age in 2006 by Temple University and is an adjunct professor of Art Appreciation & Drawing at Harold Washington College.  He has served as a Visual Arts teacher for Chicago Public Schools for more than two decades.

"I created this for a fund raiser at the Art Center of Highland Park called "Picasso SIngs The Blues".  I drew a female blues guitarist in the Picasso style directly on the liner notes of a traditional blues alum cover."

Saturday, August 11, 2012


The symbolism woven into Onli's collections of Rhythmistic paintings communicates deeply held values of power, meditation, diversity,  exaggeration, empathy and a narrative that explores the practice of art making and the active appreciation of the visual picture plane.

Friday, August 10, 2012

"Passion Fruit"

Onli's Rhythmistic Fine Art from his "Passion Fruit" collection was featured in this televised broadcast in Chicago.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Cool Globes" Hot Ideas for a cooler Planet.

 "We were fortunate to be included in the Cool Globe Public Art Program.  I hired a few of my students and we worked in the Hyde Park Art Center of Chicago because I needed a larger studio space.  The globe was too large for my studio's doorway. I am forever grateful to the staff of the Hyde Park Art Center for offering their space."

 Cool Globes ready to roll! 
Click on the images to enlarge.

"Itz A Rhtyhmistic World" is the title and it is about humanity united to fight global warming along with toxic emissions from idling school buses and cars. This duel theme was a fantastic way to blend my expertise as a fine artist, educator, illustrator and concerned citizen. The mini globe sold to a collector at a Cool Globe fund raising event at the Field Museum in Chicago."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"I Dream of Jimi"

 "I Dream of Jimi" was an evolving collection of drawn and painted Rhythmisitic 2-D images inspired by the kindred creative work of Jimi Hendrix, Not fan-art or the illustrating of his lyrics, but visual art and music inspired by his concepts. The collection was created from 1968 until 1995. While the images survive on DVD the collection was destroyed in a studio fire in 2001. 

Onli used to exhibit the collection as a tribute to Rhythmistic  ideas & processes in the visual and sonic domains.  The DVD featured Hendrix inspired music arranged and composed by Aki Antonia & Randy Hardy.

It can be found on You Tube as "I Dream of Jimi."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"The Rhythmic Zone"

"The Rhythmic Zone is a world of its own."

Unlike artists such as certain Pop Artists or Imagists, whose works were often derivative of comic-books as source material, Onli's original artwork is in relationship with his own line of graphic novels and the powerful images he selects to become Rhythmistc fine art.  His independently  published graphic novels are often the Yin to his fine-arts Yang in his Rhythmistic experiments with the narrative, concept, design and process.  Both are valued forms of expression.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Most of these Rhythmistic works of fine art are availble
to collect as artifacts or limited edition prints.

Onli, circa 1999, seated in front of a Rhythmistic illustration he created in Paris that was later used in advertisement by the legendary Limelight Club in Chicago in the late 1980s.  

While often hiding in plain sight, Onli used to date his works "1999" in the 1970s in reaction to art directors who used to tell him his work was ahead of its time in relationship to being a major market illustrator.  He did create published illustrations for Playboy, The Paris Metro, WGN,  MODE Avante Garde and many more.  

He wanted to explore the potential of Rhythmism as a commercial art.


 "Over the decades I have showcased my Rhythmistic visual art in an
array of situations to reach people of all types."

 "I tend to grow collections around a central theme.  Such as "No Evils"
or  "Passion Fruit".   Growing an art movement requires effort, time and mutual participation." 

A must for collectors, curators, critics and students of
the future-primitif potential of Rhythmism.

"I had to realize and accept that after so much of my work was
excluded in certain circles it then made my Rhythmisitc artwork
exclusive.  I have so many to thank to this elevation."
"While so much of my work invloves portraits or the human figure they are all built upon an abstracted Rhythmistic contruct of design elements, art principles and future-primitif concepts.  I use tools from the ever potent pencil to the innovate cutting edge computer."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reclining figure study  for the "2nd Sustah-Girl Work Out Book" from
ONLI STUDIOS in the Fall of 2012.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Teaching & Reaching

"I teach "art" at a college and a high school in Chicago.  My teaching practice is an exponent of my studio practice and history. Learning and growth are both life long processes.  I have done, therefore I can teach.  I find my students on both levels to be rigorously engaged in approaching the future of the visual arts.  These exchanges refresh my love of the craft and the need to practice. I try to reach and teach them to the best of my potential.   Exhibiting in group shows such as the one generously hosted by The Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago gives us working artists who teach a fantastic chance to showcase our work to teachers, students and the public."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The '70s & Beyond

"Back when I was illustrating for the likes of the Playboy company my fine art took on a more cosmopolitan hue in the mid-1970s. Now Johnson Publishing Co. sold its building to Columbia College.  Playboy is leaving Chicago.  What will happen to their art collections?  I used to be a free lance illustrator for both.  Now that type of professional work is gone, leaving a gap in the beginnings of so many folks' visual careers.  I used to roll up & down Michigan Ave.  Gigging. Partying. Playing.  Working and learning my trade with the best in the biz.

