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Interview with Artist K Abdul: Raindrops in the Foreground

Khulud M Abdul
20 year old Artist from Toronto, ON

“Many intelligent people have accepted the false idea that accuracy in representing visual facts is a sign of progress in art. Such imitation of superficial effects has nothing to do with art, which is and always has been the making of mental concepts. Even the scientist is interested in effects only as a phenomena from which to deduce order in life." ... "'Looks like' is not the test of a good painting. It indicates merely visual similarity and shows that the artist has not put his brain to work. " *

Discuss this statements relevance to your own artistic philosophy

I agree with John Sloan’s quote. I’ve seen two random objects placed next to each other and that would simply be referred to as “art”. I however, would not call it art because it’s so easy to take any, already made objects, place them next to one another on a platform of some sort and stick a label, saying art right, above it. There is no premeditated thought or emotion in that.
I can, effortlessly walk over to my fridge, pick out a cucumber and an apple; place them in a box, label it art, and try to sell it to any idiot that would buy it.
To me art is something that represents something to the artist who created it, something that carries out an emotion, something that viewers can either relate to or walk off with a thought embedded with what they’ve just viewed.

Have you always been an artist, as a girl were you drawn to the act of creation?
Yes, I always had an infatuation with creation of any sort. To create something from nothing or to take something and turn it into something else, made me feel almost godly.

What are your earliest memories of art?

My earliest memory of art is a drawing of myself in a yellow raincoat, rain boots, and an umbrella; standing under fluffy baby blue clouds with a chalk white outlining, and with the full sun shinning above me.

Ironically, I held my umbrella open above me as it rained heavily. I drew so many drops of rain coming down from above something that wouldn’t be considered as rain clouds. Everything in the drawing played as a background while the raindrops, falling from above the clouds and through, played the foreground.

What have been some positive influences in your development as an artist?

Some positive influences (that at first played as negatives) were the lack of support I had from my family when it came to art, teachers not considering my work as art, and hiding my artistic side from close friends.
Growing up, all these things played as downbeats to my life, but somehow turned into tremendous upbeats when it came to me creating something so amazing that had others and myself in awe.
I hid my artistic side so well, since I was worried about what people would think of my work and because I didn’t accept the words “art” or “artist” when it came to referring to my work or self.
When I hit my parents with the thought of wanted to go to art school, they didn’t take me seriously. When I asked for art supplies, they said no. And that wasn’t because they were trying to be unsupportive, but because they have never seen any of the work I had hidden in my room and lockers at school.

When teachers would pick through my talent and say they didn’t necessarily consider it as art because of all the surfacing flaws they saw in it; flaws that I purposely put in there, drove me towards creating more work similar to what they disapproved of.
Finally, an art teacher came along who thought my work was magnificent and that’s when I felt comfortable with sharing my art with family and friends, who thought it was so awesome that some of them hired me to create flyers, comics, and a bunch of other stuff for money.
Money that I could buy art supplies with : D

Do you have a favorite artist, or school of art?

My favorite artist is Caspar David Friedrich. His work entrenches a sense of tranquility at the pit of my stomach, which gradually carries out through the rest of my body. I doubt I can ever paint like him, but I see nature the way he did.
Like his famous painting, “Two Men Contemplating the Moon,” I can stare into that painting all day and feel as I’m apart of it; standing next to those two men and contemplating the moon with them. I feel as if I’m one with Caspar’s work.


Did you receive a formal education in arts, if not how did you learn to use the materials and mediums that you choose?

I studied one semester of BA Art History/Fine Arts at York University in Toronto, Canada. However, the mediums I use; I taught myself through mistakes and emotions.

What is your opinion of arts education? Is an artist born or made - or both?

I think an artist is born and then learns to evolve and expand thru experiences and the environments they’re placed in.
Any and everyone can be an artist, but not everyone is blessed with the mind and eye of an artists. The education system doesn’t really do much, other than teaching one a new skill. A talent is not taught or bought, art is a seed rooted in the artist’s mind from growth.

What do you feel most influences your current attitude/style in painting/media.

i.e. Do you find reference and inspiration from pop culture, philosophy, the human body, wonderful vistas etc.

I find myself fascinated by other artist’s works, but surprisingly hardly ever inspired. I’m inspired by my own childhood, the way other humans react to one another and their surroundings, and the texture of random objects.

Has your passion for art detracted from your success in other areas (i.e. have you had to "suffer" to do what you love)

Yes, of course it has. But that is what love does. I simply love what I do. I love to have emotions and thoughts pour out of me and turn into something that can be looked at and touched.
A few quibbles here and there threw me off my passion for art, but it always grew and remained great that I effortlessly seeped back towards creating more art. My passion has definitely detracted me from wanting to have a regular social life; I’d rather stay in my house all day and do something I love than to go out and kill time with people, while the cabinets in my mind overflow with files of arty ideas.

