Amal is a 21-year-old living in Lahore, Pakistan. she was originally born in Pakistan but moved away at the age of just 6 months to Saudi Arabia. This had a big impact on her – Saudi Arabia did not have a culture that was very encouraging about Illustration/Graphics, and although her parents would have been supportive, opportunities were scarce. She came to Pakistan at the age of 18 with the hopes of becoming a Doctor, but eventually, she realised that wasn’t the field for her. Instead, She started out studying at FC College and proceeded to study Biotechnology.
We invited Amal for a Pakistan journal talk session where we host people of inspiration and vision.
How did you get started as an illustrator? Did you do a degree in Graphics or design??
My experience with illustration is a weird one, and my journey towards it is filled with loops and turns! I do not have any formal education in design or illustration, and everything I’ve done so far is self-taught. At around 14 or 15, I decided to just download Photoshop. I proceeded to play around on it for the next few years, watching tutorials and getting inspiration from other designers. Eventually, I tried out illustration, which I’ve only actually been doing for about two years now.
How is your personality reflected in your work?
I think my personality has changed a lot since I started the illustration, and I think my work has changed with me. Initially, my focus was on bright splashes of colour, on getting the big picture in and compromising the details. As I’ve grown, I can see that my style has changed too. I find myself slaving over an illustration for hours and hours, trying to get each detail right. Where I once wanted colour everywhere, I now enjoy using greys and blacks.
Are there particular interior spaces or designers that have influenced you?
I’m not actually a graphic designer. A lot of times people have asked me this question, and I blank out. A few months ago, I was at this amazing conference for graphic designers in Islamabad, ND2C, and I couldn’t recognise a single person there. I love the community we have in this country, and honestly, the biggest people who have inspired me are the amazing artists that are in my boat. The people on Instagram who work hard, are just starting out, and haven’t even figured out how to make a living yet, they are my inspiration and the people I look towards the most. I can learn the most from them and every time I talk to them, I find them to be incredibly kind, helpful, and talented.
What do you think are some of the most inspiring things happening in Pakistan in terms of art currently?
I think Pakistanis are starting to understand that art, illustration, and design isn’t just something people do when they can’t do science. That is a big inspiration to me. When I first starting drawing things on my phone (without a stylus because I couldn’t afford one at the time) my parents were actually concerned. Slowly, over time, they and the rest of Pakistan are realising that graphic design is important. It helps sell, it helps us communicate, and it helps us understand each other better.
How do you overcome creative blocks?
Creative Blocks usually hit me hard. I tend to go with it, most of the times. Unless I’m working, I usually let the block run its course. I’ve found that I wake up the next day usually with a hundred new ideas. When I try to force it, I’ve never been happy with the result. So I suppose my answer is letting go of my worries and getting a good night’s sleep.
What is your favourite piece of work in your portfolio? Why did you make it?
I’m very proud of some work I recently did, where I illustrated an entire poster for the WES Feminist Comic-Con. I’m not a big shot designer, and the project was a big one for me. The theme of the poster was celebrating the female antagonists in popular fiction, and it took me about a week’s worth of work to complete it.
@iamhalsey – But we are not free until all of us are free So love your neighbor, please treat her kindly Ask her story and then shut up and listen Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues For the people who had to grow up way too young There is work to be done There are songs to be sung Lord knows there’s a war to be won Loved Halsey’s speech at the #WomensMarch2018. Here’s to a year of tolerance, love, and intersectional feminism. //dm to order
How do you learn about new techniques and tools?
This is where I feel I am left behind in the graphic design arms race of Pakistan and the world. I try and keep up with new tutorials, new ideas, new trends, but at the end of the day, I need someone with the knowledge to explain it to me. It makes the journey towards finished work twice as hard, but then again, the joy I feel at the end of it is twice as much too.
What is the scope of illustration in Pakistan?
