A sand artist in Oman

Liju Cherian –
MUSCAT, mar 3 –

Escaping the worst Greek economic debt crisis in a way helped him to pursue his dreams. This talented all-in-one artist moved to the Sultanate much before the ‘Greek Depression’ which enabled him to blossom as an artist.
Nikolaos Zarras from Trikala, Greece, is a sand artist, painter, photographer, and puppeteer. Ever since he moved to Oman six years back, ‘Nick’ as he is called, has helped boost his confidence and move forward in life.
Nikolaos, is a varied artist, who is enchanted by the forts, mosques, and nature of Oman. This has given wings to his abilities, opening up opportunities for his works.
A ferocious looking lion made of ‘pure sand’ with a piercing glance welcomes you as one enters his studio-cum-villa in Bausher. Sand art, Nikolaos says, has huge scope in Oman. When a person finally sees his technique and the actual final piece that is created they are astonished and want to know more about it. “I do believe that sand art is a technique that needs to be appreciated,” says Nikolaos.
Working in cooperation with Lakis Apostolidis, the famed Greek pioneer, who was a legend in puppet making, helped him hone his skills in traditional puppet theatre. He is also exploring ways and opportunities to promote puppeteering in Oman in various educational schools.
Nikolaos says puppetry offers great educational programme for kids and adults to participate in and collaborating with the local history in Oman. With so much of current focus on electronic media for children, the wonders of puppet play are often overlooked, he admits.
His other passion is working for kid’s rooms with Walt Disney cartoon characters. He has so far worked up his interest on cartoons, on few baby rooms in Bausher and Qurum. One of his favourite rooms was for Illyas, a little boy, from Bausher. His room was made more special because he was playing around watching him painting his room which was modelled on skyscrapers of Dubai and the room lights up at night with phosphorous paint with his name on it. He also decked up another playroom for about three girls, which was about fairies and princess. He also painted other rooms as well with mural themes.
Nikolaos also worked on coffee shops and Greek restaurants and has done interior design works for few houses locally as well as huge signage for a compound.
The coming months look very hectic for Nikolaos as he gets set to hold a solo exhibition at a prime art gallery. The exhibition will finally launch him as a photographer of repute as he already possesses some unique intrinsic images shot in Oman. He has about 50 or more of his photography with water colour effect through Photoshop to amazing effects.
Over the years, Nikolaos has broadened his skills and expertise which includes oil paintings, iconography and wall paintings. His portfolio contains developing baby rooms, churches, restaurants, interior decoration and cartoon characters which he helped create both in Greece and the UK.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nikolaos started at the young age of 7 years. It was his South African first grade art teacher Ms Julia who shaped his artistic career. She was a great pillar of support that inspired him to continue painting as she always believed in him becoming an artist.
Drawing was a natural obsession for him at a young age. He moved back to Greece and completed Junior High at the age of 16, while still having painting as a passion. Later, he attended the Fine Art Department at Polytechnic School of Trikala, Greece, studying design, history of art, sculpture, traditional crafts, and puppet making.
He moved to Athens to study at the Athens Technical and Arts Institution, majoring in Conservation of Ancient Monuments and Works of Art. He taught not only design and restoration, but crafting and nature of all materials used in art through the ages. He then moved on to work in Athens as a puppet designer, theater set designer, creator of children festival sets, interior designer, theater and television animator puppet show and set maker. And from then on, there has been no looking back.
Oman holds good potential for this talented artist which is trying to fully exploit to the maximum. Nikolaos is on the lookout for more opportunities be it as a sand artist or painting on water colours, sketching or wall paintings.