Moira Zahra


Art Residency in Illustration at ECA - first post

I was meant to start my Art Residency at Edinburgh College of Art last week but as luck would have it I was sick for the entirety of the week. I managed to get some work done having had no excuse to escape the house, and in the last couple of days I got this sudden urge to draw colourful portraits and caricatures. What I wanted to do in these portraits is to look at beauty from a different angle. 


What triggered this theme is a sketch that looks quite different from the portraits that followed. I called it 'uglybeautiful'. It's a play on perceptions of beauty. And what triggered this sketch is a lot of reflections I've been having on beauty recently, such as... why is it that in 2017 teenage girls are still wasting so much time on their hair and makeup? Why is it so important to be beautiful, or to attempt to look beautiful? Then the other day I overheard a conversation in the bus where a woman was looking at a selfie and noted how her jaw looked so square, and that she looked fat. Her friend reassured her that she looked like a 'skeleton.' This was meant to be a compliment of course. I have mildly strong opinions on beauty although I rarely voice them publicly. I wear very little make-up and take very little time getting ready. I've been like this my whole life, and I cannot understand why anyone would waste so much precious time on self-image.


So to cut to the chase, these reflections led me to these portraits. Another reason is my constant urge to experiment and to try something new in my drawings. I must be an illustration agent's nightmare. I find it very hard to stick to a specific style, in fact, I try to not think about style at all. Overthinking style tends to hinder my creative process. Instead, drawing and experimenting everyday tends to naturally produce a style, or at least a manner of drawing, a particular line.


This is my starting point at the ECA art residency. I'm ultimately looking to focus on identity and its many layers, but in the meantime, I think that visual experiments are the way forward especially in the beginning. As an illustrator, I'm always in search of different ways to display beauty by bending the rules of aesthetics until everything falls together (hopefully).