Monday, June 25, 2012

A Random Moment with Habib Idris

Habib Idris, painter

In keeping with the random yet the synchronicity of life, I ran into an old college friend in SoHo on Wednesday. I knew he painted but wasn’t aware of the extent of his work. I was also witness to the effect his creations have on people; a mother and daughter walked by and were instantly drawn to one of his mannequin pieces—art admired, art sold. He was gracious enough to let me interview him right there on the spot.

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Introduce yourself and tell us what it is you do; what’s your craft?

Habib Idris, from Ghana. My craft is paint. I paint. I draw. It’s therapy for me. To get my mind off a lot of things I paint. I don’t consider myself an artist… You can say I’m an artist but it’s more of a hobby or something that relaxes me than for money. But in this economy, you gotta do whatever you can to make money, right? And I’m using what I can. I’m blessed to have a gift where I can paint or create something so I use that to make a little money for now.

So you don’t consider yourself an artist. Why? Because you don’t make money off of it?

I do make money off of it but I don’t want money to influence the reason for me painting. So me calling myself an artist would be more like a job; I would hate it if I make it a job. I’m a free man. I love to paint, but most people would call me an artist, right?

Describe what it is you paint.

I paint just about anything and everything that comes to mind. I love painting women’s bodies. I mean, they say a woman’s body is a work of art, right? [laughs] but I paint anything; mannequins, anything I can find that I can put something on, I paint. I use a lot of colors because of my past experiences. I used to feel like I was in the dark so I started using color to come out into the light. I use bold, bold color. Some with my hands, some with brushes, some with a lot of splashes. Color is life. Life is real and when something is bright, you see it and nobody really has to explain it to you.

Habib sets up his favorite piece, "Life-Line"



Since you paint a lot of women’s figures, do you consider it strictly art or figure studies or is there any eroticism in your work?

A little bit of everything is in there. I love women. Women love me. [laughs] It’s something that I appreciate. It’s something that I find easy to paint. I don’t masturbate, I paint. So that’s the release for me… I would rather just be with a woman or picture her... so picturing a woman is painting her or painting a body of a woman; it’s a release of my energy.

It seems to me that this is a solo act for you. Have you done any live painting?

No. I painted myself one time. I wrapped the canvas around me and the whole body of paint went back to the canvas. But I’ve never done [a] live painting. But I would like to, maybe one day in the future. Like I said, I’m not an artist, so it would be me selling myself out for the public. What I do with the paint is more like a secret. I could do it for friends, for events but it’s not something I would go crazy doing.

What is your favorite word, in any language, and why?

Scheisse. In German, schiesse means “fuck”, “shit”, “bullshit”.

It’s very forceful

Yeah, very forceful expression. You know fuck… everybody knows what fuck is. Fuck, fuck, fuck, you don’t even have to be upset to use fuck but scheisse even if you’re not upset and you say it and somebody hears it, you see there’s some aggression to it.

Do you have a secret talent other than your art or is this your secret talent that you decided to “bring out”?

Actually this is my secret talent that I decided to bring out. I do photography myself too, but I used to do this a lot and give to people as a gift—Christmas, birthday gift—and I would sign it Musiq Republiq or MR77 which nobody really knows who that person was, but yeah, that’s my secret alias. MR77. Musiq Republiq. 77 is the year I was born so I use that a lot. Until recently, I decided to come out…thanks to Facebook.

Facebook, yeah. It’s good and bad for that. What’s the first thing you want to learn about someone when you meet them?

I think now that I’m older now, I’m not shallow. I actually wanna know more about a person’s character. More of their character, personality. Knowing the person, who the person really is, not the face or the clothes the person’s wearing. More of seeing the personality than just a cover.

Complete this statement: If my muse were an animal, it would be…



Very peaceful. Huge. Gigantic. Very, very peaceful. And that’s what I want to see in this world, and seeing elephants means seeing peace. And I do paint a lot of elephants because anytime I want to be in peace I think of an elephant, I’ll do a sketch of an elephant and I’ll paint an elephant. And being from Africa, I mean I’m from the West but I used to paint a lot of stuff from like a South Africa [theme]; a sunset of South Africa, sunset of East Africa, stuff like that. But I love peace. Elephants represent peace to me.

After the impromptu interview, we talked about travel and he shared stories of the SoHo characters he encounters. Then we headed over to his storage unit where he keeps most of his work. I was amazed at the extensive collection of work he’s created by a man who loves to paint. Many of his pieces have a textile or 3D element to them. As he says, "I like to dress my women", so he makes earrings for the women he paints including them in the pieces and he adorns his women with beads and fabric, everything created by hand. I say stay tuned for his upcoming art exhibit.

Painting of Miriam Makeba with some Foxy Brown - a mix of African Queens

A glimpse at Habib Idris' extensive art portfolio

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