I think there’s a lot of work for illustrators in Pakistan, and I think Pakistani companies have started to realise that too. However, there is a great divide between what the employers want and what the illustrators want to give in this country. Unfortunately, the idea that illustration is easy, menial work still exists in Pakistan. That, coupled with the fact that the job market is still uneasy about the field, makes it hard for a novice like me to find good paying work, but it is slowly and surely getting there.
Worst / most difficult part of your job
For me, I think the hardest part of my job is that at the end of the day, the project you are working on is the client’s project. As a freelancer, I’m used to working for myself, and it can get hard to let your projects go in a direction you don’t like because your client wants it. It’s difficult but not impossible though!
Do you have side projects you work on?
Yes! Because I’m not a full-time illustrator, I do a bunch of other stuff – I’m studying to complete my degree in Biotechnology, I’m working as a freelance writer, and I’m also working on setting up a proper avenue to sell my work.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
One thing people often ask me in this field is why I’m still sticking with Biotechnology. And trust me, it’s not because my parents want a scientist – I genuinely love the field. In five years, I see myself continuing my juggle between Biotech, Illustration and Graphic Design. Maybe I can take a year off and do an online specialisation, God knows.
How do you measure the success of your designs?
I hate to admit it, but it matters to me how many likes my Instagram pictures get and how many comments I get on Facebook. But aside from that, the next most important thing to me is that the people I care about. If they like my work and it still gets no likes, I trust them.
What do you consider the most important trend in the area of graphic design?
I’m a minimalist at heart (you probably can’t tell from my messy Instagram feed) so that is and always will be a favourite trend in graphic design.
What is the best thing about Pakistan?
It can be easy to forget, but there’s a lot to love about this country. I love the vibrant colours we see around us every day. The county is pretty much dripping in creativity, we just some peace and quiet to actually get around to unlocking it.
Do you think media plays an important role in bringing forward artists? Or it depends upon the person, that if you have skills you will be known by your work automatically?
I think it’s a little bit of both. Talent demands attention, but sometimes that talent can be overshadowed by other, louder voices. Especially for people starting out, a gentle nudge can mean a lot. I know that I’ve gotten an influx of work when someone famous has given me a shout-out. That could make a huge difference to a small time artist, and it has certainly meant a whole lot to me.
Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
I would go for a cliché – don’t give up on your passions. I look at my work a month from now and think, man, I’ve gotten way better than that. And I’m sure that I’ll feel the same way about my work now in two months’ time. If you don’t like what you’ve created, don’t give up. Even if it’s not a masterpiece, it’s something you can learn from.
Do you think that a positive change can be achieved in Pakistan?
I want to believe that change can come with something as simple as a post on Facebook or social media campaigns, but I think that more work is needed in this country. We need to have tough conversations and face our issues with no denial. So I think change can be achieved. “Will it be achieved?”, on the other hand, is a whole other question.
What do you want more people to be discussing nowadays?
Something I’m passionate about and I think we all need to discuss is gender equality. As a proud feminist, I completely believe that all people are born equal, and I think, interestingly, this is a discussion that we can actually start using art. I try my best to do so using the tiny little platform I have on Instagram, and I really hope that a lot more artists can use their platform for other, worthwhile causes that they believe in.
Quickly threw this together in honour of the new Doctor Announcement! I’m really excited because I’ve been waiting for a female doctor forever! That being said, of course it’s upsetting to see Peter Capaldi leave, but I really think this is an exciting step forward for Doctor Who and I can’t wait to see it in action! #doctorwho #jodiewhittaker #adobedraw #lineart #art #artistsoninstagram #copeditors #timeywimey #13thdoctor #creative #makersofpakistan #pakistancreates
Do you think it is easy for us to prove our worth to international media?
I think, personally, that we don’t need to prove our worth at all. From what I’ve seen of Pakistanis, they are a talented, creative bunch, and I hope that the international media can come to this realisation on their own. Until then, they’re missing out.