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Maryam Alzaabi

Maryam Alzaabi

Meet illustrator from Abu Dhabi, Maryam Alzaabi.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a 29-year-old Emirati graduate of Architecture and Urban Design and as a full-time artist and illustrator. I spend most of my days drawing and creating with my hands almost with any tools or materials. I’m an Architect and Urban Designer by day, and an artist by night. I draw a lot of my inspiration from music, pop culture, fashion, comic books, graphic novels and artists from all over the world, constantly trying to expose myself to a variety of styles and approaches to my own art. By constantly experimenting with new, different elements to incorporate in my work, I love refining my artwork and sense of style on a constant basis. I continue to develop my own style as an artist and an illustrator, sometimes diverging into graphic design as I try to incorporate some of that within my main element of illustrating portraits. Most of my recent work has been digital, but I always see myself reverting back to working with traditional media like watercolors and ink. 

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I tend to travel around a lot to wherever life takes me. In the past year or so, I’ve spent working on my graduate degree in Atlanta, and before that, I’ve worked in Abu Dhabi and studied in Sharjah, with a lot of traveling around the world in between whether it was for work, education or leisure. Being from a country so small and diverse, I feel like there are so many things that are constantly emerging and so much inspiration blossoming from young people, whether it’s in the art scene or the way they’re thinking and reconstructing our ideas of culture within our cities. I love that being in a place like Abu Dhabi, and very close to Dubai, they’re both young cities with emerging talent and potential. It’s an exciting time to be here because you never know the kind of new experiences and opportunities that will arise. 

 

I love that being in a place like Abu Dhabi, and very close to Dubai, they’re both young cities with emerging talent and potential.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

The best thing would be the people that live here. They all come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and ways of thinking. It opens up your mind into having open discussions and truly looking at this beyond your own personal bubble. Meeting new people on a frequent basis, you never know what their story is, and I’m always intrigued to know and listen. As for the worst thing about being here, well I have to say its the absolute scorching heat that hits us harder every summer (thanks, global warming). 

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

censored, rebellious, opportunity 

 

How did you start your career in art?

I started taking my art seriously beyond just a hobby when I was 18, well into my final years of high school. I couldn’t see it beyond just a hobby for the longest time, but my best friend encouraged me to take my art seriously and that I could do much more with what I create and it motivated me to keep going. 

 

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

My family was hesitant at first, unsure whether there’s a market or much success for people in the arts or creative field, but that was over a decade ago, they’ve come around since. 

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

My goals and ambitions are endless, I constantly want to challenge myself at getting better at making art, refining my skills, as well as wanting to showcase my work in galleries and truly creating work that’s memorable. I also really want to expand to different mediums in the digital realm (animation and filmmaking) as well as the traditional medium (more screen printing and sculpting perhaps!)

 

I constantly want to challenge myself at getting better at making art, refining my skills, as well as wanting to showcase my work in galleries and truly creating work that’s memorable.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I’d love to be able to collaborate with some of my idols in the comic book industry, whether it be Gerard Way, Becky Cloonan, Jen Bartel or Cameron Stewart. I take so much inspiration from the things they create, whether its stories or artwork, it would be an honor and a pleasure to be able to collaborate with any of them. 

 

How would you describe the women around you?

The women around me are my pillars and support system that I’ve spent years trying to find, and I’m beyond thankful for their existence in my life. I’m in a family of six sisters and incredible parents, who taught me to be a hard-working focused individual, always telling me to fight the odds against what may put me down. As for my friends group, the women I’ve gotten to know over the past few years, I cannot imagine living my life without. They’re some of the most inspiring, hard-working and incredible people I’ve had the pleasure to be friends with and they’re like my second family. 

 

The women around me are my pillars and support system that I’ve spent years trying to find, and I’m beyond thankful for their existence in my life.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

Not many names come to mind honestly, but one vivid memory was when I was sitting through an art history class in my first year of undergraduate studies, we were going through slides of artists from the middle eastern region that did modern work after spending so many months covering endless chapters of mostly western/Eurocentric art. The presentation slides started talking about an artist called Mona Hatoum, a Palestinian artist, and I’ve never forgotten her name or artwork since because of how truly powerful it was, seeing her work about displacement and disorientation of the war. It leads me into looking to many artists where I discovered Shirin Neshat’s work that explore notions of femininity in relation to Islamic fundamentalism that was just so immensely inspiring, and since then I’ve been in love with their art. 

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

With any industry you face challenges. I truly believe that with enough hard work your work will prove itself to the ones in doubt. The great thing is that opportunities exist for everyone, and they’re equally out there for people regardless of their gender. I personally believe in lifting everyone together instead of having forces collide and compete. There is plenty of room for everyone to do great work because everyone brings something different to the table. 

 

The great thing is that opportunities exist for everyone, and they’re equally out there for people regardless of their gender. I personally believe in lifting everyone together instead of having forces collide and compete.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Work hard, practice your skills, present yourself with confidence but not ego. Your hard work will pay off, and the industry is unpredictable, go with the waves of it, whether its ups or downs. Your light will shine in due time, don’t rush yourself.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Maryam Alzaabi.

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