Are You An Optimist?

That's a serious question.

I've been thinking about this lately. I don't think I've ever shared this publicly, but I used to be a very negative person. I was always seeing the glass half empty, always the "realist." But a few years ago, I faced one of my most difficult challenges in life yet, and on top of that I was away from my support system in a foreign country. If I stayed depressed and hopeless, I don't know where I would be today. So, I adopted this sink or swim mentality and went head-first into fulfilling my dream of being a full-time artist. What did I have to lose?

You know what's remarkable about when you have nothing to lose? You have everything to gain. I let go of being a perfectionist and realistic painter, and started creating high-vibe, uplifting abstract art to lift my own mood. I painted day in and day out using the most high-frequency colors I could find. And not only did it impact my personal levels of happiness, but art turned me into an optimist. Go figure.

I know this month may feel rough. Heck, 2016 put most of us through the ringer. You've lost the person closest to you. You moved homes and switched jobs. You've seen yourself grow in ways that you weren't even aware of. And you've seen your weakest points and realize how much personal work you have to do going forward.

Maybe you've just been consumed by the news and genuinely sad for the world. I spent a solid day a few weeks ago just crying in bed. Tear stained pillow and sheets is not a good look on a Tuesday. Trust me.

And then I got up. Because I had a painting that a new collector purchased from me all the way in Malaysia and I knew she was waiting for it.

(Above) A new figurative piece on my easel this month

I started to paint a bit. I started to share again. Because I don't "want" to be an optimist, I have to be. I must operate from a place of hope and faith even when I'm afraid. We all do.

As I sat on the floor painting last night, I felt truly blessed. I know that no matter what, I can choose to surround myself with beauty and hope each day. I can create something beautiful out of nothing. And I can connect with people all over the world because of art.

As you head into the week, I won't flood your inbox with Black Friday demands to buy NOW, now, now! Haha. If you have any questions how to collect an original piece of mine, I know you can ask me.

What's lighting me up lately? I'm putting together a gift guide this week to show all of the new art, accessories, and calendars that I'm so proud to share this year. You can expect that email probably in the next few days. I'm also preparing for my very first online painting course to help inspire others to create and share their gifts with the world in 2017.

And on Monday, I will be doing a big pop-up shop over on Instagram. There will be lots of new paintings and other things to shop for right from your cell phone. So come join me then.

Thank you all for being apart of this journey with me! I couldn't do this without YOUR support, so I am so fortunate for your presence. What's lighting you up lately?

Onward,

Amira

 

Why Every Artist Should be Killing it on Instagram Right Now

Today, I wanted to sit down and have a serious conversation about Instagram. It's such a fun platform, and for years, it was just that for me--a fun way to share photos and progress of my work each day. Like an online visual diary of sorts. I treated my Instagram account like a blog, and it was fun. And then I got serious and started to see some serious results.

In the past year and a half, my relationship to the social media platform has completely changed. And I've learned a tremendous amount in the few short months especially, all because of some small but crucial adjustments in my understanding of how to use this powerful tool in my art business.

Today, if you go to my Instagram account, you'll see that as of this date, I have 29,000 people following me. 3 months ago, that number was less than half of that. And a year ago, I was stuck at around 5,000 followers and quite frankly, pretty happy to have even that. But this is not about the numbers. This is about the outcome.

Numbers are great, but I'm even more excited about what's come out of me treating Instagram more seriously and of thinking more strategically about my place as an artist on social media in general.

  • A year and a half ago, I received my very first licensing deal from an art company based in Australia. They found me on Instagram.
  • Before I could reach 10,000 followers this year, I was contacted by the Huffington Post to be 1 of the 4 artists featured in a faith-based series. They found me on Instagram.
  • An interior designer who purchased a print from me years ago, passed my name along to Ebony Magazine who recently featured me in their Home Decor lineup on stands around the country. The interior designer found me on Instagram.
  • An admirer of my work and now friend, passed my details along to a beautiful venue in Los Angeles, with the likes of Coldplay, Rihanna, Jay-Z, and Beyonce attending as well as TV shows, movies, and weddings filming there with my paintings on the walls as we speak. And you know the first place she sent them to have them consider my work? Instagram. 

