Festival All-Star: Suliman Nawid, Artist and Costume-Maker Extraordinaire

Article by: Tessla Venus Goodwin|@GlitterSpies

Mon October 23, 2017 | 10:00 AM

Costumes and dressing up are integral parts of festival culture, but Suliman Nawid takes them to a whole next level. Drawing and painting for most of his life, Suliman has pushed his art outside the bounds of canvas and onto his own body. Some of his cartoon-inspired looks are so well-done, it’s hard to believe there is a real person under the paint. When it comes to festivals, Nawid is a regular at Burning Man, and is continually inspired by the freewheeling nature of festival environments and hopes to spread that inspiration to others through his art. He is already well on his way to accomplishing his goal, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

In the meantime, we hope this Festival All-Star's work inspires you this Halloween and Día de Los Muertos

Your Día de Los Muertos look at Burning Man captured by Scott London in 2013 went completely viral. How does festival culture fit into what you do?

Burning Man 2012 Scott London 2
Photo by: Scott London

Festivals are all about expressing yourself and sharing what you love with the community, and to have [my work] be appreciated and well received from a non judgmental and accepting place [is great]. Festivals have inspired me to take my art to the next level and completely burst open my creative capacity. I remember being at Burning Man for the first time and literally being in tears everyday. I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. All the art, the costumes, the mutant vehicles, and mostly, the people. They were the biggest work of art in my mind. With their compassion, warmth and kindness came a wanting for me to be the same. I've probably experienced a year's worth of personal growth in one week of Burning Man. That's why festivals are dear to my heart and I make it a plan to try to experience as many different ones as possible. They bring you closer to yourself.

When and how did you get introduced to the festival scene?

Suliman Nawid Michael Smith 2015 Festival Allstar
Photo by: Michael Smith

It was my dear friend Lyn who introduced me to the festival scene. He gifted me with a ticket to Burning Man and, with that first festival experience, my whole life shifted.

What are your favorite festivals and why?

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Photo by: Suliman Nawid

Burning Man still remains my number one festival. Nowhere else on Earth have I experienced such inspiring beauty as I do at the Black Rock Desert. The art, the people, the love and the lessons are all things that continue to bring me back year after year.

What is your favorite look you've donned at a festival?

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Photo by: Suliman Nawid

My Día De Los Muertos Matador look is still my favorite. It took me weeks to make and the end result was one I was very proud of and couldn't wait to share with the world. And [I'm] happy to say that it was well received.

Since your Día de Los Muertos look was captured in 2013, you’ve been seen in a variety of sugar skull face paintings. Where did that inspiration come from?

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Photo by: Michael Smith

It came from the Día de Los Muertos celebrations in San Francisco. When I was about 19 my best friend took me to the parade and asked if I ould paint our faces for it. We looked up images online and I instantly fell in love with the look. So intricate, colorful and full of life. Nothing like what I expected a skull to look like. But experiencing the parade and event was what pulled me in. The parade was such a lively event. Instead of mourning people were celebrating the lives of their lost loved ones. My mom passed away when I was younger and I brought a picture of her to put on an altar as well. I remember that night just remembering all the great times we shared and the laughs we had. It really shifted the way I thought about death, and to this day the thought of a loved one who isn't around anymore is not a sad one. And the sugar skull represents that for me. With each colorful pattern and stroke of the brush I depict an image that symbolizes beauty and eternal love.

What are your costume plans for Halloween?

Suliman Nawid 2015 Festival Allstar
Photo by: Suliman Nawid

It's funny because I still don't know. I dress up year-round, so Halloween just seems like another day. I'm pretty sure I'll end up thinking of something the night before and whip it up in a frenzy. Sometimes I work best under pressure. It forces me to let go of any structures and let my hands do the work.

When did you start painting?

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Photo by: Suliman Nawid

I've been drawing since I was a little kid and painting [since] around the age of 15. My aunt bought me my first set of brushes and oil paints. I instantly fell in love with the medium. It was such a beautiful expression of my drawings. To be able to add color and motion to them really brought them to life and expanded my artistic creativity. It sparked the need to want to expand even more with art and find more challenges.

When did you start painting your face?

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Photo by: Suliman Nawid

It all started during Halloween in college. I had a lot of drag queen friends who would want me to do their makeup. They would see the images of all these gypsies, superheroes and female villains that I'd paint and ask me to do that on their faces. From there, I would end up painting myself night after night in my room, practicing techniques, and perfecting my craft.

What kind of paint do you use?

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Photo by: Suliman Nawid

Krylon is my go to brand. The quality and consistency of their makeup and paints is one that I can always rely on to be one of the best.

Your costumes are totally next level. What inspires you?

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Photo by: Suliman Nawid

Life. People. Everything around me. I walk around the city late at night, when no one else is awake and find inspiration all over the place. In a lonely mural along Mission Street or a deep conversation with a homeless man in the Tenderloin. I've probably been to every gallery in San Francisco and continue to visit as many museums and art shows as possible to feed my soul. Seeing the world through another artist's perspective is such a beautiful thing as well. Their pieces help open my eyes and heart to a different way of thinking, and if they are really good, will trigger some kind of emotion in me.

What is your goal with your art?

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Photo by: Suliman Nawid

I want to inspire people with my art. To change people's perspectives and to trigger emotions in them. Hopefully happy ones. Art saved my life. It has gotten me through the darkest of times and really been a friend to me when I felt lonely. I want to give someone hope through my different mediums. To always dare to dream big and to never give up that good fight.