Egyptian painter reflects street beats in modern illustrations   

Fatma Lotfi
6 Min Read

Since he was a child, Eslam Fekry, an Egyptian artist, used to paint whatever comes to his mind on the walls of his parents’ house, as well as the home furniture. Fortunately, his mother never yelled at him, instead, she peacefully allowed him to sketch more on papers, and even on the remaining empty walls, encouraging him to discover his early talent.

“I still remember my paintings on the house furniture. They are still engraved there and did not vanish,” said Fekry.

The reason behind his mother’s huge support was his grandfather, the public employee who also had a small painting studio at his house.

Once she realised that her son inherited her father’s talent, Fekry’s mother decided to be his pillar of strength, as she did not have a chance to live longer with her father who died early.

Fekry decided to study at the Faculty of Art Education, but he did not find what he was looking for. “I wanted to join the Faculty of Fine Arts but I did not get the required grades. Therefore, I thought that the Faculty of Art Education was the nearest place to paint, but I was wrong,” said the 32-year-old artist.

Unfortunately, Fekry got disappointed because the Faculty of Art Education was very related to teaching Arts, but not practising it. As a result, he decided not to continue studying, considering instead to break into the job market to give it a whirl.

At that time, he was sketching and had no clear vision of what he wanted to do. But he gradually recognised what he actually fancied. “I learnt how to develop my own style and to distinguish myself from others. Additionally, I realised that I am more interested in caricatures and cartoons than traditional paintings,” said Fekry.

At first, Fekry started working in advertising companies for three years. He was responsible for designing illustrations which served client’s needs. “It was related to business rather than art. But I acquired a good experience in this field.”

Afterwards, He found himself more interested in the animation field, as well as illustrating cartoons, and caricatures. “It was not easy. the field requires excellent talent as you deal with live characters and stories to tell.”

In order to get more knowledge about characterising, Fekry started to read Disney books, and other similar ones. “I was self-taught. This gave me a chance to discover more about myself and my talent.”

He was able of pinpointing more artists and painters in his quest, such as Craig Mullins. Furthermore, he became more fascinated by the concept art, which is a form of illustration used to convey an idea for use in films, video games, animation, comic books, or other media. “Actually, we witnessed a boom in the field of concept art, especially in movies. I really hope to have a chance to break in this field.”

Away from the market, which sometimes makes Fekry busy with client requirements, he decided to have a free space for his illustrations which fulfils his passion for arts. “I created a Facebook page for my illustrations to serve as an archive for my works, and also to help me reach a wider audience.”

His illustrations reflect Egypt’s street beats as I’m interested in Egyptian culture, and their daily lives more than the western culture, stated Fekry. One of his illustration features a family consisting of four members riding a scooter on Cairo’s Ring Road. “It is very risky, but their harsh economic conditions left them no choice,” said Fekry.

He added, “contemporary artists are westernized. They ignore Egyptian culture,” said Fekry, adding, “but for me, it is different. I prefer to document what I see, feel, and hear,” noted Fekry.

Fekry moved on to say that Egyptians pay no attention to their identity, though their culture is full of inspirational characters such as street vendors. “Those scenes are extremely encouraging.”

Recently, Fekry said that he had a great chance to design illustrations for an animated video clip for a song belonging to Egyptian acto, Ahmed Mekky and singer Mahmoud Ellithy, named ‘Akhret Al Shaqawa’ (the end of thug life), which was released last July.

“It was a lovely coincidence to work with Ahmed Mekky, and it really helped me in my career,” he said.

After all, Fekry decided that he intends to offer a path for young artists to document Egyptian daily life, as they should be more loyal to their culture. “I think we should get back to our roots and avoid copying things that are completely alien to us.”

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A journalist in DNE's politics section with more than six years of experience in print and digital journalism, focusing on local political issues, terrorism and human rights. She also writes features on women issues and culture.
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