Zaria Forman on her inspirational drawings


Zaria Forman is an internationally renowned artist who makes breathtaking drawings of natural landscapes using soft pastels on paper. Her works are incredibly unique, as they look so realistic that they could be easily mistaken for real life photographs.

Zaria shares with The Golden Scope about her art.



Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Piermont, NY, about 30 minutes north of New York City. 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.

Did you always want to be an artist?

As a child, I travelled 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. I loved making art as a child but never anticipated becoming a full-time artist until I was offered to be in my first exhibit after graduating from college. One show led to another, I chose to ride the wave, and am very happy I did!

What were your first memories of art?

Since my mother was an artist, we always had art supplies around the house and were encouraged to use them. Some of my earliest memories are drawing horses and dogs, and painting the mountains in New Mexico in watercolors.

Is there a particular reason why you draw just with your hands?

I have been drawing since I was a child, and using my palms and fingers to move the material on the paper always made sense to me. Although I believe I was using my hands before this, I do recall one moment when I was about 12.

I was working on a pencil drawing (I think it was a copy of a Da Vinci portrait) and I used my finger to smudge the graphite, to make a smooth fading effect. It felt like an exciting discovery at the time!

What’s the most indispensable item you must have when working?



Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?

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.


What is the most memorable response you have ever had to your work?

A 5-year-old boy yelling “Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! It looks like cheese!” while pointing at the iceberg.

Who is your favourite artist of all time?

My mother, landscape photographer Rena Bass Forman was certainly one of the biggest influences in my life, and continues to be even after passing away in 2011. William Bradford, Robert Longo, and Clifford Ross are a few of the many other artists who inspire me as well.

You travel a lot around the world, mainly to remote and beautiful places such as the Maldives and/or Greenland. If you could pick any of the locations you went to, which is your favourite one and why?

I choose locations because of their vulnerability to climate change. In Greenland, I felt both the power and the fragility of the landscape. The sheer size, majesty, and beauty of the icebergs is humbling.

The ice fjords are alive with constant movement and thunderous cracking–reminders of their destructive capabilities. Yet while their threatening potential is evident, so is their vulnerability; I could see the ice melting under the unseasonably warm sun.

Exploring the flat islands of the Maldives gave me a similar sense of duality between power and fragility. The looming, vast ocean demanded my attention, as it tightly surrounded each tiny island. The color, clarity, and warmth of the water invited me while the waves crashed ominously along the encroaching coastline.

I very much want to visit Antarctica next to compare the poles and draw the southern ice. I want to return to Greenland and am actually currently re-visiting the Maldives! I will also visit other low-lying island nations.

It is pretty tough to narrow my travels down to one favorite place. If I had to choose, it would be Iceland, Greenland or Svalbard, since they are the most unusual and otherworldly landscapes I have ever seen.

Tell us about your most recent drawings capturing Greenland’s frozen landscapes.

My most recent drawings document Earth’s shifting landscape and the effects of progressive climate change. In August 2012, I led an Arctic expedition up the NW coast of Greenland. Called “Chasing the Light”, it was the second expedition the mission of which was to create art inspired by this dramatic geography. The first, in 1869, was led by the American painter William Bradford.

My mother, Rena Bass Forman, had conceived the idea for the voyage, but did not live to see it through. During the months of her illness her dedication to the expedition never wavered and I promised to carry out her final journey.

Do you have any tips or inspiring words for our readers?

Find what inspires you and what you feel most passionate about, and invest your time and energy in it!

For more info visit Zaria’s website and Facebook Page


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