Artist Nickos Zarras talks to Jeevan Blesson about his style of painting and how Oman continues to inspire him.
For Nikos Zarras, every painting is an inspiration from his day-to-day life, and each canvas is injected with a spontaneous use of colour.
Although he has only lived in Oman for a few years, Nikos is already a well-known name in the Sultanate’s art circles.
“Art is such a passion that it cannot be explained in words. Only an artist can understand the depths of it,” says Nikos.
Reminiscing about his initial days in Oman, Nikos says that when he was new to this country it took time for people to respond to his work but gradually he started getting recognition.
He developed his love of art at the age of seven and has been painting professionally since 1991.
“Drawing was already a natural obsession for me at a younger age,” Nikos recollects.
“At a young age I was always sketching and drawing, and as time passed my love for art got me more inspired to continue my passion to paint,” he says.
Nikos decided to take art up as a career after discovering that people had been admiring his works he was exhibiting.
Nikos, 44, was born in South Africa and is an expert in sand painting, watercolours, oil colours, palette knife techniques, sketching and wall paintings.
After completing high school at the age of 16, he attended the fine art department in the Polytechnic School of Trikala, Greece, where he later taught design, history of art, sculpture, traditional crafts and puppet designing.
“I later moved to Athens and studied at the Athens Technical and Arts Institution, majoring in the Conservation of Ancient Monuments and Works of Art. I was taught not only design and restoration, but the crafting and nature of all materials used in art through the ages,” the artist says.
“I have always tried new techniques on my own and a few years back, I came up with the technique of using sand. As a texture, for me, it was intriguing and it looked unique,” he says.
His first pure sand painting was made in the year 2000. “It was the beginning of my new series of art,” he said.
And Oman’s natural beauty has inspired him to continue his creations on canvas with colours and sand.
“As Oman has such a beautiful landscape and unique history, it has had a huge impact on my artwork since I moved here.”
To make a perfect piece, many things should be kept in mind, he says.
“A lot depends on the design. It can take from one week to even one to two months to finish a piece, depending on the size and design,” he explains.
His sand paintings are created with pure sand collected from the beaches of different regions.
Nikos starts with a canvas on which he sketches an actual piece of art and then glues the pure sand grains into the specific individual sections to get a 3D effect.
“The painting starts with a sketch followed by pouring the pure colour sand by hand. The work is protected with a varnish to prevent it from damage,” he says.
“I would say that it was a challenge here as an artist especially because of my concept with the sand art is different and unique and people are sceptical to accept the concept.”
His biggest successes so far include exhibitions not only locally, but also in Dubai, Abu Dhabi Art Hub, Athens and in Trikala in Greece; all of which have helped his work to evolve.
“I enjoy taking photography and I use my own photographs taken of Oman and make paintings of them. I am planning an exhibition of these soon,” he says.
He is planning to conduct the exhibition in March this year as he is completing his artwork.
Nikos also likes to share his expertise with the younger generation in Oman.
“I was teaching at PDO School Arts & Crafts and MuscArt Gallery and some other local schools. The feedback from the children was such a pleasure because what I was doing with them was different and unique. I also give individual tuition to students.”
Nikos has also undertaken various interior design projects both for businesses and private residences.
Before moving to the Middle East, he worked in Athens as a puppet designer, theatre set designer, a creator of children’s festival sets, interior designer, theatre and television animator of puppet shows and as a set designer.
“I have worked with Greece’s most famous puppet maker, Lakis Apostolides for more than a decade as a puppet-maker and set designer,” he says.
His advice to someone starting out as an artist is to create whatever you want and believe in your ability.
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