If someone asks you "what do you do", how do you respond?

That question always threw me off, but now I just respond with, “I do Me!”

What are you currently working on, how is it different from past works? (12/08)

I’m currently working on creating one piece that embodies my love for hip-hop, abstract art, planet earth, the moon, and what surrounds it all. These are all separate ideas that when brought together in my mind they seem to birth one another. With these ideas, a series of visual objects will play the background in a video clip featuring myself; poetically speaking about the judicial system of Canada.

Do you feel you evolve as an artist?

Every second of every minutes of every hour, I am an evolving artist. 

Describe a day in the life of you, the artist:

There are days where my life would seem to be monotone and boring to an outsider, but in my mind everything plays out as a scene leading to another surprising scene. Lets just say, my life can be viewed as a 3D cartoon movie.
From the moment I wake up, to the moment I brush my teeth, to the moment I tie my laces, to the moment I step out of my house, to the moment I come back home, and to the moment I go back to sleep.
Everything that carries out between those habitual activities, are beyond surreal to me sometimes.

A good example would be the other day, when I decided to head to a concert by one of my favorite rappers, Nasir Jones.
It was a rainy day, so I woke up feeling happy (I love it when it rains). I started off my day with a Canadian remix to one of his tracks, “Dead Presidents.” Then I started getting ready to drop off a few resumes at some retail stores before heading to the concert.
I stepped out my house, opened up my transparent umbrella (it was one of those umbrellas that hugged from your mid-waist up), and I’m walking over to the bus stop, slush gush slush gush were the sounds my rain boots made as I stride over to the bus shelter, then boom, my umbrella folds on me.
I thought, ‘okay I might’ve not opened it all the way, let’s try again.’
So I try opening it again, then I see one of the metal pieces that were once attached to the main bar, fall off and poke out a centimeter away from the ferrule and break thru the plastic. I didn’t think that one bar would have effect on the entire umbrella, but that was the end of it.
I didn’t want to throw it, but out of frustration; I dashed it towards a fence in the corner of the narrow short cut I was walking through. That was the last of my umbrella (RIP beloved umbrella that hugged and covered me from mid-waist up, as I looked thru you and laughed to myself while I watched everyone else get wet).

I made it to the mall, semi wet; bought a new zebra patterned umbrella with a wooden handle (extremely pretty btw). I was late for the concert, but I got to watch him perform two and a half songs (not my favorite ones, but I appreciated being in the presence of Nas).
Before getting into the concert, I got stuck in a building next to where the actual concert was being held at; I could hear the bass bumping, music blasting, and the crowd going nuts. I fiend to be in there, but the elevator I took up only went up and one would have to use a key to ride it back down. I shouted from inside that empty building, hoping someone would come to my rescue before Nas left the building.
Sadly, no one heard me, so I had to climb up a gate with a huge lock on it, squeezing through the opening edge at the top, while trying to keep my balance as I climbed down from the other side of that fence, leading down the stairs. I had to climb up and down three gates between three sets of stairs (who would lock a gate at the end of stairs? I mean, really who does that? Who even places a gate in the middle of stairs, isn’t that supposed to be a fire exit?).

Before entering the concert, I had to place my brand new umbrella in a pile with other umbrellas because apparently it could have been used as a “weapon” or got the floor wet, which would’ve been hazardous. Hearing the end of one my favorite songs, “One Mic,” I decided not to argue with the security guard and placed my umbrella in a corner away from the rest of the pile. Just to come back and find my umbrella gone. I was livid, mainly because I had to walk back home in the rain and this was an umbrella I just bought (mind you it cost $35+tax).   

I’m not a violent person, but if I found the person who stole my umbrella, I would probably beat them with it. Only because I went through so much in just a few hours; my favorite umbrella broke, I got wet, I got stuck in a building, had to climb grimy metal bars, just to listen to two and half songs!

This is just a simple hardship that could reflect the rest of my days. Leaving me with, going back home thinking of creating something new that could possibly relate to the situation I overcame and helping me forget about those simple things that make my blood boil a tad bit.

After all this, I end up with art. 

How important is the company of other artists and creative individuals to your well being and creative output.

I personally don’t find the company of other artists useful to my well being, unless each of our companionship benefits one or the other in a collaboration formation or to a friendship level.  It’s usually fun having other creative individuals in my presence, but I am a very competitive person; when I see their creative output it just motives me to create something greater.  So I guess there’s always a benefit to having other artists around, although I enjoy doing most things on my own.  

