We had the good fortune of connecting with Yousef Balat and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Yousef, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
Hmm. My favorite quote or affirmation. That is an interesting question and is not simply answered. Finding inspiration from a quote or affirmation is dependent on my need at the time. But as for a words of wisdom that never lose their usefulness, for me as a creator, are three that interconnect and reinforce one another. The first is attributed to J.M.W Turner (painter), “It is only when we are no longer fearful that we begin to create.” The blank page, the white canvas can be as haunting as a malevolent spirit. Deterring the creator from marring the pristine surface with that first mark. Halting creation by invoking the fear of imperfection. In that moment the creator must throw caution to the wind embrace error and imperfection in order for creation to emerge from the chaos that is the language of visual art. To me Turner’s words easily feed into this saying from Ray Bradbury (author), “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” His words similarly show that the enemy of creativity is fear, but this fear is a kind of imposter syndrome. The “thinking” I feel that Bradbury refers to is one of self-censorship. Putting roadblocks in your own way once you start to think of the magnitude of an undertaking. Thinking I am not good enough, my ideas are too silly, or who am I to attempt such a task (whether writing a book or painting a masterwork). So to truly create, one must turn off all of that “reason”, become a fearless child again and simply do. These quotes referencing fear of imperfection manifesting through a self-conscience censorship clearly show me what to combat and overcome. But the final quote is more of a call to action phrased by the one and only Chuck Jones (cartoonist). “Every artist has thousands of bad drawings in them and the only way to get rid of them is to draw them out.” All together these quotes continue to inspire me to always create in the face of external adversity and internal struggle. Because, simply put – an artist makes art.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I absolutely love to illustrate stories. More specifically fairy-tale and folklore; well, actually anything fantasy related. My art style is 20 years in the making, taking techniques from traditional media and integrating it with newer digital techniques. With my mixing of traditional and digital tools I am exploring the combination of cartoon and realism within my fantasy illustrations. Keeping story the priority – I love to mix, match and play with the process to find new and exciting ways to put image to paper or screen. How I got to where I am today is a long winding tale of saying yes to opportunities when they present themselves and knowing when to walk away from comfort when it acts as a weight around my neck. Was it easy? Thankfully, no. How I overcame the different challenges was a combination of determination, persistence, wonderful support structures, and a sheer love for what I do. I mean if I didn’t absolutely love making art or telling stories I would have completely abandoned ship by now. Why am I thankful for life challenges? If everything were easy I would not have evolved as an artist or human. Life’s obstacles force self-examination to know who I am, what I want and most importantly what I need to do (my purpose). I take these lessons and incorporate them into my life, my art, and my business. I love to illustrate. I love to tell stories. And I have learned to do this in my own unique way. Because as Oscar Wilde once said “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?

Wow. That is a difficult question. (Of course I am assuming this is post pandemic.) First of all I would ask my friend what he/she wanted to do. In Houston the options are endless. From our outstanding preforming and visual arts to this city’s world class and diverse food culture the options are too numerous to pair down into a list. That being said, of course I would hit all the hot spots that are quintessentially Space City; such as china town, the heights and the museum district all while stopping in the unique eateries and independent bookstores that my city has to offer. 

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

As I mentioned earlier, ones’ life successes are not a solo endeavor. Many people and groups have helped in numerous ways for me to attain where I currently am in life. But currently my biggest support and partner in my success is my wife. Whether she is acting as my sounding-board, encouraging big ideas and most especially dealing with an artist temperament (haha). So I wholeheartedly dedicate this shoutout to her. Also, I definitely can not leave out my daughter who reminds me that “play” is a crucial part of life. Outside of my family’s wonderful support I am also thankful for the support from my illustration critique group and the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators. Who have helped me over the years transition from a fine art career to an illustration career. Their support and encouragement is the reason I decided to give back and recently serve as the Illustration Coordinator for the Houston Chapter.

Website: http://www.yousefbalat.net
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hoopsnakegraphics/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/snakehoop
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HoopSnakeGraphicsLLC/

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