Day 7. Today was a tough painting day for me. I started the day already anxious about fitting painting in and having time for some other commitments in the evening. And so, I started my day in the studio as usual right after breakfast. I can’t say painting this was easy.
“Afternoon Tea” was painted from some photos I snapped in Dubai while visiting the old souk with my friend. She is Somali and we gathered around her aunt’s shop that day to have the delicious cardamon tea just before maghrib, hence the title. I love the contrasts in the black and white, as well as the colorful background. And I am pleased with the overall product. But, today especially, I’m noticing a resistance in my hand. It is like I don’t want to perfectly render facial features anymore. After all, I am a self-professed abstract artist. These are the most realistic paintings I have done in years and it’s breaking me somehow. I’m not quite sure what’s going on here or what the next three weeks will look like.
I feel like I may veer into abstract faces with a whimsical, illustrative style. Or even abstract figures with no faces at all. Just blank voids. This seems more natural than what I have been doing these last few days. I’m struggling to find my voice in this challenge and that’s mainly because there is no downtime. By the time I post the day’s painting, the day is over and I’m trying to piece together what will be my assignment for the following day.
If any of you out there have done the 30 in 30 painting challenge before, or doing it now, is this how it’s supposed to feel? Am I outdoing myself here aiming for 30 perfect paintings?
Amira Rahim is an Abu Dhabi based artist who has been creating art since she was 13. She planned to be an attorney after graduating from the University of Pittsburg, but time spent traveling around Europe and a developing interest in sociology, culture and travel took her on a different path. Here our guest blogger catches up with her for a Q&A session.
Q: What is your earliest memory of art?
A: I remember making art at a very young age. I would draw houses a lot, as well as imitate illustrations I’d seen in my children’s books. My earliest memory would have to be when my mom signed me up for a children’s art class at the Newark Museum in Newark, NJ, my hometown. I remember the instructor had us sketch an egg. I mean, we were five or six years old, rendering shadows, and I succeeded in the task. I still remember how proud I felt when the teacher praised my finished drawing.
Q: Can you remember your first creation?
A: I think my first serious piece of art was when I was 13. I landed my first job as part of a community art project commissioned by the city of Montclair. I’d take two buses across town to Montclair High School in the summer, where a group of young artists and myself designed and constructed our individual mosaic benches that were then installed in a local park.
Q: Your art is very colourful. How do you select your palette?
A: My colour palette is a combination of intuition and emotion. Many colours end up in my work intuitively, but some pieces are a bit more calculated depending on how I respond emotionally to colour at that time. When I need a dose of sunshine and cheer, I use a lot of red, orange, and yellow, when I’m a bit more somber or serious, I lean toward my favourite, Prussian blue, and other dark colors.
Q: What made you choose the abstract path?
A: It’s an interesting question because it’s the last route I thought I’d take in my art. I always tried to create work that looked as realistic as possible. While building my portfolio in Abu Dhabi, however, I began to change course. I was finding it harder to see the beauty in this foreign land and missed the many things in nature I took for granted back home in New Jersey. The only way to compensate for this void was with colour. I started experimenting first with just abstract landscapes, and then something happened. It was like a spark was ignited and I needed to paint immediately all throughout the day. I couldn’t wait to try new colour combinations and compositions. I was no longer confined to merely painting what I saw in front of me or in a photograph. I could create the beauty that I desperately needed in my life. I haven’t looked back since.
Q: My first look at “Push and Pull”, your work on paper, makes me think of a Rorschach test, and I find this exploration of subconscious your art initiates very interesting. Can you tell me more about this piece?
A: “Push and Pull” is a piece I created during a period of experimentation and a sort of opening up of my inner spirit. It is the result of working subconsciously without any preconceived end or goal. The result is this beautiful chaos, visual poetry on paper. Art is an incredibly vulnerable and personal process. Many times, artists have a vision of a landscape, a portrait, or a still life, and we pour so much of ourselves into that piece, and the viewer may never see the whole process behind it.
Q: In your artist statement, you mention your interest in the effects of colour on the human psyche. Can you tell me more about this?
A: Absolutely. I am primarily interested in colour and combinations of colour in my work. This is most effectively achieved in abstract painting, but it can also be used in representational art. I am always pleased when people comment on my paintings with statements that start with “This makes me feel…”. Art should make you feel something and by infusing color into my abstract pieces, I am having a conversation with every person who sees my work.
Q: What do you think of the art market in the UAE?
A: I started selling my art and marketing online officially about 8 months ago. Since then, I’ve learned not to underestimate the UAE population for potential art enthusiasts. My art is very colourful and leans more toward the abstract, and people here have been really responsive. My plan now is to keep making the art that I love and trust that my fans will continue to support me.
Q: What are you working on now? Are you planning on showing your art in the UAE?
A: Now is a very exciting time for me in my art. I’m working on a series of colorful camel portraits. They are almost biographical because each camel has its own personality. Outside of this, I am developing my skills as an abstract artist by testing new colour schemes, compositional elements, and techniques. I recently had a solo art show at a private residence on Reem Island and the turnout was great. My main goals in the next few months include getting my art in front of galleries and interior designers interested in garnishing quality abstract art and installations for home and office. This would give me the creative freedom to really develop as a contemporary abstract artist in the Middle East.
* My Velvet Instant is a guest blogger for The Art Blog. Click here to read other posts
I’ve been eyeing palm trees for months now. Maybe because I grew up in New Jersey and used to deciduous trees, or maybe because they remind me of sun and vacation. The intricacies in each tree makes me stare at them forever. I always try to take snaps on my iPhone for inspiration. But this painting was designed purely on my own imagination.
I sketched it out yesterday in my sketchbook…
I then toyed around with a few color options and then faced my canvas to make this a reality. I’ll admit, painting palm trees intimidate me. Not even a little bit, a lot. It seems like a simple easy thing to paint, right? But after observing them for so long, I know they’re anything but simple.
The finished result was beautiful, if I do say so myself. I added a Dubai skyline in the foregrounds, and I just love the subtle tonal variations at the bottom of the painting. The palm trees in the focal point appear to be dancing. And I love the jewel-like trunks that hold them up.