By Josh Saunders
Meet the artist who claims to communicate with dead celebrities while painting them and sells his pop-art portraits for up to $10,000 (£7,800) a month.
Sham Ibrahim, 36, from Palm Springs in California, USA, started creating artwork with spirits after the death of Michael Jackson in 2009.
Since then he’s made art with the spirits of Marilyn Monroe, Whitney Houston, Amy Whinehouse, Kurt Cobain and more.
When channelling celebrities while painting he claims to capture their ‘essence’ and creates his most impressive work.
His pop-art inspired paintings have been shown in exhibitions visited by Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Perez Hilton and Boy George.
In a recent video painting Michael Jackson, he claims to feel the deceased pop-star’s presence guiding him and even advising him what colours to use.
Sham, an artist and performer, said: “With deceased celebrities, I feel their presence right there beside me as I draw them, I invite them in and find that they guide me as I’m doing the art.
“Whenever I do a portrait, I try to capture the essence and spirit of the person, I don’t just try to draw a picture of them.
“I wanted to start honouring certain people who had passed away, whenever I would invite them in and I would nail the portrait, it’s always my best work.
“Without being able to do this I don’t feel like I would ever have been accepted by Hollywood, I wouldn’t have Katy Perry come to my art shows or have the celebrity interest I have.
“I’m very grateful to be making money off my art now, but my main motivation is to inspire other people in a way that Andy Warhol and the musicians I paint inspired me.
“I get such an incredible feeling of completion once a spirit lets me know that I’m done and finished, every spirit I’ve had the privilege to paint lets me know when it’s complete.
“Remembering a celebrity or performer with a painting, feels like the greatest honour I can bestow upon them.”
Sham claims that Michael Jackson was the first celebrity spirit he communicated with.
He added: “When MJ died, I went through a terrible depression, it was like the passing of my childhood and I know his family pretty well so it was even harder.
“One day I went walking through an area I didn’t know in San Francisco and when I ended up on Jackson Street, from that point I knew I had to start painting again.
“While I was doing it, I realised Michael’s spirit was guiding me, his hand was taking mine and showing me how to make the portrait.”
Since then, Sham has produced numerous paintings of the former Prince of Pop and presented them to his family members.
He claims that the two are ‘good friends’ and in a video, he demonstrates how Jackson helps him to produce his painting.
Sham said: “When I invited his spirit in to do his portrait we became friends instantly, he has a very playful spirit and he’s very happy so I love having him around.
“Michael guides me with the colours he likes, once he wanted a pure white aura around him and another time he wants small drawings of him performing around the edges of his portrait.”
The transgender artist has since gone onto produce portraits of his other idols including Marilyn Monroe and Whitney Houston.
Sham said: “When I painted Whitney Houston, she told me to make it simple and classic like she was.
“When people pass away, I feel burdened while producing their portrait, she told me not to stress and to make it plain but elegant.
“I had multiple encounters with Marilyn Monroe, the most were at The Roosevelt Hotel and she was very sweet and nice.
“Her energy was all over that hotel, she told me, she had to go to a party there every night and was sick and tired of it.
“Despite that, when I portrayed Marilyn she definitely wanted to be shown with sex appeal, I got that message clear from her.”
He produces up to 20 portraits a month, but maintains his productivity depends on whether he is visited by spirits.
His painting of Amy Whinehouse controversially mentioned some of her dependencies and he feared she would not like the portrait.
He said: “Her fame was ruined by the sensationalism of her addiction, it overshadowed her music and talent in life, so I drew her in a tabloid fashion.
“I drew words like overdosed and cocaine in headline print, I thought she would be angry at me but she didn’t mind, she was glad knowing she was being remembered.”
Sham says he is still struggling to communicate with Andy Warhol, who he attributes to being his main source of inspiration.
Sham said: “With Andy Warhol, I’m unable to draw him when I invite him in, I don’t know if he doesn’t like me or my art or is just not that kind of person.
“It’s weird because he’s the person I want to communicate with the most, I feel like I learned so much from him artistically.”
Sham will feature on TV show Plastics of Hollywood, which follows a real-life talent agency of human dolls, living cartoons as well as Barbie and Ken doll lookalikes.
Talent agents Marcela Iglesias and Patrik Simpson, will test the cast members including Justin Jedlica, Pixee Fox and more, to nurture their talent away from their surgery goals and how they look.
Sham has spent nearly $90,000 altering his appearance – having surgery to realign his jaw, fake teeth, whole body laser hair removal and botox.
He said: “I was addicted to plastic surgery for a while, but decided I didn’t want to do that anymore as I don’t think it promotes a good image to young people.
“I’ve spent way more on my outfits than any plastic surgery, I’ll never be photographed in the same outfit twice.”