Moira Zahra

Blog

About the design process...

I got funded!

A few weeks ago I received the fantastic news that my practice-based research project has been allocated full funding from the Malta Arts Fund - Research Support Grant (Arts Council Malta), which means I can afford to work on my own practice without starving, amazing right? ;) The research project technically begins in January, so until then I’m giving priority to client projects, but that won’t stop me from experimenting.

My research project is about Maltese creative identities abroad, their many layers and dimensions, but it’s also about the boundaries of illustration as a medium. The idea is that creative identities have multiple layers, so this needs to be reflected in the medium. Illustration is typically a flat medium, but for this project I’m looking at how to add dimension to it, through 3D printing, layering, low-relief and collage.

Me at last week’s ‘Talking Heads’ Event by Creative Edinburgh & The Skinny

Me at last week’s ‘Talking Heads’ Event by Creative Edinburgh & The Skinny

A few months ago I tried an experiment where I took a digital drawing of mine and painted it in gouache. The result was underwhelming, and I think this was because the medium (gouache) was being forced to replicate the flat, sharp shapes of my digital drawing. I stopped using collage for a few months and went back to digital. Sometimes a failure takes a while to digest... 

The digital drawing that I tried to replicate in gouache.  I can’t find my gouache disaster, I must have hidden it from view (and thank God for that). 

The digital drawing that I tried to replicate in gouache.  I can’t find my gouache disaster, I must have hidden it from view (and thank God for that). 

Being somewhat of an artist/illustrator with a mindframe of a graphic designer, I found myself thinking, why should I spend hours filling up solid shapes with paint to make them look ‘perfect’? What are my other options? Screen printing was an idea, but I wanted something with more texture and tangible layers. After visiting an exhibition in Edinburgh, I saw a couple of collage pieces, and there was my answer! Why hadn’t I thought of collage before? I suppose my previous idea of collage was taking found paper and images and creating a composition out of them, but it didn’t have to be this way.

I had done collage experiments in my Masters, but they were largely unplanned composition tests. I decided the best way to get started with the medium was to find an existing digital drawing of mine and replicate it in digital form. This would prevent me from taking shortcuts since the digital drawing would not have been done with its traditional counterpart in mind. So the idea was to create the artwork first without restrictions, then figure out how to build the collage afterwards.

The digital drawing

The digital drawing

What I wanted from this collage was: to use unusual colours, to have a tangible/textured/layered artwork, to use a mixture of media not simply paper and glue, and to have a contemporary, bold result. I wanted the piece to reflect the process, to look like it’s an interpretation of a digital piece, and this wasn’t going to be easy.

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It turns out I did use gouache anyway. The thin lines on the cap and on the face are indeed gouache lines. But what I liked most about this collage were the ‘fake brushstrokes’ in the background. The original digital brushstrokes aimed to imitate traditional brushstrokes, so it was quite interesting to now replicate the replicated. When I went to interpret these in the collage my first thought was to use paint and make actual brushstrokes, but I didn’t think that would truly represent the process. The brushstrokes need to look like they have just been through a digital process that tried to imitate a traditional process. So how to imitate digital brushes that are imitating traditional brushes? By creating fake brushstrokes through cutout collage paper of course! This is my first proper collage artwork, but surely not the last, so excited to expand on this idea. 

Projects and Collaborations 

In one of my latest blog posts I wrote about 2 books that I was working on, they are now both printed & published and I’m so happy with how they’ve turned out. Both books are available from most Maltese bookstores and they will also be sold at the Malta National Book Festival, so keep an eye out :)

Merlin Publishers

Merlin Publishers

Horizons Publishers

Horizons Publishers

Horizons Publishers

Horizons Publishers

Another thing I had mentioned in one of my latest blog posts was a collaboration that I was doing with two separate Maltese artists. You could say both collaborations involve illustration & product design. One is with a jeweler, another is with a book maker. Both are still underway but I can show some more sneak peeks. Both projects will be available for sale for the Christmas Season so if you’re looking for something unique and independent - watch this space!

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A pattern! Can’t say more for now but this project is in collaboration with ‘QUE.com.mt’

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And this is a close-up from a project I’m doing with ‘Studio SOLIPSIS’