Do you dislike/disdain the works of other artists?

As an artist or even as a regular human being, there will always be a time where I come across work that I may like or dislike for several reasons. However, seventy five percent of the times I find myself liking pervious artist’s work more than something I’ve seen in the present or my own work. And that’s just because I like comparing styles with works from history or my own.

Do you display your works? If so, where have you displayed.

I’ve had my work displayed at several charity events around Toronto, at local galleries, murals at former high schools, and around campus at my previous university. There are also websites I try to post some works on, every now and then, although it’s difficult to keep up. Like tumblr and facebook, nothing major.

Do you have any words of wisdom for artists trying to "break out" and begin to learn the business of art.

Struggle is apart of something amazing as an artist. We create our best work during our worst moments, so don’t fuss and lose it when you’re dealing with a rut. Just be grateful and keep creating!

Do you find that the practical aspects of selling, promoting and marketing yourself as an artist detracts from your creative process.

HECK YES! I wish I had little mini mes’ running around doing all the little things I despise doing. It’s not even because I’m being fussy, but because it takes away from time that I could be creating something magnificent. Sometimes I wish I had a personal photographer, videographer, promoter, PR, assistant, chef, paint brush cleaner, and more. We, artists tend to forget about our well being, as we give our all to our art. I sometimes forget to eat or even lose track of meals. So it’d be nice to have someone taking care of all the little things.

What is the goal of art!

The goal of my art is to express myself in ways I feel comfortable with. It’s easy for me to speak my mind, but difficult for me to express emotions the ways I see people around me do. I found art as an expression form in my own personal way, without forcing myself to leave my comfort zone just to be viewed as ordinary. My goal is to free my creative mind.

What are your goals as an artist?

My goal as an artist is to leave a permanent stamp on this planet. It’s a personal documentation for generations to come, sort of like a time capsule of my thoughts, as I reflect how I view my environment.  
Art is a powerful thing; for me to take part in something larger than anything I’ve seen or myself assures me I’m doing the right thing. This magical process can be uplifting and forever lasting, so I’ve made it my goal to reach far into the future with my art, if I’m none existent years to come.

We are more than what we make, what other activities do you enjoy?

I enjoy sleeping and swimming, when I get the chance to. I also love to play/watch basketball and football. I enjoy watching all sorts of documentaries, reading history books, visiting galleries, listening to and writing poetry, and playing video games every now and then.

What do you do to get over the visual equivalent of "writers block"?

I’m always doing or thinking something. My mind can never go blank even if I forced it to, that’s probably why I’ve never experienced visual writers block. However, I have experienced the legit type of writers block for two months and not being able to write felt like the worst thing ever, but I got over it by painting.

In 20 years, what are your aspirations, what would you like to achieve?

God willingly, if I live to see my next twenty years, I hope to have my art globally displayed. I want any and everyone at any and every minute, viewing some type of art I created; from drawings to paintings, books to films, CDs to videos. I’d like to achieve changing people’s lives with different forms of art.
Have you done any commercial, public or commissioned work?

So far I’ve done five commissioned works, but nothing commercially as of yet.

If so, how do you feel about your vision being directed by third parties?

I haven’t come across a situation where that could have been an issue. It depends on how the third party approaches the situation from the get go.

Do you have any opportunities to offer other artists (collaborations, gallery space, friendship etc.) ?

I always enjoy a well thought out collaboration. A friendship could possibly develop after a collaboration of some sort. Nothing major for now, but in due time I’ll be looking for some fellow artists to hire for several positions.

Favorite writer, favorite song, favorite inspiration?

My favorite writers are Sheldon Silverstein and E.B. White.
I love the song ‘All Falls Down’ by Kanye West. That’s one song I’ll never get tired of, since I feel it portrays my right now story through two different aspects.  My inspiration is everyday experiences and encounters with nature.

What is the most beautiful thing in the world?
The most beautiful thing in the world is my mother or mothers’ in general. Bringing new life into this world is beautiful.

How has the Internet changed your promotional activities?

I’d rather communicate with a business partner through email. I enjoy writing my own quotes and embedding them into photos’ I’ve taken and uploaded to my laptop. The Internet allows my art to expand and reach people I wouldn’t be able to physically reach. It helps me backtrack and refer back to things my memory span couldn’t soak up; it helps me find direction to places I wouldn’t know how to get to without the Internet.

Do you have any favorite resources you would like to share?

If you are feeling uninspired and looking for inspiration at your fingertips, I recommend you view some of the genius videos posted on Vimeo.

Where can one view your work online? would be the best place.

Tell the truth, do artists make better lovers?
I’m an artist, who is not able to conjure up the proper answer to that droll question.  

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