Huda is a student and an amateur artist & a staff writer at Affinity Magazine which is a friendly forum for teens all over the world. Apart from academics, She is deeply interested in photography, digital artwork, graphics and poetry, both English and Urdu.You can find her on Instagram by the name @aitchzee.We invited her to join us for the #pakistanjournaltalk session in which we host people with great aptitude, abilities, and vision!
How did you get started as an illustrator?
It started when I took a gap year from school. I used to feel much unoccupied and even somewhat bored. Then I made an Instagram and stumbled upon the pages of some of the very creative people in the Instagram community. I was really inspired by them, even more by the fact that most were working for really good causes. I realized that illustrations had become more than mere artistic lines drawn on a digital canvas. I saw it as a medium of communication. It motivated me to also use the medium to do my own share of speaking. I started there and then.
How do you come up with new ideas? Do you have a process?
It’s not hard for me on most days. Most days, the ideas come up very easily. Every now and then, an event from my daily life or something happening on the international level catches my interest and there comes an idea. And it usually happens when I’m busy performing the most basic and mundane tasks like while doing a chore or reading a book. But sometimes, on the days when artist’s and writer’s blocks happen, it gets really hard and even a little anxiety-inducing. On these rare occasions, after having decided what to actually base my work on, I talk to myself about the sensitivity of the subject and whether humor should be a part of it or not. Then, I make rough drafts and discuss it with my sister before shaping the final thing. But on these days, the quality of my work is usually low and it often doesn’t do as well on the internet as those created on the days I’m fully inspired.
Do you have side projects you work on?
Not currently. I’ve worked on a very few art commissions and have written for a few websites anonymously and under my name. As for now, I consider myself to be on the initial rungs of the ladder. I sure have a lot in mind and it looks more and more feasible as time continues to pass by. It’s not very easy, of course, especially when you’re a part-time student and in a stage where life continues to ask more and more of you, but it’s not impossible either.
How would you describe Evolution of Illustration in Pakistan?
I’d say illustration and digital work is still in its early stage in Pakistan. I’ve seen a good number of amazing Pakistani digital artists and graphic designers on the internet. I’ve seen their portfolios and I think they all have one thing in common: potential. They’re all very passionate about what they do and most work is based on strong ideas and causes, which is an awesome plus point. I’ve even talked and made friends with many. The amount of potential and skill they have is strong and promising and depicts a great future for the Pakistani graphic design industry. In other words, get prepared for a great load of super cool work.
5 things inspiring you/your work right now:
I’m very much inspired by my identity as a Muslim and Pakistani, by the positive and negative characteristics of our community and culture. I’ll put the rest four as outspoken and thoughtful women, religion, diversity, and books.
Your #1 art tip or words of wisdom:
I can recall our class teacher telling us about the equation for success. She used to say success is equaled by hard work plus prayer. I’ll say the same. First of all, set your goal. Then work hard and pray your way to it. Every now and then, stop to check if you’re still on your track, and thank God for all you’ve achieved so far. Importantly, never lose heart. It’s going to be a slow journey at first. Sometimes, it will even look like it’s all useless and not worth your time. But if you stick to what you’ve placed your heart in, everything will eventually fall into place.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I think, for the past two years, I’ve been a work-in-progress. That’s what I see myself being in the next five years, too. These coming years are, I feel, really important for anything I’m going to be in the future years. I’ll be working on myself on many levels; on the spiritual, academic, creative levels. I think these next few years of mine, I will dedicate to learning and self-discovery.
What do you think makes a good illustrator/designer?
Skill and dedication. Anything you want to do, you must have/learn the skills required, in the first step. And then, dedication, which will help you advance your skill and keep you on track against all odds.
Walk me through your portfolio. Which pieces are you most proud of, and why?
