Often it can be tricky for artists to break through the noise with so much content being shared on social media. Whilst browsing online, the work of 19 year old Izzy Aghahowa grabbed our attention, almost relentlessly. Izzy’s work combines traditonal and digital methods to create eerily surreal and abstract work, we just had to know more about her and her work!
Tell us a little about yourself as an artist, introduce yourself!
My name is Izzy Aghahowa, I’m 19 years old and I create film posters using oil paints. Sometimes I create traditional digital film posters but usually I stick with oil paints. I’ve been painting since I was 9 years old, but I officially started painting film posters about six months ago with my ‘Suspiria’ poster which I recently re-edited. I didn’t take painting seriously until I graduated high school and started doing it over quarantine last year for fun, that’s when I started trying to find my style and experimenting. I always preferred oil paints over acrylic or any other medium while at school, we rarely used it because they’re expensive and messy, but any time we did I always loved the experience. They had the best texture and they took ages to dry which I liked because it gave me time to re-paint or distort whatever I wanted. I only started learning about graphic design about two months ago, I’m still finding my footing with it.
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When you’re not painting movie posters, what do you like to do?
I really enjoy watching films, one of the main reasons why I naturally drifted into making film posters I think. Before I started making film posters I was just painting anything I thought of, musicians, distorted faces, celebrities that I liked etc. Once I found out more about the art of film poster design, I was completely hooked. I love talking about them, reviewing them and keeping up with film news, it has always been my favourite thing in the world besides art. I also love listening to music and collecting vinyls with my boyfriend, I absolutely love going out and looking for cool vinyls and finding new and exciting artists.
What inspires you to create these awesome abstract pieces?
So many different things. I’ve always preferred abstract and experimental art over all other types of art, art that makes you uncomfortable, scared or anxious has always had the most distinct effect on me, art that invokes a visceral reaction in people. I try to stay away from predictability, I always want to try and do something different with my work, or at least push myself creatively with everything I do, abstraction came naturally to me while I was experimenting over quarantine, it was just fun to do also. I get bored very easily so I didn’t want to keep going with the same type of thing I was doing. Seeing something normal become disrupted and warped into something new and interesting always seemed to allow for different types of creative interpretations of it, that was what I wanted to do.
This style is incredibly unique to the movie poster scene, we love them! What made you want to make movie posters?
Thank you so much. I’m glad they’re unique, I really try to make my posters feel different from the usual. For a while I wanted to be a film critic or work in social media film marketing. I just wanted to work in the film industry in a non-practical filmmaking capacity. During quarantine, as I got more into painting and my creative practice, I was also getting into films again, I had all this time to watch a bunch of films and I was about to start my film studies degree, it all happened really naturally. My boyfriend told me it would be a good idea to remake the ‘Cherry’ poster back in January 2021, that was one of the first things I remember that made me realise how fun it was to make posters for movies. I slowly started doing film posters exclusively and now it is my main content, It’s perfect because I get to combine two of my favourite things in one. Hopefully i’ll get to do it as a career and fulfil my dream of working in the film industry.
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What’s your typical process for making a film poster?
My typical process varies, I usually start with looking for inspiration on Pinterest, looking for reference images on there, I usually have a very good idea of what I want to do in my head as I get started in terms of the colour scheme and the font and all that. I usually draw out a sketch in my sketchbook for the poster, then I paint over it. I paint knowing what I’m going to distort or change later on in editing, and I usually paint knowing where I’m going to put the text. I then take a picture of the painting and start editing. Editing takes up the main chunk of my process, I end up distorting most of my paintings pretty heavily, I also change a lot in terms of lighting, perspective, size and so on. I use the apps PicsArt and Snapseed mainly for editing which are both immensely useful and free which always helps. Then I use Photoshop and Illustrator sometimes for more advanced editing, mainly for text work and texture effects.
What would you say is your favourite piece so far, and why?
My favourite piece so far is definitely my ‘Sound of Metal’ piece. I love that poster so so much, I remember working on it and thinking this is the best thing I’ve made so far. The film means a lot to me also, it is one of my favourite movies ever now, I loved it instantly on first watch, it was also the first film I saw in theatres once they reopened here in the UK. I usually struggle with realism when I draw, I have to redraw the sketch quite a lot to make it look good, but with the ‘Sound of Metal’ poster it was so quick to do and it looked good right away which made it more fun as I wasn’t too stressed out. Making it in general was just a very nice experience as I felt I was actively getting better with drawing and painting while working on it, and it combines all the elements of what I want to accomplish with my posters well.
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Which artists, or creators would you say inspire you and why?
Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, Dusty Ray, Edvard Munch, Jackson Pollock, Egon Schiele, Jean Michel Basquiat, Gaspar Noe, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Haneke, Kel Lauren, Julia Fletcher, Rico Nasty, Charli XCX, Nicki Minaj, James Blake, Mitski, Kendrick Lamar, Tierra Whack, Kanye West among many many others. I’m constantly being inspired by so many different things all the time. I’m inspired by the Y2K aesthetic, 60s psychedelic art, 80s japanese graphic art, 90s grunge, 70s feminist avant-garde, communist art, poetry and literature, they all inspire me to think more creatively and more freely about art and graphic design, all these things have helped to make me the artist and designer I am now. I constantly look for people who inspire me as it helps me create.
We love your poster for Tenet, tell us a bit about that piece.
I initially made the ‘Tenet’ painting back in August 2020 after I saw it in theatres, and it was just a painting of Robert Pattinson and John David Washington, but very recently I re-edited it so it felt more substantial and more like a real film poster and not just a painting. I also added text and some distortion also. I expanded the painting using Snapseed, then distorted and mirrored the background on PicsArt. Usually I distort text or draw the text with my finger on my posters, but for the Tenet poster I decided to keep it traditional as the poster was already so busy. The sketch for the painting was another situation where it was very quick and easy and I didn’t have to redraw much at all, then the painting process was also very fun as I was working on a relatively big canvas I got from school. I remember being very proud of that one when I did it, it was one of the first successful realistic paintings I had done at the time and it gave me the confidence to keep going with realism and accurate face proportions.
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What advice would you give artists looking to create their own abstract pieces?
I’d say to not get worried about industry standards, it can be very easy to just do what everyone else is doing and promoting and creating because it is easier to, looking at posters as a kind of art can allow for more creative ideas and a less-restrictive outlook, it will also make you stand out. Forget about expectations and the general conceptions around graphic design and art and whether or not they can interlap or should, if making weird abstract things is what you’d like to do, you should go for it. Constantly push yourself and push your work, it is so easy to just become comfortable and make the same thing over and over, but it is so fulfilling to just not worry about making mistakes or failing or messing up, most of my best stuff has been made because of risk and compromise as well as a multitude of mistakes. The absolute best feeling is when you think a piece is completely unsalvageable and awful and then managing to fix it and make it great, I go into most posters knowing I’m probably going to hate it for a considerable amount of time while working on it, it is a massive part of the process.
If people want to see more of your work, where can they find you?
People can find me on Insta @izzyaghahowa, on Twitter @izzyagh and people can buy prints of my work on my website, izzyaghahowa.co.uk. People can also look at my portfolio on Behance, behance.net/izzyagh