Draw in Love: An intimate conversation with Elizabeth City’s Said Bouftass

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Painting by Said Bouftass.

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Moroccan artist Dr. Said Bouftass has created his own lane described as “the greatest specialist in artistic anatomy in Morocco.”

Recently, he moved to Elizabeth City, where he brings a certain aesthetic and vibe to Eastern North Carolina that is “phenomorphology of the human body.” Bouftass is one of the artists featured for Arts of the Albemarle’s ArtWalk and will be creating guest portraits in the AoA Gallery on First Friday. Bouftass and his partner, Beth Remsburg, recently created ”Draw In Love, LLC” to offer workshops on drawing the human body with Parisian tradition.

Here’s a conversation with the artist on his passion for creating beautiful and unique, thought-provoking bodies of art conjugating both art and science.

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What is your favorite food and if you could use 4 words to describe yourself what would it be?

French food. To describe myself using four words is a difficult challenge but I’ll try: Art, life, perception, and humanity.

Are you introverted or extroverted?

As a visual artist and writer, he is introverted: I love solitude (not lowliness), reading, writing, I don’t like big crowds or celebrations. I love intimate meetings with friends, but at the same time, I am passionate about sharing my passions through lectures and workshops.

So you don’t like big crowds or celebrations?

No. I prefer a cup of coffee or beer with a book or notebook peacefully. Meditating in my life and my trajectory.

What or who inspired you to become an artist that specializes in drawing the human body with Parisian tradition?  

To give you the short version of my story, I discovered as a young child that drawing allowed me to look and observe better. I used to draw my mother, my sisters and my friends. Something deep and mysterious resided in this perception and I thought that the study of human anatomy could help me in my desire to understand life. Unfortunately, this study was impossible in Morocco, so I left my home country after obtaining my baccalaureate to continue my studies at the prestigious École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris, where I had the incredible luck of being admitted.

The Morphology department of this magnificent school is the best in the world and many artists have passed through — Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, Théodore Géricault, to name a few. And I had the honor to have great artists like Velicovic, Christian Boltanski, César Baldaccini as my teachers.

The study of the human body has not only an artistic purpose; above all a phenomenological, ontological, and therefore philosophical role. The practice of art—of the drawing of the human body is thus for me a simple quest of oneself and to find a meaning with this world, which otherwise, can make no sense.

Painting by Said Bouftass.

Tell me about Draw in Love, LLC?

Before moving to Elizabeth City (three weeks ago now) I lived in Austin, Texas where I met Beth Remsburg who also lived in Austin. Beth is an amazing Graphic Designer and professor.

In April, Beth moved to Elizabeth City where she realized the many interesting things to do with art. While having a nice chat on Zoom, as we do every night, she told me about the possibility of creating something together in Elizabeth City. I was seduced by the idea. I came for three days to visit the city and Beth. I fell in love with this quiet little town and immediately decided to plan to move there.

We immediately set to work to build and create a project around drawing of the human body to share and show the love and true passion of art and life. And so “DrawInLove” was born.

What can a person with no experience in art learn from your workshop?

Drawing the human body is above all a human experience. We don’t have to be artists to do it. Everyone — children and adults — can and should live this experience to delight their perception and to realize how irreplaceable drawing the human body is and how wonderfully elusive our corporeality can be.

So everyone should draw and for our workshops, no knowledge or mastery is required.

Are your workshops virtual or in-person?

Physical presence is necessary in our workshops. Because on the one hand the life-size blackboard drawing is necessary, and on the oth~er hand, having this experience in a three-dimensional space is vital. It cannot be replicated on screen or in a two-dimensional space. For these reasons, all our workshops take place in real life.

What are some techniques you use to demonstrate the anatomy of the human body?

We offer a theoretical course and a practical course. During the theory class, I explain and draw on the blackboard. As previously mentioned, a life-size blackboard for drawing is of absolute importance for both.

