Raoof Haghighi is an Iranian-born British artist, known for his portraiture and realism.
He was born in 1976 in Shiraz, Iran. His father was an artist and it was in Iran where he started to learn painting; he is a self-taught artist. Since 1995, he has had many groups and solo art exhibitions internationally, including in Iran, the United Kingdom, United States, Czech Republic, Spain, and Ireland.
His artworks have been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery BP Portrait Award 2011 – 2015 & 2017, Threadneedle Prize 2012 – 2013 & 2014, RBA Royal Society of British artists 2014, 2015 & 2016 – Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP) 2014 – 2015 & 2017. Sky Arts portrait artist of the year 2014– London Heat winner, featuring in Sky Arts TV – November 4th, 2014. He was also chosen Overall Winner of ARTIST OF THE YEAR 2011 by Artist & Illustrators -the UK’s number 1 magazine for original art.
In 2017, he has crowned the winner of the Gold Memorial Bowl award for best miniature work nominated by the Royal Society of Miniature Painters – Winner of The Mundy Sovereign Portrait Award 2019 (Royal Society of Miniature Painters) and the winner of two awards for best pure colored pencil and Great art award for best other subjects at Annual UK Coloured Pencil Society Open International Exhibition.
His paintings are mostly oil on canvas and built upon his interest in the changing world of today. His work often combines contemporary ideas with traditional techniques. In his paintings, he has quite often questioned the attitudes, fears, conflicts, incompatibilities, and unwritten rules which have formed our environment and our behavior within it.
Raoof’s paintings are part of many private collections worldwide, especially in Iran, Spain, China, Denmark, Thailand, France, The UK, and The USA.
ZH: Thank you, Raoof for this interview! Let’s begin by telling us more about yourself?
Thank you so much for the invitation. I am a self-taught artist and musician currently living in the UK since 2009. I was born in a beautiful city in Iran called Shiraz where I learned art and music.
ZH: Let’s go back a few years. How did your interest in art begin?
I was born into an artistic family, and I started painting at age 3. My father is an artist, and I remember as a child I used to love looking at his paintings and the way he worked with colors and landscapes. I used to get lost in his paintings and could actually travel into them.
My father is one of Iran’s highly respected ceramicists and painters in traditional Persian art. As I grew older, I fell in love with so many different styles and I was always especially interested in painting people.
ZH: When did the idea occur to you that you could pursue art as a career?
When I was in high school, I won the first prize in the county Art festival for students, and that was a great encouragement for me. The first time I won was for a painting of a beautiful landscape of the Iran countryside. I realized that perhaps I could pursue art as a career.
ZH: What do you find so compelling about painting realistic portraits?
I like details and I like painting people. Painting realistic portraits are very enjoyable and satisfying for me especially when I need to put lots of attention and focus on a small part of the painting for hours. Usually, I paint portraits and people, but I don’t limit myself to those subjects. I follow my feelings; I paint anything that satisfies my inner-self.
ZH: How do you define the depth of your engagement with your paintings?
I like traditional painting methods where facial expressions and figures, spaces, and symbols all are important and meaningful. I often combine contemporary ideas with traditional techniques. In my paintings, I often question the attitudes, fears, conflicts, incompatibilities, and unwritten rules which have formed our environment and our behavior within it. Painting people is fascinating for me because everyone has a story, and I like to capture those stories, feelings, and emotions in my paintings. My connection with the model is important as well.
ZH: During your art journey, who inspired you the most?
I love many artists that inspired me during my journey. I can get inspiration from everyone, but to name a few I love, Andrew Wyeth, Leonardo Da Vinci, Picasso, and Vermeer.
ZH: How do you work? What’s your typical day like?
I am very disciplined when it comes to my work. Normally I start painting at 9 am and it goes on until whatever time I feel like stopping. Sometimes it can be up to 14 hours a day. I work hard and sweat it out in silence. I try to go for a long walk every day which refreshes my mind and soul. When I am tired of painting, I switch to recording music or playing the guitar.
ZH: What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am painting a portrait of Rob Macaire, the British Ambassador in Iran.
ZH: What’s next for you?
I would like to travel to different parts of the world as I know every place can inspire my work with new subjects and ideas. Sometimes I’m out in public during my normal day and I see someone with wonderful features and I think, I must paint them!
ZH: Thank you for being with us at ZH.
Thank you for the wonderful invitation and keep up the inspirational work.
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