Back from Oman this weekend and I had the trip of a lifetime! A few weeks ago, I was asked by Zee Arts to join 9 other artists to represent the UAE in Oman for a cultural exchange. We were met with 10 Omani artists and our fantastic hosts Paragon Arts Community.
As you can see, I found much inspiration in this beautiful country. It was a feast for the eyes. The arabic lanterns, the souks, the people, and the amazing landscape. It was quite refreshing and I found it much needed as a refuge and break from the day to day grind in my studio.
I find these arabesque Islamic geometric art very inspiring. I am trying to incorporate this all. This picture is from my recent trip to Oman.
On the last day of our trip, we participated in live painting at a mall in Muscat. We were joined by two great musicians and it proved to be a very conducive environment for painting.
Here is a video of what I ended up working on:
Back home, I completed the piece and it is now available on my website.
In the midst of the craziness going on these last few weeks, I thought I’d pause for a minute to write about what my world is looking like. It’s the middle of the month, almost the middle of the year, and it’s a Tuesday. That’s hump day for us in Abu Dhabi. So all across the board, I’m in the thick of it.
Assuming you care about my work or that what I do is even remotely interesting to you, I decided to share some thoughts on what it’s like behind the scenes as of late.
I should preface this by saying, this quarter has been one of the busiest terms ever, but not in the way I’m used to. The beginning of the year, I spent January painting 30 29 paintings in 30 days, connecting with a wave of new collectors, and then licking my wounds back in New Jersey with family, recuperating from hours of painting for months (Only to turn around and paint some more while I was there. Clearly, I know how to balance, ha.)
Since I got back to Abu Dhabi, however, it’s been fast paced with a lot of moving parts all with the hopes of things working out later down the road. I’ve been working harder than ever, but I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t my passion. And as a result, I have had to take some important steps to maintain the longevity of my career. Namely, getting my work professionally photographed by a reputable art photography company. I also had to get some professional photos of myself taken for some publication possibilities. My website got a big makeover and is still in the development phase.
I’ve also been working closely with a designer who is helping me get a better visual handle on myself as an artist and maker. And last but not least, I’ve been painting up and down for weeks for two special projects (in addition to my growing population of the #amirarahimsafari). I can’t divulge many details as of now, but I can say that it is for pretty high end clients and it is certainly requiring a lot out of me physically and creatively.
My Abu Dhabi flat is packed with soooo many canvases. Some finished paintings, some works in progress, and some as large as 6 ft” tall waiting for me to make my mark, literally. I think if I were to count how many canvases in total I have stacked up into this space, it would reach 50. It can be daunting, and a lot is at stake, but here’s what I’ve learned along the way that’s surprised me:
Surprisingly, I can actually multi-task projects. I can work across the board on 2-3 different creative endeavors in one day, in the span of a few hours. This really helps with efficiency, or it can help you go mad, depending on how your brain works, ha. But for now, I’m able to flip switches, start paintings, and work on multiple canvases at once without getting confused.
I have NOT neglected myself or my health. I can squeeze in a quick session at the gym a few times a week. Since I prefer to start painting at sunrise, I don’t have to stay up late at night either and throw off my body’s internal clock. This is great, and also means I am keeping anxiety at bay, which is never nice at any time in life.
I do not have to neglect my house and personal life. I can cook a healthy meal and keep up with gist or the illusion of an orderly home. I can also meet with friends for a few hours or enjoy my favorite show on the couch with my guy. I’ve also squeezed in a few reiki energy sessions to keep my chakras in balance and hopefully my spiritual side as well.
I have not hit a creative block and can keep generating ideas as I continue to work. This is huge. Something I’m obviously very grateful for at the moment because, let me just tell you, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to paint and feeling fresh out of inspiration or motivation. This is usually a sign that you need to take a break, and while I am approaching this point, it hasn’t stopped the creative flow.
I can evaluate propositions and determine if it is of benefit to me. Recently, I was faced with the dilemma of selling the rights to artwork I had created to an interested party for the use of their business. There’s a whole load of opinions and articles out there on art licensing and how to navigate the space. Fortunately, I have been doing my own reading on the matter for a while now so wasn’t completely bamboozled when the topic came up. There are still lots of details and terms to hash out, but bottom line, I’m up for the challenge of figuring it out. Even if we agree to part ways at the end, I’m not afraid to at least learn more.
I can take risks in my work and try out new ideas. This has been really fun. I’ve been using new materials and experimenting with different imagery and color palettes to give life to my new body of work. I don’t ever want to get stuck in a routine in my art making. I think the work that really resonates with people is often the piece that I stumbled upon through my own exploratory period and fascination. Maintaining that level of spontaneity in a series is of course, very difficult, but a worth goal in my opinion.
And that’s really all there is to it. I’m juggling a lot, but I can’t complain. I’m busy, but good busy. Stressed, but good stressed if there’s such a thing. Today, I also just launched my new print collection, and hope that people will enjoy these affordable offerings.
So yes, there’s so much more to being an artist or painter than sitting at the easel and painting. I love reading about other artists’ journeys, so I hope what I shared was an interesting nugget about the daily grind.
Meanwhile, I know things will slow down soon hopefully, right? Ramadan is a month away and I know that will force me to slow down a bit. But I can’t help but daydream about being on an island somewhere under a palm tree sipping coconut water. Any ideas for a quick weekend getaway? 🙂
And how do you recharge when you’re reallllllly busy?
Hope you’re well. These last few weeks have been somewhat of a storm for me, but I’m embracing the rain. April showers bring May flowers right? I’ve had some amazing opportunities come up and I’m scrambling to get it all done. More details on that in a future post. But for now, I wanted to share with you something I’ve been doing on the side as well.
A lovely client contacted me in March right before my vacation with a desire to commission an original painting from me. She liked my style of work and we agreed to meet in person to discuss her vision. Many commissions begin with a photograph or an idea. This client had come across an old photograph of a Bedouin lady as shown below.
The photograph really spoke to her. It just so turns out that I, too, have been collecting vintage photographs of the “Old UAE”, particularly of the women. The photos are usually black and white, the women’s faces are always covered in a traditional burka mask revealing only their eyes. It amazes me how emotional I get when I look at these images. To many foreigners, these photos show the mysterious, elusive nature of the Islamic world with veiled women being the main subject. But for me, these photos seem to take me back in time to a people that worked very hard and in the harshest conditions.
Women carrying water jugs on their heads, men fishing and diving for pearls, camels being transported and cared for, bedouin merchants in the city souks. These pictures are nothing short of a “Night at the Museum” movie for me without all of the animation.
Anyway, it is my task and artist to take these black and white photos and reinvent them with color and modern elements. To breathe life into a time that now ceases to exist. It is magical.
For this commission, I worked on a fairly large canvas 24×36″. I worked primarily with acrylics, but I knew I was going to work in some gold leafing as well. This mixed media component adds texture and a reflective quality that could not be achieved with paint alone. The title “Smiling Eyes” comes from my client herself and I think it’s very fitting.
Here is my rendition of the portrait. I emailed progress photos as the painting progressed so I could make any adjustments to the work. Thankfully, after a few emails of updates and feedback, I’m happy to say my client is pleased and told me “it’s perfect!”. This painting will be set for pick up this week.
Thank you for reading. I am currently still open for commissions (both abstracts and figurative) for June. Feel free to contact me at amira.rahim@gmail if you’d like to set up a consultation.