&H Interviews | Shira Barzilay on Digital Media, human forms and the creative process

Our talk with Digital Artist Shira Barzilay was inspiring, dynamic and full of the creativity, imagination and energy that the we have come to expect from her art. Find out Shiras view on the future of art, her creative process and why digital media is her preferred medium.

&H: What role does art play in your life?
SB: Art is first and foremost my bread and butter. My air supply in every way. Emotionally to financially. It is the language through which I communicate with the world. It’s my cure.
&H: What role do you want your art to play in other peoples lives?
SB: In my opinion, art, at its best, is meant to shake you to your core. Inspire you. Awaken you. My hope is that the work I create with deep thought and emotions transfers to the hearts of people and moves them in some way. I don’t wish to impress; I wish to inspire.
Shira Barzilay - Human faces
&H: You refer to yourself as a Digital Artist. Has that always been your artistic identity? 
SB: Not at all. My artistic journey has been years in the making. I studied fashion design and focused mainly on being a fashion illustrator for quite a while. Gradually I navigated away from fashion to discover other areas. Deep down, I knew I eventually would (because deep down, we all know the answers, we just can’t handle them), but I was persistent. The only difference between an illustrator and an artist for me, is the context of the work (not the craft / skills itself). I no longer wanted to illustrate other people’s point (that being clothes and fashion) – I wanted to speak out my own point of view. Took me a while to figure out what I wanted to say.
&H: What does creating in digital media mean to you? 
SB: Infinite possibilities. Exploration. Enjoying the advantages of technology and subsequently always seeking change. I love mixing it up – playing with different apps, different electronic devices. I’m interested in seeing where the future of art will go – i am certain it’s a digital one. 3D animation, holograms, people walking through digitized art halls. It’s already here, like the digital art museum in Tokyo or the digital Van Gogh exhibition in Paris. Being a digital artist also means that I don’t have to deal with physical mess of a studio.  Im very messy – so drawing with the Ipad saves me a lot of cleanup time.
Shira Barzilay in her studio (Copyright courtesy of the artist)
&H: Your work is centered on abstract human figures layered over realistic photography. Are the human figures based on real-life characters or are they purely born out of your own imagination?
SB: All of those images are created freehand out of my imagination. For years I studied the human form. Sketched nudes, fashion illustrations and what not. At some point you acquire enough visual memory of what the human figure looks like. It takes a whole lot of practice – like any skill. Once you have that, you’re pretty much free to go freestyle – and to me, that is the most fun. When drawing abstract, one can break away from the anatomy rules and draw more expressively – like Picasso did. That’s liberation. I have a suspicion that only when one has this basic classical training, one can properly achieve this.
Shira Barzilays abstract human figures overlayed on photography
&H: We see a duality in your work, with the abstract figures being both in harmony and in contrast with their environment. Do you agree? What would you say are the guiding themes of your work?
SB: I use the image / the environment, as the set of my story. The image tells a story in and of itself. The abstract interfering by my lines are simply my way of changing the narrative of that story. Sometimes it shifts a little and other times it gives the image a whole new meaning. Choosing a photo is arguably the most important and significant part of my process. Its like the saying that creation is 90% idea, 10% execution. I love this process because it has taught me how to examine things from a different angle and try to reveal the unseen. I’ve always had a pretty wild imagination. I’m a little nutso that way. Some people see shapes in clouds. I see shapes everywhere. I found a way to utilize this otherwise useless capability.
&H: Where do you go to find inspiration for your art?
SB: Inspiration is everywhere. But the best answer to that would be – I go inward. Listening to great music, and sketching away. Its like training the muscles of creativity. The more I practice, the more inspired I become. That’s a pretty accurate equation. I say this all the time – its not enough to have talent. Practicing one’s craft is super important. This is why I love Instagram so much – it gets me to practice creative thought on a daily basis. What a gift!
  Shira Barzilays abstract human figure overlayed on photography
&H: You have recently ventured in to live paintings. Can you take us through your process? 
SB: I love the energy from an engaged audience. Whether I’m sketching live at events in front of a live audience or going live on Instagram, there’s something about my process being observed that’s electrifying to me. Who knows, it may even affect the outcome of the artwork. In that moment, the audience is a co-collaborator. I used to fear drawing in front of people and dreaded it. Now I love it. Its such a rush!
&H: Your work is immensely aesthetic and thought-provoking. Are these concepts equally important to you during the creation process?
SB: Aesthetics is immensely important – but its nothing without context. CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING. The realization that art is all about context hit me strong. Modern art doesn’t even consider aesthetic beauty as an important factor as much. You go to modern art galleries and see the weirdest things. But since my background is fashion and design, aesthetics will always be incredibly important to me and I find that the combination of those two are my ultimate goal.
&H: If you were to have a retrospective of your art in 30 years, what would the show be called and why? 
SB: "Work in progress". I may have that engraved on my tombstone as well. Lol. I feel that my work is never done. Everything I do is a draft for the next one to come. The process IS the art. There is a cycle to the creative process and it is connected past, present and future. To put it simply – I can now find meaning in drawings I made ten years ago that seemed meaningless then. Why? Because of the context. I know now what I didn’t know then. Also, some ideas boil fast and others require a slow cook on a back burner. Pulling a connecting thread between past and present works is so interesting. In a way – every artwork is it’s on retrospective.

&H: How do you see your art evolve over the next few years? What will we see from you next?

SB: I cant wait to find out myself. I will definitely strive to explore uses of future technologies and search for different new contexts so I could put my art into new and fresh perspectives. art needs to evolve or else it becomes irrelevant. I hope to always grow and stay relevant. 
Check out more from Shira Barzilay on her Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/koketit