Conference Sarah Mari Shaboyan

Conferencia Sarah Mari Shaboyan

By El Moderno Gallery and El Moderno Concept Store.

On Thursday, March 7, 2024, Armenian artist Sarah Mari Shaboyan  gave a lecture on the lower floor of El Moderno Concept Store, in which she explained her creative process, how she creates and why it is important to her. She talked about her training as an illustrator, described her career and talked about her work. She highlighted her father's love for art, her desire to be an artist since childhood, her beginnings in illustration in Moscow, and how her career exploded in just two years thanks to social media.

Conference Sarah Mari Shaboyan


0:00 - Sarah
About to know me better, besides what you see now, to know how I started and from where I started. So, I always knew that I would be an artist. This I remember, since when I was little. My mom, she says that when I was like two or three years old when people were asking, who do you want to become? I was saying paper. I don't know why. So maybe somehow I like, I love drawing. That's why paper was like something important to me.

I always knew that I would be an artist. I didn't know a painter, a sculptor, but I was always painting, doing something. So the story of an artist who from the childhood knew that he would become an artist, but this doesn't mean that everything was easy because I have an academy degree so classic like art school, art academy and these are my boring artworks from the academy I was looking for old works, I don't keep old works I have somewhere that I don't like to see them, I want to forget this boring period, but somehow I found this, these are the works from the academy when I was studying. And yeah, I was, to tell a little bit more of the story,

I grew up in an art collective family, and my father was in love with art, just like David, I think, I see him as a person who is completely in love, so was my father. And we had many friends, an artist, other art collectors, yeah? And one friend of my father, he was an art collector, and he gave me a book, it was a Japanese book of 3,000 poses, figures. And he said to me, you know you are an artist and line for you, line and hand is like a vocabulary for you. Your hand should be very open so whenever you want to depict something you do it very fast. You don't think about how to write the letter A, but your hand is somehow like synchronised. This was his advice. And he gave me this book and he said, you just do 100 sketches a day of the poses.

And I was, I think, 15, 16 years old maybe. So I was just doing like thousands of sketches monthly, just copying that thing. And maybe from this I have now somehow strong lines. Maybe. I don't know if it's good, if it's something positive, if it's not positive, but this strong line, the ability of having a free and strong line came from these sketches that I was doing constantly. This was an important part, I think, from my self-growth. But everything in the academy was boring, not interesting. We didn't have access to Pinterest because nobody was saying, you know, there is Pinterest in Armenia. Nobody knew there is Pinterest, you can Google your favorite artist, you can find inspiration.

So we were somehow closed in the wall of this academy and thinking that art is dead but we still will try to do something. Until, oh yeah, this is me, thinking how I want to paint, what I want to paint and is there even a meaning to become artist if everything is dead. Until I moved to Moscow. I started an illustration course in British Higher School of Academy and Design. The name of the course was illustration, but we were doing basically everything except illustration mostly. So, for example, for the first month we were doing these huge sculptures for the book fair in Moscow.

And this opened my eyes, because I went to study illustration, but they were somehow showing me something, another world, like beside the images, the perfect images that you have to learn. Yeah, there were many briefs in this course, a brief like project so course was basically full of projects every month you were having one project

Like sculpture project, this was I don't know if you can recognise the movie this is an illustration of a movie I think you can read it it is an old black and white movie some like it hot

Yeah yeah yeah

So we had to pick a movie and then to illustrate it We had a project of a child book. So we had to write the story and to illustrate And I wrote a story about my boys Who are planning to prepare a breakfast for me. But they are making a big disaster. And during this course, our teacher opened our eyes, showing that there are many modern illustrators who are working and who are doing truly amazing works.

And one of them was Matotti, Lorenzo Matotti, that I have never seen before.

Jan Klepi, you know him?


Ah, yes, yes, yes, I know.

He was also a big inspiration for me.

Jorge González.

I remember when I found him,

I found him in his work in Angoulême, comic festival, and I said, wow, how, such freedom. That was a Patagonia book. And I don't know if you read that book. The book had basically three different ways of painting. Because it was telling a story that was like long time ago. And you can see how with the story, with the ages, like.

I don't know, 10 years ago, 20 years later, the style of the artist was changing in the book. It was meant to be so, but it was something like, wow. And since then he's still my favorite artist. And Martorelli, you know, Martos Martorelli. Yeah. So you can see that I was basically drawing with black and white, no color. And my teacher, he said, you know, it's time for you not to be afraid of colors because you have to explore yourself also as a artist who is drawing with colors. I was like, no, no, I don't know, I don't know.

He said, no, just, he said, I will not allow you to paint with black pencils for a month. So just try something else. And I bought these markers and I had fun. And the funny thing is because when I'm thinking, you know, like how my, I don't like the word style, but how I started to do, to draw in this way. And the thing is that I had, I had a very little time during the day to draw because I have two little kids and it was like two hours for drawing while they were sleeping.

