“Just the way I saw him, 365 days ago.”

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Epiphany?
As a pessimist I have to admit the following. Regardless of how blessed and thankful I am, a part of me still looks for a reason to live another day. All 365 days of the year, I constantly go over my mental bucket list on which only one item is crossed off. That one item being ‘cross one thing off your bucket list’ should give you an idea of where I’m going with this.. However, on my last trip to Pakistan, I realized how extravagant my ‘reasons to live’ were in comparison to the small blessings I am bestowed on a daily basis. Small reasons, that I have taken completely for-granted, which at any moment could be taken away from me! Numerous realizations followed, however the most interesting part is how I came to these realizations.

Deja Vu:
6 o clock sharp an old fashioned horn went off. As if the feeling of déjà vu, I rushed to the balcony of our little apartment. I tried to get the lock on my window to open but it was rusted shut from the last time we had visited. I put on my shoes & ran outside to get a better look; that’s when it hit me. It wasn’t déjà vu, it was the rush of realizations. There stood the same boy who had been delivering bread to us the last year we visited. The same boy, as though oblivious to the changes going on in the world around him, still stood tall. This boy had not even aged! The few strands of hair on his chin still remained freshly trimmed & his shalwaar kamiz just as starched as the last time I saw him, 365 days ago.

Prioritise:
The children around him had grown taller, but just as rude as before. This time they had siblings, half their height as though carbon copies of their elders. He still responded to them with just as much love, as though he did this for them. For him, all he needed was these kids looking up to him! Instantly the energy to live another day would be reimbursed. With huge bags hanging from his little Honda, he carefully picked out local chocolate bars of their choices, but the light in the children’s eyes could not even compare to his. At that moment, it was quite obvious how counting your blessings is just as important as prioritizing them.

Unemployment in Pakistan:
At times one must realize it is not what you do for a living, as long as you enjoy it. However, with the pacing rate of unemployment, many are left struggling. One of the main reasons behind this, is the uncontrolled growth of the population. The population of Pakistan is growing at an insane rate, hence logically there aren’t that many opportunities available. Some believe the reason behind this pace is due to early marriages, lack of awareness & illiteracy. Despite the uncountable schools on every street, some factors caused by corruption do not allow for a fair education system. Therefore, those that have gained their degrees through unofficial systems, are granted the jobs of those who deserved them.

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Content?
For that reason with such little opportunities available, at times many find themselves in a constant battle to be happy. On the other hand, for the blessed, knowing about the numerous opportunities available around the globe can also cause unsatisfactory to their current stage of life. So frankly, it does not matter whether you have it all, or if you don’t, you will always find yourself in the same battles. It’s those that make the most of them, that remain content.

All photos taken by yours truly!

 July 2014

Islamic Art with Adam Williamson

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Artist Adam Williamson of East London, told us about Islamic art and how he is currently teaching it at King’s College. He showed us several films of how he interprets those same Islamic carvings into performances in front of a live audience! That was a great eye opener for me; seeing how one artwork or practice can take so many different shapes depending on medium and context.

“Visualising the same art piece through different mediums can give an entirely new meaning and therefore be presented to a vast audience” – Adam Williamson

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For that reason, even for an amateur artist like myself, I now find myself on a path between photography and live sketching. Having a passion for both, when my ideas begin to flow, my instant reaction is to start to sketch. Only once I am satisfied, do I turn my sketches into reality by actually taking pictures of what I had originally thought of using live objects. This gives me the margin to make mistakes while I am still sketching. Once all my mistakes fit in perfectly, I capture them through my camera’s lens. However there are times I prefer to do the opposite, and take much more spontaneous photographs. If I come across something that intrigues me, I often repeat the same stages, only this time, backwards.

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Adam emphasised on how important it is to constantly keep learning new skills to create a new platform. Watch the rest of it his tips here starting at 1m:
Enjoy!

 http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-2-meeting-artists

 

Critical Thinking @ Tate St. Ives

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At our critical thinking workshop at Tate St Ives, things took quite a turn for me! Artist Greg Humphries completely caught me off guard when he asked me not only to sketch the person sitting next to me in under 30 seconds, but to use my opposite hand to do so! Forget about drawing, even gripping the pencil in my left hand was quite a challenge. Errors were easy to make and with only 30 seconds to spare, there wasn’t any time to erase my mistakes!

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It is quite intriguing to notice that when you draw with your comfortable hand, what you plan in your mind isn’t what usually shows up on paper. However that was absolutely not the case with my left hand. With the pressure of Greg’s voice counting down every second and constantly having to re-grip my pencil, what showed up on my sheet of paper was not even close to what I imagined in my mind… It was better.

