We recently featured Bahrain-based artist Israa Mahran in our Illustrator Highlights. Today we are excited to share her interview with Qamber Kids. Israa is currently working on her Bachelors in Visual Design at Bahrain Polytechnic. A self-taught artist with the desire to develop her skills and talent, she has a passion for art and hopes to live off it one day. Israa is a traditional artist who works mostly with Watercolors, Copic Markers, and Gouache.
QK: Israa, thank you for taking the time to share with us today. To begin, can you tell us about your journey into illustrating and what led you to pursue your passion?
IM: It’s my pleasure. It all started when I was a kid. I always felt like I needed to do something with my artistic abilities. As though they needed to be a part of my life or I would use them to achieve something great.
QK: Illustration can be as tough a market to break into as the books we help bring to life. As you developed your career, what helped you most?
IM: My love for art really helped me through tough times. At times, I wondered if I was any good but at the same time, I didn’t want to stop because I really loved drawing and creating illustrations. Having friends and family members encourage me or help me with critique and advice. Attending conventions and seeing the customers reaction pushes me to want to do better. Having a strong belief in what you are doing and your dream helps when there’s a lot of doubt.
QK: We see you work mostly with watercolors, copic markers and gouache. Do you have a favorite medium and can you describe your technique?
IM: I like all of them but I really want to better my skills at using gouache because they seem fun and working with them usually gives me the feeling of digital work yet still being traditional. However, they are quite tricky when you start to layer them because the previously dry paint would reactivate when the new paint is applied.
As a self-taught artist, I tend to research about the mediums I use online, tutorial videos help with understanding how they work and what they offer. However, I also need to use them under different situation and try to figure them out on my own. With gouache, there was a limited amount of informative videos, and so I needed to find out about it myself.
QK: Is there a medium you love but don’t get a chance to use often in your work?
IM: Gouache of course. Its such a demanding medium and it requires a lot of time to mix the paint and then wait till it dries completely to then move onto the next step. I honestly prefer taking my time when using gouache paint, so for quick illustrations, they aren’t a good option.
QK: Depending on your medium, how long does it take you to complete a project, typically and how do you decide when it is done?
IM: I don’t usually time myself when working on a piece, but I do take a day or two to complete a project- that’s if I don’t go anywhere and stay at my desk. Of course, when sketching out the illustration I kind of know how I want it to look like, so by the time the actual piece looks closely similar to what I had intended then I would say it’s done. Not forgetting to let the client know about the progress of the piece and showing them the piece at the end and checking if there is anything else they need added or removed.
QK: Any projects from your portfolio you are especially proud of and would like to share?
IM: The skull couple was my absolute favorite. The reason for that was because I created the concept while listening to a cover of the song safe and sound by capital cities. The slow paced song helped me create the positions the characters would be in. they were originally meant to be humans but when I heard the line “even if we’re six feet underground” I decided to change them into skeletons and it looked beautiful. It also resembled the image I had in mind when I thought it up and to any artist that is a great accomplishment.
QK: While working on so many wonderful projects, have you been inspired to write a picture book of your own?
IM: YES! I’ve honestly wanted to make a picture book or a manga (Japanese style comic book) for as long as I can remember but feel like I don’t really have much to share yet.
QK: Are there any new projects you’re working on that you’d like to share with us?
IM: At the moment nothing too serious, just small projects for myself to help me develop my skills and also experiment with different drawing prompts.
QK: Are there any professional goals that you have not yet reached? What do you see for you future?
IM: I tend to not think ahead of where I am as it causes me to overthink, worry and question everything. So I tend to tell myself just focus on the small goals and take it one-step at a time. However, I do have one major professional goal I want to achieve and that is to create a manga. Nothing too serious maybe just one volume.
QK: Do you have any advice or insight for illustrators who are trying to break in?
IM: Practice and never give up, even when you feel your work is bad keep pushing. We all have bad drawings that we never want to show but that’s the beauty of it. No one needs to see those unless you want to share them; because they’re in your sketchbooks.
Keep working at your passions and dreams, I hope the best of luck to you <3.
QK: Israa, thank you for sharing!
For more of Israa’s work you can view her portfolio at Qamber Kids, or follow her at the following links:
For inquires, e-mail her at : [email protected]
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