Leaning into the 30in30: Week 1 Recap

It's January 7th. Which means, if you've started the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge, you're probably catching up to completed 7 paintings in this past week. Pretty serious, even for a compulsive obsessive painter like myself.

"By The Beach (1&2), 16x16" mixed media on canvas,  Available

"By The Beach (1&2), 16x16" mixed media on canvas, Available

I remember when it was the same time last year and how I felt, and although I was able to see it through the end of the challenge, it was anything but easy. I probably had one or two small panic attacks, and my poor hubby ate lots of takeout. I'm surprised that fast-forward a year later, the resistance is still very real, even though I know how important these creative disciplines can be.

So, just to give you a glimpse into what it's like, the first day or two passes without a hunch. By the 3rd day however, I start to feel tied to my studio, and looking for reasons to get out of painting that day. By day 6 (i.e. yesterday), that all too familiar feeling of "why did I agree to do this and announce it to the world" starts to show up again. 

Today in the studio, I was listening to a recent episode of one of my favorite podcasts "Being Boss" and the co-host Kathleen Shannon, talked about this concept of creating without the drama. I'd like to think that's exactly what the 30in30 challenge is all about. Just showing up, painting, and getting it done. No drama, no over-thinking, no what-ifs, and no more damn excuses. 

So, this is what I've done so far. If you're doing 30 in 30 this year also, I'd love to connect. Please share a link to your blog or paintings in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading.

Amira xx

 

"Winter in March" New Work & Inspiration

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good morning at home Sun pouring through the window panes. There's still mounds of snow on the ground. Determined to remind us of a winter that overstayed its welcome. We're in between colds and chills while enjoying short spring breaks and infrequent vacation days.

I didn't intend on painting while I was here. In fact, I deliberately left my paints and papers at home. I did, however, allow myself some brushes tucked away in an open flap of my suitcase. I don't know why I felt comfort packing them. I tend to overplan and get very anxious about being somewhere and not having an item I left at home or something. Maybe just having them there gave me the security of knowing if the urge to create struck me, I'd be at least half ready.

And it did. Needless to say, I proceeded to go to the art store about a week after touching down. I told myself I was going to stock up some choice art supplies I'd been coveting for months just to take back with me to Abu Dhabi. But, I knew I would be breaking them open the second I got home. And rightfully so.

I wanted a way to document the cold, the heavy snow, the excitement with each sunny day, and the faint possibility of Spring. After bearing the polar opposites in climate in Abu Dhabi, It felt peculiar to me in a way that made me understand that this "home" isn't really my home anymore. It is more like a resting place, a collection of things and people I love and like and occasionally have the pleasure of being with until I'm back on this magnificent journey that is life. Each time I complete the 14 hour plane ride, I awake to what feels like a parallel universe and I'm in a time portal. It's transient. And somehow I like it that way. At least for now.

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"Winter in March" is a collection of my musings on paper and canvas board. I remember feeling fear and excitement to paint each day I created. Maybe it was the vulnerability of making work outside of the studio, or the typical feeling of "I think I forgot how to paint" once you take a week or more off. But, whatever it was, I tried to step out of my way as much as possible and let it flow. I experimented with materials and tools that I don't normally use, like a silicone wedge to create marks in my art, and pan pastel. They are lush and beautiful. I have much to learn.

In this series, I got to experiment with pan pastels, soft pastel sticks, and new substrates.

For my US art lovers, you can purchase any of these pieces and it will ship free domestically for a limited time only. I figured I would offer this freebie since most of my work is created and sold in the UAE. This will make for a nice change.

I will be adding more to this series for as long as I am able in my final two weeks here. Although, I am enjoying the slower days and savoring the very last days of my vacation and time with family. So far it's been lots of pizza, trips to Whole Foods, and hanging out with my siblings who are pretty much my favorite people.

Be blessed. Love art xx

Amira

www.amirarahim.com

A Self-Portrait & Reflections on Identity

"Self Portrait" in progress
"Self Portrait" in progress

4 am. Jet lag. I write this post from the comforts of my mom's apartment after a 14-hour flight back to the Western world. I've had much to be anxious about on my return home after over a year. But as I left my current home in Abu Dhabi, I began to realize just how unsettling some of my anxieties were.

I began this painting on Friday morning and completed it throughout the day. Saturday, I sat fussing about it after considering several things to change and improve, but ultimately I decided to leave it as it is. It is my entry, my self-portrait, and the cause for much self-reflection.

