Walking further along

Tomorrow, I work my first ever Artist’s Alley! I’ve been reflecting a lot on my past works and how much I’ve developed as an artist.

No longer are doodle pages the majority of what I do. They are still a huge chunk of my time, and incredibly important (I cannot think of a way to truly express just how important they still are!). And yet, now I am finding myself drawing pages of sketches where I am specifically experimenting with skills I want to improve upon.

It’s like the doodles get my ideas or spirit out onto paper while practicing with the skills I have. The sketches where I am practicing a skill specifically use content that comes so naturally to me. I’m glad I spent so much time drawing purely from the heart as I have, otherwise fixing my attention onto skill-building would seem too daunting.

Check out the above pictures of some sketchbook pages I’ve shared on Twitter recently. I’m trying to improve the faces I draw, the perspective of important objects, and still life realism (respectively) in these pages. While they aren’t perfectly executed, I’m proud. Those are skills I’ve never felt confident in, but have always wanted to improve.

But in terms of my themes and the content of my works – they are still creepy, weird, and emotional. I’m still drawing lots of personal explorations, along with my monsters and more fantastical or abstract representations; I don’t fathom those will ever go away (or can).

The main thing I hope to achieve at the Artist’s Alley tomorrow is hopefully realistic enough: to have more people see what I do. Secretly, I hope that out of those people, I will have a chance to interact with the one who looks at my works and sees their own weirdness.

Grungy Friend

Today I’m showcasing one of my living creations. I didn’t really give it a name, I only knew that I was going for something bipedal when I started.

I feel like this monster’s about to read a poem in front of the mic, or get down on its knees during a performance.

a bipedal cyclopian monster with hair tendrils in the shape of arrows on its head sticking out every which way. Covered in wiry little hairs except for its two knobbly knees.

I started making wiry hair that curved upwards, and told myself I really didn’t want to draw a medusa (she already exists and her image goes on fine without me!). Since I’m rarely interested in creating anything remotely realistic, I didn’t stop myself from turning its hair turned into arrows. It’s something fun that doesn’t technically belong there, but I couldn’t be happier with.

Religious and Spiritual Themes

I’ve been noticing a spiritual/religious theme running through my drawings as of late, specifically the ones I take pictures of and post to my twitter account.

Look at these 3 works:

a drawing made in black ballpoint pen of a large flower poking out of two large leaves with a smaller vine of leaves growing out of its side in a spiral. signed KAM 2019
Untitled
a drawing made in black ballpoint pen named doorways to the same heaven. landscape orientation drawing of two door shapes on their side, each decorated very differently with a line separating them.
Doorways to the same heaven
a drawing made in black ballpoint pen named "place of worship" of a temple-like buliding. it has a dome on top, symbols and patterns all over, and a narrow archway decorated with a floral border, with a lightbulb hanging down the center.
Place of worship

I’ve put them in order of least to most obvious (in my opinion) 😉

I felt weird about leaning towards these religious images and ideas, so at first, I questioned myself. Am I feeling inadequate somehow, spiritually? Is there something I should be doing more?

Or is there something I should be doing less?

And yet when I look at these, I don’t see anything particularly troublesome, and I certainly don’t feel like anything is wrong. I know what was in my mind as I drew, and it was more about feeling unity than anything else.

The truth is that I have to accept that religious iconography is so easy to draw. It helps when I’m drawing without a plan, or when I’m feeling that making art is hard.

Being the first set of images I was given and encouraged to memorise, how is it surprising?

I mean, because Arabic is not my language, but I needed to know how to read it to participate in my religion, the Qur’an is full of symbols to me rather than a language*. And those pages were always adorned, and mosques are full of art!

When I feel proud of my upbringing, my heritage, or the cultures I’ve been exposed to throughout my life (due to being a Muslim and being brought up in the Middle East and Mauritius) part of it is about being proud of the images I have in the back of my mind.

That’s why looking for some broken part of me to act as answer means I’m misinterpreting what’s happening.

I think the art world loves tragic stories; loves spiritual conflicts. So people who paint religious icons are often seen as having a fixation on, or a desperate need to challenge, their religious history. While I do think that those reasons to express yourself are just fine, that prevailing metanarrative must have influenced how I see religious imagery in general.

The truth is that to begin with, the images make up part of an artist’s language, and there’s no positive or negative to it. The context is what builds it up and adds emotional depth. It’s what will tell you whatever else you need to know.

*I would like to invite anyone who hasn’t heard of Shahzia Sikander to look her up. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit she had a profound influence on me.

One-legged Darling

stylistic drawing of a bird-like creature with only one leg in black ink pen signed KAM 2019

Today I leave you with another monster. This beast is a little lopsided, a little unusual in shape, but that’s what makes her a beauty! She’s half a creature, in a way – or at least, that’s what I was going for.

