it’s been almost seven years since i spent three incredible months living in a town called besançon, in the north east corner of france. so you can imagine my surprise when i was sifting through my tumblr feed and came across a blog called “the brick wall nyc,” run by a very talented girl that i met while living in france. odélia kammoun is a 24 year old human rights worker living in new york city, and her tumblr page is filled with pen and ink drawings of the people she’s encountered since moving there in september of this year. her black and white drawings are at times surrealist, at times abstract, but always entirely on point enough that you have no trouble imagining the people who inspired them. most are accompanied by words – short, clever observations, poignant stories, or three-word anecdotes.
“new york is basically an explosion of energy,” odélia tells me when i write to her to ask about the project. “there is so much going on here. going on a subway ride and watching people will give you enough to think about for the rest of the week.” most of her drawings and sketches are ones she works on during the subway ride home from work, in the few spare moments before bed, or while waiting for friends. “i draw every day, when i can find a minute in between things,” she explains, “with my drawings i am able to concentrate on other people than myself, which i can’t do with writing.”
that kind of thinking certainly punctuates her drawings; although they may be renderings of the world through her eyes, her drawings are selfless in a way that i consider worlds away from my own “art.” writing, especially blog writing, is more often than not, narcissistic and incredibly self-absorbed at best. odélia’s drawings, though they act as a kind of diary or journal, are honest and perceptive. but perhaps most importantly of all, they are so fun.
“i’ve always felt the need to express myself on paper,” she tells me when i ask how the project came about, “when i was younger and in high school, i would draw from time to time to illustrate some thought i couldn’t express in words. but i was never happy with my drawings so i would just dismiss it as a form of expression.” luckily for us, she never gave it up completely. odélia is a self-taught artist, who, surprisingly only started making art less than two years ago. after graduating from high school, she spent a year in rome before moving to tel aviv to work with sudanese refugees for amnesty international (i know, she’s had like 4 lives). tel aviv, she says, is where she made the decision to pursue art more seriously. “my ‘switch’ happened when hanging out with this very inspiring group of israeli artists,” odéalia explains, “from there, my drawings evolved slowly in the past year. now, i don’t write as much, i draw!”
“i am obsessed with variety in general; of people, places, atmospheres, languages, activities.” that much is clear in her drawings as well: somehow she is able to portray so many different personalities and situations through simple thematic sketches – she says a lot with very little. her inspirations come from everywhere and everything, but her influences are grounded in the people in her life. “my grandfather transmitted me a passion for fine arts, especially painting,” she says “the artists i met in flesh and bones are however the ones that have inspired me the most.”
for the time being, the brick wall serves primarily as a means for odé to stay connected with her family and friends back home in france. publishing drawings instead of writing emails, texts or facebook messages – a whole new way of keeping in touch. as for odélia? for now, she’s taking art classes, continuing to pursue her ‘saving the world’ endeavors, and exploring new york. “this city gives you the opportunity to be the best of yourself because everything is possible. i feel very free here.”
be sure to follow odélia on tumblr to see the full catalog of brick wall drawings, and to stay up to date with her latest adventures.