At school, a young drawing enthusiast would sneak out of art class because she believed it would restrict her imagination and shape her to fit the mold. Today, 28-year old Shaikha AlShamsi mesmerizes audiences at Comic Con Middle East and the rest of the world with her illustrations of imaginary universes, fantasy tales, and the wonders of an alternative refuge for the mind. Shaikha AlShamsi tells us more about what is behind her flowy lines, peculiar characters and daydream-like scenes.
Shaikha, thank you for taking the time to talk to us about your art. Tell us about yourself. When did you start creating, and what is your background?
My name is Shaikha AlShamsi. Emirati based on Alain city, I was born in February 1989. In 2013 I graduated with a Bachelor Degree of Public Relations. Currently, I’m a freelance artist and I work on my personal projects, illustrations, and stories.
At the age of 9-10 I was addicted to watching 80s and 90s Japanese cartoons or anime in their Arabic dubbed versions, like Treasure Island, Lady Oscar, Little Memole and the Moominvalley. So I start drawing by copying characters in the same style as anime and cartoons.
At the age 17-18, I started improving my skills to have my own style, original characters, and stories by getting knowledge and experience from the Internet and many artists.
In 2014 I exhibit on Comic Con Middle East. And it was the first time I started selling my art work in prints and some original artwork as well. I created my first art book The Helm with my friend. By attending these conventions I met many artists with the same interest as me so get more experience in this field. I kept exhibiting in Comic Con Middle East up to this year and I also created another book, Sketchbook Save the Broken Lands, which is a collection of my sketches.
Your artwork reveals a very distinctive style that is fluid, organic and almost magical in nature. For example, “Awake in Dream”, “Guider” and “Lamplighter” seem to bring us back to a time of innocence and bedtime stories. What themes do you like exploring with your art, and why?
Lately, children and adult illustration books inspired me a lot, they reminded me of my childhood and the dreamlands I was creating. It’s not necessarily a real dream you want to achieve in the future, but more like a place, you spend time in to forget all concerns you have.
Each of the three artworks you mentioned has a different storyline and feeling, but the main theme about it is dreams, and other elements related to dreams like space, unconscious memories, insomnia and nightmares. So I was thinking about this place where characters have a journey in their own dream and get lost…however, they will find their own path. Because I like to lead the viewer to see personality development for the characters and how they react to what they face, and when they meet several other characters.
What feelings or thoughts do you wish to convey with your work? Is there a thread to your artwork as a whole?
It depends on the artwork. I like to make people think of unnoticed things, imperfection and the hidden feeling they don’t share it with anyone!
I prefer to let viewers decide on what this drawing could mean or what is behind it because I find it more exciting as I see different reactions. I think every person has their own feeling and stories toward my artwork because they go through different experiences in their lives than the artist.
In general, my artworks are surrealist with mixed sources of inspiration but directly respond to the fantasy and a world that uses everyday thoughts, words, stories, and emotion from a new perspective of thought and imagination. Often my illustrations would go unnoticed in their original context.
What are your favorite materials and techniques?
Sketchbook and pencil are the best tools to create any idea passing my mind. When I draw I focused in various lines and shapes I believe are the best way to create a unique illustration. For painting, I use watercolor – it’s so calming and makes everything flowy. Sometimes I mix between two mediums or more. But after all, I keep learning new techniques and trying other art material like acrylic, gouache and color pencil, which improve my skills.
What do you feel is the role of an artist nowadays, if any? What is your advice for other creators, particularly young Emirati artists like yourself?
I think artists and what they create are the links to gather people and let them live new experiences. Artists have new ways to present any issue and ideas in new perspectives.
If you are tired just take a break – don’t give up and keep creating. The art world is so wide, keep learning, it will help you to be more creative and unique.
Any future projects or creative goals you would like to share?
I might print my third art book for Comic Con Middle East 2018; also I’m improving my storytelling skills to be able to draw my stories. As an Arab artist, I want to create more illustrations and stories with creative content.
Interview conducted by:
Maria Inês Teixeira graduated in Art Studies and is a master of Cultural Management. She strongly developed her knowledge of traditional and modern Islamic art in Istanbul, Turkey, where she lived for more than a year and travelled to multiple times. When she is not writing about art or geeking over international art history, she enjoys reading avidly, learning new languages, watching awesome Hollywood and Bollywood movies, travelling and having interesting conversations over a cup of tea. You can follow her on Twitter (@mariatweeting) or Linkedin (mariaworking).