'Touching my dreams': Designer turns ideas into surreal images

Story highlights

  • Artist Hüseyin Şahin turns his dreams into surreal images
  • He shares his 'digital collages' to Instagram, where he has established over 87,000 followers

(CNN)Hüseyin Şahin is a graphic designer and art director, but the Turkish artist could be best described as a dream catcher.

Şahin uses photography, illustrations and photoshop to create surreal images inspired by his dreams and imagination. He then posts his fantastical works to Instagram, where he has accumulated a large and dedicated following of over 87,000 people.
On his Instagram profile, each photo collage is more mystical than the next: in one, a blue whale swims with mermaids through a forest and cliffs, while in another, a young monk holds the entire world in his hands. He has now recently started to experiment with the graphics interchange format's moving images, commonly known as Gifs.
    CNN spoke to Şahin about his work process, how each work is received online and what inspires him to continue to creating one impossible scene after another.
    When did you first begin to experiment with photo manipulation?
    Looking and seeing things differently is a must for someone who is in the advertising industry actively. So I started to blend the objects and places with my imagination in order to create images with unusual reality.
    What process do you follow to create each image?
    I start by working on a few drafts as an idea, and I have to spend some time thinking it through. I get excited during this editing phase and take notes as I go along. I mostly work with photographs and combine them, but drawing and painting is necessary to get all the details. I also play with lights and colors, which help provide the most accurate result.
    Once I'd decided on what materials I'll use, the only thing left to do is actually start and direct my imagination.
    The time from start to finish can vary vastly -- from three hours on one image, to three days on the next.
    What sort of possibilities does this type of photo enhancement allow for?
    I produce the images that I share on social media because I personally enjoy it -- I want to recreate a world that exists in my mind and showcase it through imagery.
    I'm touching my dreams.
    What is the most challenging part of creating these images?
    The hardest part of creating these images is to deciding on the concept itself, or in other words, picturing these scenes.
    The actual production process is not that challenging when you have the right materials and know how.
    Where do you find inspiration for your collages?
    My starting point is nature and life itself. I then ask myself 'what if' questions that push my imagination, and I fuel my ideas with dreams and contrasting visions.
    Are there any photographers or artists that influence your work?
    Salvador Dali is a very special artist for me. I began to admire him when I read about the techniques that he used for drawing his own dreams.
    What response or emotion are you hoping to evoke with your photo collages?
    I want to give a social message in some images, to draw attention to a subject in some, and to offer some extraordinary visions in others.
    But the main focus is to imagine a fantastic scene and attract people by offering a surreal vision of reality.
    How have your images been received online and on social media?
    I get very good reactions.
    People send me messages and interesting comments from all over the world.
    What makes me happy is that people from different parts of the world share the same feeling when they see my images. I can say that they meet at the same point.
    Sometimes people think that the images they see are an actual photograph and they ask me where I took it.
    There are also many artists who embrace my style and it makes them want to improve their work as well.
    You said in your bio on Instagram, "The facts are not beautiful." What message are you trying to tell through your images?
    What's not beautiful is the ordinariness of facts -- the facts that we know and we are used to.
    The photo of a whale floating in the ocean does not mean much, but seeing a whale coming out of the middle of the desert can make people feel different. Photography can tell a story through its images alone.

    Kız kulesi - Maiden's tower • True story 👑 . @instagram #WHPmagic #HumanRightsDay #TheWeekOnInstagram #way2ill

    A post shared by h u s e y i n s a h i n (@art.side) on

    Has growing up in Turkey influenced or inspired your artistic style?
    Yes, I'm Turkish and in love with Turkish culture.
    I believe that we have a quite wide imagination as a society. There are several innovative and crazy ideas that stand out in Turkish history. For example, Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi, who is alleged to have created artificial wings and flown an un-powered flight. I also fell in love with the legendary tales of the maiden's tower [Editor's note: This is a Turkish fairy tale].
    Which picture would you select as your favorite and why?
    My favorite picture is the one [in which] I tried to tell the maiden's tower story.
    The story impresses me a lot and I feel very intense emotions every time I look at this image.
    I've even been told by a few of my Instagram followers that when they looked at the picture, they wept.
    When do you decide that a work is complete?
    If the visual I work on reflects the state I created in my mind -- in terms of everything: colors, lights, all the details.
    If I then look at it and can get 'into it,' and really feel it, I say, "Okay, that's it."
    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.