Looking at Koketit's visual art technique that employs mark making on photographs

Illustrative Chronicles: Shira Barzilay, an Israeli illustrator also known as Koketit, plays with her distinctive style on everyday life.

by Rahul KumarPublished on : Aug 23, 2022

Shira Barzilay is an illustration artist whose work is known across the world through her social media presence. Born in Tel Aviv in Israel, her distinct and fascinating style of sketching and mixed media work has caught the attention of some of the world's largest businesses. This includes visual art collaborations with Cartier, Elizabeth Arden, Vogue Portugal, Harper's Bazaar, N'kd, Lenovo, Revlon, and, most recently, Zara. Digital advances provide a new depth to her work, which has piqued the interest of art lovers. Her particular style is known for its evocative and philosophical reflections on our environment.

Digital design on an image | Illustrative Chronicles | Shira Barzilay | STIRworld
Digital design on an image Image: Courtesy of Shira Barzilay

1. Would you consider your work as ‘illustrations’ or ‘art’? Is there a difference according to you?

My work is an expression of art. Whether it be via illustration, animation, fashion, VR sculpting of even floor mopping for that matter. It doesn’t matter, as long as the medium is serving the context of the artistic concept.

Before I became an artist, I was a freelance fashion illustrator. My job was to illustrate a point of view and if was hired by a client – to illustrate their point of view. Illustration is a figurative and visual explanation of an idea or a situation in its purest form. The only difference between illustration and art per say is the context in which it is used. When I was an illustrator, I did not consider my work as art pieces, rather mere illustrations. I did not feel that I had a clear voice to speak out my mind. I was searching for it – and it gradually grew to be as I lived, experienced and matured in life and in digital art simultaneously. When I adapted a more minimalistic approach, these notions became very clear to me – because they were simplified and I could see them more clearly. I had eliminated the unnecessary details from the page and from my life and was able to focus on the main point. It was there all along but it was hidden under a lot of mannerisms.

Digital illustration on an image of waves | Illustrative Chronicles | Shira Barzilay| STIRworld
Digital illustration on an image of waves Image: Courtesy of Shira Barzilay

2. What is at the core of your expression? How do you aspire for your work to be experienced and interpreted?

I create from a very intuitive place where I tap into a flow that is occurring in this moment in time and space. It’s a practice of being present in the now. I almost feel like a channel for the ideas to go through me, and it’s like my awareness and consciousness are scaled down.

The intuition is often manifested through a simple line that creates a feminine silhouette that is somewhat autobiographical. I think in that sense I am pouring out my raw emotions and hoping that it will register with the observer and make him connect to that emotion as well.

Since I draw on my iPad, I often turn an inspiring image into my canvas and almost create a new story from a scene already occurring. I see the world as a canvas and the infinite possibilities there are to seeing things from different angles. When I intervene with a single and simple line on an image, I am interested in shifting the narrative completely, thus creating a new story. It’s like working with layers. I am taking a layer of an image, adding onto it my perspective which is another layer. The observer’s perspective is another layer over that. Stories on top of stories. I think in the end it’s about seeking subjectivity in an objective world. We all just want to be heard and seen and I think that is what my work is ultimately about.

Artist’s illustration feature on the Harper’s Bazaar magazine | Illustrative Chronicles | Shira Barzilay | STIRworld
Artist’s illustration feature on the Harper’s Bazaar magazine Image: Courtesy of Shira Barzilay

3. Please tell us about your creative journey – how has your style evolved over the years? What/who are your biggest influences?

The beginning of my creating exploration occurred at a very young age. As a child I would doodle and sketch everywhere and was very nurtured into exploring this side of me. My aunt is a painter and I would get inspired by visiting her studio. She taught me to love art and encouraged my talent. I feel very grateful to have had this inspirational figure growing up as I know how important it is for building confidence. I think my confidence is largely due to being encouraged so much as a child.

In my teen years I shifted towards fashion and fell in love with the fashion illustrations of Versace. At 17 I was already in fashion design college on my way to get my bachelor’s degree in fashion design.

When I graduated, I realised I have more searching to do and fled to LA, USA – to find something unknown – and it turned out to be fashion illustration. Back in Israel I was freelancing as an illustrator working for big and small brands and designers until I came up with the idea to start my own business for temporary tattoos. The business bloomed off the bat and KOKETIT the business took off.

After a while though I got bored from selling products and missed creating art. At the time my integral feed had become very popular and I noticed I was frequently being asked where can the images be purchased. So, I decided to switch my online tattoo shop into an online print shop and the rest is history. The platform now sells original paintings to patrons around the world and I get to collaborate with incredible brands along the way. I am also working on my debut NFT collection which is incredibly exciting.

I met some amazing people along the way who encouraged and inspired me to be anything I wanted. I was very hesitant to become an artist because I had so much respect for the craft and felt I wasn’t worthy. It was a long series of realisations that while I was contemplating whether or not I am one, I already was one.

Artist’s behind the studio video - exploring the illustration process Video: Courtesy of Shira Barzilay

4. A body of work you created that you are particularly proud of? Please share details of how you conceived of it.

I think that my artistic journey took off when I came up with the the world is my canvas series, which I featured on my Instagram feed. The notion that there are no limitations but the mind, was very liberating and focusing for me at the same time. There is so much content online these days so I love the idea of repurposing what’s already out there. I feel it’s economical. This coincides with my over stimulated imagination where I see and imagine faces and bodies anywhere and everywhere. They pop out at me on side cracks and trees. When I look up at the sky, I’ll see a young woman chilling on a cloud. The world is a set stage, a canvas, a story waiting to be told - and there are many stories to unfold beneath the shadows. My eyes are always hunting the unseen and it feels like a very constructed duality between my inner and outer self.

Digital Illustration on a figurative sculpture’s image | Illustrative Chronicles | Shira Barzilay | STIRworld
A digital illustration on a figurative sculpture’s image Image: Courtesy of Shira Barzilay

5. An upcoming project that excites you… or an unrealised project that is close to you?

The collaboration I did this year with Zara was an important one for me. They contacted me on Instagram and had asked to bring some of my feed ideas into fruition. The process was fascinating and I felt extremely lucky and humbled to create such a personal collection with such a loved and popular brand that I personally wear all the time. It was the peak of my career for sure. As much as I love and cherish all my collaborations, I rarely look back, but rather am facing forward to the next project.  At the moment I am working on my debut NFT project which will come out this upcoming May. I am creating art on a different dimension and introducing a new medium to my work. I think NFT’s are the future especially for established visual artists – because it will bring my community that much closer to myself and my art. I am excited!

Artist Shira Barzilay | Illustrative Chronicles | STIRworld
Artist Shira Barzilay Image: Courtesy of Shira Barzilay
Digital illustration on The Arc de Triomphe image | Illustrative Chronicles | Shira Barzilay | STIRworld
Digital illustration on The Arc de Triomphe image Image: Courtesy of Shira Barzilay

Click here to read more about Illustrative Chronicles, a collection of STIR articles that examine illustration as a discipline for narrating stories of the contemporary urban.

(Research Support by Vatsala Sethi, Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))

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