Not like being a fan-boy at a convention.  But real work being published on an international level.  Jet setting even.  Now we surf the web for work.  Publish online and hope to get paid.  Both Johnson and Playboy paid well and quickly. Those were great times to be an illustrator."

 The late Lucille Ellis, of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, was the main person , along with her friend Kittie, to suggest I go to Paris to reach my potential in 1977.  BTW: Kittie turned out to be Eartha Kitt.
This is a Rhythmistic '80s portrait I did of a chilkdhood friend, Thea Barnes.  She was with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and Martha Graham before being with the Dance Adminstrator with the British edition of the "Lion King".  We met in 7th grade and were buddies in high school.

I checked out the Chagall Musee' in Southern France when I first got to France in '77.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rhythmistic Art Appreciation

I use the 4-Step Process to critique visual art.  This means having a set of standards by which to objectively evaluate a work of art.

1. Description. ( Detail how the art actually looks. ) 

2. Analysis. ( How are the materials, tools, design elements & principles arranged 
or manipulated to create the artwork. ) 

3. Interpretation.  ( What is the artist expressing and what do you make of the artwork's statement. )

And 4. Judgment. ( Is it a successful work of art & why? )

Keep in mind to attack is to assault.  To appreciate is to employ empathy.
To critique is to have a set of values to apply in the appraisal of the artistic effort.
Ownership is the highest form of appreciation.

For would-be collectors, curators or critics this process may lead to how one connects with the artwork on an intellectual or passionate level and does this result in the need to own, exhibition, or write about  the actual work of art.

In my work I tend to have a construct of goals, imagination and reasonable technique based on form following function.  Effect grounded in concept.  Experiment bound by the moment. The context may shift from that of historian, critic, or artist with the same steps being applied.  All while being mindful of the potential of the methods and materials being used.

Usually each individual Rhythmistic image is part of a larger body or collection of work.  It is a unit of a whole.

 I hope curators, collectors, and critics will be mindful of this. 

BTW: I reserve the right to grow and become better at all of this along the way.  Thanks!

Rhythmism has future-primitifism as its syllogism.

Studio Process

This gives one a view of the working stages from complete pencil drawing using a model, its watercolor finish, and the final digital graphic design treatment.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On the Red Carpet at the 2011 Italian Expo at the Bridgeport Art Center in Chicago.  
My studio is on the 4th. ONLI STUDIOS.
This photo is from a recent visit with my Nubian God of All Things Artistic.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


I look to equal or surpass.....not I tend to seek out innovators and masters along the way.  Rhythmism rocks.  Past, present or future. Be it major market illustration, fine art, wearable art or graphic noveling.....Rhythmism rocks!

Friday, March 23, 2012


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Sunday, March 18, 2012

 Onli's images often take on  portraiture while being a bit other worldly.   Looking to achieve success as a jet setting internationally known visual Rhythmistic artist was in effect.  He called it, "Cosmopolitan Daydream"
. The peak of that period was living and working in Paris with a client base that included the very trendy MODE Avant Garde magazine, Playboy and the Paris Metro Magazine.

 Later working with the Limelight Clubs was cool too.  Beautiful diversity.  Hot music. Amazing fashion parties. Culture.  Exclusivity. Freedom. Passion. The love of creativity. Trends ahead of their time!
La Femme Chat, first drawn in Paris in 1977, lived later in promotion of the Limelight Club of Chicago. A bit of Imagist's flavor seeking its own level.  The influence of comic books, illustration, mass media and glamour is very strong here.
 "Venuses": This crowded picture plane invites the intimate safe space to feel Rhythmism in a cosmopolitan context.  Like the way the French greet folks with a series of kisses.  Up close.  Personal.  Warmth and impact...... yet dangerously delicious.
 2010: Currently Onli is packaging his series of Rhythmistic watercolor illustrations that blend the East & West Zodiacs with a lil' sumpthun sumpthun.
This Rhythmistic Gazelle was drawn during an art auction.  It is the basis for a yet to be done oil painting.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Art lovers, collectors, curators & critics are invited. 
Ownership is the highest form of appreciation! 

" My studio is on the 4th Floor of the Bridgeport Art Center in Chicago.  I give a monthly open house there each 3rd Friday of the month. 5pm to 10pm at 34th Place and South Racine in Chicago.  Enter via the dock stairs to the elevator."  Appointments are welcomed:  773-7261610 or .

 "How is this for a little fan art by me?"

 "My studio sits on the East Bank of the Chicago River."

 "Being at one with my art".  I am including pictures of myself so folks will know a bit about the artist who makes the Rhythmistic art."

 In the early '80s  ONLI STUDIOS published this 'zine to promote and explore the creative arts.

"I was a voting member of NARAS meaning the Grammies.
I also managed and was the creative director of the
AKIBOARDS female techno-band.  The '80s were like that.
Boy.....the 20th century rocked!!!!!"