I had a Paradigm Shift About Money While Living Solo in Mexico

I had a revelation that rocked my world while doing an art residency in Mexico—and it had nothing to do with painting.

 

I was thrilled to be in Oaxaca, and I loved Mexico, but I wasn’t carefree. As an artist entrepreneur, my business cash flow ebbs and flows. I’m careful to always maintain personal savings, but it’s hard to not be anxious when my business cash flow dips too low. While in Oaxaca, it was dipping and one large reason for it was because a former collaborator owed me a large sum of money. I felt hurt and stressed about being stiffed by this person, even though I wasn’t the only victim.

The fact that I had recently gone through a big breakup also weighed me down even more. Some would say that dashing off to another country is a great escape, but I can testify that being a stranger in a foreign land where you barely speak the language and you don’t have close friends or family for support is not a magic breakup balm! It’s more like a recipe for loneliness.

My money anxiety was about to have a big relief—my licensing company was due to pay me a cushy check that would cover my business expenses for the next couple months. These infusions of security and cash flow are what artists (and all business owners) dream of!

And yet I clearly remember the day that the commission check was deposited into my bank account. I didn’t feel elated. I felt numb.

Where was the joy? Why wasn’t I reveling in feelings of security?

There I was, alone in Oaxaca and completely in love with Mexico, and so excited to keep exploring after finishing my residency in Puebla—and yet I was becoming more and more depressed.

"Cholula" 30x30" mixed media on canvas, Mexico 2017

"Cholula" 30x30" mixed media on canvas, Mexico 2017

 

Just before I left for Mexico, I watched a documentary called Minimalism on Netflix. The film states that the things that we do and the things we think we want are due to unseen fears and desires. We spend time, energy, and lots of money acquiring things to fill a void, but since we aren’t addressing the core need/fear, we remain unfulfilled. These needs can be extrinsic (external), such as wanting approval from others, or wanting to be liked. They can also be intrinsic (internal), such as fears about being alone, fears of not being special, or fears of being unworthy.

I think the intrinsic fears are the scariest to tap into.

Minimalism was a thought-provoking movie, and I think some soul-searching questions that it brought up were percolating in me while I was in Mexico. When I felt no fulfillment at the five-figure commission payment, I came face-to-face with the void in me that had been left unfulfilled: my need for family.

There’s a wonderful quote by Rumi: “What you seek is seeking you.”

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I realized that what I had been seeking all along was something that I was already blessed with—a loving and supportive family. And yet I had been living away from them for more than 10 years, between college, living in the United Arab Emirates for three years, and other travel. I suddenly knew that I needed to be near them.

Shortly after this realization, I left Mexico and returned to my hometown. I had a lot of emotions and grief to face and work through, and I needed a lot of self work (and an amazing therapist) to get through it. I am glad to be living near my family now, and I still enjoy traveling both within the United States and internationally. In fact, think I enjoy travel even more now that I have grounded myself more firmly in a home base.

We all want things in life, but when we have a glimpse of insight into the root—our deepest needs and desires—it is truly profound, and it can right our course.

I won’t say that money doesn’t matter to me; I also know it’s a cliché to say that money doesn’t buy happiness. I respect money, and it can make life more convenient. I grew up in one of the poorest cities in New Jersey, and I’m very grateful for how far I’ve come. But in Mexico I realized money could not fix how I felt. Money is powerless to cure depression; it can’t help you love yourself; and to my surprise it didn’t even make me feel more secure.

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This post is about my experience, but I hope it gives you food for thought. What are the deepest motivations that you have for what you do—for your goals—for what you buy? Do you have a void in your life? If so, are you filling it with things that don’t serve you instead of making the needed changes or doing the inner work? These are deep questions that can lead to profound insights. I wish you the best!

Amira xox

P.S. Please comment below and/or share this post if you found it beneficial. Share the wealth! <33

What I Learned from Taking a Social Media Break This Week

This gorgeous color wheel study, provided by one of my meticulous students. Thanks susan Gottschalk!

This gorgeous color wheel study, provided by one of my meticulous students. Thanks susan Gottschalk!

Last weekend I had the honor of teaching a 3-day workshop for the first time at the Donna Downey Studios in North Carolina. It was a glorious occasion and I painted with some of the sweetest ladies I could have hoped for. Stepping away from the online side of things for the weekend and engaging with artists in person was a much-needed change of pace.

After reflecting on such an intense year, and recognizing that in a few short days I would be starting my 30 paintings in 30 days challenge, I decided to reign it in and cancel all work-related Instagram and Facebook activity for a week. Well, 4 days to be exact but that's basically a business week over here.

Here's what I learned:

  1.  Managing two Instagram accounts, a Facebook group of 1,900+ artists, and keeping up with my account here is a full time job. 
  2. I need to hire more help and fast. Having support staff to help manage the different facets of my art business and consulting is crucial for me to stay in shape.
  3. I was able to be way more productive in my business when I unplugged for a few days. 
  4. I was able to focus on self-care more easily. I caught up with a few healthcare visits, visited my grandma, and spent my 29th birthday at the mall like a normal person. (PS I treated myself to some Madewell jeans for the first time and I did not know a pair of jeans could make you so happy. They cost a pretty penny, but you will never want to put your toosh in another piece of denim again.)
  5. I got out of the addictive loop of likes and comments and also couldn't run to them when I needed a distraction.
  6.  My time felt like my own for the first time in a long time.
  7. It is slightly scary to think the online world has imploded and may build up your anxiety to check it even for a second 
  8. I have more self-control than I thought I did. And coming back to the "work" that is social media is hard. 
  9. Social media is still a vital part of my business and how I support myself, but it is not the only part.

