LIFE / CULTURE
Egyptian artist turns pencil tips into delicate miniature sculptures
Published: Jun 06, 2022 05:43 PM
On a table at his home in Rosetta, a port city in northern Egypt, self-taught artist Ibrahim Bilal displayed a variety of his signature mini sculptures made with pencil tips.

With some 80 pieces of work featuring landmarks and famous people in Egypt and beyond, the 30-year-old artist said he was inspired four years ago to thoroughly grasp the art form after watching videos of a Chinese artist carving pencil lead into sculptures.

"I took the idea and started to develop it," he told the Xinhua News Agency, noting this art was initiated only two decades ago.

Fond of ancient Egyptian icons, Bilal dedicated one of his earliest works to the world-famous Rosetta Stone, an ancient Egyptian relic inscribed with three versions of a decree unearthed in his city and has been kept in the British Museum.

"Being the first Egyptian to master this kind of art, I wanted to depict the Egyptian antiquities in a modern way," Bilal noted.

A golden mask of the young Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun, the sitting statue of King Amenhotep III and the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti are among his most impressive pieces.

He also chiseled modern Egyptian landmarks such as Cairo Tower and famous figures like Egyptian soccer player Mohamed Salah.

Through his deft hands, landmarks across the globe, including the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, emerge on the pencil tips.

Bilal uses a microscope for an enlarged view, a set of pen cutters or carving detail knives, and quality pencils mostly made in Germany or China while working.

The size of each sculpture doesn't exceed 6 millimeters unless it's a tower, and each takes an average of 10 hours to finish. Some may take him more than 40 hours like his dearest King Tut's mask.

After graduating from law school, Bilal taught himself to be a painter professional enough to give painting classes to junior artists.

He started taking part in exhibitions two years ago. The first exhibition was in the Museum of Islamic Art while the second was in Cairo Opera House in late 2021, besides some other workshops and private exhibitions.

"We use magnifying glasses to allow visitors to see the showcased works in detail without having to come too close to them," Bilal said, noting the feedback from visitors has been good.

These pieces are so delicate and fragile that has to be wrapped in tissues before sliding into a lab tube for temporary storage.

"For permanent preservation, we have designed a case of acrylic and wood with installed lighting," Bilal explained.

The man doesn't mind offering his artworks for sale as long as they are appreciated.

"It was a pencil. But once I turned it into a sculpture, it becomes a work of art and it has to be treated as art as well," he said.