They say all artists are fucked up but Ziad Ashraf takes it to another level.
After I met Ziad Ashraf during an interview with the Alexandrian skateboarding crew SkateImpact, for which he's a sponsored skater and art director, I stumbled upon a quiet little page in the recesses of Facebook called Bouklao Illustrations. It had a few digital illustrations depicting acid trips, Illuminati triangle vaginas and a bad ass cat. It immediately struck a note with my Dadaist dark humor and reminded me of the kind of stuff that would come out of fat-pie.com, David Firth's ingenious platform for his surreal dream-like animations (if you've seen Salad Fingers, you'll know what I'm talking about). Turns out these illustrations came straight from the depth of Ashraf's mind. I asked him immediately if he was willing to illustrate my How (Not) To series of articles and has since also created the awesome 'Scene Noise Profile' icons for various musicians and DJs in the local scene. His art and comics range from hilarious political satire to trips to extra terrestrial travel. Read on as we talk to the surrealist genius about his cat, Islamists and depressed pineapples...
When did you first start drawing?
I guess I just had a thing for drawing since I was kid. There were a lot of situations in my daily life that I wanted to make fun of and express myself and my point of view on a lot of things and I found that comic illustrating was the best way to do that.
You seem to have an awesome attention to detail. What technique do you use for your illustrations now? What's the process?
I use a drawing tablet and Photoshop. I always start with a rough sketch and then I start inking in another layer; it's basically tracing what I sketched but I add more details just like inking over pencil on paper then coloring and the text come last.
Do you think there much interest in comic books in general in Egypt?
No, I don't think so but maybe interest in comic books in Egypt will grow if people find sarcastic comic books that are expressive, not like Mickey. I noticed that Egyptians love political satire, all they do on Facebook is share sarcastic political comics. That's something I'm definitely doing.
Is there a specific artist/illustrator/animator/show you take inspiration from? Do you have a favorite comic?
Yeah, Robert Crumb. Fritz The Cat is one of my favorites. It inspired me to make the character Bouklao.
Your work constantly has these undertones of "Oh this is something I just shat out; it's shit," but is there a part of you that's thinking: "This is actually genius but people won't get it so I'll cover it up with disdain"?
When I sarcastically attack my own work, it's just me being confident about it. I always state that my art is shit because I know the shit's awesome and people (except Islamists) would love it ,so there won't be any harm done when I say it's shit. I know that no one will believe me cause they're looking at pure awesomeness. Haha, too much confidence?
Are people always asking you to draw them? Does it get annoying?
It's only annoying when someone wants me to draw him/her only because they want a new profile picture on Facebook.
Tell us about the cat and the alien you hang out with. The cat seems like a a bit of a bad ass...
They're called Bouklao and PB, J actually. The cat, Bouklao, is a player; he's like the Barney Stinson of cats. That's actually my real cat, I just gave him my freakishly tall and skinny body and cool personality in the comics. PB J, the alien, is the weird side of me, the one when I'm intoxicated. I chose an alien because that's apparently what other people see, judging by the way they stare. PB J stands for peanut butter and jelly and, yeah, I was wasted when I made him.
Do you prefer doing the illustrations with social commentary or indulging into your surreal characters more?
What are your plans for Bouklao in the future?
My first step is launching my website bouklao.com that will be happening really soon I'll stick to it for a while then maybe I'll do animation, but printed copies I really doubt that I don't think they'll allow the content in Bouklao to published in Egypt , it's full of "haram" things and loads of titties.
Can you draw for us a scene in a club in which President Morsi, riding one of the aliens from the Predator movie, is losing a rap battle to Jay Z. The MC is a transvestite sloth (the animal) from Victorian Era England who's getting drunk on Chabrawichi 555 cologne, and trying to get Jay Z's autograph. The crowd, made up of Victoria's Secret models and hipster sumo wrestlers, are throwing depressed pineapples at the two of them. One of the pinapples has had enough with the situation and has decided to start a revolution, flying a flag and protesting against the misuse of pineapples and has a threatening knife in its hand...