Have you ever tAKEN a social media hiatus?

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I intend to schedule more of these throughout the rest of this year. I never realized how much time and energy I was expending. It's nice just to be able to tell people, email me at info@amirarahim.com if you need anything and walk away. 


#AMIRAPAINTS30DAYS

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Today marks the first day of my self-inflicted 30 paintings in 30 days challenge 😝 and so you can expect me to make up for the absence this week with a months worth of original paintings from my studio to flood your screens.

If you'd like to get on my collector list for the 30 paintings and get special updates on new originals from my studio this month, sign up below:

After this I'll probably want a pina colada off the coast of Jamaica. Like for real 🌴🌴🌴

7 Bad Habits Holding Back Your Instagram Growth

#1 You're still doing "Follow-for-follow"

Back in the day (okay really just a few years ago), it was very common to see people visiting each other's IG feeds and immediately commenting "Hey, follow for follow?". Meaning, they'd follow you if you follow them back. Even worse, sometimes, you'd follow someone only to realize weeks later that they've unfollowed you already and this was just a technique employed to grow their own numbers. This is not a winning strategy for growing your Instagram audience and will only stress you out. Instead, focus on building a long-lasting community of raving fans, aka "your tribe."

#2 You're posting too little

This probably could have been number 1, because it is the most common concern I hear from artists just starting to get serious about their social media. Many newcomers feel like they will turn people off if suddenly they ONLY share their creative pursuits or new venture. And even more so, many people fear that sharing 3-5 times per day is excessive. Yet, the reality is that we are being marketed to constantly and successful businesses understand that you must vie for your ideal market's attention. The best way to do this is to post frequently and consistently throughout the day to insure that at least one of your posts are seen that day.

#3 You're posting too much

Have you ever scrolled down your timeline only to see the same person sharing 3 or 4 photos within the span of a couple of minutes? It feels a bit spammy, right? It's like you haven't shared anything all week and you're trying to make up for it by flooding people's screens. I have certainly unfollowed accounts because of this and really advise against overwhelming people's feeds. It's much better to space out a few posts throughout the day since people check their phones multiple times of the day as well (as noted in the point prior).

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#4 You don't have a vision for your feed

Some feeds are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get :P. Meaning it's all over the place and not in a good way! One minute there's a picture of a cat. The next day it's a weird mushroom you found in the woods during your morning stroll. And the next it's your latest outfit find from the mall. While it may be entertaining for the people closes to you, this isn't building a brand. Instagram is no longer a platform for personal blogging. If you run a personal blog, that is different. But for the rest of us, we can't be surprised when no one is pays attention to our art the one time we do share it. It's because they can't decide what's the most important thing on your feed and neither can you.

#5 You post selfies regularly

Everyone loves a good selfie. Indeed, Instagram is probably responsible for the creation of the term. If you treat your Instagram account like a personal blog, then selfies are more than okay. But for most of us, our audience and potential clientele would much rather see what you're working on than your face. Harsh, but true. But the beauty of this is that you can share quality photos even on days when you don't feel so glamorous because it's about your work!

#6 You don't take your photography seriously

Eventually, as you start to follow more and more successful accounts on Instagram you will develop a better eye for photography. You don't have to be a professional photographer, but some basic ideas on lighting, negative space, composition, and balance goes a long way. Interestingly enough, due to social media, we've become more selective in the quality of photo and video content we consume. So yes, the days of getting by with crappy photos on Instagram are over. If you haven't already, catch up!

#7 You rely on apps, comment pods, or paid shortcuts

This may be a bit controversial, so I will preface this by saying "to each his own." Whatever works for you at the end of the day, right? Paying for followers and other quick-fix apps is certainly a route that many people choose to take. If you've made the decision, however, to build an engaged and loyal community, then it's going to take a bit more strategy and patience.

Strategies on how to create viral content, engineer engagement, and create consistently high-quality content is exactly what I teach in my upcoming Instagram for Artists course.

5 Mistakes I Made in My Art Business + FREE Instagram Course!

I've been meaning to write this blog post for several weeks now. It started out as 10 mistakes because there have been many and I will undoubtedly make some more, but I couldn't arrive at an even 10. I just returned from a trip to Cuba as a celebration to myself for accomplishing something which I'll share later. It took soooo much effort for me to book this trip. I could think of every reason not to do it, but in the end, I knew I was resisting it because it felt "too good". I'll be getting into that later as well. As a full-time artist for 3 years now, I can share a lot of the ups and downs and lessons along the way. If they resonate with you, cool. If you'd like to add to this list, please share some in the comments. As awkward as it can get on social media, I still believe in the value of transparency and sharing your story. SO here's mine. Mistakes first

#1 Undercharging/undervaluing my work

This is a touchy one because, after all, what is the "value" of art in a monetary sense? There are so many factors that goes into pricing artwork. Experience. Status. Target audience. Market. Financial climate. Heck, even the artist's pulse (still alive?). And so, while there is no finite way to gauge what to charge, I made the mistake like so many artists starting out of charging way below what I really wanted for a given painting. The downside is that when you continue to sell yourself short, it becomes a habit and it can be harder down the road to raise your prices in time for your new mindset.

