Artist Feature: Zain Mehdi

Zain Mehdi is a first year medical student at the Carver College of Medicine and a talented multimodal artist who works with graphite, oil paints, acrylics, watercolor, and more. The Appendix‘s Anna Graeff had an opportunity to interview him about the intersections between his art and the health sciences and how art is reflected in his daily life,

Q: What type of art do you create or have you created in the past?
I’ve found that my art is influenced by many different sources in my environment, whether it be
from a kids’ picture dictionary, spending time outside, finding inspiration online, or social issues I
have a passion for. I have played around with various media and topics, but I particularly love
acrylic painting and colored pencil artwork that combine realism and abstract art to express a

Q: When/how did you get into creating?
I began drawing and painting in kindergarten and have loved creating ever since.
In sixth grade I was taking online courses to improve my English skills, and that inspired me to
begin creative writing as well.

“At Sea,” acrylic paint
This painting depicts a ship at sea in the night with a highly textured painting style, reminiscent of Van Gogh’s painting technique.

Q: What does your creative process look like?
I like to doodle just for fun. On the flip side, when I make a large piece of art, I usually
research my topic of interest, begin sketching, and make edits to my original design before I
reach a final product. Large pieces that I create definitely have a more complex process that
goes into them.

Q: How is your art reflected in your daily life?
As cliché as it may sound, art is an outward expression of how I think and feel internally. My art
enables me to demonstrate what is important to me and allows others to gain greater insight
into my interests and concerns.

“Leeched of Life,” colored pencil and graphite pencil
This piece depicts a human heart leeched of color and much of its depth, shown in stark contrast with the vibrant blood vessel in the background. Emotional distress and depression can leech the color out of one’s life, not just on the outside but inside as well.

Q: What are you working on right now?
I’ve been meaning to write a novella and have started that process. In terms of art, I am working
on an acrylic painting of the hot air balloon festival in Cappadocia.

Q: Who/what is your inspiration? What art do you like to consume?
I have always liked the use of primary colors in Van Gogh’s paintings. I also enjoy the
composition of Chuck Close’s and Jonathan Darby’s portraiture. In terms of writing, Gerard
Manley Hopkins, W.B. Yeats, and Robert Frost are all poets that I admire.

“Snake Eye,” water color and colored pencil
This painting depicts a green tree viper in front of a green leaf with a large black eye drawing the viewers gaze.

Q: What would you like people to know about your art?
Interpret it however you want. I make my art for a specific purpose, and while some people
might find a similar meaning in it, others can find something new. In my opinion, art is a two-way
street. The creator’s perspective and the viewer’s perspective are distinct, and each person can
decide for themselves how they feel about it.

Q: Can you tell us about whether there is an intersection between your art and the health sciences?
There is an art in everything. The dexterity used in detailed art can be similar to the dexterity a
neurosurgeon requires to perform surgery. The sentiment expressed in an art piece can
showcase the complex emotions and struggles that are present in the health sciences.
Additionally, creative writing and art can educate consumers about the health sciences.

Q: How has creating your art changed you as a person?
As I mentioned, my art is an outward expression of my internal feelings and thoughts.
It has allowed me to be more aligned with my identity. Because of art, I feel that I have a better
understanding of myself and topics that are important to me.

“A veteran mind,” graphite pencil and acrylic paint
Soldiers and veterans of any country face immense trauma that can stay with them throughout life. In many cases, the horrors of war become the defining moments in their lives and can rarely be forgotten even, and especially, late in life.

About the Creator:

Artist: Zain Mehdi is an M1 at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. He previously studied molecular and cell biology and English at Cornell University. Originally from Pittsburgh, Zain has had a passion for drawing, painting, and writing since kindergarten.

Interviewer: Anna Graeff is an M2 at Carver College of Medicine with an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Iowa State University. She has two adorable pet Yorkies, which distract her from studying a lot of the time. She loves art and became interested in creating her own over the past year. Her favorite medium to create is embroidery.

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