Brushes, Sweat and Tears: A Young Artist's Evolution

Brushes, Sweat and Tears: A Young Artist's Evolution

By Sara Filali

The artist does not wake up and know how to make beautiful art. It takes years of practice and patience and experimentation. If there’s anything I’ve learned throughout this journey as an artist it’s that it never ends. As I change, so does my art. As my thinking advances, so do my techniques. Like I said, we all start somewhere, right? This right here is my art evolution, and ultimately, the evolution of myself. When I was 4 years old, I watched Shamu perform at SeaWorld for the first time. The first two things that came to my mind after seeing it were 1- "I want to be a SeaWorld trainer when I grow up!" and 2- "I want to draw Shamu!" Well, uh... I can tell you the first of my two dreams didn't exactly come true. But I did draw Shamu right when I got home. It was a sucky drawing (I made it when I was 4 for crying out loud), but from that point on… I was hooked with art. 

Fast forward 7 or 8 years. My little peanut-looking self decided to put on a hijab, and let’s just say middle school and high school years took an “interesting” turn in terms of my self-confidence and self-identity. I’m not here to make anyone cry so I won’t bother going into details about my sob story, but if you wear a headscarf I’m guessing you’re already familiar with the whole teasing and Osama and bomb and other terrorist references that were thrown around a lot.

(Yes, that’s me in the 5th grade)

But you know what really kept me going? Dragon Ball Z! Maaaan that show was my refuge in the 7th grade. I used to draw the characters all the time. Sharpie’s and Crayola markers were my tools of expression. You know, since back then that was all my 13-year-old self could afford as an artist. 

All of the kids in my class thought I was so cool for knowing how to draw characters from shows. I was the designated artist in every group project. It made me feel like my art was a way to make friends and feel needed. “I can’t even draw stick figures,” said every kid who saw my art.

And then I discovered Naruto in the 8th grade. My drawings quickly transformed from super saiyans to cool, dark, and mysterious ninjas like Uchiha Sasuke (I literally had a crush on him when I was 14. How embarrassing is that?) Little by little, my art skills evolved.

Ah, but something was missing. I still felt like my art wasn’t advanced enough. I mean, have you seen art on the Internet? The creations people make with paint, or marker, or color pencil, or literally any medium you can think of? Up until high school, I’ve been self-taught, but by junior year I decided to take Higher Level Art in the IB program that my high school offered. I was surrounded by students who were 5 times more talented and creative than me, and so I sat in the class and watched the seniors brainstorm ideas and then make them. I was so inspired watching them. Every student had to submit a theme and create about 20 artworks that reflected that particular theme. Anime was not allowed because it had to be original artwork with no copyright, so this time I had to challenge myself. Something near and dear to me to make 20 artworks of, huh, I thought to myself. Then, I realized I needed to look no further than in the mirror. The hijab. My theme became a collection of art inspired by Muslim women around the world. I got my inspiration from politics, religion, culture, media, and history. I got to experiment with new techniques I learned from my classmates and teacher. The whole journey transformed my art skills overall. I think that when you’re using skills towards something you’re passionate about, that’s when you’re most successful. 

Well, here I am today. Just graduated high school last year, and currently finished with my first semester of college. The funny thing is that I draw now more than ever. Not for school assignments though- just things that I like. I’m trying to apply the art skills I learned in high school towards my anime fan art. And let me tell ya, it’s way more advanced than Crayola art. 

My real true hidden dream is to make a comic or a visual story that will later become adapted into an animated series. I’m not talking about a cheap CG animated cartoon that’s only dubbed in Arabic or some cheap western cartoon full of empty comic characters. I’m talking major Western animation on the level of Avatar the Last Airbender. A coming of age story featuring a hijabi protagonist. How cool would it be to see a female Muslim superhero kicking butt and inspiring kids to be ambitious and follow their dreams- and not just in an online comic but also in an actual American TV show that everyone at home can flip the channel to?  

<-This is a main character I invented Laila Saleh. She’s kinda like my alter ego 

<- And this is Laila Saleh when she’s in “I’m ready to kick ass” mode

Pray, Say & Slay Team