#2 Not celebrating the little wins

This one has probably been said a thousand times before. But I noticed something. Celebrating wins should start small because just like the point above, it becomes a habit. I remember the first time I actually let a positive email sink in. I was two years into my business, in the hustle and bustle of every day tasks, and like so many other fan emails, I was going to archive this one and keep it moving. But it hit me: this person took a moment out of their life to share how much my work meant to them. I was so focused on not letting the praise get to me, because I didn't feel like I deserved it, or that I had put in enough skin in the game so-to-speak. This is very self-sabotaging. When something less than ideal would show up in my inbox or messages, I would focus on it for days at a time. But a positive remark, an unexpected sale, or reaching a new milestone, I would quickly gloss over it and keep my "eyes on the prize." Except there was no prize in sight. This is it. This is the prize, every single day I get to do what I love, and it took me a few years to realize that.

#3 Neglecting to pay myself

A rookie mistake, no doubt, but one that many small business owners make in the beginning. I was paying everyone else but myself. It wasn't until I got a bookkeeper upon my return back to the USA in 2016 did I decide to get more intentional about my finances. Up until this point, any sales I made from my art circled right back into my business, expenses, more supplies, courses, etc. But I had no idea how much money I, the artist, was actually earning. I realized the need to separate myself from the art entity and the best way to do that is by paying myself a salary every few weeks. It's also pretty standard procedure for any business owner in the US. But again, rookie mistake (hire a bookkeeper). Now, it feels nice to actually pay myself and set money aside for me personally. I have a healthy balance and separation from my personal finances and my professional ones. I also feel rewarded for my hard work each time I send myself a salary.

#4 Comparing myself to other artists online

The internet makes it really easy to "measure" yourself up to someone else. The problem is, we're only seeing a snapshot of what people choose to share with us online. Very few people I followed online chose to be candid about the realities of running an art business. A closer look at private Facebook groups and comments reveal a completely different reality beyond the shiny photos. Panic attacks, insomnia, poor health, self-doubt, and a complete neglect of other interests outside of making money, just to name a few. The more I would look to other artists for validation and camaraderie, the more isolated I began to feel. Instead, I needed to focus on what was in front of me and what mattered most.

Today, I realize that I don't want a business like someone else's. I want a business that's uniquely mine and crafted from the heart. That means a lot of days of not knowing what the future holds, but I owe it to myself to embrace that unknown and enjoy the journey that is my own. 

#5 Not documenting my work 

I remember the first time I was approached by a licensing company. It was in 2014, I was one year into selling my artwork online, and I was completely unprepared. I was hiring a photographer to come and capture my work, but turns out, he was not a true professional and many of the images I had paid him for were useless to the licensing company. I had to scrounge around the city and collect back my work from collectors, luckily many of which were still in town, and re-shoot everything. It was a costly lesson, but a necessary one. Now, I have my work professionally photographed by a local photographer who specializes in documenting artwork. This is vital for the longevity and integrity of my business and helps protect my rights as an artist.

Can you think of any more mistakes to add?

Also, remember that win I mentioned earlier? I recently celebrated it and I'm happy to say that I paid off my student loans. When I graduated university years ago, I thought it would take me the next two decades to pay off my debt. I even derailed going to law school because I didn't want to add to the tab. I never imagined I'd be able to do it in 3 years and let alone from my art sales. It may not be that big of a deal to some people, but to me, as the first person in my family to attend college, I am so grateful. Thanks to the many collectors and patrons who have supported me these past few years, this dream has become a reality. No doubt, much of my traction has been because of social media. I've shared almost everyday online, particularly on Facebook and Instagram. 

Instagram got me my first licensing deal.

I sell paintings on Instagram every month.

I've built a community of fans on Instagram. 

This platform means a lot to me and so many other creatives, and it is here to stay. I'm obsessed with teaching people how to use the platform, and last year I decided to offer online trainings to other artists to use the platform more effectively. 

Now, we're launching a free 7-day program to inspire you to post more effectively. If you'd like to join the #insanelyinspiredinstagram tribe, please visit the course site below. 

👉👉👉 Click here to enroll.

May Studio Update

Fresh Paint

New work from my studio

The weather is warming up and so is my easel! I've been plugging away on a new collection and I'm excited with what's been showing up on my canvas so far. These paintings have a decidedly softer feel, while still being as colorful as ever.

I'm experimenting with more texture and whites in my work. It is a challenge but I have some visions in my head that I'm determined to see come to life. I think this month is going to be a bright and colorful one. Some of these paintings I use a brisk motion with my palette knife to finish, and others, I am slowly sweeping over with my brush, one thick stroke at a time.

There's something about these pieces that makes me want to keep going. I'll be back in a few days with more to share but would love your thoughts on the latest additions so far.

The titles are all listed in my shop with some like "Something like Intuition", "Show me a better way" and "Sunday in Central Park".

5 Reasons Why You Haven't Sold a Painting Online Yet

It's Saturday night, I'm sitting in my art studio in Oaxaca, Mexico creating new work and sending out orders to collectors while I get to travel the world.

A few years ago, this would have been a pipe dream. In college, art felt like a luxury and now, it's how I make my living. 