The objective of the workshop was for us to realize the importance of mistakes. Struggling to stay comfortable with art is probably the first mistake an aspiring artist can make, and then removing all the evidence of past errors the second.

By the end of the workshop I openly confessed to Greg how from that day onwards I was going to start sketching, however uncomfortably, with my left hand. I had finally become comfortable with my own mistakes and vowed to try and never be ashamed of them again. He looked right at me, smiled and told me: “You shall go a very long way in life.” Just thinking back to that brings me goose bumps. The fact that someone so successful can give an amateur artist like me such great hope in just a couple of seconds.

Having been exposed to so many different artists and styles of art, such as Damien Hirst, Alex Katz, and Tracey Emin and then visiting artists all over East London, seeing the different ways they express themselves through their art, really proved to me how there isn’t just one path for an artist to take. It helped give me an insight into new ways of looking at art. When you look at an artwork, it may not mean anything to you, but once you learn about the artist’s background, all the elements in their art begin to make sense.

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Watch the excerpts of the workshop here!
http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-3-value-of-creativity

Graffiti; Value Creativity

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Thanks to Offscreen Expeditions, I was fortunate enough to benefit from workshops I could not complete over years in Saudi Arabia! One of my favourites was located in what seemed the artsiest part of London, the East. With the help of MCP & Mark ‘Batlow’ we were given a street art workshop for starters. From the basics of stencilling, inverting images, down to changing caps for different strokes of the spray.

Below is an excerpt of the many ways we were taught to value creativity. Click on this link to watch the film

http://www.offscreenexpedition.com/2012_uk/home/episode/film-3-value-of-creativity

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Towards the end of the workshop most of us had finally learned how to handle a spray can!

There was no stopping us.

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At first when I was handed the itinerary for the expedition, this was the one workshop I was looking forward to least, as it was too out of my comfort zone. However, once the workshop came to an end I realised how important it really is to step out of your comfort zone.

After a successful workshop, we had transformed East London!

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Kufi Calligraphy

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Whether it be due to being born & raised in the arab world, or appreciating the words from the Quran. From a young age I have always appreciated Calligraphy. It takes most calligraphers numerous years to perfect the art, for that reason I chose to take every workshop I could to speed up my self learning process. As artists, we always create images of our minds. For that reason, upon learning calligraphy on my own I did begin to draw pictures with the font. Below is an example for one of my Graphic Design courses at Dar Al Hekma University.

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However I was fortunate to go back to the traditional calligraphy when a very close friend of mine was having a workshop. Nasser Al Salem, known as one of the most talented contemporary calligrapher around the world, was asked to give a workshop at Jeddah’s 21,39 Gallery. Due to Nasser’s architectural background he explained to us how art is all about numbers. When it comes to Kufi Calligraphy, a grid is a must. Consistency of width and height of letters is key to a successful Kufi font. Towards the end of the workshop we had learned about the many successful Kufi artists, however Nasser emphasised on how it was important to add your background to calligraphy, for the best results.

The Language of Geometry

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On my last trip to London, I was fortunate enough to get very useful advice from all the artists I met. A personal favourite artists of mine Mark B, also known as MisterBatlow , emphasised on how an artists must experiment. Experiment until you’re comfortable to mix and make something you’re own. For that reason I try to attend every workshop possible, so I know what I enjoy & what may be a challenge for me.
One method of drawing that needs an extreme amount of concentration & an insanely steady hand is Geometry Designing. I had never appreciated it until I had to do it myself. On my last visit to the 21,39 Gallery I came across an installation by artist Dana Awartani. This was the first time I really enjoyed looking at geometry.

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21,39 Gallery, Installation by Dana Awartani

Later this Ramadan I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop with Awartani on the Language of Geometry. She showed us how the simplest grids, could create the most detailed pieces. After numerous tries and errors I was able to create the following drafts.

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After 25 minutes of sketching, these were just grids..

My over all experience of the workshop was quite a successful one however. I may not be able to master the craft of geometrical designs, however I did learn to respect this type of art. Kudos to artists that have the patience, skill & steady hand for such a delicate process. Hope one day I too could master it.

Live Photography for Head Over Heels

Maisah Sobaihi famous Saudi Arabian academic, producer, and actress, is best known as a contemporary voice for women. She often performes her play “Head Over Heels” in Saudi Arabia as no other audience would enjoy her plays better.
The last time Sobaihi visited Jeddah I was fortunate enough to be her photographer for the night as she performed her play live!

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Being an amateur photographer, I do not yet have the skills, nor the equipment of a professional event photographer, despite that I  definitely did enjoy the challenge of taking pictures of her sharp movements on stage!