Amira Rahim was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey–an urban melting pot with a rich history of artists and creators. She discovered her love for art as a child and was encouraged to paint and draw regularly. Her work is vibrant and usually with bold colors, ranging from modern scenes and figures to whimsical abstracts. As a self-taught artist, she allows intuition to guide her as she builds a painting, meditating between lines, shapes, and hues. She describes her paintings to be both spiritual and sensual, reflecting her own experience as a Muslim American artist in the 21st century.
Carrie: Hi Amira! Welcome to Artist Strong. If you had to choose 3 words to describe your art, what would they be?
Colorful, engaging, modern.
Carrie: When did you first realize your love of the arts?
It happened very early. As a kid, I drew every day and spent a lot of time looking at children’s book illustrations, but my favorite thing to draw was houses. When I found out what an architect did, I was sure that’s what I was going to become. I still like to paint architecture and buildings often appear in my work.
Carrie: How did you discover your artistic style?
My artistic style is something that I’m still working to define. It used to bother me that I couldn’t stick to one method, subject matter, or genre, but now I’m much more forgiving on the matter. I find so many different types of art appealing and for a while struggled to find my voice. One day, I received a comment on my art blog from a very established artist that I admire. My work was very sporadic at the time and consisted of mostly studies and modest attempts at a full painting. She told me that one thing is clear in my work, my “sense of color.”
It was a very short comment and may have seemed like a small compliment, but it had a huge impact and gave me the confidence to say to myself, “hey, just let color be your thing.”
When you look at my previous paintings from many years ago, they look almost photorealistic. I laboured hard to make a painting “right.” Nowadays, I’m all about getting it wrong, and getting away with it.
Carrie: How has social media and the internet helped you as an artist?
Goodness, social media and the internet is everything to me right now. I think we tend to think of social media as a means to put ourselves out there and gain exposure; that’s true. But for me, the most amazing aspects of the internet, in my opinion, are all of the terrific art I’ve found and the people I’ve learned from.
Carrie: What strategies would you suggest to other artists for them to harness social media as you have?
Stick with what you’re naturally interested in and try to form meaningful relationships with the people that matter most. It can be a very enthusiastic fan of your work, an interior designer you’d love to work with, or even just local people in your town that are online.
I’m a huge social media junkie and love to browse the web and connect with people. I find this easiest to do on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at the moment, with Pinterest being a close competitor to Facebook.
Try and see it as one big conversation. You wouldn’t walk into a room and reach for all the attention without mingling a bit first. It’s the same with social media.
Carrie: Can you describe your creative process to readers?
It’s funny. This question comes at an interesting time because I am currently preparing for my first solo art exhibition. I can honestly say, I learned a lot about my creative process in a short few days. Mostly, I learned that creativity cannot be forced and it cannot be overworked.
I need time to fall in love with a painting in my head before I endeavor to translate it on canvas. All of this frantic painting I’ve been doing to meet a goal of mine has taught me that my creativity is a spoiled little thing and does not like to be shoved around.
Carrie: How do you know when an artwork is finished?
When I love it, that’s when I know it’s finished. I’d like to think that I have a pretty refined art taste after looking at so many different paintings from artists I admire. So when I arrive at one of my own, I know instantly if I love it or not.
Carrie: How has your life and its assorted circumstances influenced your art?
Well, first and foremost, I’m an expat in the UAE. I’ve been here for exactly a year now and it was a tough transition. I came accompanying my husband and we talked about me doing my art full time before I came. But when I arrived, I struggled to find inspiration and, to be honest, I missed home a lot, though I didn’t want to admit it.
Being here has forced me to seek inspiration in the new stimuli all around me, even if that means re-imagining places and scenes.
Outside of that, I’m not sure if I’ve had any other influences. I’ve always “kept my art to myself”, so-to-speak, so I didn’t really allow much influence until now.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
I find color incredibly powerful. When I close my eyes I see colors. When I dream it’s in vivid color. I once wore an all orange outfit (I mean from head to toe, complete with matching nail polish) to school one day. Needless to say, it was the same day laborers were outside my middle school campus in orange overalls, so it was not my proudest moment, ha. But I think my biggest inspiration comes from color itself.
Next, it would have to include landscapes, city life, music, and other artists.
Carrie: What is the first thing you do when you feel stuck working on an artwork?
I used to stop. I used to discard it. Disown it, even. Now, I make myself keep going. I paint over it. I look at it in the mirror, upside down, from a distance. I tape little blocks of color on it to re-imagine it. I may even paint over all of it.
But these days, I try my very hardest to never give up on an idea I saw fit enough to go and paint, even if it doesn’t come out as great as I thought it would.
Carrie: How do you think vulnerability affects artists/creatives?
Being an artist–and I use this term very loosely–is an extremely courageous thing. Every writer, musician, actor, painter, dancer, etc., in my opinion, is an artist, and it’s an incredibly vulnerable way to live. I think it is so vulnerable because there’s no right answer.
Carrie: How do you navigate the feelings of vulnerability that show up during the creative process?
I try to be kind to myself and remember that, ultimately, I am just a vessel. I trust that what I produce is sincere enough to be considered good art. Only time will tell if it’s great art.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Creativity is my connection to my Creator. It is my life force. Anytime you conceive of a solution, a way to make the world a more beautiful place and you find a way to do so, that is creativity.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Have you thought about approaching your art with a different perspective, like Amira? “I’m all about getting it wrong, and getting away with it.”
Additional Contact details:
From Amira: “I love to connect with new artists, and am still looking for painters that would be interested in forming a support group. Find me on Facebook at “Art by Amira Rahim” and I’m sure I’ll go look you up as well!”