How to be a busy artist and not go crazy…

"Lucky Charms" 20x24" acrylic on canvas View
“Lucky Charms”
20×24″ acrylic on canvas
View

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.)

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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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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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?

Amira

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Portrait of a Bedouin: Behind A Commission

Hi!!

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.

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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.

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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.

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This is
This is the gold leaf I attached to this piece. I purchased it in the US while on vacation. The leafing was very delicate and inter

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.

 

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“Smiling Eyes” 24×36″ acrylics and gold leaf on canvas

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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.

Best,
Amira

www.amirarahim.com

 

39 Signs You’ve Been Living In Abu Dhabi for Too Long

I’ve lived in Abu Dhabi now for 2 years. That’s just enough time to realize all the things you love to hate and hate to love about a place. I feel blessed to call this place my home for the time being. And when I go back to the U.S. now to visit family, I’m shocked to realized how much I’ve changed. Here are “a few” things I’ve learned about living here that I wanted to share with you all. But, keep in mind, this is mostly my perspective as an American, a wife, and a female. Enjoy 🙂

39 (originally 25) Signs You’ve Been Living in Abu Dhabi for Too Long

  1. You know that stop signs are purely for suggestion, turn signals are completely optional, speed bumps are more like hills, and you want to flip someone the bird at least once a week but can’t because it’s illegal.
  2. You’ve gotten sunburned before…in December.
  3. Because of this, you wear sunscreen year round.
  4. You’re friends are jealous because you post beach pictures all year long.
    "Fauv Mini Camel by Amira Rahim at www.amirarahim.com
    “Fauv Camel Mini”  by Amira Rahim
  5. You’ve looked up at least once because you thought someone was spitting on you, and then realized it was just the sky trying to rain.
  6. You can’t get anything done between 1-4:30 because businesses close down for afternoon break.
  7. You know that finding a parking space in most places is a gift from God and you wiggle in your seat when you find one. Or…you just do what the locals do and create your own.
  8. You or someone you know drives a Land Cruiser or Nissan Patrol.
  9. You no longer double take when you see a Corvette, Masserati, or Bently. But you will stop for Ferraris, Maclarens, Lambourginis, or a beautiful vintage piece.
  10. You’ve gotten used to the creepy guys that stare at you like you’re from out of space.
  11. You have an umbrella that serves no other purpose other than sun protection.
  12. You’ve cancelled plans just because it was too hot outside and didn’t feel like being slapped in the face by the humidity.
  13. You’ve ordered ridiculous things like toilet paper, a case of water, ice cream and more to be delivered to your doorstep and you’re not ashamed, even if the store is in your building.
  14. You brunch, lunch, and coffee morning with the best of them, and always looking for the next restaurant to spend a leisure afternoon.
  15. You know there’s no such thing as customer service here, and that no matter how many times someone says “Yes, Madammmmm,” in a sing-song tone, you still struggle to place an order, remedy a mishap, or file a complaint.
  16. You’ve switched 5-6 lanes in moving traffic and didn’t feel like a complete douche.
  17. You swear your family back home has never tasted a proper shawarma, falafel, baklava, or hummus.
  18. You’ve gained at least 15-20 lbs (see the above) and have no idea how to drop it.
  19. You’re constantly planning your next getaway, vacation, or exotic trip.
  20. You know that hiring help is perfectly necessary, and wouldn’t dare live without your nanny, housekeeper, or live-in maid.
  21. You say things like “Khalas” and “Inshallah” because no other phrase seems to express what you’re feeling.
  22. You know that most things are negotiable. Nothing happens on time. And “official” rules and regulations change regularly.
  23. You give friends directions to your house by citing the nearest mall, landmark, or GPS coordinates because there are no real addresses here.
  24. You’ve had so much things shipped to your home that you’re starting to feel like a cartel.
  25. You go to Dubai for shopping, good food, and fun on a regular basis.
  26. You’ve drank 14karat gold at Emirates Palace.
  27. You know how to order in broken English when necessary (i.e. “same same”, “special full”, “big big one”, etc.)
  28. You have friends from places you’ve never heard of until several years ago.
  29. You look forward to cloudy days.
  30. You own at least one expensive pair of shades and don’t sweat it because you wear them all year long.
  31. You know that if you search hard enough, anything can be delivered to your door. Even Pinkberry.
  32. You’ve ridden a camel, smoked shisha, got a henna tattoo, and attempted to belly dance at least once.
  33. You expect everything to be open until midnight. And know that during Ramadan the city never sleeps.
  34. You’ve had ongoing construction in every single neighborhood you’ve ever lived in. 
  35. You’ve seen a sandstorm and said several prayers because you were sure this would be your last day on earth.
  36. You live in a high rise apartment over-looking the city and you’re not rich.
  37. You’ve pulled up to a store or establishment in your car, placed the order, and then waited for the guy to bring it to your car door, like a boss!
  38. You know to buy perfumes to take back home to your family and keep some for yourself.
  39. You’ve made some of the best friends in your life and can’t imagine ever leaving!

What else would you add to this list?

Blog of artist Amira Rahim

Facing a Fear: Small Abstracts

Hi there,

I came back to Abu Dhabi last week and so happy to be back. I’ve been busy doing housewife things like organizing closets and picking out duvet sets, etc. Blah blah. But in the process, I’ve developed a newfound respect for being more organized. I have been on this organization rampage and my studio is not exempt! Happy to say it’s almost up to par and ready for me to make some big moves this month.

