Noma Bar Interview

noma bar

Noma Bar is a man of few strokes. But don’t let the simplicity fool you. His talent lies in his efficiency in depicting characters and social issues. With bold colors, shapes and one or two icons he captures the spirit of a person. Other times he communicates a message on a social issue with amazing clarity while adding a bit of humor to everything. Whether the message is about violence or equality, his straight-forward visual approach is refreshing.

How does your background influence your work?

I was born in the north of Israel in 1973. Israel was a young country with lots of influence from the Bauhaus school. The architecture had a lot of squares and straight lines. But there is also something else about Israel. There was the spirit of improvisation, in terms of how people create things, recycling and using ready-made.

Nevertheless it was quite sleepy and I didn’t want to stay there. Around my house there were original paintings. My mother was quite illustrative and playful. For example she made the handle of the toilet into a [silhouette of a] duck.  We also had Hello Kitty things around the house.

Before I came to London I studied Hebrew typography. I was trained as a typographer, not as a illustrator. And of course there was no great demand in London for a  Hebrew typographer. In my [current] work, I have typography influence. It’s like working with the elements of a letter. It’s coming to this idea, no nonsense, monumental shape.

noma bar

noma bar

noma bar

How do you describe your work?

Sometimes I would say visual communication. It is not exactly graphic design and not exactly illustration. I make brief illuminations. Putting light on the subjects and developing subjects is classic illustration. But it looks like graphic design. What I’m doing exactly, is part characterture and part politics. It is about the subjects. I’m a visual comedian, a graphic comedian. It is in a sense, less and less graphic design and more illustration. It needs to be funny. It needs to bring a smile. This kind of emotion is very important.

noma bar

noma bar

noma bar

How did you come to develop this style?

I’m attracted to actors that don’t use words. Maybe it is because I come from a foreign country and I have to do a lot of non-verbal communication. Comedy really influences me. I admire silent films because they have the ability to make people laugh without saying any words, basically doing visual things without talking. My work is like a comedy dialogue, short jokes, short stories. It quite similar to comedy in that it ends with a punch line.

How long does it take you?

It can take a couple of weeks or a day. It is different with different projects. Portraits are challenging. It is a struggle to find the right ideas. For me the idea has to comes first.

noma bar

What is the most challenging portrait?

They are all challenging. Britney Spears was pretty hard. People with beautiful faces are hard to capture with a few strokes. Her face is so balanced so it is hard to find something to grab onto. I prefer ugly faces, they are much easier. Nick Hornby took me ages. He has a large music collection. I was thinking about using a record, the outline of it.  I didn’t want to put two records. My challenge is to use one element and nothing extra.

noma bar

noma bar

What is your working process?

I do a lot of drawings. I have more than 60 sketch books. The sketch book is part of me, a on-going diary. When I go to the computer I already know what I’m doing.  Almost all the conceptualizing is done.

noma bar

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I like doing drawings in the Underground Tube. Sitting on the Tube is like a gallery of people of different  faces. Everyone capitulated in one line and they change all the time.  I also look where many people don’t look. For example things on the floor. A lot of things happen on the floor. I look at negative spaces. I would look at the space between two cars, instead of the cars. In a sense I’m always looking and getting all the wrong information.

I really like Highgate woods, this is actually part of my routine. In the morning I’m in the woods for a couple of hours a day. I try not to sit on the same bench. I need to find new benches so I can surprise myself.

noma bar

Are there any guidelines you live by as a illustrator or can give to other artists?

Find your own thing and find your inner voice. If it suites you, really give shape to it. It a journey.  Don’t be fascinated by what everyone else is doing. When people are always changing their styles they are not faithful to who they are. I can do a lot of things but I don’t.

Also think a lot. Think hard before you start to do something. I spend more time thinking than illustrating. I need to surprise myself with good ideas and not just illustrate beautiful pictures.

noma bar

noma bar

In a different life, what other career would you choose?
I would be a fine artist. I can wake up in the morning and express myself with no deadline. Make drawing with soap bubbles. I can take soap bubble and make a video.

Oh, I don’t really know. I also love sculpture. Perhaps mix it with sculpture. But today artists have to work on commission projects as well. This romantic dream of waking up and just doing art for fun is probably not realistic.

Name a few things that currently inspire you:
My new studio that I moved into a few months ago inspires me to make a lot of work. It is nice big place for myself. I’m in here 19 hours a day.

