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.

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.

Snake obsession

After looking at some scroll paintings of the Zen monk Sesshu Toyo, I was inspired by the black ink patterns in some of his work, especially his clouds. I doodled for a while, and ended up creating some weird snakes.

(Click on the image to see it all big n pretty ;))

I have always loved and found snakes beautiful, soulless as their eyes look. What an awesome mix of gorgeous and scary! I love drawing them, and I’m really happy with these.

Her tears are tearing

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus due to a huge life event that just happened – my wedding. I didn’t do much drawing or posting here or on Twitter (@khadejalidraw) but right now I’m slowly getting back into things.

I thought I’d start with a sentimental piece, to jump right in!

drawing of decorated connected eyebrows over two thickly lashed eyes. two ladel-shaped abstractions are hanging back to back, with the "spoon" parts facing outwards. on the right, the ladle is filled with water and a thick tear runs from the right eye into it. The left ladle has eyes made out of nooses.
“Her Tears are Tearing”

I’m pretty darn sensitive; most definitely a crier. This piece is about how my extreme emotional states are a beauty and a burden.

There are some things that should be kept to the viewer. However, there is something behind this work that informed my lines. The lens with which I see my life isn’t just coloured by my emotions. My emotions are the lens.

A Foreign Home

I love to create my own fantasy foreign lands.

(Well, they’re not really foreign to me, I guess – they’re my fantasy worlds, after all.)

Anyway, there’s nothing more stimulating to me than mapping out a new place with its own unique culture. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember.

This drawing is a reflection of one of the places I came up with. It’s so satisfying to see your world in a physical form. It feels so much more concrete now; and exciting!