artist interview #7: esraa zidan

Esraa Zidan, not only is she super talented but also one of the sweetest and kindest people I've ever had the pleasure to meet. She is an Egyptian artist, illustrator, PhD researcher, teacher assistant and of the most hardworking and dedicated artists of this generation.

After years of searching and finding her own style, Esraa has gained well-deserved success for her work and signature curvy figurines. She's adamant on challenging societal ideologies and encouraging women to love themselves as they are.  Her positive energy is emitted through her work and it exudes both her feminist ideals and happy personality. 

Zidan contributes to a better represented body-image, but her work doesn't just promote one's physical satisfaction, it goes way beyond appearances for her, adding so much more depth into her practice. From confidence, to unity, feminism and freedom, Esraa Zidan is slaying the game and the Egyptian society should take note.  

I found Esraa's work on social media, and I knew then and there I had to have her on the blog. It's been such a pleasure to interview such a positive, pure and wholesome soul and to have her on my blog. I've been keeping this piece to myself for a long time now and I'm so excited to finally share it.

"Our Dance"

Oil on canvas

140 cm x 140 cm

"Our Band"

Oil on canvas

120 cm  x 80 cm

"Playing cards with my girls"

Oil on canvas

150 x 140

How did your journey as an artist begin? Did you always know you were going to be an artist?

It was more of a coincidence. My mother always knew. She'd always collect my sketches from a really young age, probably beginning ages 4-5. Then when I got to high school I thought I'd get into med school like my older sister but I didn't get the score so I went for applied arts without knowing what it was or what I was getting myself into at the time. I got to meet so many inspiring people, especially Dr. Abo Bakr El Nawawy, he believed in my potential and that I was born with an artistic talent which provided me with great motivation.

I graduated the top my class, and it was then that I knew this wasn't the direction I wanted to go. I  was sure I wanted to be an artist, to draw and to paint as a career. So I spent a long time trying to explore my style and applying to galleries and getting rejected.

My work was very classical and academic in its forms, and I was so lost and confused because I thought that that was my style but it was actually just me trying to showcase my skill set, just towards the wrong direction. It went downhill from there, I stopped for two years because I felt like I was getting nowhere with my work and just got demotivated because no one was interested, and this kind of mindset is a trap for artists.

From there it was just a process of trial and error,  from feeling confined within your own work and anything you put on the canvas to slowly letting yourself go.

And how did you find yourself within your practice after endless self-exploration? Because you've undoubtedly established your own style as Esraa with your witty and one of a kind curvy figurines. 

I wanted to create something that was very honest and spoke to people, and not necessarily just the women who look like my paintings, but anyone who feels like they don't look like or fit the impossible beauty standards of society. Everyone is different, and that's a beautiful thing because there really can't be a template for human beings to abide by. It's important to embrace and love yourself as a whole.

Personally, I was always a little overweight since childhood but it was never something that bothered or affected me in any way, no matter what comments people would say to me or the ridiculous societal expectations on women, I really never gave it any thought. I then gained some weight after my marriage and its started to let me down a little but my husband was my biggest support system and truly loves me as I am which I think is super important. 

I must say, I don't encourage people to start gaining weight for these reasons at all but I do support people being happy with themselves as they are and that's what my work is about.

"Chasing the Wind"

Oil on Canvas

100 cm x 100 cm

How would you describe your style?

I would say that my style, artistically, heavily relies on lines in one way or another, it's something that has stayed with me from my academic years. As for the figures in my work, they're free spirited and exude strength, happiness and well-being.

Do you usually plan out your pieces or just ‘go with the flow’?

No, I sketch, because I still feel the need to perfect certain lines to come out a certain way. Something still instilled in me from my academic days.

Who are the artists that inspire you?

Mostafa Rahma, Gustav Klimt, Henri Matisse and Tamara De Lempicka.

"Celebration"

Oil on canvas

140 cm x 90 cm

 

 

Do you have a favourite piece you have created? Which one?

Yes. The first one I ever created with my figures, called "Celebration" (Right)  with two women playing the Oud. It all started with this painting.

What are your biggest challenges when creating art? and how do you deal with them?

Whenever I get a mind block, I expose myself to everything art-related. I go to exhibitions showing around town and I immediately feel inspired.

I also feel even more motivated when I'm surrounded by so many talented artists. I was invited to attend two workshops along with many talents with What Women Want, another time was to collaborate on a mural for ArtsMart and I also visited Brigette Boutros Ghali's studio and was in awe of her work. All these experiences definitely contribute to my creative drive as an artist.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?

When I was getting rejected in the beginning, I was frustrated for a very long time because in a way, I relied on people's opinions to a certain extent. But It all really depends on you as an artist and feeling confident about your work. If people accept your work and follow along thats great, if not, thats fine too. 

What scares me the most is being repetitive, so I plan on exploring other mediums. Many people are surprised that my main medium is oil paints but I do want to delve into other channels of production, it's all about trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone a little bit.

"Sisters against the World"

Oil on canvas

160 cm x 120 cm

 

 

What is your ultimate goal with your work? What do you want your work to do? 

The most important thing for me is to always enjoy my work and the process, and not just have it as a financial source.

Also, for my work to be honest and exude happiness. Society is negative as it is and I just want my work to reflect differently. I want anyone who sees my paintings to be happy.  

Where do you want your art to take you? In 10 years for example?

I’d love to be known on an international scale, not necessarily to sell or land a big shot gallery, but just gain a presence, to be included and have some sort of effect in the art industry. 

"Sexy Lady"

Oil on canvas

80 cm x 80 cm

If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?

To stop being negative and invasive. It's almost as act of impulse in society to find the bad in everything. 

If you weren’t an artist, what would you do? Other than art what are you passionate about?

I love languages. I would be a translator for sure. I'm trying to learn as many as I can, it's one of my passions. I'm six levels into Italian and just started French a few months ago.


  "Calling Love"   Oil on canvas  120 cm x 80 cm   

"Calling Love"

Oil on canvas

120 cm x 80 cm

 

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What did you think of the interview? Are there any other questions you'd like to ask? Comment your thoughts! 

All Images courtesy of Esraa Zidan.