So how exactly doessss one transition from simply sharing your art online to actually selling it? I just gave a talk on the topic a few weeks ago and you can access the recording here. Here's a few reasons why you probably haven't sold a painting online yet:

  1. No one knows who you are.
    • Selling art online requires an audience. One of the first things people will do when you tell them you're an artist is Google "your name + art". If nothing comes up then it's problematic. Work on establishing a web presence early in the game and it will be much easier to reap the rewards when you're ready to ask for your first sale!
  2. You aren't blogging and documenting your journey.
    • I get it. You're a painter not a writer. Blogging is a lot of work, and nowadays with Instagram and other micro-blog platforms, blogging seems less and less important. But consider keeping up with a blog if for only two reasons: 1) It's a great way to get used to telling your story and building up momentum in your marketing campaigns, and 2) SEO, SEO, SEO. Blogging is one of the best ways to generate content on the web for free which ties into the first point. Try and blog monthly or weekly if you can't do it more than a few times a week.
  3. You're not using social media effectively.
    • I started offering trainings on Instagram for artists, because so many of us are simply clueless in terms of how to effectively use the platform. And not just Instagram, Facebook is still one of the best platforms to reach buyers and gain a following for your work. FACT: I got my very first sale online in a private Facebook group because I asked (more on that later). So don't sleep on Facebook! And get your Instagram game up :)
  4. You don't have a shop.
    • This almost feels like a no-brainer but the fact is, many artists are still afraid to go ahead and pull the trigger on their online shops. Would you run a store without a cash register? Then get a shop going on your website if you don't have it up already. And if you still don't have your own domain yet, Etsy is still a viable option to start collecting some coins. Make it easy for people to spend money with you. Trust me, it works.
  5. You haven't asked for the sale.
    • The last point I'll make today, but also the hardest. It's so difficult to translate online that you're not just painting for fun, that you're not just a hobby artist. One of the best ways to do this but also the scariest is to actually ASK "Would you like to purchase this painting? If so, email me or DM for purchasing details". Or better yet, put a price right next to your image along with the details and title. This is a subtle but crucial shift that puts you in a category of "professional artist (as in you are collecting money in exchange for your work)" and not just another hobbyist with a smart phone.

Access the recording for an in-depth look at how I transitioned from a hobby artist to a full-time professional artist in this recorded workshop. Bonuses available as well for additional support!

Paint on,

Amira xox

How an artist residency in Mexico moved me to tears (in a good way)

Hola!

Writing here from the beautiful mountainous town of Oaxaca after weeks of traveling through Mexico. It's been months since I've been back home and yet I can't figure out where the time went. I'm slowly but surely finding my groove here and learning more each day.

Traveling will do that to you. Art residencies will also do this.

My artist residency in Puebla lasted for 5 weeks and was honestly one of the most enriching experiences I've had as an artist in a while. It was my very first artist residency and I see why artists to do them. Not only did I have space and freedom to create lots of new work, but I was also challenged on an intellectual level that I haven't felt since college.

We were given weekly reading assignments that was the equivalent of college Sociology, Archaeology, and World History. Our readings were anything but light, and addressed head-on the topics of colonialism, oppression, representation of women and people of color in art, all the way up to genocide and even a new one that I learned: epistemicide (which is the killing of systems of knowledge). My days were like a mix of painting, eating drinking affogatos, and reading Audre Lorde essays. Yea, it was intense. I cried a lot, and the director of the program told me this was normal. That I should be unravelled. And you want to know the question he asked me that made the tears come streaming down: What are you passionate about?

What are you passionate about?

Years ago, I wanted to be a lawyer and defend the rights of marginalized people. I was and still am deeply disturbed by injustice. Today I am not a lawyer or an activist of any kind so clearly I get to cop out as an artist right? Well, no. 

This residency challenged me on such a profound level because it demonstrated so clearly that art is one of the most powerful tools of communication. That beyond the pretty images, beyond the beauty, I exercise a very real level of power every time I pick up my paint brush. Artists have the ability to make people feel but even more so we have the ability to make people think. Even in the most abstract ways of creation. And even more so, the residency reminded me that many of the works in museums (and out) helped define culture, the way we view women, the way we view the poor, the way we view Europe, the way we view Africa, and on and on. My goodness, I'm telling you, it was very moving.

Over the course of 5 weeks I was called to tap deeper into my calling and respond. It's a lifelong process of course. I know that in many ways I am just scratching the surface but somehow creating painting after painting gets me closer each day to that place of true mastery, vulnerability, and authenticity. 

After weeks of intense work and reflection, I took a week break with a group of women on a lovely retreat in San Miguel de Allende. It was a nice change of pace not only bonding with like-minded souls and lots of jacuzzi chats under the moonlight, but to switch to my other hat, getting clearer on my goals for Amira Rahim Art.

We stayed in a gorgeous mansion for the week, hosted by Desha Peacock of Sweet Spot Style.

We stayed in a gorgeous mansion for the week, hosted by Desha Peacock of Sweet Spot Style.

I am so fortunate to be able to send art all over the world, no matter where I'm living. I am able to send prints at a moments notice for art collectors on a budget, or mail one of my originals to clients as North as Canada and as far as Dubai. Now I feel like it is time to step into bigger shoes and build more of a community with other color lovers like myself. In other words, holding space.

There's something magical about when artists and creatives come together and I would love to host workshops more regularly to share the wealth of art. I have already tried my hand at this in Abu Dhabi when I lived there and online in my PassionColorJoy community. So I will be gearing up for more things like this in 2018.

