Farida Darwish

An Artist with A unique Style

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” is a saying that fits the talented artist, Farida Darwish, whose illustrious father is none other than Dr. Abdul Aziz Darwish, a pioneer of realistic impressionism in the Arab world. Like her late father, Farida Darwish likes to experiment with different styles and methods. Darwish participated in eniGma’s Covers Reimagined Event last June with her rendition of Mai Omar’s cover, and we are thrilled that eniGma’s Nouran Deyab had the chance to sit down to chat with her to get a peek into her art. Here are excerpts from their delightful chat.

What inspired you to become an artist?
I was inspired by my father, Dr. Abdul Aziz Darwish, one of the pioneers of the realistic impressionist school in the Arab world. The Russian encyclopedia ranked him in ninth place among Arab world realistic impressionist artists. He passed away in 1980. So, I didn’t get the chance to learn much from him, but he is my inspiration because he was a unique artist.

Who is your favourite artist and why?
I really like Paul Cezanne. He is a genius impressionist; he technically founded impressionism. My father was also inspired by him, and his fellow artists used to call him the Arab Cezanne. I also really like Rembrandt because of how he plays with light and adds contrast to his paintings. I really like this technique and it has influenced my own art. When it comes to portraits, I really like Ragheb Ayad. Honestly, I really like a lot of artists, regardless of their techniques.

How would you describe your own artistic style?
I have gone through three completely different styles. Like many artists in the world, I started with realism, and I really liked it. After that, I tried my father’s approach, realistic impressionism, which I really enjoyed! Then I went on to simple Egyptian folklore. While these pieces are simple, I wouldn’t say they are cartoons. I was really inspired by Mohsen Abou Al Azm the artist, I really like his work. I don’t try to copy him, I have my own lines and styles and I try to make my pieces a lot more simple than his.

I like all these three styles and I apply all of them. I get bored if I keep doing the same thing. But while I like to try different techniques, in the end, I have realised that I really love drawing portraits, whether I follow realism or impressionism as a style. I also like to draw impressionist landscapes and florals, and caricature paintings. I am big on women’s rights, so you’ll find a lot of caricatures of Egyptian women, especially Alexandrian women, and their lifestyle in my work.

What is the process you go through to create an art piece?
It depends on what I’m drawing. For example, if I’m drawing landscapes, and to be exact if I travelled to Nuba, Egypt and took pictures, ill come back and start laying out all the colours that I want to use for my painting. I will also start drawing the main subject of the piece, regardless of whether it’s a human being or an object. The colours don’t have to match that of the photos I shot and I don’t necessarily have to add in all the elements either – it depends on my mood. I really like to use light in my artwork that’s why you’ll usually find the colour orange used a lot – it’s a bright colour!

Let’s say I’m using impressionism, the background usually consists of leftover colours that remain on my palette – I start spreading it out on my canvas. I leave it for a couple of days and then return to it to see what I can make out of it; maybe a person, a portrait or even a vase of flowers and that’s how I start.

When it comes to caricature, I sketch first. Let’s say I want to draw women baking Eid Al Fitr cookies, I would sketch out the figures only first to have a sense of the painting and then I would go ahead and draw it using either charcoal or paint onto the canvas. I then start creating everything around the characters. In this style of my art, I usually have an open window or balcony in the background. It gives a sense of setting, whether it’s Egyptian streets, mosques or even laundry just hanging to dry. There is always also an old-fashioned radio, wooden floors and pistachio-coloured walls, just like old apartments from back in the day. Finally, I start working on the women themselves and then add in accessories, like laundry baskets, cats, mats or whatever we are used to seeing in old apartments.

What is your favourite part when you are painting?
In portraits, it’s the eyes. I usually start with the eyes because they are where emotions are expressed. After that, the rest of the portrait is easy to paint. In landscapes, I enjoy doing the finishing and highlighting of the final product. In caricature paintings, my favourite part is the original sketch, when I’m creating the idea.

When do you feel a piece is complete?
This is the hardest part. There comes a time when you must decide that you are done, or else you’ll just keep working on it. Sometimes you feel like that’s enough, but then you look at it later and feel like you want to work on it again, but you try to hold back. There’s no rule to when a piece is finished, it’s all about how you feel in the moment.

Have you thought of trying other art genres?
I like to learn about all genres. I took a cubism course to understand the method but realized that cubism doesn’t fit my personality. I also really like abstract impressionism, especially by the artist Rifky El Razzaz, but it needs a thought process that I don’t have. Every artist has his own thought process. That’s why everyone’s style is so different, and why art is so diverse.

What are you looking forward to in the future?
I don’t plan anything. I do what I love and feel only and leave the rest to God. For example, my painting was displayed in an exhibition in Uptown Cairo with 400 other paintings, but I was the one chosen for the eniGma Covers Reimagined Event. That was God’s will, it was not based on a plan I had thought out!