Thoughts On My Art Journey
My art journey began almost 3 years ago, when I was still living in Egypt, and struggling with post-partum depression. It started off as an attempt to decorate the bare walls of my daughter's nursery without spending a lot of money. And it quickly grew into a passion. I started off with acrylics, I went online and followed tutorials, learning about brush control, brush techniques, gridding, composition, and perspective. I still don't consider myself talented or accomplished but the fact that I started off in traditional art mediums gave me the foundation that I would need if I ever were to transition to digital art. My point is I learnt to love the feeling of a brush in my hand and the feeling of putting a brush to paper or canvas. Acrylics will still be my medium of choice, but I also have a soft spot for watercolors and gouache. I haven't tried oil painting yet as I am waiting to have a well-ventilated space due to all the chemicals in oils.
Over the next few years, art became my escape. I practiced by following tutorial after tutorial as well numerous classes on skillshare (an online learning community). I followed only artists and designers on my social media. I learnt about color theory, and water control, but most of all, I think I learnt patience. I still find it daunting to render something from my imagination onto paper or canvas, but much less daunting to look at a reference image and let my hands interpret in their own way what my eyes can see. There were many times when I would scribble over a painting I've labored over for weeks and give up defeated. But then, I would start again, and more likely than not, I would be satisfied with my second, sometimes third attempt. I also learnt it's better to do just enough rather than to do too much, that is, sometimes its better to stop while you're still just about satisfied with a painting rather than aiming for perfection. Perfection doesn't exist anywhere, least of all in art. And if it does, it's better not to place it on a pedestal because even perfection can disappoint.
Acrylics is a forgiving medium. Those "happy little accidents" are what make the painting unique. What that taught me is to embrace those awkward little brush strokes. After all, I'm not aiming for a carbon copy of the image. If I was, I would just as well have taken a photograph. I struggled a lot with this issue in the beginning: the imposter syndrome, the feeling that I'm nothing more than a human copy machine because most of my paintings were either based on reference images or online tutorials. But in time I learnt that no matter how true you may want to stay to the original image, your hands literally have a mind of their own. You can never truly copy something without placing a stamp of your authenticity on it, simply because we are all unique individuals (as cliche as that may sound). Art is self-expression, no matter how much you may want your painting to look like the master's or the teacher's. It simply won't and that's not due to a lack of skill on your part, but rather due to your own style emerging, in spite of trying to adopt someone else's . That's what I've noticed, despite all the tutorials I've followed, eventually my hands just want to do their own thing, while the teacher's droning voice becomes background noise. And that's when the flow happens.
Which leads me to another important topic. A friend once told me that if my art was any good I would have sold something by now. I know she meant well, and that she was trying to get me to focus more on my writing than my art. But, I did sell something. And what's more to the point, I never got into art to sell anything really. It would be nice to have a steady stream of income from it, but it's not a condition of making art. Art is a highly subjective expressive medium. According to my brother who is truly an artist, some people sell their art not because it's particularly any good, but because they have the right connections or tapped into the collective mood through a particular style or theme. He told me that as long as I'm improving that's all that matters, and that starting with traditional media and making strides in it is more of a challenge than diving right into digital media where you have a plethora of applications that basically do all the work for you. When my friend made that comment, I went home that day and decided to keep painting and making art even if I never sell anything, even if I never publish a book of my illustrations. That was never the point, and if I make it the point, then I might as well abandon it altogether. I found something that keeps my hands busy and makes the wheels in my mind turn a little slower and makes me breathe a little easier, while I'm fully absorbed in getting this mix of colors just right or watching watercolors burst on the page. And to me, that is magic, like coming home.
It's ironic to think how art came in to my life at my lowest point. If I hadn't had a baby and was suffering from depression, I would not have stumbled upon art. So I suppose being a mother and being an artist are interchangeable in a lot of ways for me. Does being an artist make me a better mother? Or does motherhood inform my art? Maybe both. I'm certainly not painting babies or children all the time. But I know this: that when I'm painting something, I have moments of quiet joy and gratitude that I can do what I'm doing and watch my daughter grow at the same time. I was never a mother whose whole life had to revolve around her child. I needed something outside of the sphere of motherhood to make me appreciate motherhood. Art gave me that. It created a space in my life where I thought there was no more room to grow and nothing more to learn. Or rather, reminded me that it was always there.
I think that's the most important lesson and the best thing I've learnt: that there is always more to learn, no matter how old you get, or how bogged down by responsibilities. Staying curious is staying alive. It wasn't until a year or so into my art journey that I was looking at an old vision board I created a couple of years before and right in the center of that vision board, was an image of an elderly lady fiddling with a camera and next to it I had written "Never stop learning." I had cut it out from an article in a magazine about women after having careers and children, well into their retirement years, finding new passions. It was then that I realized that whenever I looked at that vision board my eyes would always zero in on that image and that I had unknowingly physically manifested into my life the creative outlet that image portrayed. And more to the point, that creative outlet can evolve and take on many forms, that it was just a door leading to many more pursuits and passions.
Note: The above and many more artworks (acrylic and watercolor art prints) are also available for purchase on www.society6.com/asilrashid