The Truth About Inspiration

Inspiration is overrated.

I know, I know... I'm an artist, right? I'm not supposed to say that.

I get asked from time to time: "What inspired this piece?" and I'm supposed to come up with a great intellectual explanation. I've attended workshops and art seminars on storytelling, and artists are rightfully advised to sell our work always with "the story" behind it. Be it fact or fiction, we must relay some sequence of events, preferably starting with obscurity to sudden clarity, as if that can somehow give rhyme or reason to a finished painting.

Can I be completely honest with you? I'm not really fond of the question. Not because I lack inspiration, but because my art practice is not a linear one. I paint in cycles. Often working on several canvases at once. Some end up in the proverbial trash bin, and others make it to the other side. And guess what? I have no idea which pieces will be the successful ones.

So, I'm just going to call B-S on the whole inspiration thing, and here's why:

And that inspiration, man, when you find it, you'll know. It's like love. And just like love, if there's anyone out there trying to give you a roadmap or formula, know that they're drinking their own Kool-Aid or straight up just making this stuff up. I reject the notion of a singular idea leading to a singular painting. That some genius idea grabs hold of us and doesn't let us rest until we execute it to completion, and then we are out of work until the next big idea strikes. 

Perhaps Chuck Close says it best:

So in the spirit of showing up and getting to work, I wanted to leave with 5 ways to consistently cultivate your creativity so that you'll be equipped the next time you find yourself slipping into artist block.

1. In the process

Cultivate your creativity in your process. Painting is one big playground. Give yourself permission to get out of your own way, relinquish control, and just go for it. I'll be the first to admit, painting a lot of times is just experimentation. When I'm painting, my subconscious chatter probably sounds like: "I wonder what would happen if I place this color here, or scratch out this layer, or add in this texture?"

So many times, I am just so inspired by the process itself. I'll have a song stuck in my head, or a line repeating from a book I'm reading, or I'll be in the flow and random memories will just pop up into my consciousness. And then, BOOM! There's the title for my next piece. There's the feeling I'll want to convey, or the end result starts to form and I'll know what to edit out and what to take up a notch. I guess what I'm trying to say is, painting is fun. And I don't have to have a reason to do it every time. Sometimes, just being with my paints on a white surface, a good cup of coffee, on a sunny studio floor is all the inspiration necessary.

2. In the hope

Cultivate your creativity in your hopes and dreams. In speaking of inspiration, another misconception is that the way a painting looks is how the artist was feeling at the time. Gosh, wouldn't that be convenient? If, happy paintings came from happy people. I deliberately use happy colors in my work and people often assume, "Oh you're so happy to create work like that." This couldn't be more further from the truth.

I've created some of my cheerful happiest paintings when I was depressed. Not always, but the two do not depend on each other. And what a relief it is to know that my work doesn't have to depend on my emotional state. I can tell you that if it did, my body of work would be all over the place because that is the human experience. We're not consistent. But I believe our deepest, core desires are. We all want to feel joy. We all want to be connected to the world around us. We all want to be loved. And so we can let that define our work, continuously and always about: love, connection, humanity. You don't have to paint what you feel, but you can use the process of painting to be a healing one, and arrive at a piece of art that will lift your spirits by the time your finished. And that, in my opinion, is the most empowering thing about being an artist.

3. In the rest

Taking refuge in Bali. April 2016.

Taking refuge in Bali. April 2016.

Cultivate your creativity in the rest. It seems counterintuitive, but pulling back and allowing yourself to live outside of the studio is very important. Go out. Travel. Spend time with family. Spend time with yourself. Watch a season of something ridiculous. Chill. It may not give light to a new idea, and that's okay. You might run into Stephen Colbert at your local Whole Foods instead. I've learned that creativity is a muscle, and while challenges like painting 30 in 30 days and showing up regularly can definitely build your endurance, you can overwork it. Rest from being so damn inspired. Rest from art. And searching. And feeling so fricking much. Because, man, are we a sensitive bunch.

4. Through your previous work

Cultivate your creativity through your previous work. This is super key. In fact, this should probably have been #1, but here we are. As an aspiring artist, in the beginning you're trying to find your style and your voice. And naturally, so much of that is looking externally. But a key turning point in your art practice begins the moment when you start to look inwardly. Truly inward. Your work starts to speak to each other. Especially if you're painting on multiple canvases at once (highly recommend), one painting informs the next. This is when you're truly independent as an artist. And the freedom that you feel in that moment, even if just for a day, is one of the best feelings in the world. You're feverish with ideas. And you can't paint fast enough because you're just so into your own journey. You don't have time to second-guess yourself. You're too busy painting your heart out.