In the meantime, I just found a new studio space right in the heart of Oaxaca and I'm ready to get busy! The best part is, they are interested in me teaching some art workshops here as well. Anyone up for a little Mexican painting getaway? Stay tuned...

In a few weeks, these walls will look completely different.

In a few weeks, these walls will look completely different.

So this long update is just to say that I am incredibly grateful to be deep into the heart of this artist thang. I hope you are (re)committing to your passions too whatever they are. You don't need to travel to do it. But you may need to cry some crummy tears and swing in a hammock after. :P

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:

I also wanted to note that the price of my prints are going up soon. Today only, grab them at the old rate while you can. It's not a sale price, but the price of my prints is about to go up due to increases in my costs to produce them. If you've been eyeing a certain print, such as this one, now is your chance to get it before the price increases. 

"All of Your Angels" Fine Art Print available still with 2016 pricing starting at $45.

 

Let's keep in touch! Sign up for my mailing list for new studio updates and special offers. 

Stay inspired.

Fear & Being a Full-Time Artist

Fear.

A familiar frenemy for most of us. And an all-too-common companion in our studios, businesses, and lives. This blog post is a short opening on a topic that I've been discussing a lot lately.

Last night I did a talk with ModernThrive on selling art online and I decided to lead with the four letter word itself.

Why? 

Because I think if you can get comfortable with feeling fear, the fear of making an ugly painting, facing rejection, making mistakes, and occasionally failing, that will set you apart as a professional artist. Here's a short clip from the workshop:

 

While necessary at times, fear has no place in our art practices. When I'm working on a painting, I push myself to move past my comfort zone every time. It's so easy to get attached to paintings in the creation stage but I truly try and practice detachment until I am completely satisfied with the result. Basically, if it's good, I ruin it. I paint over it. I push on.

I ruin something good in order to get to something great. It's a scary process but it has paid off well for me artistically. And I believe it starts to trickle into other areas of our lives at well. 

As a small business owner, I make a lot of decisions. Most of which there's no clear right or wrong answer. It's mostly about seeing what works (or what doesn't) and then applying that insight into future choices. What works for one person's audience or clientele will not work for mine and I think it's important to keep that in mind when we're comparing ourselves to other artists and brands.

You can be successful and do it in a completely different way than other people in your same industry. 

And in many cases, you should. We should be willing to be a unicorn. Go out on a limb, and take the road less traveled. 

It can certainly pay off right away, but it will always pay off in the end if you're doing it for the right reasons.

How do you deal with fear in your studio? I would love to hear from you!

To create this post, I decided to partner up with @methodhome as part of their #fearnomess campaign. I've always enjoyed their soaps and with the many chemicals I use in my studio, it's nice to clean my hands with something people-friendly, animal-friendly, and non-toxic. Do you any of you love their products also?

Moving to Mexico! Artist Residency & More

Happy 2017!

It's been a crazy year, no? I hope you're well wherever you're reading this, and sending you lots of light. 

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I wanted to officially announce my upcoming plans for Amira Rahim Art. This show's going on the road and I wanted you to hear it from me first! A month ago, I shared in a video that I was waiting to hear back from an exciting opportunity: I applied for an artist residency in Puebla, Mexico on a whim and sort of unexpectedly. Well, out of nearly 300 applicants, I was accepted into the program! 

I will be doing a 5-week long study in the vibrant, culturally-rich city of Puebla, Mexico and I am so excited. The program, Arquetopia, was founded by internationally-acclaimed Mexican artist, Francisco Guevera. The program will start on January 23rd and will go into the first week of March. 

I will be painting and soaking up as much as I can in this town. Hopefully make new friends, and embrace this new chapter of my life. In August, I turned 28 years old and took a hard look at my life and what I wanted going forward. I had to let going of a lot but I believe it is necessary to make space for what's truly meant for me. It's been rough. But necessary. Scary. Liberating. Truthfully, I'm still a little frazzled. I don't know how I'm doing it, but I am. I'm stepping into bigger shoes, and tapping into more of who I am each day. And right now, that includes being in Mexico, close enough to my family if I get a little homesick, yet in a new country, starting anew.  

I invite you to the journey. 

I have decided to close my shop on January 12th. This will allow me to get all orders out in time and put the rest of my belongings in a safe place while I am away. There are some wonderful originals remaining that would make great gifts for the new year. Anything that does not sell by January 12th will be packed up with me and a few suitcases as travel companions for south of the border.

That's all for now! Here are some important dates to recap:

---> Last day to buy an original painting: January 12th <---

Shop officially closes January 16th - January 23 (I will be in Playa del Carmen)

Artist Residency in Puebla, Mexico: January 23rd - February 27th

San Miguel de Allende March 2-7th 

 

For a special treat, use the code: MEXICO to get free US shipping on anything that you order this week! See what's in stock at today.

Love,

Amira

P.S. If you've been to Mexico, and can offer any tips and suggestions, please leave in the comment section below. Thanks!

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? 

Want to set up a free consultation for your next work of art? Fill out the form below:

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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.

Can you make art while you're sad?

