“I CONVEY TO OTHERS MY LOVE AND EXCITEMENT OF THE THINGS I PAINT"
Motti Shoval is a full-time artist and an art teacher. He was born in 1954 in Netanya, Israel from parents who survived the holocaust and who immigrated to Israel (his father came in 1947 and his mother a year later). When his father arrived to Israel, he was caught by the British and was sent to Cyprus for one year. Apparently, he started to learn sculpting. Motti Shoval had an old photograph of him holding a sculpture he made. When he was released in 1948, he came to Israel and never again did any works of art -- but Motti Shoval is certain, this is the source whereof he inherited the love for art. Until the age of ten, Motti Shoval lived in the Eastern part of the city near the remains of Um Khaled Khan, a village dated to the Mameluke period. He and his family then moved to the center of the city closer to the sea where he had a happy childhood spending most of his days in the sea (instead of school). At that time, Netanya was mainly sand dunes and fields, he enjoyed spending time strolling in the fields looking at the wildflowers, insects and other wild animals. Motti Shoval recalls living in times where neighbors used to exchange goods with one another, and during the harvest season, his parents would wrap in paper bags the fruits grown in their garden and exchange with those whose gardens did not provide.
Since his parents were survivors of the holocaust, they were always anchored and overprotective of him. As a teenager, he recalls the constant need to use rebellion as a method of achieving his own independence from them. When Motti Shoval decided to study art at the university, his father objected tenaciously saying it was no profession, nor was to be a secured income to support himself (Motti didn't blame him, his dad was working hard, sometimes three jobs to support the family). Motti ended up studying engineering, and later on, joined the Israeli Navy. When released, he started to work in Hi-tech companies and during this time he also attended Oranim Academic College and Teaching in Haifa to study art for three years. This led him to become an art teacher at school and college; however, he stopped on January 2011 because he decided to make art a full-time occupation for himself.
Strangely, his elder son who is very talented and had to choose what to do was suggested by Motti himself, to study art and his reply was similar to his father "Art is not a profession." He had to talk him out of it until convincing him to pursue a degree in art, and today he is painting and supports himself as an artist and by being a tattoo artist as well. Today, he is doing better than Motti himself. Currently, Motti Shoval lives with a deaf cat and two others who often are hanging around his house. He dedicates one room of the apartment for his studio where he works and teaches and visits Greece twice a year to give a workshop on watercolor and pastel which he enjoys deeply.
Standing before Motti Shoval’s art, one can only indulge in a state of nostalgia. It’s almost as if one becomes one with the past. What is not seen with the clarity of the eyes, it surely is seen with the intent of the heart. Motti brings us a sweetness that arouses in us deep sentiments that perhaps we’ve never really experienced, but somehow his art introduces us to such a life. Motti not only gives us visual satisfaction through his works of art, but he is able to entrap all our senses. You can smell, taste, feel, and hear what goes on in each image. He brings such an awareness and we can only hope for more.
Q. Do you remember the first piece of art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. I remember staying at home (excused to be sick) and used a matchbox, cardboard and matches to build a carriage with horses. When I was about 11 years old, my uncle came to visit from NJ and as he saw me doodling, asked me to do a copy in oil of a classic painting (don't remember the picture, only that it was a landscape). My father bought me a set of oil colors, brushes and turpentine and I did the copy. I remember my frustrations when he left and took it with him and that I was not to be able to do a good copy. After that, my father enrolled me in a painting evening class in a local club. Today when I think about it, it was not obvious since my parents were Holocaust survivors and poor. I guess they noticed my passion. I remember myself being a kid in that art club with grownup people. We painted in oil from observation on cardboards and I remember the teacher talking with us about art history, walking us through the various techniques and styles. I wish I'd knew who he was. I might have been a student of a famous painter.
Q Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career, such us memorable shows/exhibitions?
A. I'm not really well organized and do not have a full record of all my shows. My recent and real highlight is that I will participate with two of my paintings in the "7th International Pastel Painters" on September in Nowy Sacz (Poland). Last year, I was thrilled to win the first prize in an international pastel competition (By Pastel Guild of Europe) and had a couple of honorary mentions.
Q. Why did you decide to become an artist?
A. I don't think it was not a conscious decision. I was drawn to it from an early age and just drew and painted all the time. Also, later in life when I worked in different works (mostly technical engineering) I always had a small studio to which I came to after work (or nights) and painted, made ceramic sculptures, etc. About ten years ago I stopped working and decided to dedicate all my time to art. I went to study for an art instructor certificate in (Oranim Academic College) near Haifa.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. The list is huge to write them all down, from the Renaissance to contemporary art. Some left a greater impact on me like Andrew Wyeth, Lucian Freud, Tai-Shan Schirenberg, Fred Cuming and more. Degas is special because of his curiosity, methodical experiments, his prints and pastels.
Q. What does "success" mean to you?
A. Being able to live freely, and doing the things I love and enjoy in life.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Not necessarily so, though I need my solitary time to reflect and like to paint alone in my studio with the music I love. Painting demands a great deal of concentration thus working alone, undisturbed permits one this quality time.
Q. What does your work aim to express?
A. In my works, there is a basic principle accompanying and is present and that is the use of my inner eyes. As an observer, I don’t use my eyes to superficially transfer what I see to the canvas. The look or observation functions as a mean of translating subjective feelings. When I paint my house, the House is not limited to the physical walls of the rooms where I live. It engulfs my city Haifa and especially, my neighborhood life as a House. I walk around the neighborhood, look at the old buildings, sit in local cafes, meet people on the street, and these fill me with wonder. I want to introduce people to little pieces of their environment that they walk over and neglect in their daily life. I want them to linger, reflect and enjoy. I do it through design and use of color, atmospheric perspective and incorporating luminous glow. Ten years ago, I moved to the house where I now live and work. It’s in an old neighborhood with old houses that are deteriorating and coming to crumbles. It is a neighborhood of low social demographic population but attracts colorful people of all ages. I see a lot of beauty in that variety and try to convey it with dignity.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. Paint for yourself, paint every day and enjoy it.
Q. What advice would you give to the next art-generation?
A. Make sure it is your passion, being an artist is not a refuge from hard work. On the contrary, there are skills needed to be learned and honed. You will have to make sacrifices on the way. Being an artist is not a short track race but a marathon. Work as much as you can. Keep your curiosity and enjoy the creative process.