Absolutely inspired by the simurgh tales, I’ve always wanted to be good at drawing birds or bird-like creatures (as well as animals in general). I’m not interested in ‘good’ as in ‘realistic,’ but ‘good’ as in ‘I’m proud of this.’ This is one step towards that goal.

I am thrilled to say that I also see a little of Shel Silverstein’s influence in this drawing, although it was purely subconscious during its creation. ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ influenced my sense of humour for life! It’s great, and also intriguing, to see how the things you love leak into your artwork.

Two Mind Maps

Today I’d like to introduce you to two drawings that are, to me, joined by a single thought: how easy is it to represent what I am thinking and feeling through art? A big question, for sure, that raises a multitude of others!

abstract art made up of curved lines, circles, patterns and symbols such as stars
Universe Soup, 2019

Questions, such as: how do you express your feelings about a specific thing without creating your own vocabulary, risking the alienation of the people who look at it? Or should you try to make the effort of using common themes and symbols to connect with others?

These are pretty big questions that lead to big artistic decisions! Artists have argued historically about how much one should be taking the viewer into consideration, like how much should be explained to them. And then we have the critics and art enthusiasts of all kinds, with their own opinions as the experiencers! So who should you listen to, as an artist? Your peers, your audience, your critics, or your heart?

I think that because art comes from you, you get to set the rules. So I may not like your art, or understand it, but I can respect that you did something that comes from you. To be fair, I expect the very same to be thrown back at me.

While I like making art that other people can understand, even if some parts of it are a little cryptic or too personal to translate. I know that some viewers’ own experiences and cultures are going to be a barrier to their understanding of what I’m trying to say, just as my own experiences will be a barrier to my own ability to communicate to them. I can hope that people get it, but I can’t depend on it. And it isn’t in my personality to dwell on things I can’t depend on! Therefore, I keep on doing what I am doing, as best as I can.

There is one thing I absolutely love, something that only depends on human beings acting like themselves.

abstract art made up of geometric shapes and lines
Learning collage, 2019

Both Universe Soup and Learning collage, abstract drawings I made earlier this year, are trying to portray something simple in each of them. It is more fun to me, and fulfilling, to let people see what I do and hear about what they see.

The first drawing, Universe Soup, has to do with how I view the vastness of space, while the other, Learning collage, speaks more to how and why I do some of my best learning through books. Every line I make has a purpose; every shape I use has a meaning. I wonder, reader, what you saw – were those themes obvious? Or did you see something else entirely?

And if it was the latter, would that be a failure on my part?

Mr Fangs

Gentle friends, I introduce to you a new member of the monster family! I’d like you to meet Mr Fangs.

I started his creation with the blobby shape of his eyes and face, but I did not complete his rounded jaw. Somehow, it became apparent that I was going to give this brother some teeth. And so I did! I went right for the mouth and everything else grew from there.

monster creature with two wide eyes looking at the viewer. It has two segmented legs and two large fangs coming out of its mouth, which is smiling. It has thin tentacles sprawled out from the back of its large, blobby head.
Mr Fangs is curious to meet you!

This drawing was definitely less intuitive and more planned. Well, more planned in my own way, which means not too planned but with some moments of clear thought and decision-making as I drew.

Did I want him to be realistic? I decided that the answer to that was a strong no. Thoughtful anatomy, then, was thrown out of the window. But did I want him to make some sort of sense, physically? Yes, because I wanted him to be a character one could relate to. So while he has two legs to stand on, they are ridiculously pointy like the toes of HIM from the Powerpuff Girls. And so on, and so forth.

Something about Mr Fangs is that I knew he was a kind soul. His character certainly dictated what he would look like. Before I knew it, his eyes were soft and welcoming, his hair tentacles warm and curious. He has the big teeth and all, but is he trying to menace you right now? Absolutely not. He even put on his friendliest collar to impress you.

In the end, I’m very pleased with this fellow and how he ended up. He really is exactly the type of monster I felt like creating.

Island Beauty

Lucky me! I’m currently visiting my home country of Mauritius. I drew this before arriving; not as a landscape that directly resembles features of the geography, but as an ode. As I’m sitting in the car on drives around the island, these are the impressions I get: green mountains, bodies of water, the curves of the landscape.

Now that I am here, I am too entranced by this place to draw! But my feelings of awe are side by side with sadness. We humans truly do not deserve this beautiful land. We never have. Since we arrived hundreds of years ago, we plundered the Dodo and many more of nature’s gifts. I fear that soon, these drawings and whatever is stored in our minds may be all that is left.