In my attempts to practice what I preach, I want to open up today about a very unpopular topic but something that has shaped my experiences and how I move through life greatly. I had a creative consultation with an artist today. And as usual, we started with her story, her "why". When she opened up about some pretty scary things and how it put life in perspective, causing her to follow her dream of becoming a full-time artist, I stopped and scribbled down some notes. I then told her that she needed to share this. That the level of detail was up to her, but the story was as interesting as the art itself and it needed to be told. It needs to be a part of narrative, and in the process, I realize I haven't really been up front about my own.

I told her that my ongoing struggles with low-level depression led me to commit to a regular art practice and that even though my art is happy and up-beat, it's really a response to my own self-work to not be sad, and to live in the present moment. As the words flew out of my mouth, I knew I had to rethink my own platform, and consider how my posts and "branding" for lack of a better word, could be a bit problematic.

I'd never want someone to go to my IG feed and assume that my life was perfect, or that I was having the time of my life all of the time (although many days I am jumping for joy at the fact that I get to live out my childhood dream of being an artist). It wouldn't make me feel good as I have a disdain for people putting me on any kind of pedestal. I don't like being the center of attention in public or social settings, and I still don't know how to take a compliment properly, although I've learned to be more gracious in the past few years. That confidence grew as I began to come into my own as an artist and boss, realizing the gift to touch lives with my creativity. 

But I still battle with my inner demons. Like my art, happiness is a daily practice. And depression is something I've learned to accept as just part of the way I was wired. It took a long time for me to accept or even acknowledge because I thought it was just my personality. At least it came with a dark sense of humor, right? In Abu Dhabi, I reached a real low after just 6 months as I found myself in a new country, no familial support, and facing very scary health prospects in my family life. I was terrified and not fun to be around. By the end of the year, I had to seek help. Adjust my outlook on a few things. And dive head first into the one thing I could control. My art.

The hard work paid off, and the clouds began to lift again. But then came the anxiety. In a land where everyone's trying to be the next big mogul, and anything's possible, living the Dubai/Abu Dhabi dream bought out my anxiety like nothing else. I would look out of my window, 30 stories high off the ground and stare into a 100-degree abyss of opportunity. I was startled with the idea of sitting still. Disgusted with the possibility of leaving this country without leaving my mark, without doing anything other than shopping--and in the UAE, shopping in the most breathtaking malls year after year can keep you quite busy. It wasn't enough. (Insert: I wasn't enough).

I was able to shake much of my depression off. I'd feel it coming and I'd do things to lift my spirits. Mostly create art, listen to podcasts, etc. But like an old friend, it was still waiting by the phone for that familiar conversation of loneliness, self-loathing, and pessimism. I soothed its wait with accomplishments. More art sales. More shows. More press. Pushing past new limits of health and balance. Anything to leave it in the dust. I even thought that so much of my anxiety was because of that dusty metropolis itself.

Moving back home seemed like the right solution.  And then the politics happened. And the horrifying news flashing across our screens happened. And the bigotry happened. One day my younger sister in her headscarf was stared and laughed at for the course of a family meal at a local restaurant. And it hurt me to the core. And then #BlackLivesMatter happened. I couldn't hear one more reminder that racism in America is still an issue in 2016. That the way I look causes people to fear me. Or my kin. It ripped me apart. And like a true loyal friend, Depression came to visit. Getting out of the bed felt pointless. Suddenly, I couldn't deal. So many external forces aggravated my already frantic state and we met again, instantly. My old friend. Hello, Depression. I thought I saw you around the corner and here we are again.

The difference is that now I can recognize a little more easily that I am not my emotions. I am not my fears and my anxieties. I am not my pain. 

We all have painful things in our lives that we must deal with. I don't think for a second that trading our lives with people we see online or on TV, or in our PTA meetings, or even in our families is the solution, because no one goes through life unscathed.

I know it took me forever to answer this question, but yes. You can make art while you're sad. While you're depressed. While you're hurting for the world. While you're exhausted with a difficult medical situation. While you're barely hanging for dear life. You can make art while you're sad. 

These days I'm taking active measures to live a more holistic life. Two weeks ago I deactivated my personal Facebook account (you can still find me on Instagram and my Facebook business page) and unplugged from my favorite social media platform, Snapchat. Mostly because I wanted to take back my personal space and refresh. I'm spending in time in nature, going on hikes; today I meditated in the gorgeous Verona Park. Family is a nice buffer because, well, let's be honest, they're crazy and keep me out of my own head. But, they also require more of my time which means that, even if I wanted to live like the workhorse that I was in UAE, I couldn't. Work-life balance is suddenly a thing again. There's more time in between the original art I list for sale. So I expanded my print collection while I get settled into a new studio here in the States. I will also be raising my prices in a few months to reflect the growth in my life and the value I see in what I do. 

We can make art when we're sad, but let's not. Seek the help that you need professionally, medically, spiritually, and safely. Don't suffer alone and indefinitely. But keep moving. Keep making anyway. I hope that we don't have to stay in that space, and I truly hope we all can find more joy and happiness in the world. 

I just had to come clean about my own struggles. Yes, to happy art anyway. 

Disclaimer: This is my personal blog documenting my own experiences. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Some helpful links I found: 

Living with High-Functioning Anxiety

17 Ways to Raise Your Vibrations

Therapy Vs. Life Coaching

 

Enjoyed this post? Subscribe to my newsletter for more personal letters and regular updates. 

Works on Paper Release!

