Shahnaz draws what touches her heart. She is inspired by everything, everywhere, and at all times, and is fascinated with the details of the eyes; drawing them really interests her. She does play with colours from time to time, but for Shahnaz, drawing in black, white and shades of grey is much more interesting.
Thanks for your time Shahnaz. When you start exploring art?
Well, my journey with art is quiet interesting. As a kid I was just doodling and had hidden drawings that I really didn’t share with anyone else. The reason for hiding my drawings was due some kind of ambiguous feedbacks from my art teachers, stating that my style of drawing was difficult to understand. I didn’t know that my style I had at that time was called Surrealism.
But I suppose my real journey in art started in February, 2014. After being an employee for almost twelve years, I found myself unemployed for the first time in my life. It was my brother Ali's birthday, and I couldn’t figure out what to gift him that didn't cost the earth, so I just draw him. Once I'd finished I was so excited to give him the drawing, but he was at work. I couldn’t wait, so I took a picture of the drawing on my camera, and sent it to him. I still remember his reaction, it was priceless; he called me straight back with a very happy and surprised tone saying; “It looks just like me!” So, I suppose that was the beginning of my journey as an artist.
And then what happened?
Ali was so happy with his drawing that he shared it with his friends, who then started giving me requests and commissions to draw their friends for birthdays, special events etc. I can simply say that Ali opened the art door for me when I did not expect it.
Since then I practised and practised and continued to improve, and started posting my work on my Facebook page, which made many other artists follow me, which actually made me learn more too. And then one of my contacts included my name in a Whatsapp artists' group belonging to Mr. Mohammed Shams, who I would consider was my first professional guide towards being a professional in this field. With continuous discussions in a friendly space, I learned a lot from him.
By late 2014 I felt ready to start delivering the knowledge that I gained to other people. It was my calligraphy teacher Mr. A.Aziz Qassim who forced me to start conducting workshops; I had learned a lot over the past year and I felt the best way to know what level I had reached was to start sharing that knowledge.
How did things progress from your very first workshops?
I believe that teaching is a bi-directional process and running workshops dramatically enhanced my skills even further. For almost two years, until January 2016, I was taking commissioned artwork orders and conducting portrait workshops. I then got a job, so I stopped conducting workshops but continued taking commissioned artwork orders in the evenings and at weekends. In June 2017, I took the bold decision to leave my job and start my own studio. It was a big decision that most of the people around me did not agree with, but I just felt that it was the right thing to do and at the right time. And so the 16 July, 2017 was the first day of my first workshop in my very own studio.
Your drawings are very detailed, how did you choose this particular style?
I’m a huge fan of detail, and black is my favourite colour, so I think it was obvious that I’ll be choosing to focus on the Realism school of art. Plus I’ve always been so fascinated with the details of the eyes, drawing them really interests me. I do play with colours from time to time, but for me black, white and shades of grey is much more interesting. However, nothing happened overnight; it was - and still is - a long process of continuously practising and developing my skills. I draw every day; no single day passes without me sketching something or just practice shading techniques. Also, I love watching other artists on Instagram and learn from them by trying their techniques over and over.
What inspires you?
I would say literally EVERYTHING inspires me! I try to see the beauty in everything, for example; the shadow of the palm leaves on the metal fence, the amazing detail in the human iris, the dew drops on the plants in the early morning, the smoothness and texture of clouds and how the sunlight passes through them, the way the car headlights move through the fog... literally everything inspires me. Yes, there are certain levels of beauty that triggers me, but I can’t determine what is it exactly; I simply draw what touches my heart. Inspirations can be everywhere, anywhere and at all times.
Do you have an artistic process?
Most of my commissioned portrait drawings are based on photos, and the way I transfer the mainlines to the drawing paper is using the grid technique, as well as using my own eye. For the shading I use charcoal powder with dry-brushes, I rarely use other blending tools.
With every drawing I strive to be better and every time I finish a new portrait I compare it with the previous one, and if I see no improvement, it means that this drawing level was not challenging enough for me, so I search for more difficult photos to challenge myself. Although I do watch other artists and admire their levels, I don’t compare myself with other artists, just with a previous me.
Do you have any influences?
Yes, I do have people in my life that enlighten my dark days, and who influence me to follow my dreams, and my best best friend Mona is one of them. My family are wonderful supporters of my art as well, although they believe in a stable financial status of a normal job! But I do know how proud they are of me. I should also mention my son Salman. He is only 9, but when he tells me how proud he is of me for being the artist that I am, I can’t describe that feeling. He expresses his feelings freely and telling me that he’s proud of me every time I leave home to go to my workshops makes me really happy.
Do you have any dreams as an artist?
My dreams are so big! I believe in creativity and handicraft; I believe that these can get children away from troubles and away from mind-destroying technologies. I dream of having a place; a centre, an institute or something like that for creativity and handicraft. And I dream of people not considering these as just hobbies, but as part of life.
And I have a goal of studying art therapy and using it creatively and therapeutically - especially with teenagers - as a platform to help them express their feelings, ideas and share their thoughts, and to get them away from Game boxes and television; we’re in an era where everything is moving so fast that we are quickly losing personal connections with ourselves and everyone around us.
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