And that's just me, not doing anything really unusual or particularly special other than consistently sharing quality posts and now videos of my art and creative process. There are countless others with even bigger wins and followings than myself, and believe me, Instagram is like a full-time job for them. But so many of us artists are late to the party.

Most artists continue to treat their Instagram like a blog, when really they should look at it like a visual resume or online gallery. Furthermore, the major shift for me was when I started to realize that a successful Instagram account is less about you, and more about your audience and how you create a visual experience for them to enjoy on a regular basis.

So here's some reasons why I KNOW artists can crush it on Instagram: 

  1. Instagram is a visual platform. Art is visual. This is a no brainer. Like Pinterest, people go to Instagram just to see beautiful things. As long as you're creating beautiful work, people will find you. And follow you in droves. 
  2. Each of us produce artwork that is unique, from our hearts and souls. It's not a manufactured item. People resonate and admire that alone. It also provides opportunity for education because people will always want to learn how to create.
  3. We're one of the few industries that can post our art/handmade items ONLY and get away with that. People don't need to see your house, your cool outfit, your dog, your boo--you get the picture. You are NOT a lifestyle blogger. What a relief! We don't have to share our personal lives or pretend to be happy on those sucky days to make an impact. This is also why a lot of people get fed up with social media these days because you can get burned out. But when you keep it about the art and the art alone, you can be sustainable.
  4. We can produce original content everyday and never run out of material. Our art comes from an endless source of creativity and inspiration. This alone gives us a unique advantage.
  5. We don't need a team to share our information. We don't need hair and makeup, perfect lighting, or even props. Our art can stand on its own!
  6.  People CRAVE creativity and color on their feeds. I can't tell you how many people message me and tell me how happy my work makes them when they scroll upon it. How they look forward to my posts each day. Every artist out there can have that same impact and should.
  7. We can show process and progress videos in a way that no other industry can. This is powerful!! And the best way to drive your followings through the roof. 
  8. Artists find other artists. We can support and lift each other up along the way. The tide truly does rise all boats in this instance.

These are just some of the few examples I could come up with in a few minutes!

Instagram is largely becoming not only a major driver for online traffic and exposure, but it is also headed to be a platform for selling your work. And indeed, trends like pop-up shops, and artist collectives are proof that you can sell an original work of art right off of Instagram even with no mailing list or website. Game changer.

I really love where things are headed for creatives and online businesses in general. It's been a crazy year, and when Instagram announced it's new algorithm changes, so many of us were freaked out and thought for sure it would be the end of whatever amount of success and income we've been able to attain because of the platform. But, I wholeheartedly believe that the opposite effect is true.

I believe that the new algorithms have IMPROVED the likelihood that small accounts and emerging artists will be found by new people each day. And I believe this so strongly that I started offering one-on-one consultations and workshops to help train artists on how to do this.

Some of the most obvious things include learning how to take beautiful photos and posting regularly, but because of the new algorithm changes, there are also a lot of other techy things that you can master quickly to see the engagement and virility of your content increase.

Okay, enough of me nerding out here. I seriously could talk about Instagram for hours, but I just wanted to say, DO IT.

If you were waiting to have the perfect website first, or get gallery representation first, or even sell your first painting before you start taking Instagram seriously, don't. 

I am so excited to see how Instagram and social media in general will continue to make an impact on small business owners and emerging artists worldwide and happy to have this conversation.

What has been your experience with Instagram so far? Have you had any cool things happen because of it? Share your stories (and your Instagram handle) in the comments below!

Download a free copy of the Artist's Guide on How to Rock Instagram here:

 

 

Inspiration, Doing Something You Hate, and Falling in Love Again.

The first time I was asked to paint an abstract painting, I hated it.

It was an autumn day during my second fall semester at Pitt, exactly 10 years ago. I was taking a Painting 101 course to go towards my Studio Arts minor and the class was largely assessment-based. It would be my first time using oil paints, and while I loved painting the glass bottles, still-lifes of fruit, and my favorite--people--I hated abstract painting. 

Everything about the concept of painting abstractly annoyed me. Whyyyyy would anyone take a look at all the beauty on earth and distort it? Why not capture it as precisely as you can? That's what I used to think. Lucky for me, our professor only expected us to complete one abstract assignment and graciously graded us according to our efforts, not our finished product. I managed to get an A in that class but my abstract painting almost got in the way of that.