5. Via your peers

This is a controversial, one. But yes, cultivate your creativity via your peers. I love Austin Kleon's book "Steal Like an Artist". I highly recommend you read it, but in the meantime, allow me to digress for a bit. 

My background is in Sociology. Fun fact, as an undergrad, I completed an honors thesis (literature review, data collection, worked on it for 3 years, and all that, y'all). I thought I wanted to get a Ph.D. and I still indeed love social research. But anyway, much of my training still affects how I think today. One idea that sticks is this concept of a "unique contribution". Every thesis candidate and research student knows this. Essentially, it's the idea of synthesizing all of the existing work out there, weeding through the noise, and deciding what's missing. What can be remixed or reworked for the greater good.

And so for that reason, I recommend looking at other art, especially in the beginning and look to not only what catches your eye, but the gaps, and what you think you could do better. That's where you can find your place. And that's how you steal like an artist.

This was a very long blog post. But I guess the simple message is this: If you're like me, you're probably still learning and enjoying every minute of it. You don't have time for lofty ideas about art. You've got nothing to prove but the work itself. Let the art stand on its own. And if people connect with it, it will be instant. And if not, that's fine. You'll move on to something else that lights you up inside. Because that's the thing, when it's real, you don't need an explanation.  You feel it. That's inspiration. That's the je ne sais quoi, and no one owns it. Not even me.

What are your thoughts on inspiration and how do you cultivate creativity in your day to day life? Share more tips below! 

 

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Open House! April 20-22nd: What to Expect

Hey guys, I am back refreshed from a week in beautiful Bali. On my plane ride back to UAE, it hit me that I have exactly 2 weeks left in Abu Dhabi. Can I be completely honest with you? I'm a little scared. I have so many fears about the big move.

How will I adjust in the USA? Will I feel truly "at home"? What if no one in America buys my art? What if the buck stops here?

Indeed, so many people have asked me, "Are you sureeeee you want to move? Your art career is just starting to take off?" True, indeed.

But guys, if there's one thing I learned over these past few years is that, whenever you show up consistently and courageously as yourself doing what you love, the right people will find you. I have faith. I have anxieties, too, of course. But, this is chapter 2 (or 3, or 4, depending on how far you wanna go back). I'm still writing this story!

I will continue to mail work all over the world, and thanks to so many of you, we've mailed work to Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and more. I know we can rock out even further in the USA. But as a small farewell, I am hosting a 3-day Open House in my studio home on Reem Island. 

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I have so many original paintings from my archives. Everything from realistic oil paintings that I completed in my hotel apartment back in 2013, to my first time flirting with abstract art, up until my most recent work that you may have admired online, some of which the paint is drying as we speak. So, here's what you can expect!

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  1. THE WORKS WILL BE DISCOUNTED ON A SLIDING SCALE: Wednesday it will be an automatic 20% off. Thursday, we will have 35% off. And by Friday, if there are any remaining pieces, you can make me an offer, because hey, do you know how hard it will be for me to get 20 large scale abstract paintings to America? Prices will be displayed and in dirhams for your convenience.
  2. H'ORDERVES WILL BE SERVED: I'm pulling out my fancy pants this week. And, I don't do fancy often. I want you to be comfortable and satiated, not just visually but also tummily (is that a word?). So come for a small bite and the art, of course.
  3. CREDIT CARD, PAYPAL, AND CASH PAYMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED: I've got all ends covered. If you've got the big bucks on your card, you can sit down at my table and checkout right there. No hassle.
  4. YOU CAN WALK OUT THE DOOR WITH YOUR NEW MASTERPIECE: All of the works will be ready for you to take on that day (with the exception of 2 or 3 newer pieces). That's exciting and also super convenient. I will also have some information for my framer on hand so you can get that baby framed and jazzing up your walls in no time.
  5. THIS ISN'T GOODBYE, BUT SEE YOU LATER: I'll be back. If not in a few years to live again, then at least for some events and hopefully if I'm ever asked to exhibit my work in UAE I will happily oblige. So please come out and support. I'm not dying. Although it feels like it haha.

Be there or be square:

April 20, 21, & 22nd - 11am-5pm each day

Reem Island, Gate Towers, Tower 3

Flat #3009 (Visitor Parking Out Front)

050-622-1556

The Big Leap: I'm Moving!

"Soft Shock" 28x28" mixed media on canvas,  Available

"Soft Shock" 28x28" mixed media on canvas, Available

So, it's happening.

