Artist Spotlight: Staying true to oneself

Category:  The Arts
Friday, November 15th, 2019 at 11:01 AM
Artist Spotlight: Staying true to oneself by Zeila Hobson
One of the pieces of this week's spotlighted artist, Asnawy Mohamad. | Contributed Photo

Asnawy Mohamad, a junior animation major at Edinboro University, doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t interested in art.

“I’ve been doodling for as long as I can remember,” he said. “My brothers were always drawing, and as a younger sibling I always wanted to be like them. Although I’m the only brother pursuing art, I owe it to them for giving me a creative activity as a child.”

Mohamad is a Harrisburg native from a Cham-Vietnamese and Muslim household. His family’s cultural background, religion and low-economic status impacted the origins of his inspiration.

“There were so many things that I was able to pull from [artistically], whether that was cartoons, art history or just everyday life.”
Aside from his brothers, Mohamad’s biggest artistic influences are Francisco Goya and “impressionists like Monet, Renoir and Cassat.” He also said that American painters like Hopper, Bellows and Haring inspire him.

Mohamad also credits his educators with helping him find his artistic voice, beginning with teachers he had at the Harrisburg Area Community College, which he attended before enrolling at EU.

“At HACC, the community college I went to, James Lard and Margaret Brandt were very helpful professors.” He continued: “James Lard was a drawing and ceramics professor, which stuck out to me a lot. I don’t think it’s common for a professor to teach such different mediums. This led me to want to become an artist that can experiment with many mediums. He was also a harsh grader, but he always had time to help students. I had to work very hard in his class, but the value of information I learned was worth it.”

Mohamad is no stranger to hard work, though. Challenge delights him, a fact that has steered the course of his education, as well as the desire to have more tools at his disposal to make art.

“I chose animation as a major because it was the most inaccessible medium for me,” he said. “I would not say that animation is my choice, because I draw/paint a lot more. I would say animation has intrigued me the most and that is why I am exploring it in university.”

According to Mohamad, there are many resources to practice drawing, painting and sculpture, but not necessarily to learn animation.

Still, drawing and painting skills are a must for his artistic focus. The conversation returned to his teachers at HACC.

“Margaret Brandt instructed a course called “Visual Thinking.” “Visual Thinking” was practically a creative writing class but for drawing. We were taught to brainstorm ideas quickly and efficiently. She was also a professor that made her classes very involved which made things much clearer for me. It felt like a hippie class with some of the concepts that she was teaching, but it eventually started to make sense to me. That class is why I’m so interested in research and learning about topics that I can incorporate in my work.”

Professors in the EU Art Department have also taught Mohamad important lessons.

“As for Edinboro professors, Geoffrey Beadle and Jeremy Galante have been great influences. Beadle fueled my love for traditional art while I took his “Painting 1” course. At the time, I even considered making painting my minor. With animation, I love incorporating watercolors and am exploring more with oil paints, so this class helped me receive formal training.”

He went on to say: “Jeremy Galante was my animation professor for the first animation course I have ever taken. Learning about the fundamentals of animation was quite terrifying, but it was such a helpful course ... I had such a great time spending long nights in studio with other students finishing assignments and learning the medium together.”

Very active on campus, Mohamad is a member of the Drawing and Painting Club, Animation Club, Edinboro Men’s Club Volleyball and the Student Art League.

“My favorite part about Edinboro is that I can do many other things on campus other than art.”

He stressed the importance of extracurricular activities. “Taking breaks to be active and joining clubs that are non-art related helps me not burn out. Going on animation trips has also pushed me farther as an animator. I’ve been able to meet many professionals and other animation students from different universities.”

Mohamad’s love for both fine arts and animation drives him to combine the two in his career. Speaking on his career goals, he said: “I want to experiment with animation as much as I can, because I believe there is so much more to learn. I don’t quite know where the finish line is, but whatever it is, I hope I can inspire the youth in some way, shape or form.”

Mohamad also asserted that he hopes to move away from technical work as he grows as an artist. “My biggest struggle as an artist is trying to stay true to myself. I currently spend most of my time working on my skills, and I would like to create more work that shows who I am and the values I stand for.”

Animated content recommendations from Mohamad are “Isle of Dogs,” “The Wind Rises,” “Sublo and Tangy Mustard,” and “Wasteland,” which are among his favorite films, shows and games. His favorite animators include Hayao Miyazaki, Jonni Phillips, Isao Takahata and Ralph Bakshi.

To see more of Mohamad’s work or discuss commissions with him, visit his Instagram:

Additional Photos:

One of the pieces of this week's spotlighted artist, Asnawy Mohamad. | Contributed PhotoAnother piece of Mohamad's called 'Succession.' | Contributed Photo

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