Since we can’t hang out with our Harwood Studio Artists in person right now, we asked them to share a little bit about their art practice and how things have changed for them since the stay-at-home order went into effect. Here is our interview with Zahra Marwan. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do! 

How is your life, your practice, and your art the same or different now than it was at the beginning of the year?

ZM: So different! I’ve slowed down drastically. Although my apartment is cozy and orderly and I have quiet space to work, it’s hard to sit down and focus. With three exhibits I was participating in this Spring being postponed, it’s also hard to keep motivated on a large project.

How has Covid-19 challenged or changed your art practice?

ZM: Sitting down to create puts my mind in a right place. I have a small table to work in my living room which wobbles. The biggest challenge is creating several illustrations in larger themes, or sketching out and working on another picture book story with hopes of sharing with publishers in a less uncertain future.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

ZM: The smallest things which make me happy right now. Daily routines, the snow, memories.

What is your process when starting a new project or piece?

ZM: A short sentence or two that I begin illustrating literally and then abstracting.

What are you working on right now?

ZM: Right now I’m mostly focusing on creating illustrations from heart rather than work to show or share with publishing houses.

What are you currently interested in?

ZM: I’m interested in slowly moving my practice more into publication for children’s literature and editorial work. In regards to my art work, bright colors and shapely people. In regards to my personal life, independent foreign films and picture books.

Do you have another job in addition to making art? How does it inform your art practice?

ZM: No, I work as a full-time illustrator.

Was there a moment or a decision you made in your career that you feel was a personal success?

ZM: I started chronicling my Amtrak trip from Albuquerque to California with my friend Roberto to perform a Spanish Classical piece with my flamenco class at UNM. I started sharing my work each day even if I thought it was ugly. I set up half a booth at the Downtown Growers Market and started selling prints and watercolors at tomato prices until I gained enough traction and projects to be able to quit tutoring at UNM and working at Los Poblanos. Studying dance really gave me the discipline and resilience to sit and work each day.


Zahra Marwan, Grandma, watercolor and ink on board, 2020

What memorable response(s) have you had to your work?

ZM: I made a painting of a dream I had in which I needed to take a boat at night to come back to Albuquerque, but I’m afraid of the sea when it’s dark. A man at the railyard market asked me what this painting was about and when I told him, “In a dream I was in Kuwait and coming back to Albuquerque. The only reason stopping me from taking the boat was the night.” He cried, and then I cried.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?

I build my illustrations with a delicate combination of random thoughts, memories from the past, and little bits of reminiscences. I want to show the texture of how I feel. The thread of my soul with all of its complexity and depth of feeling.

What is your dream project? If there were no restrictions on time or money, what would you create?

ZM: A hundred picture books!

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

ZM: Illustrated Porcelain Sculptures.

Is there an artwork of yours that you will always keep?

ZM: There’s an illustration of my dad writing poetry which I wish I had kept. It’s very simple, he’s at a desk with a speech bubble of a horse in Islamic Calligraphy running through poppy flowers.


Zahra Marwan, Writing Poetry, watercolor, 2017

What excites and / or delights you in your art practice right now?

ZM: That I was able to write and illustrate a full picture book. It’s in progress with Bloomsbury Publishing in NYC. It took a lot of grit to get here!

How can people learn more, support, and or purchase your work?

ZM: I have a website which functions as a portfolio and resume:

An instagram page: zahra_marwan

A flailing twitter account: Two_Desert

and the best way to support me without direct access to my studio is to purchase current watercolors!

Thank you Harwood Team for putting this together <3

Zahra Marwan, As Strong as a Ship at Sea, watercolor, 2020

About Zahra Marwan:

Zahra grew up in two deserts which vary drastically and have many similarities in culture. One close to the sea, the other close to the mountains. She studied the visual arts in France, and continues various pursuits to further educate herself. She currently lives in the Barelas neighborhood of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and works in her studio at the Harwood Art Center, where she incorporates Kuwaiti tendencies into her daily life.

Zahra Marwan, Watermelon After Lunch, watercolor and ink, 2020

Zahra Marwan, Under the Weight of Locusts and Grief, watercolor and ink on board, 2019

Zahra Marwan, When I felt Shy as a Children’s, watercolor and ink on board, 2020

Zahra Marwan
The home of somebody you miss visiting:
Apart from the wild boars, it’s like magic being with Alex

Who sits with me through everything
Roman Aqueducts and a fig tree at the stream
on a hike behind their home in Le Tholonet
watercolor and ink, 2020

Zahra Marwan, Festival Flamenco Poster, watercolor and ink, 2019