Thank you all for purchasing the first round of original works on paper! Part 1 was my "Evil Eye" originals on watercolor paper. I enjoyed sharing this first because they are very minimal and calming. Now, I present to you my very colorful and excited Part II.

Inspired by my recent travels to Bali and Italy, they are bold, colorful, and unapologetic and I can't wait for you to see them! Each piece is on handmade heavy deckled paper and feels so special in hand. Here's a quick preview:

"Koi Pond" 12x16" on deckled edge paper

"Koi Pond" 12x16" on deckled edge paper

"Psychedelic Koi Joy" 12x16" on deckled edge paper

"Psychedelic Koi Joy" 12x16" on deckled edge paper

"Capri" 12x16" on deckled edge paper

"Capri" 12x16" on deckled edge paper

Each piece is sent off with a handmade Balinese necklace. My gift to you! Now go check out the new pieces. I will be releasing the final batch later next week. 

Be a Little Awkward.

When I was in high school, I had this really annoying habit. I would meet someone new, and within 5 seconds of the conversation, I would immediately gasp and ask, "So, where are YOU from?" wide-eyed. I had to know. You see, as a child, I grew up in a predominately black neighborhood in Newark, NJ. My teachers looked like me. My classmates look like me. My neighbors looked like me. 

All that changed when my mom succeeded in getting me placed into a magnet school, Science High, to alleviate any disparity in my primary education and prepare me for college. Suddenly, my experience was changed. I took the bus 40 minutes downtown, closer to Newark's historic Ironbound section where my high school was. I had teachers who were white, classmates who were first-generation Americans with parents from Brazil, Poland, Bangladesh, and Honduras, to name a few. I saw goth fashion for the first time. I heard Portuguese in the hallways, and although I didn't care for the 1 hour commute each way, school was interesting. And I was curious. I wanted to see more, hear more, live more.

I'm an adult now, so I don't stop and ask people where they're from (at least not right away, or not unless they ask me first because, let's face it, sometimes my headscarf can throw people :P). But the curiosity is still there. I still love to hear people's stories, to go beyond what my assumptions of who they appear to be at face value. And it's at a time like this, when we have so much healing to do, that I am reminded of the purpose of my art. Why I feel happy and excited on most days that I get to put my art into the world and into a stranger's home. It is because art allows us to reach out, stand up, and often times, stand with people who are different than we are.

I get it. I understand that it's hard to reach outside of your comfort zone, to talk to people who look differently then you do or have different backgrounds. But with art, we have SOME common ground. It's a way in for our patrons and collectors. And for artists, it's a way out. It's how we choose to show up in the world. It's a way for me to show up fully in the world as a person, with no labels, not as my religion, not as my skin color, not as my sexual orientation, not as my gender, not even as my politics, but as a human being, having a human experience, if only for a moment. I can focus on the doing. Not the being, and sometimes that's easier.

However hard it is for us to be different, or to be made to "feel" different, we can have the courage to make a difference, to make something, be it a statement or not.  And it's the making, the doing, that gives us some release, and puts us in "the flow" as they say, right? 

After mourning and grieving (and to be honest, I'm still not done) for the past few days, last night I sat thinking. I couldn't shake this gnawing feeling in my chest. That feeling of "what else can I do?" like so many others. I'm not at any rallies. I'm not one of the protestors. I'm not one of the police officers on the front lines. I'm here. I didn't want to share my work anymore or even put my latest collection up for sale. I thought, maybe art has no value if it's just to make you "feel good", that it wasn't a time to put something beautiful out into the world anymore. That art itself didn't matter.

I reached out to my community on Snapchat and various Facebook groups, a community which by the way, has been very vocal in the past 48 hours (Mark Zuckerberg himself even weighed in) in voicing their stance against the atrocities we've witness thus far. Even though many of them are not black. Even though it's uncomfortable. Even though it would be easy to keep going on with business as usual. And some of my artist friends have replied back with their thoughts, but there's very little answers.

The thing is, everything we are supposed to do as artists we are already supposed to do as human beings.  We mourn. We listen. We help our neighbor. We practice self-care. We communicate beauty. We be the light. But we do not sit quiet. We say something, at the very least. We do something. We make something. And hopefully we can make a difference.

I want to end this post with the wise words of an artist I admire, Jeanne Bessette, who told me today that "Art is enough." It put my heart and mind at ease and so I share it here with you.

Art is enough.

Thank you all for teaching me some lessons today and this week.  I've learned the power of standing up for causes I believe in, even if I'm not directly affected. I've learned what it means to be an ally. And I hope to be of service to others in the way many have been on this topic this week.  It's been a rough few days and we've got a long way to go. But I needed to acknowledge my creative community. Thank you for showing up wherever you are. Showing up on the hard stuff. 

Today, be a little awkward. Ask an annoying question. Have a hard conversation with someone in your circle. Step outside of your comfort zone and if you're learning in the process, you're doing more than most.

 

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Bali, Italy, and Giving Birth to A New Collection

Summer summer,

I write you with a full heart and an empty stomach from my mom's home in New Jersey. We're in the last few days of Ramadan, and I've been really enjoying the month. I wanted to take a moment in the midst of my creative madness to write you and share a bit of background on what's been inspiring me lately.

A few months ago, I took a trip to Bali, Indonesia. It was one of those places on my bucket list, so when a friend asked me to travel with her, I jumped at the thought. I started the trip wide-eyed and open for everything in store. I didn't know however, for better or for worst, that the trip would be a defining moment in our friendship. We decided to go our separate ways after the first 24 hours together. 