Much of it is surrounding the irony of the self-portrait itself. In January, I pronounced my commitment to completing 30 paintings in 30 days and that I would attempt to paint just faces. Naturally, my own face should have been included in the mix, if not the first of my many paintings. However, I struggled to come to terms with the impossible task of my self-portrait and all that it could be. After all, how could I reveal to you a true image of myself, when a big part of me is always hidden?

And though I finally picked up the brush 3 days ago, it was not without great contemplation. Being a graduate of sociology, I am no stranger to discussing identity. As such, I found myself having a conversation in my own head as I painted this piece:

Is our identity shaped by what people see of us publicly?

Does our public image determine what we feel internally about ourselves?

And ultimately, does my decision to wear a headscarf reduce the complex nature of my existence as a daughter, wife, sister, citizen, thinker, writer, artist, traveler, and whatever else, to the one-dimensional caricature of the modern Muslim woman?

Perhaps, since I became a "muhajiba" (woman who observes hijab) one autumn evening 6 years ago during a 4-month study abroad stint in London, I have become used to inhabiting multiple places and identities once. Other people's projections seem to be ignited with the mere sight of "that thing on my head" and I have grown accustomed to the harsh reality that the light fabric draped ever so carefully above my head hangs heavy with burden, fear, and admonishment. I am no stranger to this.

But, as I stared into the form of my own reflection, I no longer saw myself. I saw the people that came before me. My grandparents, namely, and the rich stories that have made up my family history.

My ancestors are gloriously painful characters, figures etched in time forever marred by the unfortunate eras in which they were born. Hailing from the South, the plantations, the farms that bore the fruit of American prosperity, they are soft, strong and tortured images in my head formed at a tender age of curiosity.

My maternal great-great grandmother was an American Indian. Her children's children's still reside in the farmlands of Virginia. I often smile when I kiss my grandma's cheeks, her copper skin, red like the clay dirt that my mother used to play in as a child, spending summers "down South". As a kid, it was my sole responsibility to brush her long shiny waist-length hair, first black, then peppery, and now silver. I can still feel the grease of a 99 cent jar of petroleum jelly sliding through my fingers as I brushed her hair from her head to the seat of her wooden chair.

"Self Portrait" 

"Self Portrait" 

Like any portrait, the eyes are the most important, and most difficult. When I drew my own, I thought about how these eyes do not belong to me alone. I share the same strong gaze of my paternal grandfather, A. Lovelace, a stern man with a troubled childhood from the Carolinas. He would migrate to New Jersey on his on as a teenager, orphaned. He passed away before I was too young to form many memories of him, other than me sitting as a kid in our kitchen, the same kitchen my dad grew up in in Vailsburg, Newark, New Jersey.  I still remember him giving me after-dinner mints from a heavy glass bowl even though I didn't have dinner.

My skin, my eyes, my hair, though covered all weave together reminding me of the little fragments of my own American History. When I think of my predecessors, I wonder, would they be proud of me today? Would they recognize me as one of their own?

I don't know the answers to these questions but it seemed fitting that they came when they did. Returning home and spending time with family grounds us, reminds us of who we are and where we're from.

"Self Portait" 24x20" acrylic on canvas
"Self Portait" 24x20" acrylic on canvas

Admittedly, I'm self-conscious at times. I know I shouldn't, but I wonder what the world sees when they look at me. I try not to think about it too much, obviously, as these thoughts can be debilitating. My return flight home reminded me just how uncomfortable I can feel at "home" vs. being a foreigner in the UAE.

But, I ask myself, am I my self portrait? No. I think I am much more than the two-dimensional painting of myself, and one-dimensional narrative of one facet of my human experience.

Thank you for reading.

P.S. Painting myself was really enjoyable! Even though it is a serious, maybe moody rendition of myself, I enjoyed capturing the more serious (albeit dominating) side of my personality. It's not a perfect painting, but it's me! I hope to do more in the future!

Dark and Moody: Latest Paintings

"Copacetic" 24x36" acrylic on canvas SOLD
"Copacetic" 24x36" acrylic on canvas SOLD
"We had a chemistry"  30x40" mixed media on canvas Purchase
"We had a chemistry" 30x40" mixed media on canvas Purchase

If last week was orange and juicy, this week is dark and moody. I've been in a deep blue kind of zone and I can't say it's not good here. Here are two of my latest abstract pieces. Click the photos to learn more.

Thanks and have a good week!