Concordia’s “artist in residence” uses whiteboard as a social, artistic experiment
To fine arts student Kevin Soltany, it all started as a simple school project But now, the 19-year-old’s drawings are an inspiration to many of Concordia’s students living in residence.
A few months ago students noticed an interesting drawing appear on a whiteboard in Concordia’s Hingston Hall (HB) building. The only thing used to bring the artwork to life was a black marker. People started to wonder who drew it, and that’s when students in residence found out that one of their own possessed this amazing talent. They continue to wait eagerly for his next masterpiece, wondering what it would be.
“It was a project for school,” Soltany explained. “We had to make our art and get critiques by our professor and classmates. The art had to be somewhere the public can easily access, [so] that’s why I chose to draw it on the whiteboard in HB.”
Born to Iranian parents in France, Soltany lived there most of his life before moving to Georgia, United States, with his mother. When he was younger, he was inspired by the Japanese comic channel Manga, and tried to imitate this style of drawing. He stopped drawing when he was 12, however, when people told him that he wasn’t good enough to pursue that style of drawing. He felt that it was no longer his calling.
While living in the United States, Soltany’s mother enrolled him in art classes. He wasn’t really a fan of them because he felt that the art in Georgia was too conservative. Then one day he discovered something that he really liked, a specific style through which he could express himself: realistic art.
A few years later, when he was 16, Soltany came to Canada on vacation and fell in love with Montreal and its art. “Montreal is young, it’s alive and really cool,” he said. “Plus I really like the type of art they have. It’s free and open.”
With time, Soltany started to develop his passion for realistic art, and used “psychedelics” for inspiration. Psychedelic art is based on the way a person feels after using drugs such as LSD and psilocybin, letting the mind express itself freely. And according to Soltany, “psychedelic is a fantasy world! Mixing this style with the realistic is a good mix because you can express a lot of things through that style [that] people can imagine.”
When asked about his drawing style, Soltany said he just wants to use his skills, experiment with them and try to draw in 3D on the whiteboard in the hallway. For him, this is a perfect spot because he likes getting critiqued by his fellow students. He believes this is what a true artist needs.
Soltany usually prefers to use a pencil, more than any other material, when he starts a new project. He starts by drawing a sketch and when he’s satisfied with the composition he starts adding detail to it. “You can do whatever you want with a pencil, you can draw whatever you want… it’s like magic,” he said.
When he draws on the whiteboard, Soltany uses the same technique, but he also uses shadows to help him get the result he wants. “The shadow is really important,” he stated. “And so is the light, so it’s all about the shadowing of the drawing.”
It’s harder to draw with a marker, but for Soltany it’s so much more interesting and makes the drawing pop a little bit.
“First you have to draw your idea briefly and really fast,” he said. “Start with a sketch, and when you have your composition go in with the details, you erase what isn’t good. Start with an idea and if it’s bad then adjust it. For example, in one of my drawings I started with a skeleton and on top of that I drew a man.”
Soltany draws because he likes to. He doesn’t like it when he is forced to draw, as there’s always something he wants to show through his pieces. Of course, he likes it when people appreciate and admire his work but he also prefers to be completely satisfied with it first. That’s when he feels like he is on the right track with what he is doing.
That’s why when he first started drawing, Soltany felt like he had a mission to use his art to make a difference, especially when it comes to the conflict between Palestine and Israel.
Even though he is half Jewish, Soltany is pro-Palestine and believes that what happens in Palestine is unfair. “Israel receives a lot of ‘gifts’ from the United States every year while Palestine doesn’t get anything,” he said. “If we can’t show that by politics then maybe we can show it with art!” He believes that some people decide to ignore what they hear and see on the news; that’s why he wants to use his art to show what some try to escape from, or what they try to hide from the rest of the world.
“People say I’m not emotional,” said Soltany. “But I’ve seen so many things that made me strong that I either show through my art or I don’t show it at all.”