Salavat Fidai is working proof that artists need not create large pieces to make a name for themselves.
Much of what he creates is no bigger than the tip of a pencil — literally.
Under the glow of a single work light while his family sleeps, Fidai uses a craft knife and 4x magnifying glass to create tiny sculptures out of pointy pencil lead.
The creations come in full view only after Fidai uses a macro lens and photographs them to reveal the great detail of faces, hands and objects left by his slow, deliberate blade. One pencil sculpture, a fist with the word “Freedom” inscribed on the arm, was a tribute to the artists of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, murdered by terrorists earlier this year.
The work goes out to followers of Fidai’s Instagram feed before it is posted for sale.
The son of art teachers, Fidai was a lawyer near his home of Ufa, Russia, when he was laid off last year. Rather than find another office job, Fidai devoted himself full-time to art and says now he is able to help provide for his family by selling his miniature works, photographs and regular-size paintings on Etsy. His customers are from the United States, Australia and Europe but few from his homeland.
“Our people love art but there is a big crisis in Russia and (art) is not a prime necessity for them,” Fidai told Cult of Mac. “If is my source of income and I can’t leave them for myself. Perhaps some time, I will collect some pencils to be able to make an exhibition.”
His pencil carvings, his favorites being busts of Batman and Darth Vader, are inspired by another pencil artist, well-known miniature master Dalton Ghetti.
The Darth Vader sculpture did not come until the seventh try and several broken leads, Fidai said.
His miniatures are not limited to pencils. A favorite canvas of Fidai’s is the humble pumpkin seed, its smooth, white surface perfect for tiny copies of Van Gogh’s Starry Night or Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. He also has a series of portraits based on characters from Star Wars and the television show Breaking Bad.
Van Gogh is one of Fidai’s favorite artists, and he often pays tribute by re-imagining one of the Post-Impressionist painter’s self-portraits on top of a box of stick matches. “Many people want to have in their collections ‘Little Van Gogh,'” Fidai said. “I plan many different experiments in art for future.”
Fidai says devoting his life to art is worthwhile — and he’s passing along his enthusiasm to his children.
“At the office, I worked only six hours. And now I work for 12 hours, seven days a week,” he said. “I am happy. My children will be artists, too. My son learned pencil carving and recently sold his first carved pencil.”
Fidai is producing a video on his pencil-carving process, which he plans to post to YouTube. Below is a sped-up video of the tedious work to create Starry Night in miniature.