The Dexterous Artisan
When it comes to contemporary art, Ashraf Nassif’s masterpieces could be spotted amongst a dozen works with its quirky, yet sophisticated, edge. His abstract pieces are reminiscent of the timeless Picasso, with a signature touch that makes it a true Nassif. The art whiz has spoken to us about the process of creating his pieces and how his journey with the palette began.
Tell us about yourself and what sparked your interest in art?
Ever since I was five, shapes and colours would draw me in. My dream since I was just a child has been to be a world-famous professional artist. I am really blessed that some of my dreams have already come true and I’m still working on pursuing the rest of them. I graduated from a Fine Arts school and have participated in several art exhibitions in Paris and the USA. I enjoyed performing in live corporate events in Egypt, Dubai and China. Art is my source of happiness. It is my life.
Were you brought up in a family that appreciates arts in general?
My father was an engineer and a great painter. He graduated from Leonardo Da Vinci Art school, and I remember spending hours watching him paint in his atelier. It was there that I learned a lot about the basics of drawing, colours, mixing and other different techniques. Our home was full of old-school oil paintings; mainly landscapes and silent nature. When I studied art history, I encouraged him to create more modern paintings. I was very lucky to be raised by such an amazing father and artist, who taught me a lot about art.
How would you describe your style?
I consider myself a gifted artist who can work with different styles and techniques. Usually artists use or try several techniques and styles, and then they choose a favourite that makes them comfortable and pursue it further. Personally, I prefer black and white outlines, which I think epitomise my character. I believe such a technique gives the audience the opportunity to interact with the drawings and imagine the colours on their own. I love Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso’s collages, their sketches, sculptures and their unique styles. Mainly, however, I get inspired by their mixed media artwork and eccentric techniques. Sometimes, I enjoy painting abstract canvasses, which is not as easy as it seems to everyone. You need to stop your brain and let your brush move with the colours. One painting can bring about different perspectives from hundreds of people
Can you tell us about the
process of how you make your work?
Wherever I go, I have my pencil with me and my brain is always ready and alert. I always look around and I sketch everything I see or anything that crosses my mind; I’m like a camera shooting and saving on its card memory. Some lines on a piece of paper can be added from my imagination to these sketches. It’s very important to document on paper what I have in my mind throughout the day or week to make room for new ideas and inspirations. Later on, some of these sketches can be transformed to a painting on canvas or whatever material I find suitable for the idea. Sometimes, I use that method to create an artwork live in an event in front of people. For me, it is not a process; it is just the canvas, brush or pencil, and me. It’s extremely challenging, but I enjoy it tremendously.
Do you ever experience artist’s block?
There is always a dark period in every person’s life that may take time to surpass. When my father passed away after an illness that lasted long, it took me some time to recover. That was when I started to sketch without colours. When I’m not in a good mood, I sit on the beach and take a long breath, relax and clear my mind from everything. I sometimes also look at books related to my favourite artists or browse new artists’ works online.
What messages do you think can be sent through art?
Art is an international language that can be read by anyone on earth. You can enjoy every single line or colour in a drawing or painting. You can feel the harmony and movement in an artwork,
and get inspired from every piece of art you see.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
The environment and daily communication are the most inspiring sources for my drawings or paintings.
What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
The Blue Abstract that I created in Paris when I was getting ready for my first single international art exhibition. It wasn’t easy at all as it was one of my first professional abstract trials. The combination of colours and movements explain everything. This piece reminds me not only of the beginning of the abstract period in my artistic career, but also of the best experience I have ever had in my life as an artist.
What is your favourite kind of art?
Modern and contemporary art.
Can you name some artists you look up to?
Pablo Picasso and VOKA.
Have you ever had a moment where you questioned your career?
What’s your favourite art gallery in Egypt?
Korba Art Gallery.
Any advice for aspiring young artists?
Keep sketching daily and move a lot!