Rather than checking out outside things for inspiration, I’m constantly milking myself [of more work].  Where ever I am, I can find inspiration. Basic things, things that are very close to me help me work.

noma bar

Upcoming plans for this year?
On Feb 16th,  a new “What’s Up with Illustration 2″ Exhibition opens at the Mauger Modern Art gallery in Bath, UK. I also have a solo exhibition in April at KK Outlet, called Bitter Sweet.

Thanks Noma Bar for taking the time to talk us.

You can buy his books Guess Who and Negative Space on Amazon.

noma bar


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Also worth checking: Jason Munn / Small Stakes Interview.


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Great concepts. And the way he gets there is so simple, so elegant. Thanks for sharing – he’s a new inspiration.

Interesting guy. Very interesting work.

The Bush/Abu Ghraib one is especially powerful.

Alphonse |

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I agree, the portrait of Bush is Amazing!
Spock is quite nice too, that one should be a Tshirt.

Love this work. Very inspiring. The portrait of Chaplin is beautiful.

Andrew Williams |

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Cool work, This is a great quote :

“Also think a lot. Think hard before you start to do something. I spend more time thinking than illustrating. I need to surprise myself with good ideas and not just illustrate beautiful pictures.”

So simple and elegant. The Pulp Fiction and Charlie Chaplin pieces are my faves. Thanks for the new inspiration!

incredible minimalsm. thanks for introducing me to this designer.

grit |

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Pure genius! Communicating a message (sometimes complex) in a few simple strokes is brilliant! I try to do the same in my work, but the images above are in a class of their own.

Love Highgate Woods too, but you’ll normally see me running round them!


working without words to back you up is perhaps the hardest thing to do. cartoonists sergio aragones and mordillo both did so because they found themselves living in countries where they didn’t speak the local language, and they were better for those limitations. in this world of constant stimulation it’s very difficult to shut it all out and listen to one’s inner voice. thanks for the interview, great as usual.

andrew |

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The graphic / illustration work is superb – but difficult to interpret at times: I can only guess which one is George Bush / Abu Ghraib. The interview is good, too. In an era where people follow each other constantly (say all photographers produce very similar work), it is important to follow your own route, even if it means making your own mistakes!

I love this minimalist style – a lot of this reminds me of one of my favourite illustrators – milimbo
definitely worth a visit!

He communicates messages on social issues with cleverness and humor…kind of like me… I’m a cardboard robot bringing peace to the world! Easy to follow instructions! Twitter @Pax_101

Noma Bar makes not getting fascinated a very hard job. Chaplin, Saddam and the Mouse in a Cat in a Dog a my favorites so far. Great interview too!

Very interesting. Fantastic Lex Drewinski comes to mind when looking at this, google and see for yourself.

EXCELLENT Intervew, great work, lovely answers…!!!

DAf |

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Really love these clever illustrations. Amazing how emotional they are while so minimal. Great interview. Thanks.

An excellent blend of simplicity, humour, creativity and intelligence.

Lovely simple conceptual work, quite Polish Poster Design.
Good exhibition of said doings at Kemistry gallery in London.

John |

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This shows it again. Less is more. Very cool conceptual designs. Some pieces are such a great ideas.

wow. sublime designs. love everyone of them. Noma Bar – are you open to commissions?

David Flanagan |

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Its difficult to be simple, and he does it beautifully. I loved the Iran nuclear one and the woman with a hand betweeh her legs. Couldn’t have been more hard-hitting.

I think it would be wonderful if you all spent most of your time examining works of art and stayed off the streets and out of voting booths.

ricajim |

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l like this site, very interesting photos post, well done guys

I cannot praise this guy highly enough. The closest I have seen to perfection. Simple, witty, cool, poetic, intelligent and straightforward all at the same time.

I’m moved.

very cool collection! I like all images !

peace and grace but stunning pics!! amazing .

chen |

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sarah emanuel |

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I am inspired to see images of the meaning of life in simplicity and clarity myself.

veda kahn |

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Excelentes todos sus trabajos

Arturo Robles |

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Simple but amazing art work, Good interview of good artist.

Noma: out standing !!! wonderful work.
I want to know the name of the music with it, its also fantastic.
Thank you very much, from Argentina, Buenos Aires,

beatriz wolf |

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Surprenant, créatif, original, ce genre d’art m’amène à voir autrement. Merci Hélène Chrétien du Québec

Hélène Chrétien |

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וואו!כל הכבוד!גאוני,שנון! והוא משלנו! :-) המון הצלחה

Aya |

Features |