Ivan Debs – Illustrating Hope

"I feel everything the people feel, and as hard as it is, there is always a flame inside me that wants to spread hope and resilience, refusing to give up, to elevate the spirit."

Ivan Debs – Illustrating Hope
Omaia Jallad

Ivan Debs (Instagram) is a true polymath, seamlessly embodying the roles of artist, humanitarian, and activist, all while being an unwavering champion for Beirut. Through his poignant illustrations, Debs paints a canvas of hope that transcends the city’s challenges. His art breathes life into narratives where resilience emerges from the ashes, and beams of light pierce through the darkest moments. Every stroke of his brush becomes a reflection of the indomitable human spirit, capturing the essence of Beirut’s enduring hope in the face of adversity. Debs’s work stands as a visual testament, echoing the transformative power of optimism and reminding us that even in the most challenging circumstances, life can blossom anew, resilient and radiant.

When was it that you discovered your artistic voice, how did it happen?

If I remember well, I was very young,  three years old, and I started drawing all the animals I saw all the time. Then, later in my teenage years, living in Africa and during civil wars, I woke up very early to my need to express myself through art. This is when I discovered that I wanted to spread my message of humanity and life with my artworks. 


When starting your sketches, what is your creative process, and where do you typically get inspiration for your artwork?

Inspiration for my artworks comes from life, from the world, from our human condition and feelings, from nature and from God. The darkness and the light around us touches me deeply and I feel the need to put them out, and the sketching process starts when I have something to express, the messages in my head burn and my hand and eye try sketching as long as I need to have a most efficient way to spread my idea, for children and old to feel it.

Your illustrations embody hope and resilience. What inspires you to include these themes in your art, and how does visual storytelling contribute to the narrative of resilience?

I know the injustice and corruption of this world, even in my own life, and I feel everything the people feel, and as hard as it is, there is always a flame inside me that wants to spread hope and resilience, refusing to give up, to elevate the spirit. Even in the darkest night, there will always be a light somewhere to break it. This is the hope, in every child born.


How do you engage with the digital art community, and how has online collaboration impacted your creative journey?

Digital art allows me to send my messages as fast as I can, reacting to events on the spot, and it is also a way to be part of the evolution of art in society. Also, this online digital direction is so beautiful when we can connect and collaborate with people and artists around the world, enriching my own visions and ideas, a connection that can make my creative journey grow more.

Your transition from Africa to Lebanon is a unique journey. How has this cultural shift influenced and contributed to your creative force as an artist?

The transition between Africa to Lebanon is a unique journey, yet some people share it, and many people nowadays can relate to it, being from nowhere, a stranger in both, yet being from everywhere, a child of the world. This cultural shift only made me grow in what brings us together more than what divides us, as humans, and made me fill my work with influences from both and talking to all.

Your artwork has a fantasy-like quality, often spreading hope. How do you envision the role of fantasy in conveying messages of optimism?

Fantasy has always been part of my visual inspiration, it is a way to talk about reality with a poetic dreamy touch, allowing the messages, sometimes tough, sometimes soft, to be understood in a smooth way, to talk to the imagination of everyone. I think it is mostly about symbolism in my art, using fantasy to put symbols that will send my message straight to the heart.

Looking forward, what aspirations do you have for your artistic and humanitarian endeavours, and how do you hope to continue making a positive impact through your work?

The only impact I can hope to have is to touch the heart and soul of the youth, children, even one child, to continue spread love and respect, and I will try to continue to send my visual artistic messages and poetry, if it can ease some, trigger some, and continue to fight darkness if I can. If my art can send some love to some people, then it is the impact I want.  

For more stories of art and culture, like this interview with Ivan Debs, visit our dedicated archives.