An Interview with Shimshi: Illusionist, Magician, and Artist
Shimshi, an illusionist and magician, has shaken up the entertainment world. Originally from Israel, Shimshi is known for his logic-defying magic shows and social media presence. Recently, Shimshi has taken up a new trick– painting with his feet. Arts Help Managing Editor Hannah Chew sat down with him to discuss his work and newfound talent.
Tell me about your work and your magic.
So I started doing magic when I was very young, but I always loved to do so many different things like playing the guitar, drawing, martial arts, all the different kinds of arts. I’ve been making the living doing magic for the past 20 years. I moved here from Israel and since quarantine started, I developed a new talent: painting with my feet.
How did you get the idea to even try painting with your feet?
The pandemic kind of gave me the idea because I was doing a lot of magic shows all over the world, and as soon as the pandemic started, I had to adapt and essentially start doing virtual shows. That made me think what if other things went away, like my hands. I got my hands insured, but never gave it too much thought. I started thinking “Maybe one day I lose my hands, then what do I do?”
I started to come up with ideas of doing magic tricks without using my hands and just using my feet. One of the ideas that I had was somebody thinking of a celebrity, and I just paint it with my feet! Quarantine gave me a lot of practice time, which was much needed. It was extremely difficult.
What does your creative process look like?
It's different because I’m painting celebrities, and it's not like I’m painting my own art or anything like expressive. My creative process is more targeted towards the platforms that it's being presented on, like Instagram and Tiktok.
It sounds crazy, but it's not enough to just paint with your feet, you have to grab their attention within the first three seconds. You had to kind of create a storyline. I started off by doing a painting of just a smiley face, but the creative part is how I turn it into a hidden portrait once the painting is flipped over. There’s this surprise element, so in my creative process, it’s more about the storytelling and entertaining.
Who knows maybe one day I’ll even create expressive pieces of art with my feet!
Where is the intersection for you between making art and also performing?
It’s different being an entertainer and garnering an audience especially through social media, so when you talk about art versus performance art it's very difficult. When you do art it, is strictly for yourself, you don't care what anybody else thinks about it or, to be exact, you shouldn't care what anybody else thinks about it. It's your creative process or wherever it gets you, it gets you. That's why there's an idea of the “starving” artist, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them.
For performance art, you have to bring in your art and your personality and say something with your work, but at the same time, there's an audience. You do have to consider what the audience is going to say, so it is a fine line. You can't do everything based on what people are going to think about it, but you can't just do whatever you want. It’s kind of an interesting medium where you can express yourself while people are still entertained.
How has social media impacted you and your work?
It hasn't impacted me too much, I've been amazed and grateful for all the attention. When you do magic on social media people are usually like “I know how it's done, it's a camera trick.” Now, I’m not even doing a magic trick, I’m just painting with my feet and people are coming up with more amazing theories than I’ve ever heard.
For a lot of my work, it’s not a magic trick it's just a lot of hard work. It’ll sound corny, but I believe that if anybody practiced enough, they can achieve what I’m doing. This is how the whole “painting with my feet” thing started: hard work. I kept wondering if I couldn't do magic with my hands, would I quit or would I rise to the challenge? I couldn't even draw this well with my hands before, but once I came up with the idea, I
started working on it. I flew to San Diego and studied with somebody, and then started practicing a lot with my feet. Honestly, it was more hard work than talent, and love what it ended up being. I think it looks beautiful, if I may so myself.
I’m glad that it's getting all the attention on social media. It's a new world, and I've passed the age of being cool on social media, so I’m just doing what I love. I want to get everybody on social media entertained, and hopefully, a little bit inspired.
What’s been your favorite performance and/or piece?
My favorite is my portrait of Juice World. It’s not as popular as my painting of Weekend, but I loved doing all the color work. The video works with the lyrics of the song, and to me, that was the most artistic thing that I’ve done so far.
Where are you planning on taking this series? What’s next for your work?
For now, I’m just enjoying doing work for social media. I do a lot of virtual shows, a lot of companies are hiring me to do virtual magic. It’s awesome, I really enjoy it because it's not just watching a YouTube video, I am actually doing the magic through the screen. The magic happens in people's hands, at their home, I can read their mind through the computer. I love doing those virtual shows. I’m
incorporating the painting into my virtual shows, where I have somebody think of a celebrity, and then reveal my painting of the person.
How have you adapted to this online format?
I’m glad it's an option, you know if you're talking about 10 or 20 years ago, this wouldn't have been an option at all. It’s been tough obviously, especially in the first month or two, but it just goes to show you that you can change and adapt. I know everybody's situation is different, but I like being creative, I like problem-solving. I’m an optimist, and I’m very grateful for where I am now.
What advice would you give to young creatives and young magicians?
My biggest advice to artists, and really applies to everybody, is to live in the moment. Enjoy the moment when you're starting out. When you’re doing magic or art, you always want to get the big show, you want to be recognized. You will realize along the way that if you love what you do, it doesn’t matter if I’m performing for people on the street or if I’m performing on a big Las Vegas. What I love is seeing the reactions on their peoples’ faces when I do amazing things.
While it's always important to follow your goals, and aspire to do more, you need to stay with your passion and realize as long as you do what you love, you’ll be okay. Just keep going with your passion, enjoy it, and appreciate the moment.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I try. I don't like to watch the news, I like to be inspired so I watch other artists that inspire me. From Will Smith to painters to Quentin Tarantino, I like to watch people’s creative process. I just watched an interview with Jeff Bezos, and instead of being jealous and hating on him, I try to listen and see how he thinks and how he got there. I get inspiration from successful people, looking at their success, and believing that anyone can be there as well. I get my inspiration from all kinds of business people, artists, humanitarian workers, and even Elon Musk!
For more information, visit https://shimshimagic.com/