As with any break, the trouble of starting back up again in the studio can be daunting. So, I decided what better way to ease into the swing of things than by starting small abstract paintings on canvas.

I’m pushing for color these days. Maybe it’s the shuffle & transition of leaving one home for another, the coastal, desert landscape, or just my own form of mood management, but I want to see more bright and saturated color these days. Bright pinks, impossible greens. I want it now but I know it will take weeks maybe to bring it out of me. It’s hard sometimes to go bold. Here is my first attempt. It’s a small abstract (40x40cm), something I struggle with now as I continue to create larger and larger works of art.

Why do I struggle, you may ask? Well, it’s hard to maintain control of an abstract piece when the canvas is so small. It can easily get crowded. I lose sight of focus. The paint takes for ever to dry. Etc. Etc.

This piece was actually prompted to get this done early in the morning. I work up at 4am for suhoor (a pre-dawn meal prior to fasting). And, true to form, I could not get back to sleep in the morning. My mind is far to active or inspired when I first wake up. I was wondering, specifically, if I could use purple as a neutral. Strange thoughts in the AM, I know. But, I was considering the possibility. I know it’s a color and generally, when you think neutrals, you think grays and beiges. But, if it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is that a color is only as relevant as the color next to it.

Here’s the piece, and here is my progress shots along the way.

I also decided to experiment with some of my new materials, including Krink paints and Posca acrylic markers. The verdict? In love!

I like to first mark the canvas with a few lines. Just making the space less empty. Some like to tone the canvas. This is also helpful, especially for more figurative painting. For abstract pieces, I tend to dive right in, though.
I like to first mark the canvas with a few lines. Just making the space less empty. Some like to tone the canvas. This is also helpful, especially for more figurative painting. For abstract pieces, I tend to dive right in, though.
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I mixed a few cool colors on my palette and then went in establishing some forms using my favorite flat brush.
See what I mean? It get's busy really fast with the smaller pieces. This will definitely get toned down.
See what I mean? It get’s busy really fast with the smaller pieces. This will definitely get toned down.
I move right in with my new Krink acrylic paint marker. This teal color grabbed me and boy is it beautiful. It has a nice sheen to it and it drips on the canvas just the way I like my paints! It's a keeper.
I move right in with my new Krink acrylic paint marker to mute out some spaces. This teal color grabbed me and boy is it beautiful. It has a nice sheen to it and it drips on the canvas just the way I like my paints! It’s a keeper.
I added a few lines and muted out some spaces. I like the moodiness of the piece. It's not as bright as I would have hoped but..
I added a few lines and muted out some spaces. I like the moodiness of the piece. It’s not as bright as I would have hoped but..
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Here’s a shot of the piece hanging on my newly covered canvas walls. I’m happy with the use of purple in this piece. And I enjoy the sense of control that the bars of paint achieve. I will be creating more pieces like this over the coming weeks. Stay tuned, I’m just warming up!

Thanks for reading. As a note, this is my blog. To visit more of my work, please go to my official website at www.amirarahim.com.

“Winter in March” New Work & Inspiration

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“West Orange” 12×18″ on paper, Available

Sun pouring through the window panes. There’s still mounds of snow on the ground. Determined to remind us of a winter that overstayed its welcome. We’re in between colds and chills while enjoying short spring breaks and infrequent vacation days.

I didn’t intend on painting while I was here. In fact, I deliberately left my paints and papers at home. I did, however, allow myself some brushes tucked away in an open flap of my suitcase. I don’t know why I felt comfort packing them. I tend to overplan and get very anxious about being somewhere and not having an item I left at home or something. Maybe just having them there gave me the security of knowing if the urge to create struck me, I’d be at least half ready.

And it did. Needless to say, I proceeded to go to the art store about a week after touching down. I told myself I was going to stock up some choice art supplies I’d been coveting for months just to take back with me to Abu Dhabi. But, I knew I would be breaking them open the second I got home. And rightfully so.

I wanted a way to document the cold, the heavy snow, the excitement with each sunny day, and the faint possibility of Spring. After bearing the polar opposites in climate in Abu Dhabi, It felt peculiar to me in a way that made me understand that this “home” isn’t really my home anymore. It is more like a resting place, a collection of things and people I love and like and occasionally have the pleasure of being with until I’m back on this magnificent journey that is life. Each time I complete the 14 hour plane ride, I awake to what feels like a parallel universe and I’m in a time portal. It’s transient. And somehow I like it that way. At least for now.

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“Winter in March” is a collection of my musings on paper and canvas board. I remember feeling fear and excitement to paint each day I created. Maybe it was the vulnerability of making work outside of the studio, or the typical feeling of “I think I forgot how to paint” once you take a week or more off. But, whatever it was, I tried to step out of my way as much as possible and let it flow. I experimented with materials and tools that I don’t normally use, like a silicone wedge to create marks in my art, and pan pastel. They are lush and beautiful. I have much to learn.

In this series, I got to experiment with pan pastels, soft pastel sticks, and new substrates.
In this series, I got to experiment with pan pastels, soft pastel sticks, and new substrates.

For my US art lovers, you can purchase any of these pieces and it will ship free domestically for a limited time only. I figured I would offer this freebie since most of my work is created and sold in the UAE. This will make for a nice change.

I will be adding more to this series for as long as I am able in my final two weeks here. Although, I am enjoying the slower days and savoring the very last days of my vacation and time with family. So far it’s been lots of pizza, trips to Whole Foods, and hanging out with my siblings who are pretty much my favorite people.

Be blessed. Love art xx

Amira

http://www.amirarahim.com