In the theory course, I start with a sketch and then choose, in consultation with the students, a part of the body, explaining the position, shape, and physiology of the skeleton and then the insertions and shapes of the muscles. The participants can take notes and also ask questions. For this, I can work a live model but it is not mandatory.

During the practical sessions, the live model is necessary. The students then take their turn at the blackboard to draw and to make the “écorché” otherwise known as “the study of the skeleton and the muscles.” The size of the blackboard and the impermanence of chalk, inhibitions are set free. Then we have a drawing session on paper and not on the blackboard.

“I draw the body to express my secret and carnal belonging to the world, to experience my physicality, even more, to better embrace the world and the society that surrounds me, to finally explore the invisible membranes of the being.”

Painting by Said Bouftass.

How do you describe phenomorphology of the human body? and what does the term mean?

“Morphê” in ancient Greece language means ”form” or “shape”. Morphology of the human body, therefore, is the study of the form and shape of the human body.

Phenomenology of perception is perceived as a “Phenomena”, how to establish contact with reality.

“Phenomorphology of the human body” combines phenomenology of perception and morphology of the human body. This is a new school of thought which I humbly created.

According to Mouniart, you have been described as “the greatest specialist in artistic anatomy in Morocco.” How does that description make you feel?

I am the only or the first in Morocco to have had two PhDs, the first in Fine Art and the second and Philosophy of Art. I was also the only anatomy artist in Morocco. Let’s just say that I am a real crazy passion for drawing the human body…hahaha.

So, you’re originally from Morocco what are some challenges you had to overcome to get to where you are as a master in your craft?

Interesting question. Firstly, the subject of the representation of the human body is a taboo subject, but not to say forbidden in Morocco. Secondly, the question of “Nude” is absolutely impossible in Morocco. This made my art very difficult to share and exhibit. But the presentation of the “écorchés” (the body without skin, anatomical presentation) is allowed since it suggests a scientific understanding and medical data. This subject is very rich in information and perhaps deserves a special interview, or as I often say “to be continued.”

What artistic vibe do you want to give to the people in the Elizabeth City community?

Our workshops lead us back to the discovery of the miracle of our body, to the incredible beauty of its forms and physiology, to the richness of the movements, shapes, and intelligence of our hands. From the miracle of walking; to the depth of the eyes and the visible and invisible of a GAZE; From the encounter with the fascination of our own “CORPOREALITY”. Finally, our workshops have an artistic, human, and above all therapeutic purpose.

How do you want your guest to feel when they experience your creativity in the AoA Gallery on First Friday?

Our experience at AoA Gallery was very interesting and moving. We love connecting with visitors and friends.

What makes the human anatomy beautiful to you?

This is a chapter from my book: “Le dessin d’observation, Meditation Phenomenologique” (The Observational Drawing, Phenomilogical Meditation).

(in my humble translation from my book in the French language).

SAID ON THE HUMAN BODY:

My body is the palpable reality to which I am attached at every moment, my point of insertion in the universe, my point of impact in reality. My body is the first sign of my existence, it is the dimension of my presence in the world. I do not have only a body, but I am definitely this body.

It is a question of making the specificity of my bodily dimension the very essence of my humanity. My relation to the body is inherent to my deepest unconscious, inherent in my fantasies and my dreams.

I feel like I know what I’m talking about when I refer to drawing the human body. It’s amazing how, once I start drawing and observing it, I can be naturally blind to its mystery. I am in fact constantly relearning it, rediscovering it. In every field, the body imposes itself as a pivot, as a center. While it is the obviousness itself, it manages to manifest itself by being the antipodes of what it claims to be. It is necessary to return to the drawing of observation of the body to promote not only a renewal of the studies on the body but also and especially a transformation of my perception and my attitude towards it.

The human body as a subject of study imposes great rigor in my perception. My thinking is conscious of its richness and complexity. It cannot ignore the difficulty of the project of its representation. It deploys all its energy of concentration and perception.

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To discover more of his work you can connect and follow him on Instagram: @saidbouftass

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