The instructor told us to go out and find some inspiration, bring back some elements from nature for us to abstract. Naturally, on a fall day in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I grabbed some beautifully colored leaves and proceeded to make a terrible painting. So terrible that I don't even have a picture to show you. I quickly put the painting and that assignment aside and out of my memory. "Dear God, never let me have to do that again" I thought.

10 years later, I eat my words because it's the only type of paintings I want to create these days. Maybe I wasn't developed enough yet as an artist. I was 18. A baby by many standards. And surely, even though I had been drawing and painting since childhood, I didn't have a true vision for the type of work that I wanted to add to the world.

The other day, halfway through painting these two pieces, I realized that with time, the same subject, the same process can lead to so much inspiration. We just need time to be able to see it. The leaves of October in New Jersey make my soul sing. My heart melts each time I step outside and see the trees seemingly dipped in yellow and orange. I've taken many walks through the nearby trails in my neighborhood to gather my thoughts and find peace in this busy life. This is what came out of those days in the woods...

"Female Energy" oil pastel, spray paint, acrylic on 30x30" canvas

These two pieces can be considered prototypes for future work. I love the texture and flair in each of them. I didn't even realize that they match until today when I photographed them. And both of them hold some secrets because it was the very first time I introduced spray paint into my fine art practice. I hope to convert them into patterns for textiles. I can even see them both on a lovely scarf. But it all started with a few leaves. It all started with looking again.

I share these paintings with you today and invite you to look again at the familiar. You just might get inspired.

"Autumn for Lovers" spray paint, acrylic on 30x30" canvas

Passionately,

Amira xx

P.S. Would you be interested in taking a workshop with me? If so, please click here and leave your details so you'll be the first to know about upcoming classes. 

How to Commission a Painting: Case Study with Jill & Brad

Today on the blog, I want to share a peek into the journey of commissioning a custom painting, particularly, what that process is like for both the collector and me, the artist. In addition to working on original paintings to stock my shop throughout the year, I take on special projects for clients and collectors who are looking for something more tailored. Just like your favorite item of clothing, when something is made especially for you, you can never tire of it. 

I love working on commissioned paintings because it's so much more intimate and dynamic. Earlier this year, couple Jill and Brad contacted me after finding my work online and decided to create something unique. They are newlyweds from Canada turned expats in UAE, and so that's how our paths crossed.

Jill and Brad decided to skip the wedding registry and commemorate their union with a custom piece of art instead. Pretty cool, right? You can imagine the honor to receive such a request, their first time commissioning a painting, and their first piece of art together as a couple. Now the only question was, what do we create together?

Fogo Island, Canada [ source ]

Fogo Island, Canada [source]

Jill shared a photo album of their wedding ceremony at Fogo Island, off the coast of Newfoundland, to use as inspiration and we decided on a palette of Prussian blue, teal, turquoise and purple greys. I loved the palette we agreed upon and was excited to use this set of inspiration for a new painting.

I sourced a few photos from Pinterest and shared them with Jill. Here were the pieces that meshed well with her and Brad's vision. These served mostly as a guide for the piece since it would be very blue overall.

After we emailed back and forth and Jill and Brad deliberated on several of my painting styles, they decided on a size and style, similar to two of my previous paintings. And with that, I got started. 

For the 40x48" canvas, I began with the first layer swooshing dark blues and Paynes grey. I also worked in some ink and experimented with alcohol as a medium. I documented my process throughout and shared it with Jill and Brad to keep them up to speed. 

After they approved of the initial stages and the first layer dried, I began to dive deeper into the composition. This is the most crucial part of the painting and where trust is really needed. Because of the nature of abstracts, it's not an exact science. I have a method to my madness if you will, and fortunately my clients trust me to do what I do best, paint intuitively.  A composition starts to form almost organically and it is my job to listen and pay attention to any patterns emerging. I feel more like a conductor than an engineer when I'm painting, just allowing the colors to play together and keeping them harmonious.