After spending nearly 3 years in the UAE, I am officially relocating back to the Atlantic shores and returning back to my home of New Jersey, USA. My family is eagerly awaiting my. And I'm quietly tingling with joy at the chance to order art supplies from Dick Blick again, (ab)use Amazon Prime, watching basketball again, see my family year round, and so many other things that make home, home. My business is moving transcontinental and with all the changes, I thought I'd list at least a few certainties that you can count on in these upcoming months:

  1.  AN OPEN HOUSE: If you're in Abu Dhabi, I will be hosting a three-day open house to meet many of you in person and offer my available works one last time.  I can't wait to invite you to my home and meet many of you for the first time and also say a final goodbye to so many friends. The open house will happen sometime in April before the move. 
  2. NEW USA/CANADA SHIPPING: For my American and Canadian art lovers, guess what? You will soon be able to purchase all the prints and paintings you want and pay a fraction of the shipping price you normally pay from the UAE. This is makes me so happy because so many of you have let me know that you like my work but that I'm simply too far. Shipping a painting and paying $100-200 is pretty costly. My cheapest shipping from UAE to USA is about $35 and even that can feel like a lot for a print or small package. So, thank you all who have purchased already from North America. 
  3. REPRESENTATION IN UAE:  Obviously, the UAE has been my home and the catalyst for my art career, so I intend to keep working closely with the galleries and businesses that already represent my work. If down the road, you ever want to purchase a painting or print of mine, you can count on my framer at Silver Rock Framing Gallery. They will be the point of contact and have excellent customer service and expertise in fine art framing and packaging. You can also expect to find my work in other commercial locations in UAE (will be announcing more on this soon)!
"Memphis" 36x36" mixed media on canvas,  Available

"Memphis" 36x36" mixed media on canvas, Available

So, this post is basically to say that, although I am leaving, my art will always be in the UAE and I am so incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to say that. I have some of the best art collectors an artist could ask for, so if you ever want another gallery to view my work, you could probably pay them a visit to their homes, as many of them now have well over 10 original paintings each of mine on their walls! It is truly an honor to serve you, to continue to paint the colors of my heart and soul, and put them out into the world everyday.

Please signup for my newsletter to receive word on the April Open House and more studio updates. I'm off to the next adventure come May 2016 inshallah. Wish me well!

Lots of love guys,

Amira Rahim

Favorite Moments of 2015

Hey lovelies!

This has been a crazy year in many good ways. From landing gallery representation and international stockists, to teaching art classes and having art exhibitions. It gets so hectic at times, going from gig to gig, and managing my little art business. And although I have so much in store for 2016 that I can't wait to share with you all, I wanted to take a moment just to recap this bumpy adventure! Here are some of my favorite times from this year...

 

SEEING MY HUMPHREY CAMEL GRACE THE COVER OF A REGIONAL MAGAZINE

 

PLAYING IN THE SAND DURING A WILD DESERT SAFARI

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GATHERING INSPIRATION IN MUSCAT, OMAN

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EXHIBITING MY ART FOR THE WANNA READ CHARITY AT A LOCAL MAJLIS

SEEING MY ART HEROES AT THE MOMA IN NYC

 

BEING FEATURED ON ABU DHABI TV FOR ART EXHIBITION AT THE HILTON

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BEING INTERVIEWED ON THE LEARNING CURVE PODCAST

 

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COLLABORATING WITH THE LOKA LOKA BRAND TO CREATE A BEAUTIFUL HANDBAG COLLECTION

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GETTING TO PAINT MY HEART OUT EVERYDAY AND SHARE IT WITH ALL OF YOU!

Thank you for helping me celebrate! Now your turn. What has been your happiest moments in 2015? Share in the comments below!

 

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Finding Inspiration in Oman

Back from Oman this weekend and I had the trip of a lifetime! A few weeks ago, I was asked by Zee Arts to join 9 other artists to represent the UAE in Oman for a cultural exchange. We were met with 10 Omani artists and our fantastic hosts Paragon Arts Community.

As you can see, I found much inspiration in this beautiful country. It was a feast for the eyes. The arabic lanterns, the souks, the people, and the amazing landscape. It was quite refreshing and I found it much needed as a refuge and break from the day to day grind in my studio.

On the last day of our trip, we participated in live painting at a mall in Muscat. We were joined by two great musicians and it proved to be a very conducive environment for painting.

Here is a video of what I ended up working on:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDDcOUiqke0

Back home, I completed the piece and it is now available on my website.