David Aharon Podbere has left his native Canada for Israel 12 years ago. Together with his wife Hadar, who works as a midwife, and their three children, he resides in the beautiful coastal city of Nahariya. He is a painter, illustrator, and author of children’s books.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am very connected to the traditional side of Judaism. I also have a strong connection to the land of Israel. Never felt like it was a choice to move here. Israel was pulling me here. I’m interested in the mystical side of Judaism. I find there is a wealth of beauty and inspiration to be found in the Hasidic tradition, and especially within the teaching of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I have been an artist all my life. My parents still have a drawing of a bird I made when I was three. If your question were what inspired me to be a professional artist, then the answer would have to be my wife! She is certain I have something unique and important to offer to the world. She keeps pushing me to create something for the art market.
What is your specialty?
I aim to express visually, the concepts found in Hasidic thought that I find so inspiring. Many are familiar with Rabbi Nachman’s famous phrase “it’s a great mitzvah to be happy.” However, most of his body of work is a closed book to people. It’s very hard to read even for Hebrew speakers. Unless you are close to a rabbi who received a good teaching from previous generations, in an unbroken chain from Rabbi Nachman himself, his books are rather inaccessible. I infuse the ideas that I learn into my paintings. While the original ideas may continue to be mysterious to the viewer, I hope that by enjoying the image they connect with the ideas behind the image on a visceral level. Once that deep connection is made, suddenly I’ve helped make contact between Rabbi Nachman and this generation!
How and where do you work?
I work at home. I look forward to moving to our new apartment where we will have an open space on the roof. Aside from generous use of the hammock, the space will also be a studio.
What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
The indispensable part of my workspace is not an item but the environment itself. It’s the peacefulness of working in a place comfortable for me.
Where do you take your inspiration? Are you pursuing any themes?
I have always loved Chagall. Also, as if I haven’t said it enough, a lot of inspiration comes from Rabbi Nachman!
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a cover for “Tikun Haclalli.” To describe it standing on one leg, it is a special set of prayers said by the students of Rabbi Nachman. A friend is planning on publishing about 20,000 of these little books and handing them out in Uman for Rosh Hashana, a time and place of pilgrimage for Breslov Hasidim. I am also working on a children’s book.
What is your favourite item in your current collection?
I think my favorite piece that I’ve done recently is called “Master of the Field.” I’m really happy with the composition and the colours. Also, I think it expresses the feeling that I wanted it to give.
How do you know when a piece is finished?
The truth is I don’t always know that the piece is finished. On a couple of pieces, I’ve come back to it at later date when the previous layer of paint has dried. On other occasions, the painting will tell me to stop and then I know it’s done.
Do you do bespoke work?
I do bespoke work. I will get asked to do a portrait, or someone will like a piece but want an altered version of it. Also, I do wedding and bar mitzvah invitations.
What was the first artwork you ever sold?
The first piece I sold was at my apartment before I got married. I was painting an angel with a lion’s face. A roommate’s friend loved it and asked if I could do the same lion but in a suit!
Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?
I’m happy with all the projects I’m working on right now. I most love the artwork that I do for myself. As I said, I’ve always been painting and only recently has it become professional. Painting for others (like the book cover for example) can be very challenging. But, I always know what’s pleasing to my own eye and hope others share the same tastes.
What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?
I’d love to add a little more beauty and happiness to this world through my art. I really want to finish my children’s book, however production on that keeps getting postponed!
Where can we find your work?
© David Aharon Podbere