I came across the amazingly talented artist Amira Rahim on Instagram a while ago. I loved her work so much, particularly the vibrant colours and moods. The two of us ended up doing an Instagram collaboration together, with my lettering of a Rumi quote layered on her stunning abstract art work, and it’s still one of my favourite images so far!
We’re honoured to be able to feature Amira as part of our Spotlight creative inspiration – welcome, Amira!
– Marryam x
Where are you located?
Abu Dhabi, UAE
In one sentence, describe your motivation in life:
To leave the world a more beautiful place than when I found it, that shall be my legacy.
Tell us the story of how you got started with your artwork/business:
Like many artists, I began painting and drawing as a child. I knew I had this gift but never thought about making a career out of it. It wasn’t until I got older and came to grips with what I really wanted out of life.
After college, I was a school teacher for two years. And then afterward, I worked as a research associate at a financial services firm in Manhattan. It should’ve been my dream job but after a year and a half, I realized that I didn’t want to live anyone else’s dream or build anyone else’s company.
I still didn’t have a plan for what I would do and how I could become a professional artist, but I knew that my current job wasn’t helping and that I was burned out.
When I got married, I relocated to the UAE where my husband’s job was and found myself in a slump. Newlywed, in a new country, and in many ways starting completely over, I decided, if I don’t pick up the brush and do this now, I may never get the chance again. I did so in 2013 and haven’t looked back since.
What is one of your favourite pieces from your own work and why?
It’s so hard for artists to talk about their own work. I am a prolific painter, and can paint sometimes 10 or 15 new works in one month. So, it’s hard for me to narrow down a particular painting. Each painting I finish, I often feel is my best work and becomes my new favorite. I love to create vibrant, colorful abstract paintings.
But lately, I have been building up a new series which I call my “Abaya Series” and it was inspired by my life in the UAE and my travels to the Sudan where my husband’s family is originally from. I love the merging of cultures and ambiguity of time and place in these paintings.
The women are veiled but anonymous, with now discernible facial expressions or emotion. And yet, each time I paint this, they reveal a new story to me. Sometimes, it becomes a wedding, or a scene in the mosque. Other times, it is a collective of sisters, and I feel this haunting yet beautiful quality in the assortment of paintings that I have created thus far.
What has been the highlight or ‘I can’t believe this!’ moment so far on your artistic/entrepreneurial journey?
Gosh so much has happened. I have an exhibition coming up with the Hilton hotel in Abu Dhabi and throughout UAE. We are planning to make it like an art tour, and I will visit several Hilton locations throughout the UAE exhibiting my latest collection of artwork and giving art workshops in return for donations to a local charity to help children with Autism.
It feels so surreal to have this opportunity to not only reach a wider audience of art lovers in UAE, but also to give back and work with a great cause for such a challenging family issue. The exhibition should take place around September and I am preparing for it now at the moment.
If you would’ve told me that I would have my art on display at the Hilton hotel a few years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it.
How does your faith affect your approach to your art/business?
I am reminded often of the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) “Allah is Beautiful and He loves Beauty” when I think of art and why I am happy to have this calling.
There are so many beautiful things found in nature and even our human experience, though a struggle, is so beautiful to me. I try and capture the emotions that I feel when I see something or experience something beautiful in my work.
My faith also affects how I deal with others as a business woman. I believe good business practices include being a kind and honest merchant, and so when anyone buys one of my paintings or products, I treat them as kindly and warmly as possible because that is how I would want to be treated.
So yes, beauty and kindness. That is my business model.
What/where/who inspires you?
Honestly, I’m inspired by every entreprenuer, creative, designer, badass out there passionately pursuing their dreams. Whether it is owning a shop, building a brand, designing, or painting, I am inspired by those who strive for excellency and consistently raise the bar in their work. It motivates me to work just as hard and to keep striving to improve as an artist and creative entrepreneur.
How do you handle the inevitable creative block?
I handle creative blocks by pausing and allowing myself to take a day or two off. If I feel really demotivated, often just spending a few hours on Pinterest will help me encounter beautiful things that move me to paint again.
Also, I love to people watch. So sometimes just enjoying a cup of coffee at a nice cafe here in Abu Dhabi will calm my spirit as I watch people pass by. It helps me get out of my own head. I also try and meditate although I’m not as regular at this as I could be.
What 2 pieces of advice, based on your own experience, would you give to a fellow entrepreneur or artist starting out?
1) Charge what you’re worth, not what you can afford.
2) Always document your work as best as you can (good photographs if you are an artist)
Favourite Social Media or Marketing Platform?
I have been having a lot of fun on Periscope lately. It’s a very new platform, not even a year old, but I think it could have huge impact for creatives and anyone out there trying to build a community and find their people.
If you could travel to one place anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Gosh, so hard to choose. I would love to go to Morocco. It’s such a colorful place and I love the Islamic geometric designs across the architecture. I think I would be completely mesmerized.
Where would you love to see your business / art in 5 years time?
In 5 years, I see myself with a strong base of collectors and patrons that afford me the ability to live a healthy, comfortable life so that I can keep putting great art out into the world! I have many side projects and ambitions, but at the end of the day, I always go back to my first love: painting!
You can find Amira here: