Hyperrealism in Gaza
An interview between Gaza hyperrealism artist Adam Shehada and We Are Not Numbers:
1) Tell us a bit about your family background and when/how you became interested in art.
My name is Adam Shehada, age 24. I'm a member of a big family of eight siblings and my parents. My father is a principal of a secondary school, but he is now in his last year before retirement. My mother is a teacher. We are Palestinian refugees, originally from Yafa, and now we live in Gaza City. I became interested in art since my parents discovered my talent when I was 5 years old.
2) Who inspired you most in your artistic development? Who supported you?
Since I stumbled into world of hyperrealism, I've explored online and was inspired by many artists, such as the Nigerian Kelvin Okafor, Scottish artist Paul Cadden and Samantha Messias. However, my mother has been a biggest influence on my journey! She was the one who first bought me a sketchbook and drawing pencils, and who collected the sketches I would throw away and save them in a file.
3) Did you receive any formal training?
I'm a self-taught artist who never received any art training. I learn by doing.
4) How hard is it to flourish as an artist in Gaza?
Most artists here use art only as an outlet for expressing their desperation with the difficulties of life in Gaza. Sadly, there's no way someone can support a basic life here by doing art. Artists here are confronted by many difficulties that push them to drift away from their dream, such as the lack of public interest and the effect of the Israeli blockade on our ability to get many necessary art supplies. Even the supplies we can get are so very expensive. Then the electricity blackouts slow down the drawing process. Moreover, artistic copyrights are not protected here. It’s enough to cause a lot of frustration, depression and artistic abandonment! That’s why its almost impossible to pursue an art career here. Exhibitions here are done for the purpose of exposing works only to the local public, who never seem to buy; they don’t have the money. And there are no related institutions or galleries to support distinctive, emerging artists!
5) If art only can be a pastime, what is your “day job”?
I'm a business administration graduate, and now I'm working as a volunteer in the municipality of Gaza City. Hopefully I will get a job, as it's so hard to find opportunities in Gaza. But I still see the bright side of the world and maybe I’ll get married to a foreigner girl. :)
6) Why did you choose charcoal/pencil as your favorite medium?
I love black-and-white photographs, so I thought of using a medium that is able to create this effect by drawing. I have been in love with pencils since the beginning of my journey with art. However, I want to try other mediums in the future.
7) How long does it take to create one of your hyperrealism works?
It takes me 90 hours on average to do a full piece. Some take as long as 140 hours. It’s a lot of mental and physical effort!
8) From what do you draw your inspiration for your works?
I draw my inspiration from people's faces as well as life in Palestine. I don't only draw the difficult side of Palestinians’ lives but also the beautiful side.