When Eliav Cohen looks at his stash, he sees beyond the buds, leaves and stems. In his mind’s eye, cannabis is a lush emerald valley, a crimson pistil inferno and a trichome diamond field.
Cohen is the owner and creative mind at the helm of CannaStudio, an emerging Portland, Oregon-based digital art studio that creates intricate, other-worldly renderings of the various elements and life stages of the plant.
“I just think (cannabis) is really beautiful,” said Cohen, outlining the creative process behind his ever-growing collection of marijuana-inspired artwork.
After spending the better part of a decade working in music and bouncing from coast to coast, Cohen returned to his native Oregon in 2015 to pursue a career in cannabis. Working closely with the plant and its extracts at Portland-based Cura Cannabis Solutions inspired him to create something visually and conceptually different from run-of-the-mill weed photography or the black light-responsive pot posters you probably hung in your dorm room.
“I’ve never seen anything unique, or anything quite like I’m doing. What’s really big right now are those micro shots of oil, shatter or nugs. A lot of the focus right now is getting those beautiful, up-close shots – which I love – but it seems to be what everyone just wants to do,” he explained. “I wanted to have something unique.”
Using raw marijuana element-based photography – anything from dense buds to amber-hued extracts – Cohen digitally manipulates and builds tiled pattern prints, singling out the most eye-catching and intriguing sections of the image as a base. His work is influenced by music, fashion and entertainment, and while some of it, at first glance, is more obviously crafted from cannabis, some is intentionally a little more ambiguous. Each piece is a kaleidoscope of colour, depth and organic texture.
Each strain offers fresh, distinct elements to incorporate in the work, Cohen says. A few of his faves include Sour Lemon Diesel, Blueberry Kush and the violet-hued Granddaddy Purple.
Though CannaStudio quietly launched only in November, Cohen says the work is already receiving a respectable amount of buzz in the cannabis community. He’s offering prints of the works for sale and plans to use the pieces as the base of an apparel line, notably, women’s leggings.
And while, yes, the works are a creative outlet for the cannabis enthusiast and advocate, Cohen says his motivation for the project is guided by a vision of progress for cannabis culture. By creating something beautiful from the plant, he’s doing his part to further legitimize and de-stigmatize marijuana. While the Portland he remembers growing up always had a pretty liberal attitude toward marijuana, returning to a legalized version of his state where medicinal cannabis has a major, merited presence motivated him to contribute to and help build upon that progress.
“It made me really want to progress the industry and show it’s not just a drug to get high – it can really benefit people. Hopefully more people can help bring that to light.”
Victoria Dekker is an award-winning print and online journalist, covering culture, life and business in the cannabis sphere and beyond. Connect with her on Twitter at @deadtowrite.