So I said to myself, I need to find a way of fast drawing and finishing one drawing at a day. Because otherwise, the next day, I don't know, someone will get sick, and maybe I'll forget about that painting for a week. So I said, no, I'm, whatever happens, I need to finish this drawing. And I think here is the,

Not the secret, but how it came. So yeah, I started to not be afraid of colors, which I think now is one of my strongest Part I think I would never think so, but now it appears to be yes, and I started to participate finally to the art market in Russia and sell my prints Have first commercial orders this was illustration for a book, but this didn't publish. So that's why I say that I don't have published book. This was online, like published online, not on a paper.

Okay, so I love doing portraits. When I was studying in Moscow, we had every Tuesday, we had a sketching day and we were drawing portrait for four hours, every Tuesday. So for about seven years, Tuesday was a sketching day. No matter what was going on, I was sketching on Tuesday. And when sadly things happened two years ago in Russia. We had to move to Armenia. So what I do, I said, OK, I will organise this Sketching Tuesdays. And I wrote a post on Instagram just to tell,

If you want to draw, come with me. And apparently, for the first meeting, 15, 20 people were. I was like, OK. And I found out that in that difficult period for many people, because there were many relocated people in Armenia, the art united us all. And until now, it's two years I'm not living in Armenia anymore, they organised Tuesday Sketching and it's like connected people, many people, and it's something nice. So yeah, we were just you know, just we didn't have models at the beginning because we got this location for free. We were not paying for that and I didn't know you know who is coming if someone can afford even that 2 euro. Maybe he cannot so we were doing each other.

Everybody in the group was sitting for 15 minutes. Just just doing like that. Yeah, these are some portraits I drew. Okay, yeah, and I started to draw these Armenian interiors. We had like some typical, authentic locations. And apparently, like, these carpet ones were so much appreciated for not Armenians. And I said, okay, this is something nice to know, you know, that something very typical cultural, appreciate many other people. Yeah, I was

Having also a breakfast drawing, which was on Friday. So on Friday we were going in a new location, new cafe, and having breakfast and drawing and all this drawing we can see here came out from that from that meeting. Yeah I was posting everything whatever I was doing on Instagram, and apparently my Instagram grew very fast like some magic happened and many people started to follow me and I understood that I have to open my website because I was selling prints but before I was selling maybe one print a week and it was something funny to print it, to pack it, to ship it but when it started to be more and more I understood that I cannot, I will open the website and yeah okay this is I wanted to show you here that I use a lot of photos for references because it's of course it's nice when you can sit somewhere for two three hours have a sketch but doesn't

Happen with me almost ever so the only way to to depict it is to take a picture. So I'm constantly taking pictures. I'm just taking pictures knowing that how this will be as an art. And when I was in the university, I was told that a real artist doesn't draw from photos. And for years I was like, okay, I'm not going to do that because I want to be a real artist. But then I said, this is my photo and I can do whatever I want. So never be afraid of using photos for your reference. It is something, I think, very priceless. Yeah, even this was a series of red triptych illustration. And I was in the bar just having a drink.

And the location was very beautiful. And after it became a really good one. This is in Sevilla, David advised me this place. And we were there for a fast lunch. I said, OK, I will just take a picture because I think this is going to be a nice illustration. Yeah, and a lot of urban drawings from photos. This on the right side is Moscow. And this is a Google sketch

Whenever I'm not traveling I go to Google Maps, and I just like travel. I was in New York with the Google Maps yeah these are all from the photos because in Moscow always is freezing cold. You will never have that perfect weather where you can just like stop for half hour to draw, so everything is based on photos this is Milan also from photos because I was there for a short time

Yeah okay so posting on Instagram. So you don't need to... of course it's good, you can have a LinkedIn or you can have a Behance page, but Instagram is like all your life, all your portfolio, everything. So people will just... whenever you say an artist, will look on Instagram to see who you are, because it's giving like a And yeah, all the story I'm telling to you basically happened last two years. So, before two years, I was not an active artist, I was not commissioned, I didn't have agents, I was not selling. So everything was like in a darkness, what I'm doing, what I'm working with. Thanks to social media, I don’t like to said it, but this is the example of a positive side of social media. I got agencies, that I am working with it, one is in Australia, the other one is in USA, but this one in USA they have basically everywhere. So commissions are coming from UK, from Germany. This was my first important commercial order for Zeit magazine. This is an illustration I did for Washington Post. I am super proud of this.

Other editorial illustrations, portraits.

This is for a congress in Naples

that unfortunately was canceled for other reasons. But this was for, there is a Tableau du Monde, big festival for a Michelin restaurant. And they organised these events like yearly in a different location in Greece. And it had to be in Naples but it cancelled. Last year was a complete disaster. This is for a project for Adobe.

I got commissioned last year and I'm also happy for this and super proud. And yeah. Over.