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A Sea of Ink, Fatima Taher Jewad

Fatima Taher Jewad is an ink artist and Arabic calligrapher, originally from Iraq and raised in the UK. Although a pharmacist by profession, she began her art journey about 5 years ago. She loves to create unique, vibrant and soothing ink artwork with Islamic calligraphy as a form of therapy for her soul and hopes the public experience the same sense of calm through her work.

How did you develop an interest in Islamic art? Did you always want to be an artist?

I have always appreciated the beauty of Islamic art, from its geometry and symmetry, to the melodies created by its calligraphy in all its formats and scripts, however I never saw myself as an artist. As a young child I used to practice Arabic calligraphy with my father, who taught me to write using two pencils strapped together.

After giving birth to my second daughter almost 5 years ago I decided to join a thuluth script course and learn Arabic calligraphy. I had suffered from post-natal depression with my first child and wanted to pursue something creative and therapeutic to help me through my journey. The Arabic language was always a source of therapy for me, the depth of its meanings, the melody in its scripting.

At the same time, I started exploring different mediums of art and was particularly drawn to the use of vibrant colours and different textures in the artwork I came across.

How did you train to become an artist?

I attended classes and also joined an online thuluth course to help broaden my knowledge, as it was more accessible for me since my daughter was still a baby. I had been following many calligraphers on social media which really helps me increase my visual skill to develop the script.

I set up a space in my kitchen pantry, got a desk and organised my materials and painted every evening. It was my ritual after putting my girls to bed every night, it was extremely therapeutic and healing and a thoroughly enjoyable process. I went to various classes and workshops to explore different art mediums, and Arabic scripts. I was on a journey to discover something I enjoyed doing so I was up for exploring.

The daily practice, which I yearned for was vital in developing my skill and after starting a social media account, I started getting approached for commissioned pieces.

What inspired you to use inks as a medium to create your works?

I was looking for an art medium to add colour to my calligraphy pieces. At the time I was following many alcohol ink artists on Instagram, as I found their work extremely therapeutic and unique.

I initially started out with acrylic paints and, although I enjoyed the sensation of painting with a brush, it wasn’t therapeutic enough. Since alcohol inks were not widely available in Dubai back then and were relatively expensive, I made my own inks and immediately fell in love with the medium.

Alcohol inks are very therapeutic and dynamic and difficult to control. A large part of creating with inks is that one has to learn to trust one’s intuition, let go of what one cannot control and allow the inks to do their magic. The process of creating with inks taught me a life lesson that there are things in life one must let go of to observe their magic unfolding.

How do you create your colour compositions?

For me colour is a feeling and an energy. My favourite colour to work with is blue, it is the colour we are most surrounded by, the colour of the sky and the oceans. When working with blue colour, I am at my calmest and most intuitive. I usually like to incorporate contrasting colours in my pieces to create an eye-catching combination. Occasionally I will also choose more soothing and calming earthy tones.

I am inspired by the colours all around us when creating my pieces, nature, flowers, animals and birds. My most recent piece was inspired by the colours within our oceans of the sea and coral reef. I used vibrant tones throughout the piece mimicking the beauty of life deep within our ocean.

You integrate Arabic calligraphy in your work, how do you select the verses you write on your works and are they largely Islamic?

I love incorporating Arabic calligraphy to my pieces, I feel it adds a beautiful dimension to the piece. I usually add verses of the Quran, positive affirmations or poetry which are of a mainly Islamic nature.

When selecting the verses of the Quran, it is usually what has been resonating with me and has had the most impact on my everyday life. I feel the combination of the soothing artwork and words of the Almighty can be very powerful and transformative of the mood, and act as a beautiful reminder of the attributes and promises of our Creator.

Which artists inspire you?

When I started my creative journey, I was in Dubai and was inspired by a few artists from the region due to their modern approach on Islamic art and Arabic calligraphy.

Notable artists include Dia Allam for his creativity and modern approach with the Arabic calligraphy, Aben Qasem for the melody in his scriptings and Nevine Meguid for her unique use of calligraphy and the Arabic alphabet with alcohol ink.

As well as other artist like, Ruby Jaffrey and Aadil Abedi for their composition and capturing use of calligraphy, and Ayzari art for her earthy tones and dramatic notes.

As I began my own journey, I am continuously inspired by many artists all around me and one of the advantages of social media is the ability to explore many artists, professionals and amateurs alike and they can all make a positive contribution to one’s visual stimulation.

Of all the works to date, which has been the most challenging to create?

My most challenging piece to date was the largest piece I created. It measured 1.5 by 1.2m and was created on Synthetic Nara paper. I was recreating an artwork I made on a smaller scale which meant I had to control the inks to a certain level. It took many hours of practice and patience to get it right and be happy with the result. It was a huge learning curve for me and the process was an emotional roller coaster in that it was ery therapeutic, calming, frustrating and insightful into myself and creating art in general.

Since that piece, I am always taking on challenges that are beyond my current ability, as this is where I push my boundaries and excel in my skill.

Can you share your creative process?

Most of my art pieces are created on Nara paper, a synthetic non-porous paper. I also use canvas and ceramic. I usually purchase it in rolls and cut it to the desired size. The size of the piece all depends on my vision for the piece, if it’s something I’m just testing out I would start of on a smaller scale and then scale up. When selecting the colours, it is usually a feeling, inclination or natural inspiration.

To move the inks around I use a combination of my breath, movement of the paper, air brush and hairdryer depending on my desired final look. Before starting a piece, I usually have a direction or rough sketch of how I want the piece to look, but the fine details are created during the drying process. Each drying method creates different shades and details which are completely unique and cannot be replicated and that is the beauty of alcohol inks. Each piece is truly unique. When adding the calligraphy, I always start out by sketching it separately and if it requires designing, I usually design it digitally using illustrator or my ipad.

Each piece requires planning and sketching and testing out of the colours and shades.

What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

Have a place dedicated for your work, so you can practice at every opportunity. Daily practice is vital to allow you to master a skill. Stimulate yourself visually with other artists’ works, nature, architecture, mosques and scriptings.

I found that artists feel compelled to find their style and stick to it. My advice would always be to keep things exciting and enjoyable whatever you are creating, because that is when your intuition is at its maximum.

Being an artist can be vulnerable, as you are putting your creations that are an extension of your soul out there for appreciation and criticism. Don’t wait for things to be perfect to pursue art, use the materials you have access to and innovate. Becoming an artist is a journey, you are forever trying new mediums, styles and techniques, so it’s important to enjoy the process and not be afraid to experiment.

What do you think the future of Islamic art looks like and how do you think we can continue to keep the tradition alive?

I believe there is huge growth in modern Islamic art and many artists are developing their own style of calligraphy and working with various art mediums. It is beautiful to see how people express their feelings through art and calligraphy and fuse the old and new traditions of Islamic art within their work.

There are now many platforms online and in person that teach calligraphy and art and I think it is vital to encourage them. My future plans involve starting my own calligraphy and art courses to raise more awareness of the importance of creativity and allow others to experience the therapeutic nature of calligraphy and art.

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The views of the artists, authors and writers who contribute to Bayt Al Fann do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Bayt Al Fann, its owners, employees and affiliates.


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