An Interview With Zaria Forman 

The Environmental Artist


Zaria in front of Svalbard #33 (“Tberg”), 60x90”, soft pastel on paper, 2014 (photographer: Dustin Cohen) 

Zaria Forman is the leading artist in contemporary causal art. Her pastel icy tundras and animated waterscapes are enhanced by their climate-conscious message, but have the power and allure to stand on their own. 

From an early age, alongside her father: neuro-opthomologist, Scott Forman, and mother: renowned photographer, Rena Bass Forman, Zaria traveled to several remote areas of the world. Their mission: to photograph and stand witness to, the beauty and fragility of the globe’s most endangered landscapes. After her mother’s passing in 2011, the destination of Zaria’s new exhibition was set: Greenland, the country her mother wanted, but never got to visit. There, Rena’s ashes were scatted, Zaria’s environmental & artistic aspirations were solidified, and a legacy was passed on from mother to daughter. 

Fast forward to 2015: Zaria is now an internationally recognized artist and social media celebrity, who draws, shows, and sells, large-scale environmental scenes from her documented travels. The level of animation and realism she achieves in pastel, is executed through an age-old and highly- esteemed technique: finger painting. Strange as her process might sound, Zaria has the rare ability to elicit foaming waves, rhythmic waters, and glittering icecaps, that will leave you… breathless. 

You can find her work in the Mark Murray Gallery (NY, NY) or in the “Environmental Impact” traveling museum exhibition (currently in Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, SC). Upcoming exhibits this year include locations such as: Indiana, Louisiana, Kansas, and of course, NY (more info on her website), so don’t miss out on the chance to gawk at her work in person! 


Buy Prints: —


Instagram: @zarialynn

Twitter: @zariaforman 


Screen shot of Zaria’s video for Skidmore College:

1. Describe or name your favorite shade/color of pastel: 

Additional #49, Unison Colour Pastel- it’s dark, rich, and velvety!  


Zaria’s finger painting technique with soft pastels (photo source: @zarialynn)

2. How did you decide on pastels as your primary medium? And, what is the toughest part of working with them? 

I have always preferred soft pastels over the myriad materials I have experimented with. The process of drawing is stopped down and straight-forward; cut the paper, make the marks. A minimalistic approach is required as there isn’t much room for error or reworking since the paper tooth can hold only a few thin layers of pigment. I enjoy this challenge, and simplicity.


Greenland #72 , 60x60”, soft pastel on paper, 2014 

3. Water is an incredibly tricky subject to draw, especially when it’s portraying as much movement as yours do. But, since you make it look easy, what subject would you consider difficult to draw? 

Perhaps I make it look easy, but it never feels that way! Abstract compositions are far more difficult for me. As far as real subjects, anything with a lot of busy detail (like a field of wildflowers) would be very difficult, and require more patience than I have. 


Greenland #62

4. Do you remember a specific location or view from your travels, where you felt completely overwhelmed by the landscape? 

I remember many! The first that comes to mind is a day early in my 2012 trip to Greenland. It was so foggy in the morning that we could barely see anything more than 10 feet away. Gradually, a sparkly sunlight made its way through the thickness, illuminating the water and icebergs floating nearby. Greenland #62 and a few other drawings are from that morning. Eventually, the clouds broke and settled into a dense white line on the horizon. Black mountains loomed above the white line of fog, and towering icebergs drifted by in the foreground- it was spectacular and otherworldly! 


Zaria’s charcoal jellyfish 

5. If you weren’t drawing landscapes, what would you be drawing? 



Rena Forman’s “Yosemite Falls, CA” (2003) toned gelatin silver print 38x38” 

Clifford Ross’ “Hurricane LXIII” (2009)  archival pigment paint 73x129” 

William Bradford’s “Icebergs In The Arctic” (1882) oil on canvas  44.5x27.6” 

6. Name three other artists whose work and message you’re inspired by: 

My mother, Rena Bass Forman, Clifford Ross, and William Bradford. 


Brookyln studio (check out her insta to see pics of her new studio!) (photographer: Francois Lebeau) 

7. What are your feelings towards the Brooklyn art scene? Any artists neighbors who you would like to collaborate with? 

I live right down the street from Julie Heffernan, an amazing painter and kind individual. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few months ago and she has agreed to be in an exhibit I am co-curating. Other than that, I don’t really partake in the Brooklyn art scene. I spend every day in my studio making drawings, and do my best to make it out to climate talks and art exhibits every now and then. 


Zaria’s prints on Beau William’s TV series, ”House of Cards” on Netflix featuring Kevin Spacey 

8. Describe your dream gallery or show location: 

I suppose Gagosian Gallery or MoMA would be nice :) 


Like mother, like daughter… 

Rena Bass: Greenland #7 IIuIissat, 38x38”, sephia toned gelatin silber print, 2009 

Rena Bass: Patagonia #2A, Ice Mandala, 38x38”, toned gelatin silver print, 2004 

Zaria: Greenland #69, 50x50”, soft pastel on paper, 2014 

9. There is a beautiful similarity between your mother’s impressionistic, environmental photography and your own work. From your early travels together and growing up watching her work, name one piece of advice or lesson she taught you, that you still use to this day. 

Passion and patience were the two things that made my mother work so successful. She always said that she had been a polar bear in a past life, and watching her spend endless hours in the frigid winds, patiently and happily waiting for the moment when the light was right, gave me no doubts that this was true! She taught me the importance of loving what you do, carrying out projects full force, no matter what obstacles lay in the way. 


Zaria’s travel photos….not too shabby. 

10. Where would you like to travel to next? 

I have a long list of places, namely Antarctica, other areas of the Arctic that I haven’t seen, and numerous low-lying island nations such as Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, the Carteret Islands, and the list goes on! 


Enchanting work & stunning profile (photographer: Francois Lebeau) 


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