When I paused here and shared the progress, Jill and Brad expressed that they loved the jagged turquoise line cutting through the white space in the upper right corner. Can you see it? I loved it too and was happy they agreed to keep it. It would serve as an anchor for me to hold on to while I wrestle with the rest of the composition. .At this stage of the painting, I buckle down and try and bring it together cohesively. While paying attention to texture and form, I started to glaze some areas to add more depth to the painting and brighten up the perspective. 

After a few more talks and thinking, I finished up the piece incorporating more frosty grey blues and pops of purple and teal. All in all, the piece took about 2 months to complete. Typically it takes me several weeks to work through ideas and allow the piece to form without the pressure of a fast deadline.

I love how fluid and organic this piece feels. It reminded me of an agate crystal for its waxy and translucent ribbons of color. We couldn't decide on how to hang the piece since it looked nice upside down as well. I signed it in a discreet manner on the front of the piece to allow for flexibility in hanging. When the painting is hung upside down it had a completely different feeling, and I wanted them to be able to enjoy it in many ways for years to come.

I love how fluid and organic this piece feels. It reminded me of an agate crystal for its waxy and translucent ribbons of color. We couldn't decide on how to hang the piece since it looked nice upside down as well. I signed it in a discreet manner on the front of the piece to allow for flexibility in hanging. When the painting is hung upside down it had a completely different feeling, and I wanted them to be able to enjoy it in many ways for years to come.

They titled it "Icy Shores of Fogo" and I think that suits the piece perfectly.

They titled it "Icy Shores of Fogo" and I think that suits the piece perfectly.

It was a great painting experience from my side, but I figure it's best to let the clients speak for themselves. Here's what Jill had to say:

"My husband and I reached out to Amira to commission a piece of art that would commemorate a very special time in our lives. We were initially drawn to her work because of the vibrant colours she uses. They're fresh and modern, and every time you look at those colours and how they work together, it puts you in a better mood. And that's exactly what she created for us.

Our commissioned piece is beautiful. It brightens our living space and makes me happy every time I see it. And the process of working with Amira was wonderful. She gave us a lot of opportunities to provide feedback, she kept us informed and updated during the creation process, and she continuously put us a ease by taking time to answer any questions we had. We couldn't have asked for a better experience, and we'd definitely recommend her to others."

I'm very happy that my work was well-received. It truly is a collaborative experience and yet Jill and Brad gave me enough creative freedom to create a work of art for them without being too confined. It's unique and just for them, and will continue to remind them of the beautiful Fogo Island and their wedding experience.  I wish them well on their journey ahead!

Here's Jill & Brad's painting hanging, framed in their home.

Here's Jill & Brad's painting hanging, framed in their home.

Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed this detailed blog post. The commission process is really that straightforward. To learn more, visit my page on commissions here. 

Enjoy these last few photos of the Fogo Island.

If you could commission a painting, what would you chose? An abstract, one of my camels, or something figurative? 

Interview With AphroChic

Today on the blog, I wanted to share a recent feature with AphroChic. Here's a quick excerpt: 

 

Amira Rahim‘s work is incredibly evocative. Her eye-catching paintings take you inside a colorful world, where vibrant hues literally jump off the canvas. Recently showing work in Abu Dhabi and LA’s popular Fig House, the New Jersey native is dedicated to her mission – making the world a more colorful place, one painting at a time. We spoke with Amira about the inspiration for her bold, abstract pieces.
You’ve lived in Texas and Abu Dhabi but were born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. Can you discuss these three very distinct places in relation to your work, and which is the place you call home?
I grew up in Newark, New Jersey, which is home to many creative and artistic legends including Whitney Houston, Queen Latifah, and Sara Vaughn. Some of my earliest childhood memories include going to the Newark Museum for art classes and activities as a child. There was always something buzzing, like a concert or a show. It’s a city with great problems but great energy too. I think it definitely shaped me as a woman and a human being. My outlook on issues like poverty, public health, and much of how I move through life came from this city.
My high school, Science High, was very diverse. I had so many Portuguese and Spanish-speaking classmates for the first time and I was that annoying kid who would always ask people where they were from after the first 5 minutes into a conversation. So I guess you could say growing up in Newark, New Jersey made me curious and unafraid of seeing what was outside of the city borders. I later traveled to Brazil and then Europe, and recently, lived in Abu Dhabi, the place that sparked the birth of my art practice as I know it today.

 

Read the full interview here.