Some of the earliest pieces of my collection include short, two-paneled comics based on my experiences in the desi society and anti-Trump illustrations. Then there’s my first interesting series of comics called Naila Aunty series. In it, I portrayed all the evil desi aunties I’ve ever met and their doings in a single, female embodiment I called Naila Aunty. It was fun doing it. There was a little bit of humor in it, a little bit of sensitivity. It ended quickly, but I hope to restart it once more when time allows. Then, there’s my favorite, Fifty Shades of Hijabae, an on-going series of drawings in which I portray hijab-wearing women doing ordinary and extraordinary, small and big things. It’s been my best friend for 2017 and a symbol of empowerment and bliss for me. I’m also very proud of a small-scale collaboration I was able to organize among fellow Instagrammers this year, Hands Off Her Niqab, in order to support the already stigmatized niqab-wearing community of women in the face of niqab bans worldwide. I created a hashtag for it and asked my fellows to put their creative work up in it. I gathered some two hundred responses, and I couldn’t be happier. I made a drawing supporting the Palestinians on the recent issue of Jerusalem, adding to my collection of political drawings I adore. Last but not the least, there’s Your Average Dulhan series, a new thing, and already a favorite.
Tell me about the goals of this #youravaergedulhan and the thought process behind your solution.
Your Average Dulhan is basically meant to change people’s minds about women in the desi society. In our culture, there is a common thought, especially present in the minds of many of the older women of our society, that marriage marks the end of a woman’s professional life and her career, resulting in a very few women in the sectors of our society they’re badly needed today. I aim to defy that mindset. Marriage, I believe, is a start, and just a start; a start of a beautiful chapter characterized by responsibilities and fruits of those responsibilities. It’s not the end of anything. It doesn’t have to be. The back story of this series is kind of funny. It all started with a marriage proposal I had a few days ago. Two days before I posted the first illustration, to be exact. As I told, I think I am a work-in-progress and this age of mine, I want to dedicate to learning and building my own self. I was sure that by accepting that proposal, this would not be possible. The people it came from gave me a feeling that after making that commitment, my life will be all about the things I don’t want it to limit to. I won’t lie, my parents too exerted some amount of pressure at first, but when I made clear of my intentions, they relented and even supported me on my choice. I realized that adult minds can also be changed if the right amount of effort is made for it in the right direction. This whole incident inspired me to create something that would inspire women and the to-be dulhans to not consider their marriages as the ends of their professional lives and careers.
A website and/or blog you visit often?
If I answer with reference to my browsing history, it is Affinity Magazine’s website, naturally, as I am a staff writer there. I often use the platform to talk about the things that matter to me and spend time reading other teens’ perspectives.
What artists do you admire & take inspiration from?
Where do I even start? There are a lot of national and international artists I admire. There’s Saher Sohail aka The Pakistani Martha Stewart, Aqsa Naveed, Shehzil Malik and Moin Nazim to name a few Pakistani artists. Non-Pakistani favorites include Adam Ellis, Thakirah Jacobs, Ken Rolston, Anu Chouhan and countless others I don’t know the full names of.
Do you think that a positive change can be achieved in Pakistan?
I think so, and I believe so. It’s going to take effort, education, and more education. A positive change is inevitable.
What do you want more people to be discussing nowadays?
I want people, especially the people of our community, to talk more about women empowerment and mental health. I want us to focus more on areas like this as I think we lag far behind many nations in terms of these two. Especially our women. I want our women to be involved in the things that matter. I want women to talk about science. I want women to talk about politics. I want women to talk about women. I want them to let go of superstitions and discover themselves and their environment and change the narrative of women in our society. I also want us all to talk about the things that are wrong with our community and how we can do better.
If you know everyone in Pakistan is reading this, is there any advice you can share?
Come forth. Bloom. The world has already seen too much of our wrong people. They think we are wrong people. The tragedy is that the right people among us kept silent, giving the wrong people the chance to define us. The wrong people win when the right people are silent. Don’t be silent. Show the world all the good you all contain.
What is the best thing about Pakistan?
There is so much I love about Pakistan. I love its natural beauty. I love its diversity. About the people, I think the best thing is that there’s a lot of talent, a lot of potentials. All we need is to put it in the right place and we can do far more than we can possibly think of.
What future do you think Pakistan’s illustration industry holds for us?
I think it’s safe to expect a lot of goodness from the illustrator community of Pakistan in the coming years. The rate at which new illustrators are springing up and making their way on social media shows a very promising future for the said industry.
Do you think it is easy for us to prove our worth to international media?
Nothing great is easy. That, especially in the current atmosphere, is going to be hard. Hard, but not impossible.