Israeli artist, former sniper, paints with gunfire

Former combat soldier paints with live fire: “Takes something negative and turns it into positive.”

By World Israel News Staff

An Israeli artist has come up with an innovative method of expressing himself by combining the shooting skills he learned as an IDF combat soldier with painting on canvas, Ynet reported.

David Roitman, 41, spent too much time under fire two decades ago as a young soldier fighting in the Jenin refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield.

“There is not a day that I do not think about those events in the Jenin refugee camp. Although almost 20 years have passed since then, for me it is as if it happened yesterday,” Roitman told Ynet. Since his release from the army, however, Roitman has focused on art, becoming a successful businessman who owns a Judaica company.

Having “decided to change the world and make it better,” he began by making designer skullcaps (kippot). Though the venture earned him some ridicule in the beginning, his line became a worldwide success.

“Today I am already making collections of kippot with designers on celebrities from around the world,” Roitman said, adding that his brand includes dozens of products, from kippot to fitness weights with Jewish designs.

Warrior past

“One of the things I got from military service was to be a professional sniper. In the service I was taught how to snipe with moving targets in complex situations. I felt it was not just a technical tool but part of my hands,” he said.

But these days, art is everything for Roitman.

“I am a person who lives art. Everything I see, whether it is a feather falling on the floor or a building falling apart on the street, evokes in me some kind of association. Many times it develops into a desire to express it in art,” Roitman explained, saying he started studying painting and sculpture at age six while growing up in Odessa before his family made aliya.

“I was always painting. Even in the busiest times, like in military service. It was mental therapy,” Roitman said, saying that the idea came to him a few years ago to replace the paint brush with a firearm.

“The idea to paint by shooting came naturally and strangely. I finished my reserve service in December 2019. At that time I was looking for how to express my feelings and ideas. I wanted my own way of putting my ideas on canvas. Suddenly I realized that all my adult life I used weapons to achieve goals,” Roitman said. He then decided to fire the bullets at paint, not people.

“This creative process is complex and innovative. It’s something I invented in modern art. I use canvas, containers with paint and firearms. In the first stage I add all sorts of shapes to the canvas. In the second stage I choose the colors or mix them. In the third stage I shoot into the paint bags, and then comes the fourth and final stage – taking down the canvas and exposing the perfect painting,” Roitman said.

Planning each painting is like “the preparation of any military operation. It is clear to me in advance what the idea is and how I implement it: what the work will be, what colors and what exact amount of paint will be poured on the canvas,” he added. “That the result will be accurate and perfect. There are other complexities, such as how to stabilize the canvas so that the shooting does not ruin the image.”

Roitman currently uses a 9-millimeter Glock pistol, and at shooting ranges outside of Israel he has used an M4 and a sniper rifle.

“It leaves larger holes [in the canvas] but also pours paint with greater intensity,” he explained.

Make art, not war

When reminded that shooting is usually meant to kill and seems to contradict the the idea of art, Roitman agreed that the goals of shooting are negative, to kill or destroy.

“Here I take the negative and make it positive. That’s why the project is called ‘Make Art Not War,'” Roitman said. “It’s also a call to the world, to make the negative into positive.”

Prices for Roitman’s gun art start at $5,000 for standard size, and run as high as $30,000.

“Those who buy the works are mainly lovers of Judaica and modern art in Israel and abroad,” said Roitman, who already has plans for bigger art projects.

“Gunfire from a tank on a five-by-five-foot canvas. I’m going to do that in the next few days in Ukraine, where I’m staying now,” he said.