Art: Zaria Forman

Zaria Forman (Photo by Dustin Cohen)

Zaria Forman (Photo by Dustin Cohen)

I came across the exceptional artist Zaria Forman in only a way that the heavens above could manifest. Her father is a neuro ophthalmologist. (Yes, brilliance runs in the family.) I went to see Dr. Forman when my son JT, at 6 weeks old, presented with what we feared was a serious eye problem. While we waited for the results that would ultimately tell us he was fine, I noticed a series of stunning photographs on the walls of his office. He told me the photos were taken by his late wife and that if I wanted to really be blown away I should check out the drawings created by his daughter Zaria. I did and I was blown away. It is hard for me to grasp that these works of soft pastel on paper have been created by human hands. The detail is so intricate that at first glance they seem to be photographs. I am utterly obsessed. I think you will be too…

Deception Island, Antarctica (72"x128", Soft Pastel on Paper, 2015)

Deception Island, Antarctica (72″x128″, Soft Pastel on Paper, 2015)

Israel #2 (45"x60", Soft Pastel on Paper, 2010)

Israel #2 (45″x60″, Soft Pastel on Paper, 2010)

Greenland #71 (50"x60", Soft Pastel on Paper, 2014)

Greenland #71 (50″x60″, Soft Pastel on Paper, 2014)

Waipi'o Valley, Hawaii (30"x45", Soft Pastel on Paper, 2015)

Waipi’o Valley, Hawaii (30″x45″, Soft Pastel on Paper, 2015)

Maldives #2 (41"x60", Soft Pastel on Paper, 2013)

Maldives #2 (41″x60″, Soft Pastel on Paper, 2013)

Svalbard #33 (60"x90", Soft Pastel on Paper, 2014)

Svalbard #33 (60″x90″, Soft Pastel on Paper, 2014)

Q&A with artist Zaria Forman:

What is your background and artistic training?

I grew up in Piermont, NY, about 30 minutes north of NYC. I went to Green Meadow Waldorf school from 6th grade through high school – a very small school with an alternative approach to education, in which art is greatly infused. After my formal art training at Skidmore College I now exhibit extensively in galleries and venues throughout the United States and overseas.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist full time?

There was actually never a moment when I decided to make art a career. Certainly not while I was in college, and afterward. I just kept making art because I enjoyed it and exhibition opportunities were offered. One show led to another, and now I find myself making a career of it, and feeling very grateful for that.

What inspires your work?

The inspiration for my drawings began in my early childhood when I traveled with my family throughout several of the world’s most remote landscapes, which became the subject of my mother’s fine art photography. I developed an appreciation for the beauty and vastness of the ever-changing sky and sea. I loved watching a far-off storm on the western desert plains; the monsoon rains of southern India; and the cold arctic light illuminating Greenland’s waters.

Can you explain your technique in making such realistic paintings? They look like photographs!

When I travel, I take thousands of photographs. I often make a few small sketches on-site to get a feel for the landscape. Once I return to the studio, I draw from my memory of the experience, as well as from the photographs, to create large-scale compositions. Occasionally I will re-invent the water or sky, alter the shape of the ice, or mix and match a few different images to create the composition I envision. I begin with a very simple pencil sketch so I have a few major lines to follow, and then I add layers of pigment onto the paper, smudging everything with my palms and fingers and breaking the pastel into sharp shards to render finer details.

Zaria Forman (Photo by Trevor Traynor)

Zaria Forman (Photo by Trevor Traynor)

Zaria Forman (Photo by Trevor Traynor)

Zaria Forman (Photo by Trevor Traynor)

The process of drawing with pastels is simple and straightforward: cut the paper, make the marks. The material demands a minimalistic approach, as there isn’t much room for error or re-working since the paper’s tooth can hold only a few thin layers of pigment. I rarely use an eraser  –– I prefer to work with my “mistakes,”  enjoying the challenge of resolving them with limited marks. I love the simplicity of the process, and it has taught me a great deal about letting go. I become easily lost in tiny details, and if the pastel and paper did not provide limitations, I fear I would never know when to stop, or when a composition were complete!

Zaria Forman (Photo by Quinn Miller-Beddell)

Zaria Forman (Photo by Quinn Miller-Beddell)

Zaria Forman (Photo by Quinn Miller-Beddell)

Zaria Forman (Photo by Quinn Miller-Beddell)

What’s next for Zaria Forman?

Banksy contacted me a couple months ago to invite me to participate in his exhibit Dismaland, which just ran for 5 weeks in the UK and came down on Sunday. The show has been written up world wide and I was quoted in the NYTimes’ article.
I currently have a solo show at Winston Wächter Fine Art in New York that will remain on view through Oct 17th, 2015. All the work in the show sold out a couple weeks before it even opened- a very rare occurrence in the art world these days!

My drawing is on the cover of the current issue of American Art Collector Magazine, and my current exhibit is featured inside.

On November 5th and 6th I’ll be speaking at a live TED event in NYC.

November 7th I leave for a 5 week art residency in Antarctica, aboard the National Geographic Explorer with Lindblad Expeditions.

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  1. Brenda Gregory says:

    Lindley, I wasn’t able to see the pastels of Zaria’s on my iPad? Just the very first one. Love your website!

    • Brenda, thank you for following along with the blog and being a dedicated reader! I appreciate the feedback and just fixed the issues. Take a peek and enjoy! xoxo

  2. cristina young says:

    Absolutely gorgeous. Breathtaking. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Juan Ramiro Villegas says:

    I will be at the WW gallerie the 15 or 16 I just hope the work will still be there. jrv

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