Trying to shake the monkey off my back :P

Trying to shake the monkey off my back :P

You know how they say, you don't know someone until you live with them or travel with them? That ringed true. And there I was in the middle of Bali, alone, slightly scared, but relieved. I was going to have the trip I was meant to have and I was determined to not waste another minute. I believe there's a revival of the soul that takes place when you travel. And sometimes, the best way to really immerse yourself and truly experience it all, is by traveling alone.

Here's the thing, when I travel, I like to take the unbeaten path. Wander. Meet the locals. And be a bit more low-key than I would on home turf. Bali was the perfect place for me to find myself again. Its colorful markets, and even more colorful people made me swell with love for life again. I cried several times in the back seat of my driver's van. Just overwhelmed with the sheer beauty of this place.

And then I moved back home. And was greeted by oak trees larger than buildings, hills and mountains, sun that hugs you in the breeze, New York City skyline in the distance. Home.

But just for a few weeks. Because after that, I went to Italy for a workshop and was once again moved by the exuberance of getting lost only to find yourself again. 

I'm not telling you to brag or pretend to have this glamorous life, I promise. A trip to a neighboring town can be every bit as meaningful globe-trotting (and less scary, too). But I wanted you to know what it means to me and how the recent weeks have affected my spirit.

First trip the art store back home...damage was done.

First trip the art store back home...damage was done.

Once I came back home, I went straight to the art store to find the pigments and materials to match the colors I saw in Bali and Italy. It looks like bright fluorescents, tropical fruit, seas of green, rich skies and sparkling seas. Here's a peek at the work I've been making thus far. Some of them are stripes of patterns and lines. Others are layered with rich passes of Sennelier oil pastels, requiring me to spray them with fixative on my mom's back porch.

It's bold. It's colorful. It's summer, and I want you to have it. 

I'm planning to put these beauties out into the world some time in July. I don't know an exact date because I've been really taking my time with these. Fine tuning some corners, editing, and exploring. I don't want it to end. But when it does, they will be in my shop, and I'm thinking of including some little treasures with the purchase of each original painting. They are recycled glass beads made by a lovely family that I met in Bali. Some contain the mala prayer bead and colorful tassel, others are more minimal but beautiful in color. Which one is your favorite?

These?

These?

Or theseeee?

Or theseeee?

Update  7/15/16: New works are now released in the shop

Justina Blakeney Workshop & Italian Fix!

If you've been keeping up with me on Snapchat (amirarahimart) or Instagram, then you may have seen me documenting my trip to Cinque Terre, Italy last week. During May 19-24th, I joined dozens of women from all over the world to meet with our social-media spirit guide and leader of all things Jungalow, Justina Blakeney.

We met in the gorgeous and colorful Italian coastal village, Riamaggiore, for a 3-day workshop designed to light the fire under our feet and get us moving in our creative businesses. If you would have told me that a thing like this existed, I would have screamed with excitement. And that's exactly what I did when an art collector of mine in Abu Dhabi politely shared the news of this trip with me. Needless to say, I booked the trip within the hour of perusing the website. I was taking the leap, and would figure the rest out afterward.

And what a leap it was. This trip was truly the trip of a lifetime. Women from all ages came together, many proclaiming that this was their own sweet little version of Eat, Pray, Love. We were the most international installment yet, with a diverse representation of cultures and nationalities including Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Amsterdam, Singapore, United Kingdom, Phillipines, and Nigeria. Some of the women were bosses in their own right, owning businesses that recently caught the eye of Oprah Winfrey herself. One of the attendees is an actual rockstar. But for the most part, many of us were there on a whim. We've got this creative itch that we have to scratch and we've been blessed to see it turn into profitable businesses. Photographers, designers, fashion gurus, artists, and more, we've plunged through doubt and fear to go on to create businesses that support our families or at least our wanderlust. And now we're ready to see it soar.

@JustinaBlakeney 

@JustinaBlakeney 

Enter Justina. Effortlessly cool and collected, Justina took the stage in our castle's conference room (no really, we had class in a castle), and proceeded to blow us away. Within the first few hours, many of us commented after the break that we had already got our money's worth, even though it was just the beginning. By generously sharing her story and her wisdom, Justina got us all to think a little bit bigger, work a little bit harder, and damnnit stop and look for rainbows, too.

Some of the key takeaways from the experience was the power of owning what makes you unique, falling passionately in love with your brand, and LOTS of hard work. Justina's work ethic was echoed by our lovely host, Bianca Gignac, owner of Italian Fix and certified boss. Her own personal story of triumph and dedication moved us to tears on the final day and was truly inspiring. 

Seriously, y'all, this was such an amazing experience. I got lost the first day of traveling (oh those Italian trains) and ended up in Tuscany. But the second I got off the train and was met with the waves of Riomaggiore, all my troubles melted away. I had the best time and learned a ton. Friendships were made, nights were had, and gelato...well, you'll just have to check out their feeds for the rest!

Me, with the best gelato I've ever tasted in Florence, Italy. I decided to go back on my last day there. This time on purpose.

Me, with the best gelato I've ever tasted in Florence, Italy. I decided to go back on my last day there. This time on purpose.

Search on Instagram with the hashtag #JungalowinItaly to see more photos! Ciao, bella!